Tracking the Knowledge Economy
March 6, 2010 7:36 PM   Subscribe

It has been looked at for many years (link to a 2003 PDF revised edition of a 1983 report). Inspiring reports trying to predict where this was heading, the knowledge economy is incredibly difficult to get a grip on, mainly because its products are intangible.

There have been attempts, such as in this paper by Mark Cully who basically concluded workers either enter it at the beginning of their career and stay, or have a tough time working up the ladder and maintaining any momentum.

Problems are many, with a very recent example illustrated in this paper (link to abstract partially quoted below with links to full text):
This paper advances the hypothesis that some of the roots of the present crisis are to be found in the present institutions of the knowledge economy. While protectionism is seen as a possible dangerous outcome of the crisis, the extent of protectionism inherent to the strengthening and globalisation of intellectual property rights (IPRs) associated, in particular, with the signing of the Trade-related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement is not generally perceived as one of its possible causes. Indeed, IPRs have acted as ‘super-tariffs’. Pagano, U. and Rossi, M. 2009. The crash of the knowledge economy, Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 33, no. 4, abstract
Also, there's the infamous (?) attempt by the European Union to transition to some form of sustainable knowledge economy: the Lisbon Strategy. Struggling under the weight of the current crisis, as evident on the front page of the project, it is possible to conclude that the strategy did not go as well as hoped, even by their own account (to be fair though, their report does highlight some great things).

Previously (possibly somewhat related): this, this, and this.
posted by JoeXIII007 (8 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
If the knowledge economy forces people to think more, is it really such a bad thing?
posted by Xezlec at 7:58 PM on March 6, 2010

I know the solution to this problem, but no one wants to pay me enough royalties for it, so until then, you're all SOL.
posted by chambers at 8:10 PM on March 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Chambers above gives an excellent nutshell illustration of the Tragedy of the Anticommons.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:15 PM on March 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

What does "knowledge Economy" really even mean? I think the only way to actually "Sell knowledge" is by teaching and education. Other then that, there are patents, which are really selling licensing of the right to use knowledge.

Copyright is only for a particular representation of knowledge, everyone is still free to repeat it in their own words.

I suppose it could mean an economy based on highly knowledgeable workers, people need to hire subject matter experts for various parts of a workforce, but ultimately those people are still engaged in some productive activity, right?
posted by delmoi at 9:53 PM on March 6, 2010

If you consider Metafilter a productive activity, yes.
posted by ryanrs at 9:56 PM on March 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

mainly because its products are intangible.

"Intangible" in the most literal sense means something that cannot be touched. In a more general sense it means something that cannot be perceived by human senses.

In my work, I produce among other things reports, white papers, and analyses. I suppose that people would label me a "knowledge worker" but I would not agree that my work product is "intangible" even when my work product only exists in electronic form.
posted by three blind mice at 1:02 AM on March 7, 2010

This is really great stuff. Thanks!
posted by Dmenet at 6:38 AM on March 7, 2010

Also: Reading about the Lisbon strategy & its failure seems to reveal many of the problems of management in the knowledge economy. It's nigh on impossible to know what innovation is until it has already happened, so there won't be anything material to point to for a long time until the R&D cycle actually hits on something worthwhile. "Social and environmental renewal" sounds great, but when unemployment rises, all people want to see are jobs NOW not jobs requiring a high degree of training & skill.

The only way a plan like this could succeed would be if it were extremely flexible and lacking in bureaucracy - two descriptors that I doubt apply to anything the EU does.
posted by Dmenet at 6:48 AM on March 7, 2010

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