The Rise of the Knowledge Economy

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Welcome to the knowledge economy.

That may sound like an irrelevant statement characterised as such due to it sounding more like rhetoric than fact but let’s examine the reality of the modern world.

Each period in time in history is typically characterised by the technological innovation driving change and progress in that era. In the same way the industrial revolution was marked by massive factories, workhouses and a shift to city living today’s world is coloured by the adoption of smartphones, big data and an increasingly connected world.

An erosion of borders has occurred at an unprecedented pace due to the ubiquity of connectivity enabling communication, trade and connection regardless of where you are located. That’s not to say that countries are amalgamating into one, rather it recognises the removal of obstacles which prevented freedom of movement and exchange.

And why shouldn’t it? Nations and borders are a myth fostered by human imagination. If you take a view through history, nations have rose and fell through the most arbitrary means; brush strokes on paper. It usually happened as such: area is colonised, empire draws on map the extents of their territory, often in discussions with other empires. There was clearly a complete disregard for the affinity or connection the historical inhabitants of an area had and where they belonged to.

To understand what I mean all you must do is look at the map (below) of how Syria, Iraq and Jordan are divided. Do you think those straight lines take into account the cultural idiosyncrasies inherent to each peoples located within the vicinity of the divide? Of course not. Nations have always been constructed in the minds of the living by power hungry visionaries interested in controlling vast swathes of land and subjects.

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The same is true for companies. Technology and community are the new tribes of the world. Instead of feeling an affinity depending on the global lottery of birth location we can pursue relationships with people who share the same interest and ideas. The difference is there no arbitrary borders. If you look at Reddit, for example, those boundaries are established by interest group. We can belong the groups we are innately interested in and feel part of something with people like us.

Companies then are the new nations, influencing and benefiting from our occupancy not through taxes but from the data we create and they collect.

Which is why we are experiencing such peace. I realise there will be push back on this due to the popularised media stories of the trouble in the Middle East, or the continuing fight against terrorism and extremism, but the reality is somewhat juxtaposed to the vision portrayed by the media. We are living through the most peaceful time in human history. In Europe in the medieval times ~40 people were killed per 100,000 inhabitants, today that number is below 1 in 100,000. Even in war torn states like Somalia and Colombia that number is only 9 in 100,000.

I hear you question the relevancy of the knowledge economy to all of this but I put it to you technological innovation has led to progress which has brought about the peace and prosperity we face today.

Knowledge has bred collaboration which has led to dependence. Historically, globalisation was achieved through colonisation as it was the only route to extending your wealth but this has been replaced due to the rise of technology. Instead of conquering nations we can collaborate with one another. We can trade and exchange enabling mutual value creation.

And each countries power comes not from what they have but what they know. (I recognise wars fought over oil are contrary to this argument but that is the exception to the rule)

Picture a Chinese invasion of Silicon Valley, they may capture the building where Facebook's engineers are present but then what? The power of modern companies comes from the cumulative knowledge kept in the heads of its engineers not the value of the land where they are located. The engineers would be long gone before there were ever boots on the ground.

Knowledge is the currency which enables participation in the new global economy. The concept of empire may have eroded but the reality is that it has simply been replaced by a truly global empire.

This enables anyone and everyone to participate or contribute if they possess the requisite knowledge. Our skills are no longer constituent to the state our allegiances would historically have remained tied to.

And that is a great thing.

We are now free to pursue the life we want, doing the things we want to do, with the knowledge we have wanted to acquire.

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