These days, it’s commonplace to say that we’re entering into a “knowledge society,” but we have yet to discern how the status and nature of this knowledge is changing.
Knowledge has become a central issue for at least four reasons:
- The immaterial dimension of the economy (services, content, finance, intellectual property, etc) is now dominant
- Innovation has become the number one factor in sustainable competitiveness
- New industries demand ever greater levels of knowledge that have to be updated as technology advances
- The answers to the major challenges being levelled at our globalised planet lie more in our capacity for collective organization, on the local and global levels, than in the implementation of an adequate technology or policy by some expert or another.
But what kind of knowledge?
The “knowledge” needed in the 21st Century, more than ever before, is a simple personal collection of information and know-how:
- It is never fully acquired: in our non-linear life paths through rapid technological progress and the intensive innovation economy, we have to constantly revise our knowledge base, and learn to use it in unprecedented situations.
- It is becoming external, thanks to computers and networks. A world in which knowledge is almost immediately available, and available to share with others, is profoundly different from what we have known before.
- It is shared, whether we want it to be or not: in a world with porous borders, knowledge circulates and innovation occurs collectively, and is copied and modified ad infinitum.