G L O B A L B R I E F I N G R E P O RT KNOWLEDGE INFRASTRUCTURES S P E C I A L B R A N D E D F E AT U R E
Governance in the Age of Ignorance: The Role of Knowledge Infrastructures By Franz Waldenberger
and research institutions worldwide are constantly adding to the stock of knowledge. The information uploaded in the world wide web or shared through social networks is growing exponentially, while smartphones and other connected devices are generating trillions of data ready to be analyzed by ever smarter algorithms. Better knowledge and more information should enable us to solve many of the problems we are facing. The potential for a bright future in the digital age is enormous. However, seen from a liberal and humanitarian perspective, there are also fundamental risks. Connectivity increases interdependence. We concede control over our lives. Our wellbeing is increasingly determined by decisions made by others. This loss of control is further aggravated by our growing ignorance. Our cognitive abilities have long since been unable to keep pace with the growth of knowledge and information. We know less and less about the world we live in—a truth we tend to ignore, because it can be frightening. How can humankind exploit the potential created by the growth of knowledge and information, while containing the ensuing risks? This is not only a question of governance. People with the best of intentions make mistakes. Legislators for example have to decide about financial system
stability, energy reform, genetically modified food or self-learning algorithms. They normally have no special education in the respective field. They cannot but rely on experts. However, experts seldom agree, and advice is often mingled with vested interests. We cannot be sure that decision makers get the best advice possible. However, we can try to increase the likelihood of adequate information. A key factor is decision makers’ access to knowledge infrastructures. Knowledge infrastructures comprise content, institutions and personal networks. At the content level, they connect past and present scholarly work, research findings and layers of expertise spanning the boundaries between specialized fields of knowledge, organizations as well as professionals and laypersons. Institutionally, they consist of schools, universities, research institutions, think tanks, libraries and various providers of media content. Last but not least, knowledge infrastructures depend on how people as explorers, bearers, transmitters and users of different pieces of knowledge and information are connected. Quality and vitality are essential performance parameters. Quality refers to openness, accessibility, transparency and verifiability of information. Vitality includes the constant adjustment to new issues, new knowledge and new technologies.
It would be naïve to think that the quality and vitality of knowledge infrastructures could be centrally designed. The task is far too complex. G20G7.COM
It would be naïve to think that the quality and vitality of knowledge infrastructures could be centrally designed. The task is far too complex. Spontaneous order and self-governance are natural constituents of governance architectures. Knowledge infrastructures are the outcome of competition and collaboration between public as well as private for profit and non-profit organizations. This publication provides an excellent example. The three institutions presented in the following pages have been established by private initiative and private money. The same holds true for Innovative Nurture Community (inc.), a newly founded
A look at the world challenges and insight on how we can improve.