Are we being presumptuous to say that we’re in the “knowledge economy”?

I’m just bringing up the question. Don’t really have an answer for it…. but are we being presumptuous to say that we’re in the “knowledge economy”?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not disagreeing with the concept of the knowledge economy at all. See excerpt from Wikipedia (how I love that site!)

Various observers describe today’s global economy as one in transition to a “knowledge economy”, as an extension of “information society“. The transition requires that the rules and practices that determined success in the industrial economy need rewriting in an interconnected, globalised economy where knowledge resources such as know-how, expertise, and intellectual property are more critical than other economic resources such as land, natural resources, or even manpower. According to analysts of the “knowledge economy,” these rules need to be rewritten at the levels of firms and industries in terms of knowledge management and at the level of public policy as knowledge policy or knowledge-related policy. [citations needed]

Agreed. We need smarts to move up that ladder. There’s even a talent paradox (read the Manpower report here – great graph on pg. 5) going on right now in almost every country. We’ve become so smart that we’ve automated all of the low-skilled jobs to cut labour costs – leaving those that are not so educated unemployed. Consequently, we’re facing extreme shortage on talented (note: knowledgeable) people to take on the top jobs. I’m not concerned about the automation process- we need to move forward- but it’s my conviction that the education system is to blame for the lack of intelligence. When we say we’re in a “knowledge economy” then why are we teaching to the lowest common denominator of intelligence? Why are they being so easy on us? Why aren’t we forced to do more math and science? As you can tell….I’m quite passionate about this.

But here’s the presumptuous part:

What comes after the “knowledge economy”? Doesn’t it seem like we’ve put ourselves on a pedestal? Forget the Agricultural Age or the Industrial Age; we’re smarter than all of you and we’ve entered the Knowledge Age.

BUT… what happens if, after all this, it turns out that we weren’t that smart. Say our generation uses up much of the resources (both natural and capital) and we essentially rob our future grandchildren of ever living our type of lifestyle. Will they laugh at us in history class when they hear that we called ourselves “knowledgeable”?

Hmmm….something to ponder.

I’m reading (well should be reading…) my Environmental Science book and the author suggests that we need to move into a Sustainability Age. I agree.

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2 thoughts on “Are we being presumptuous to say that we’re in the “knowledge economy”?

  1. Jay Godse says:

    There have always been parts of the economy that were comprised of folks who worked physically, folks who had a skill, and folks who manage businesses or government groups. Automation changes the ratios slowly over time, but the three types of work still exist.

    Intelligence is not just about understanding how stuff works (math & science), nor is it just about communicating how stuff works (Languages & Communication). It is also about getting along with people, developing self-awareness and self-esteem, understanding people’s motivations, including your own, of physical attributes, emotions, and power, working in groups to get stuff done, and delivering value to people, possibly after you have taught and convinced them how and why what you deliver is valuable to them.

    Education is for growing intelligence as I have described it above, but it is also to help you to understand you, your place in your society, and how your society has evolved. If you look at education in those terms, math & science are not really as important as you would like it to be.

    Are we being presumptuous as “knowledge workers” in the information age? Absolutely! If the folks in the agricultural age could see their hunter-gatherer ancestors, they would say how far they had advanced in putting together reliable sources of food. The industrial folks would say that they were so smart for harnessing fuel-powered engines to do their “grunt work”. The information age folks say that they’re smarter than the others because they can teach machines how to do “intellectual grunt work” such as crunching data.

    In my opinion, the most advanced society today are the Australian Aboriginals. Why? They spend 6 hours per day making a living by hunting gathering, etc, and the rest of the time with their families or developing their culture. We look down them as being 3 “ages” behind us and naked, but we spend 10 hours per day on making a living and the rest with our families/friends, and we watch TV while others get paid to develop our culture, all the while wishing that we could spend more time naked. We’re not as smart as we think we are. I think that those Aussie Aboriginal folks are in the “Sustainability Age”.

    As for labour shortages…ha! You have not yet lived through a recession or a depression that hit you personally. I remember people singing that labour shortage song just before each of the last two recessions. Recessions come every 7-ish years, with booms in between. Depressions come every 50 or so years. During booms, businesses whine about labour shortages, skills mismatches, attrition rates, high cost of labour, etc. During recessions, labourers (including “knowledge workers”) complain that there are no jobs or they have been outsourced to low-cost places. The population continues to grow slowly, and the number of people does not change quickly. By the way, we are about due for a recession. The North American economies have been growing very well, and we have not seen a housing slump in over 10 years. The US has been running crazy deficits, and banks have been cooking their credit rating books to artificially boost their asset valuations while lending money to credit-unworthy people. The years of reckoning are coming soon.

    Mene, mene, tekel, parsin…

  2. Jane Porter says:

    Thanks Jay! Glad to have you back.

    I loved this part

    We look down them as being 3 “ages” behind us and naked, but we spend 10 hours per day on making a living and the rest with our families/friends, and we watch TV while others get paid to develop our culture, all the while wishing that we could spend more time naked.

    And nope, haven’t lived through one yet…but I assume I will soon too.

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