Monday, July 31, 2006

Scratching The Knowledge Economy Rhetoric

The Knowledge Economy has the ring of the perfect rhetoric. Knowledge and Economy come together nicely - both words individually bringing adequate gravitas and combining to create a suitably impressive catchphrase. At the same time, as with any good rhetoric, its hard to pin it down to what it really means.

However, the FT reports today in passing that the EU budget recently cut R&D spending increases in order to maintain farm subsidies. This is probably one example out of a hundred that point to the "Knowledge Economy" rhetoric being just that - a rhetoric. Under other impressive sounding catchphrases - such as the "Lisbon Agenda", attention is drawn away from the fact that if anything there is an Economy of investment in Knowledge building.

My personal anecdote is that I can get someone to come home and help set up my new laptop, load some software and set up a firewall, for about 70% of the cost of getting an electrician to come in and fix a single loose wire in a faulty oven. Does that sound like a knowledge economy?

One of the challenges in the UK of course is that geeks aren't "cool". This isn't a trivial point. In a social hierarchy, geeks command less respect and position than wannabe big brother contestants. Compare that with either the US, where the Brins, Pages, Yangs, Jobs and even the Bill Joys and Ray Ozzies are right up there. Or in India where from Nilekani (Infy) right down to the entry level programmer - the geek is revered. And this isn't just lip service. Average salaries for technology professionals is likely to be comparatively much higher (than other professions) in India or in the US compared to Europe. And furthermore, your attractiveness to the opposite sex (your "mating potential") is also likely to be enhanced - again I stress this is not a trivialization - it sits at the core of the ability to attract more people into the profession in the long run and giving it a real impetus.

And so the question is, when you scratch the surface of the knowledge economy rhetoric, do you see a think veneer over what remains an old world, traditional, orthodoxy? Or would you find a truly vibrant environment where knowledge and investments into knowledge are recognized and rewarded boldly?


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Blogger Krishnan said...

I always thought economy had to do with scarcity. Cant see much scarcity of knowledge these days ...

3:49 AM  

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