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European Visions for the Knowledge Age

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European Visions for the Knowledge Age

A Quest for New Horizons in the Information Society

Paul T Kidd (Ed)
ISBN 978-1-901864-08-3 (Paperback)
Price: See buy on-line link



Chapter 1
The Knowledge Age: Peering into the Future
Paul T Kidd
The Dawning of a New Era - The Knowledge Age
As society moves from the industrial era into the new knowledge age, old concerns, and some new ones, stand ready to challenge humanity as it strives to make sense of a rapidly changing and often confusing world. The knowledge age offers the prospect of creating wealth through brain power rather than muscle power. Using human intelligence, circumstances have been already been created where there is a stream of new ideas emerging from research laboratories, and as a result, technologies, products and services seem to be in a continual state of flux. There is always something new to buy, to use, to apply, and there is more to come. Novelty and innovation have become imperatives for business success and the drivers for economic growth and unprecedented widespread prosperity in the industrial world. People in the industrialised countries, have never had it so good, at least in material terms.

However there are dark clouds on the horizon: global warming, terrorism, environmental damage, cyber crime, schisms in society, and threats to privacy, are but a few. In material terms the citizens of the industrialised countries, and increasingly those in the developing nations, may be riding high, but is society heading in the right direction? What type of society will emerge as the knowledge age begins to mature, and will it be a society that people will really want to be part of?

These are broad questions, and there are several factors at play that will influence how the knowledge era develops and how it will impact upon society and peoples' lives. This book aims to address one of these factors, that of information and communication technologies, and then only modestly, for in itself, the subject is a vast one.

Information and communication technologies are one of the key enablers of the new knowledge age. But where are these technologies leading? What will be the result of their continuing development and even wider adoption in all aspects of life? Who will control these technologies, big business or citizens? What information and communication technologies will be shaping society further into the future? Will these technologies be threatening and alien to the human sprit or is it possible to produce a more human-centred technology? What new opportunities in work, leisure, healthcare, government, etc. will arise?

There are many questions, more than can be posed, and surely more than can be answered given the uncertainties that any effort to envision the future must involve. However, it is necessary at least to try to consider some of the questions and to find possible answers.

Why bother to think about the future? Surely there are enough existing problems in the world that need attention, without considering more, which may or may not, eventually materialise. No-one can predict the future, so surely in the end it must all just be speculation? To some extent this is of course true, but some people have insights and intuitions that provide a glimpse into the foggy and uncertain world that is the future. These insights and intuitions about the future are valuable.

Visions of the future are not crystal clear; they are inherently fuzzy notions that combine knowledge in a particular domain with a sense of what could develop, blended with a sense of what should be, or perhaps should not be. Visions encompass rational knowledge as well as intuitive elements, and their purpose is to light the paths to follow to the future. The process of vision building is clearly not the same as trying to predict the future analytically, or to analyse trends and statistics. These are all important tools for planning, but vision building is a complementary activity: visions for the future do not try to predict exactly what will happen, but rather offer options and explore ways that could be followed.

Thinking actively about the future can also help to provide a better understanding of the present, to envisage options that might otherwise not be considered, to reflect on these, and to map out and better set the compass for future steps forward. Humankind is gifted because it can use its intelligence to foresee difficulties that might perhaps be avoided. So without attempting to at least imagine some of the possible landscapes of the future, decisions may end up being made based on a limited and narrow view of the present, ultimately creating problems that future generations will have to deal with.

Visions also play a role in the innovation processes by fostering new ideas and concepts and stimulating new thinking. Visions of the future provide an opportunity for out-of-the-box thinking. Thus this book provides a fresh set of perspectives on the future, ones that can help you the reader, to think outside the box of the present. In this spirit, this book provides a diversity of views about technologies relating to human knowledge and communication and their role and influence in the world.


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