Intertwining of Ageing and Sustainability in Eastern Europe

6. Knowledge-based Society

The contemporary world is interconnected and interdependent becoming the first global civilization8. Globalization is generated by science and represents a shrinking in space and in time, where changes in a small subsystem cause effects in large and remote systems. Therefore, it is incorrect to identify globalization with endeavors to conquer and rule the world, which are rooted in human fear and in the desire to control nature. Globalization encompasses biological, social, cultural, economic and political spheres. Our world is changing rapidly; unexpectedly causing instabilities and uncertainties — and most of these changes are science-generated. Quantum physics, the theory of relativity and life sciences have changed our worldview. Our behavior is changing drastically, as demonstrated for example by the use of mobile communications, Google and transition to healthy lifestyle without smoking. The revolution in communications allows even less developed countries to rapidly catch up and leap-frog over more expensive but no longer necessary technologies such as landline telephones. The number of mobile phones has for example increased in Morocco from 2 per 100 inhabitants in 1999 to 25 in 2003 compared with Finland where it increased from 5 in 1991 to 93 in 2003, and with Croatia, where in 2003 there were 509. It is becoming more and more obvious that the only unlimited resource is knowledge and becoming a knowledge-based society is not only a desirable future but an urgent necessity.
The term knowledge society was first used in 1969 by P. Drucker 10 and in the 1990s it got its present meaning. Knowledge society identifies, produces, processes, transforms, disseminates and uses information and knowledge for human development9. Knowledge society provides ways to humanize globalization. The fundamental feature of the knowledge society is the knowledge-development link. Knowledge is the main resource in a knowledge-based society permeating life and culture, policy and decision-making. Knowledge-based society is constantly changing maintaining a long-term and global perspective. Knowledge includes science, humanities and technology, ongoing and planned R&D, innovations, education, languages, literature and art, and also traditional and hidden knowledge. Different from all other resources knowledge is not only inexhaustible, it is increased by sharing. Knowledge is becoming the main political power11. Of course, in a knowledge society other resources will be used, and some of them are non-renewable. Their use in a knowledge-based society is reduced and frequently substituted with other resources. Many modern technologies are dangerous and many more dangerous technologies will be forthcoming. Nevertheless, it is not possible to refrain from using modern technologies. Therefore, we need more research and much more knowledge so that we could know how to use these technologies for the benefit of humanity.
Individuals and human groups in a knowledge society will still behave and act irrationally and make numerous mistakes. It is the responsibility of a knowledge society to develop ways of minimizing the resulting harm and to maximize possible benefits. Just as the market provides an invisible hand channeling selfish behavior and interest into a common good, so does the Earth system operate through positive and negative feedbacks between its non-living and living parts to ensure that the Earth is always fit for life. In our hubris we believed we can be stewards of the Earth12 as we believed we could experiment with “civilization that has grown from the efforts of millions of individuals” (F. von Hayek). Knowledge and understanding are needed for us to be wise enough to know how to act and when not to act. Wisdom is imbedded in our various cultures, in our indigenous, traditional and hidden knowledge and scientific research, and knowledge increases wisdom and freedom. The introduction of new resources has always resulted in quantitative and qualitative leaps in the GDP/capita, and it can be argued that knowledge will lead to about a 30-50% increase in wealth and much more in other welfare indicators. Significant rises in quality of life, wisdom and freedom can be the outcomes of the culture of knowledge and peace.
Knowledge differs from all other resources in two significant characteristics. First, it is understood and contextualized only within a cultural system. Knowledge and culture are intertwined and the increase of knowledge demands that all cultures change. Second, while most resources exist separately from people, knowledge resides in people. Throughout history knowledge has been important, but a knowledge society is distinctly different since it focuses on human rights and on freedom of opinion and expression, and since it integrates all its members promoting new forms of solidarity involving present and future generations. Destroying human capital, suffocating freedom, human and social group rights and dignity hinders and prevents establishing a knowledge society. Developing a knowledge society will stop the destruction and the erosion of human capital.

7. Roadmap — How to Build a Knowledge-based Society

Building a sustainable knowledge-based society is a goal and an imperative. It is a common goal of humankind, but each country, each culture has to develop its own efficient way. Hopefully, this task can be accomplished in the next fifty years. We outline here a roadmap describing immediate essential milestones that each country has to accomplish to achieve this goal:
1.    Establishing a sustainable knowledge society requires political decision-making and political actions, political will at all levels including public, politicians, entrepreneurs, workers, producers and consumers and it requires the intertwining of knowledge-governance-economy. The task is difficult, but it is achievable even in a rather short period, as progress in Ireland, Finland and South Korea, but also in China and India demonstrate, albeit none of them is even close to becoming the knowledge-based society. In 1960 South Korea had the same GDP as Afghanistan, and less than those of Latin American countries.
2.     Ensuring security for individuals, social groups, nations and countries.
Contrary to the view that security requires military dominance and consequently more and more powerful weapons, the existence of such weapons is a threat in at least three ways: accidental use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), possession of such weapons by rogue and failing states, and WMD terrorism. Though circumstances beyond our current imagination might require use of some WMD, the current stock of over 30,000 nuclear devices with a destructive power that is not much less than it was at its peak in 1985, is absolutely unnecessary and dangerous. We propose that each sovereign state reduces its total military power by half every three years. Specifically, every three years states with nuclear weapons should reduce the number and destructive power of their WMD by half. We acknowledge the need for further R&D in military weapons, but a roadmap should require international control by multiple international organizations. Only such a procedure can make the Nonproliferation treaty (NPT) meaningful.
Some conventional weapons should be completely eliminated within three years. The damage already done by, and the danger of, antipersonnel mines coupled with the fact that their production and deployment is quite inexpensive, while de-mining is about hundred times more expensive and linked with loss of life imperatively demands that all countries, notably the USA, Russia and China ban the production and use of antipersonnel mines.
3.    Ensuring freedom, dignity and rights to individuals and social groups thereby helps create opportunities for increased human options and increased human responsibilities.
Amartya Sen argues that development is freedom13. Freedom is correlated with happiness and life satisfaction: correlation coefficient of 0.74 between perception of one’s own freedom at work and happiness, compared to 0.58 between tolerance and happiness14. Freedom and knowledge are intertwined with the basic value — the golden moral law biologically rooted and contained in all major religions and cultures. Rules, however, reflect not only this golden moral value, but also prescriptions, many of them historically justified, but now obsolete. A global world possibly demands different and/or additional social structures from those currently in use. For instance, are sovereign states doing what they are supposed to do, i.e. protect individuals, and maintain and strengthen cultural diversity? Shouldn’t we design structures above and beyond sovereign states? A relevant indicator is the quality and resilience of these institutions and the creation of new structures and institutions – especially network15 type – new knowledge-intensive innovative governance including freedom and order. Most of the existing and recent laws did not take into account scientific and technological progress. It appears that some laws are a barrier preventing and slowing rapid changes. Actually, the law should facilitate accommodation between rapid changes caused by science and technology and a naturally inert human behavior. This requires that a significant percentage of lawmakers are active scientists. It is necessary to reach beyond tolerance to cultural understanding.
4.     Working a person enlarges his freedom and contributes to his wellbeing and that of fellow human beings. Everybody, including ill and disabled people can and do enjoy some work. The concept of contemporary employment is less than two centuries old. Shorter and shorter person-hours are required to perform the same task: a century ago most of the population worked in agriculture, now barely 5% feeds everybody. Similarly, the necessary person-days in manufacturing are reduced. Currently, unemployment is very large, e.g. in France there is 23% unemployed youth. The knowledge-intensive sector will keep increasing. Now it amounts to 33% in EU, and 41% in the UK. Therefore we propose:
4.1.    Employment is a basic human right that has to be socially guaranteed. Human resources development is the responsibility of each country’s government and of the international organizations.
4.2. Each country has to reduce unemployment by 2% every two years mainly by increasing employment in education and R&D. Since lifelong education implies about 60 years of education instead of the 12-16 years of education of today, and since it is necessary to educate everybody, it follows that the demand for educators is about ten times larger than today.
4.3. In a rapidly changing world individuals, for their own benefit, change employment and migrate implying the necessity of lifelong education, liberal firing with the responsibility of various institutions to assure job search assistance and job finding. Such an approach works in Denmark and it is dubbed “flexicurity” — intertwining flexibility and security.
4.4. Living in a modern world requires constant learning. At the time of enormous increase in knowledge a broadly educated person with understanding of global and local issues is needed. Knowledge society requires that most persons obtain their Ph.D. degree. A current sequential model of education followed by employment and then retirement is not sustainable because knowledge doubles every 5-10 years, postponing first employment to the age of about 30 hinders normal family life particularly putting women at a disadvantage. Therefore, each country has to ensure intersecting employment and education with no discrimination with respect to age, gender or disability.
5)    Knowledge society cannot be the elite on an island in a sea of mediocrity. The spirit of knowledge has to permeate the entire society. Social, economic and political climate should be innovative and creative. Therefore, life-long education encompassing the entire society is a condition for building a knowledge society. All countries are very far from that goal. Only 16% of the working age population in Croatia has achieved tertiary education, compared to 15% in Serbia and Montenegro, and 14% in Romania and to 21% of the EU, 38% in the USA, 43% in Canada, 36% in Japan and 26% in South Korea. In the EU about 52% of the age group is enrolled in higher education which is higher than Japan’s 49%, but lags behind 59% in Canada, 81% in the USA and 82% in South Korea. EU has 5.5% researchers per 1000 employees marginally less than Canada or South Korea, but well below the 9.0 in the USA or 9.7 in Japan. Large groups of people are smarter, better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decision than an elite few. The conditions are that the group be composed of diverse persons so that they bring different information, that no one is dictating the answer, and that each individual is independent16. The wisdom of the crowd is the basis of the democratic sustainable knowledge society.
Evidence shows that countries that invest heavily in education and skills benefit economically and socially: workers with higher education earn higher wages. Countries that give individuals one additional year of education boost productivity and raise economic output by 3-6%. Each country has to increase tertiary education enrolment, percentages of Ph.D. degree holders and of researchers to reach the figures of 75%, 3% and 3%, respectively within ten years. This requires flexible and effective schools and universities, so that education is focused on pupils’ and students’ capabilities, talents and needs, on choice, and that it is completed within a given time interval with no drop-outs. Spending per student/pupil, now almost twice as little in EU as in the USA, has to be increased everywhere. Among the 20 leading universities two UK universities are from Europe. Any budget type allocation suffers from misdirection and waste, and it is necessary to establish mechanisms that ensure that money is indeed spent on education measuring quality and length of education, success and speed in getting new, different jobs.
6)     We are experiencing a scientific revolutions in all scientific disciplines and development of interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary domains. The Lisbon agenda requires that each EU country allocates at least 3% of their GDP for R&D. This goal is not sufficient. R&D output indicators should be high: top 5% and 1% cited papers, number of Nobel laureates and recipients of distinguished honours, fellowship in international and regional academies, number of leading research universities and research institutes. Knowledge-economy-governance intertwining can be assessed by evaluating the contribution of the private sector to human resources development. Human and social capital is not only of national but of global concern and various international/regional programs like the EU Marie Curie program have to be carried out.
7)     Any component of the roadmap, regardless how temporary it is, should never adversely affect the human potential.

8 Rischard, J.F. (2002): High Noon, Perseus, Oxford.; Wolf, M. (2004): Why Globalization Works, Yale, New Haven.; Bhagwati, J. (2004): In Defense of Globalization, Oxford OUP.; Legrain, P. (2002): Open World: The Truth about Globalization, Abacus, London.; Shaping Tomorrow — Anticipating the Future; April 5, 2006; Future of employment, Future of Globaliztion, Future of politics and governance:
9 UNESCO (2005): Towards Knowledge Societies, UNESCO Publishing, Paris.
10 Drucker, P. (1969): The Age of Discontinuity, Guidelines to our Changing Society, Harper & Row, New York.
11 Toffler, A. (1990): Power Shift: Knowledge, Wealth and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century, Bantam Dell Publ. Co, New York.
12 Lovelock, J. (2004): The Selfish Green, talk given at the Adam Smith Institute, March 15.
13 Sen, A. (1990): Development as Freedom, First Anchor Books Edition, 2000.
Sen, A. (1999): “Democracy as Universal Value”, Journal of Democracy, 10.3, 3.
14 Veenhoven, R. (2000): Happy Life Years in 90 Nations 1990-2000, World data base of happiness,; Inglehart, R. and Kligemann, H. D. (2000): “Genes, Culture, Democracy and Happiness”, in E. Diener and E. M. Suh, Eds., Culture and Subjective Well-Being Across Cultures, pp. 165-182, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.
15 Castels, M. (2000): The Rise of the Network Society, Blackwell Publ, 2000;
Albert, R. and Barabasi, A.-L. (2002): Statistical Mechanics of Complex Networks, Review of Modern Physics, 74 (2002) 47-97.; Oltvai Z. N. and Barabasi, A.-L. (2002): “Life’s Complexity Pyramid”, Science, 298, (2002) 763.
16 Surowiecki, J. (2004): The Wisdom of Crowds, Doubleday, Random House, Inc.

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