Importance of Knowledge in the 21st Century
I am going to propose a theory:
The extent of knowledge (need-to-know) any given human society requires for a successful survival is of:
- the geographical area that particular society can identify as its own
- the past, present, and future of itself
Likewise, the extent of knowledge (need-to-know) any given human society requires for progress is of:
- the geographical area that society can identify as its own and of the world
- the past, present and future of itself and of its world
In primitive nomadic days, any tribe that may have pursued and acquired geographical-temporal knowledge of itself may have survived. But, may have failed as soon as it could no longer keep up with and acquire geographical, temporal and likewise knowledge of other tribes it came across.
The tribes and states which could gather and analyze the most knowledge succeeded the most. A good example of this is the success of Alexander the Great and the Macedonian Empire:
Is it merely a coincidence that such large empire existed alongside one of the most intellectual and knowledgeable periods of human history?
While we are at it, the importance of such knowledge can also be justified by the fact that Kautilya, who emphasized socio-economic-political knowledge and pursued it rigorously managed to initiate and assist what was to become one of the biggest Empires in the Indian Subcontinent — The Maurya Empire.
Similar examples can be gathered from the Roman and later from the success of the British Empire. In the second half of the 20th Century, it became visible in the form of the US and its successful hunt of all forms of knowledge.
What kind of knowledge?
The correct modern term for knowledge is — Research and Development.
This is the US spending on R & D by sector.
I talked about Geographical and Temporal knowledge of itself and the world that a successful society acquires. NASA, NSF and DoD seem to be responsible for such information for the US. They make up 27.6 % of the total R & D budget.
Similar is the case of acquiring — knowledge of itself. Health and human service department takes up 47.3 %.
Here are ten nations that spend the most on R & D:
- Israel: 4.9 % of GDP
- South Korea: 4.6 % of GDP
- Taiwan: 3.5 % of GDP
- Sweden: 3.4 % of GDP
- Japan: 3.2 % of GDP
- Germany: 3.2 % of GDP
- Austria: 3.2 % of GDP
- US: 3.1 % of GDP
- Denmark: 3.1 % of GDP
- Switzerland: 3.0 % of GDP
In terms of total expenditure amount, it’s in the following order (descending):
US, China, Japan, Germany, S Korea, France, India, UK, Taiwan, Russia
When it comes to global political power ranking,
US leads the way followed by — China, Russia ,Germany, UK, Japan, France, S Korea, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, Canada, India…
From a business/corporate point of view, unsurprisingly, the companies that collect or have access to the most data — whose function is to sell or convert it into tangible knowledge — are among the richest, hence, the most powerful in the world.
Of course, the type and method of their knowledge-acquisition is different but at the end of the day it’s about getting the information of:
the past, present and future of itself and of its world
for the political entities that support them by either investing in them or paying them.
From an individual point of view, it is apparent that pursuing knowledge is beneficial for financial, mental and physical health.
From a financial point of view, generating knowledge for sectors that receive maximum financial attention is sure to increase the chance of earning higher.
For example, for the department of health and human services in the chart above:
Almost all professions here are health related.
Similar is the case for corporate data-hunting. Data science is the third most desired career in US:
From mental and physical health point of view, and their progress, just replace geography by physical and society by individual in the following:
the geographical periphery that society can identify as its own and of the world
the past, present and future of itself and of its world
Here I am, in the 21st century (A.D.) living in Nepal. One of the poorest nations in the world. Yet, writing in one of the most advanced writing platforms about the past and future of humanity and the world; using one of the most sophisticated technologies in the world.
Why am I doing this?
Is it because I identify as a global citizen in this world or is it because I am trying to progress the nation I identify with: Nepal?
Knowledge has always been important and will continue to be so as long as humans will exist.
It is cliche to say that we live in an interconnected world where an impact in a certain part of the globe is felt throughout. But it is true.
COVID has proved it and so has Climate Change. So will upcoming crises.
We humans of today have come close to becoming one unit when it comes to suffering. And we all are heading into domains we are unfamiliar with:
Ubiquitous computing, Artificial Intelligence, Biotechnology, Brain Computer Interfaces, Outer Space ventures, etc.
We have survived so far due to our knowledge of:
- the geographical area that we have identified as ours
- the past, present, and future of ourselves
But now we are talking about:
- computers that have their own personal identities (others)
- our bodies that have been invaded by technologies (itself and others)
- unknown geographical zones with possibilities of unknown beings (ours and other)
Hence, we do need to upgrade our knowledge to the extent of:
- the geographical area we can identify as our own and of the world
- the past, present and future of ourselves and of our world
With the ‘world’ now including:
- The Universe
- Artificial Systems
- Our own mixed-bodies
This leaves us with two major considerations:
- Security considerations
- Ethical considerations
Just as in primitive nomadic days, any tribe that may have pursued and acquired geographical-temporal knowledge of itself may have survived but failed as soon as it could no longer keep up with and acquire geographical and likewise knowledge of other tribe it came across:
We humans of today, have to acquire more and more geographical, temporal knowledge of the Universe and of Artificial Systems and ourselves for our own security.
As we head into the unknown, we never know what will attack us next.
Similarly, tough ethical considerations also have to be made as to what we would want to be and become. And also, on how we would like to treat other beings.
We have never been in this place before. But we also have power like never before. Therefore, we now have responsibilities like never before.