Key to Progress

Era of Knowledge: Education Enables Access to Information and Knowledge, which Enables Progress

Progress is unavoidable and unstoppable. Worldwide. No problem with that. We only have to worry about the ones who are ‘left behind’!

In early mankind the driving force of development was the availability of food, i.e. its shortage and acquisition. Later, with increased food security, progress was fueled by the desire for industrial products and their power. A few centuries in industrialized countries later, prosperity increased, basic needs were highly satisfied and intellectual activities started to dominate amongst the workforce. These caused the start of another change currently ongoing: The importance of more immaterial assets, which first of all, are data, information, knowledge.

Data are processed (‘interpreted’) to form information. Information in a cultural context and in use by a society develops to knowledge, which controls performance of a society and its progress. This conversion from information to knowledge was possible in the past through narrative stories, nowadays through mathematical formulas. With more information available, there is more knowledge accessible to members of a society, who then can use it to their advantage, both internally (domestic, to get superior to their mates) and externally (in foreign relations, to dominate other states). We can see ample examples in history.

Various attempts have been made to measure the global volume of information. It has been exploding over the past decades, and will further increase in unimaginable dimensions. We now speak in exobytes of information, available to mankind, soon we will have zettabytes and yottabytes. (Knowledge has a parallel increase, but having social and cultural components, it is more difficult to measure.)

This explosion of information and knowledge is caused by: 
- Recent achievements in technology (particularly IT)
- Large number of data collectors (mainly sensors, but also human data collectors, surveyors) 
- Large number of human activities, as compared with earlier decades 
- Eagerness to inquire new knowledge, to explore new fields, and to look beyond the horizon
- Investment in scientific research

Conversion of raw data into information became a major human activity, with scientific, technical and financial support.

There are new serious research algorithms, often carried out by brute-force IT power and fast IT processing power. Also, an open attitude of many companies as well as countries contribute to the explosion, as they use scientific information approaches and research activities to their advantages. ‘Big data’ approach is still in its infancy with quick-and-dirty, sometimes dubious interpretations, but it will surely be improved over the next decades.

What is the point of these long considerations?

(1) We can learn, what the future will bring, and how we should prepare ourselves to make the best of it.
(2) There are
‘progress inequalities’ within countries and within the world, nationally and globally. To know these mechanisms above, will help to overcome discrepancies: Need to take political action accordingly.

For (1), the future: Acknowledgment of Educational Revolution:

As the chart above shows, information and knowledge will be first and foremost handled by IT technology, which requires rigid structure, but also enables easy access: Strong need for professional expertise to manage and to interpret.

With all this knowledge, a good interpretation brings yields and further progress. It is this expertise which will be essential: Models and experts will be in high demand. Above mentioned ‘big data’ approach will be finally contributing.

After the Agricultural, Industrial, Scientific etc Revolutions, this future Educational Revolution will change our society. It will not only require better class-room teaching, but is defined in a much broader context with new understanding about the transfer of knowledge, more assets to improve education, the new value of teaching and — most importantly — the status of know-how and of ‘educated’ people in the society.

As teaching methods to transfer this knowledge, further development is predictable of distant learning, offline courses, new methods on training, seminars, workshops, presumably most based on Internet. There will be a new definition and a new emphasis of educational core. Governments and individuals ought to invest in education on the ground that educated people form the basis of a new, tech-driven economy.

In advanced societies, learning something new, something difficult will be considered as joy both by children and by adults, as this will be something beneficial, something people can benefit from.

While many of these changes apply to long-term change of values and behavior, first observable actions occur already now in the (political) call for improvement of better schooling system, revised curricula, schools with digital infrastructure. A movement has started to prompt people to spend an hour a day to read, reflect, experiment.

This is an excellent reaction to the increase of knowledge.

For (2), the appropriate transfer of knowledge: We have to support those, who are ‘left behind’.

It is common knowledge both on macro and on micro level, that ‘information is power’ as well as ‘knowledge is power’.

Companies and countries — particularly those which are ‘left behind’ — must invest more in ‘humanware’. (Excuse for this IT-affiliated word, but it best reflects the economic value of the labor force and the type of its activity).

There are two requirements for such a transfer of knowledge:

- In financial terms, this necessary, long-term capital investment will bring return in future. Surely, it costs money, but there is much financial credit in the world; there is no problem to obtain large loans for everything. Private investors, direct governmental support, loans, international credit unions, development banks, to name but a few. There is no shortage. What is missing currently, is the setting of priorities in favor of education and transfer of knowledge and technology.

- Dissemination of this knowledge interpretation must be facilitated by a co-operating, supporting culture, government, people. It will not work, if knowledge is transferred by education and establishment of new schemes, but the top (either the senior management of a company or the politicians in a country) don’t welcome or even try to stop this influence, as they might consider it as a threat to their position. Juniors who know better are in a difficult position, but they are the ones the future depends on. Bosses often don’t like them, because they don’t know.

Thus, if a company, an area or a country wants to benefit from this resource potential, they need capital and a welcoming human environment.

Conclusion the other way round: If a company or a country doesn’t improve its available resources in either knowledge interpretation or in capital or the openness to accept changes induced by this knowledge, or any 2 or 3 of them, then this company or country will be ‘left behind’ in the competition with other entities, which have these assets.

BTW, in a global context this approach will also help to avoid the future flow of millions of refugees from lesser developed countries to countries with a higher knowledge level.