Knowledge economy: the new Renaissance?

‘Knowledge, just like bullshit, is infinite’.

This is the simple reason why knowledge economy is so prosperous, argues Idriss Aberkane, our guest host on March 6, 2016.

As the first form of economy developed by human kind, based on the exchange of knowledge and expertise, this type of economy is bringing about a new global Renaissance. Knowledge economy, like all revolutionary ideas, will go through three main stages: it will first be considered ridiculous, then it will be labeled as dangerous and finally it will become self-evident by virtue of its effectiveness.

Idriss Aberkane developed several models of knowledge economy at Stanford University. According to those models, knowledge economy is based on three main principles: first of all, exchanges are positive sum (if one shares something material, one divides it, when one shares something non material one multiplies it). Second, exchanges are not instantaneous, as opposed to financial exchanges – such as high frequency trading. Indeed, Facebook, Google and Twitter are successful because they found ways to convey knowledge faster. Third, combinations are non linear (blending knowledge A with knowledge B leads to greater aggregate knowledge C).

In short, knowledge is the new oil. This statement become self-evident if we look at South Korea, Aberkane suggests. How is it possible that in some areas of South Korea there is a higher GDP/per capita than Luxembourg? How is possible that South Korea exports more than Russia but has three times less population? Yet, Russia has a tremendous amount of natural resources. The reason of this success is the exchange of knowledge on IT for which South Korea is a leading country. It is not a case, Aberkane points out, that South Korea was the first country to create a Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

The most fascinating structure of knowledge economy is its purchasing power. In order to acquire knowledge it is necessary to only spend time needed to absorb the new information and pay attention. More specifically, the flow of knowledge is proportional to attention multiplied by time. By consequence, everyone has purchasing power from birth, and it benefits unemployed people more than employed people, in terms of both free time and attention to pay. School does not control your attention, simply your time. Obviously, suggests Aberkane, the secret for the maximization of time and attention is love for the field of study.

The second section of Aberkane’s lecture focused on biomimicry. Nature is the true source of high technology, modernity and knowledge. Free and available knowledge. Nature provides better products and better, non-polluting process. Biological high tech is something so advanced we cannot even reproduce it. We can take the example of shark skin copied for Speedo swim suits, or Héramarina beach warms which provide 0 negative hemoglobin, transferrable to anyone. Mussels’ glue is the most powerful glue existing in the world. The Pentagon is currently studying the mantis shrimp for tanks suspensions.

At each time there are ideas that make sense to us but that won’t make any sense to our descendants. It will be the case for our waste of natural resources. Future generations will not understand why we could not find any better way to exploit the Oceans than extracting oil, whereas we could employ it as a rich source of knowledge.

In the last part of the conference, Idriss Aberkane discussed the concept of blue economy. Mankind is the only species on earth that produces something for which there is no demand, waste. Blue economy is the idea that the abolition and redeployment of waste for other uses would be much more profitable. Gunter Pauli, the Steve Jobs of sustainable development, argued exactly this: we can create employment by abolishing waste. The abolition of waste will be one of the main purposes of the 21st century. Coffee waste is the best compost for mushrooms and can also be used for T-shirts and underwear, and many other things.

In short, we can develop an knowledge economy with infinite resources,  we have lived in a library full of knowledge – nature – but we have been burning all the books in it, and we could live in an economy based on recycled waste.


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