The Knowledge Society is the title of the enlightening book written by Marc Luyckx Ghisi, Belgian writer and professor, as well as a former member of Jacques Delors’ Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission, a think-tank created over 20 years ago with the goal of shaping the Europe of the 21st century.
In light of the latest events,what remains of that idea of the European Union? About this, the change of civilisation, jobs, young people and hope I have talked with Marc, whose ideas provided the inspiration for this blog.
Marc, what is the Knowledge Society? Can you define it? When can we fix the beginning of it?
From my point of view, the beginning dates back to 1993, when the 20st century’s greatest management expert, Peter Drucker, wrote his masterpiece Post-Capitalist Society.
What’s his message? Humanity went from an agricultural society, in which all you needed was a seed and some land where you could plant it, to an industrial society, materialistic and mechanistic, where inside a factory a steel block is turned into a car.
From this civilisation we have shifted to the Knowledge Society, where the production tool is nothing but the human brain. Knowledge is applied to knowledge to create other knowledge. Facebook and Google are nothing but one thing: ideas.
Drucker understood and described this shift 20 years ago and now we’re in the middle of it. Even Marx claimed that, if you change the tool of production, you will change society.
What are the implications of the shift to the Knowledge Society in the world of work?
As I was saying, in the Knowledge Society the tool of production, the company’s real value, is no longer a machine, but the individual, with their knowledge, their expertise and intuition. What does this imply? That the manager must treasure the people working for him and make sure they’ll come back to his company the next day, because now they are his/her tool of production! Therefore, the wise manager must be able to create an environment that stimultaes creativity and harmony. The machine, in a company, is now at the service of the people, not viceversa. Steve Jobs understood it and created a human-friendly technology.
Is it correct to see the civilisation shift that we are going through as both macroscopic – as it involves the global society at all levels – and microscopic – as it happens in each individual – at the same time?
If we want to explain the change through a more understandable simile, we must visualise it as an iceberg.
Underwater, in its deepest part, we can find the unconscious engine generating the change which is being activated by two negative factors:
1. with the nuclear bomb, man has created the possibility to destroy life on the earth;
2. it is impossible to have a quantitative growth in a system like our planet, which has a limited amount of resources.
The possibility of collective suicide has pushed the human civilisation to choose life. However, we have to change our basic values of Command, Conquest, Control which have dominated our society up to now. They cannot provide us with the answers we’re looking for. On the contrary, Care e Respect are the values to which we have to aspire today. The contrast between Syriza and Brussles which we have seen in the past few weeks is just about this, but we’ll get back to it later on.
The following level of change, as we climb up the iceberg, is the obsolete way of considering science and academia. It is highly analytical, it doesn’t have a holistic approach and discards spirituality and intuition. On the contrary, quantum physics pushes us to a redefinition of time, space and matter. If in the past we thought that matter existed and conscience was of secondary importance, we are silently shifting to a totally different perspective according to which conscience condenses energy and makes matter exist. Nevertheless, university and academia do not even mention this.
As we go further up, the second last level of our iceberg is about the economic shift from an industrial system to the Knowledge Society with very different perspectives.
The last level is what we see on the surface, ie. the crisis of identity of politics, which we have seen during this Greek crisis with a political movement, Syriza, presenting a new paradigm that the establishment – arrogant and faithful to the old system – refuses to accept. Almost all the leaders in politics do not understand the ongoing shift.
With regard to this, I want to talk about the example of a person I know personally. Not long ago I spoke with a businesswoman from Tuscany, Italy, who was asked to put her experience at the service of the local administration for five years. After that, she would go back to her previous job. These are the political leaders we need. The people who are only interested in following the electorate’s mood are those who prevent society as a whole from advancing.
To go back to your question, every single individual must certainly complete the change that is involving society at macroscopic level. Both are essential. The Eastern wisdom has been teaching it for 4,000 years, but in the West we have forgotten it.
Actually, in the West a large number of people – in Italy even 50% of the population, certain studies show – have already embraced the new values. Our children and grand-children seem more prepared for the society that will come. They will revolutionise the school and university system.
Which new job opportunities are looming on the horizon in the Knowledge Society? And which skills will be necessary to have such work opportunities?
Tomorrow’s manager is a person that must have followed a path of self-improvement and personal enlightenment. I was explaining that for the manager the problem will be how to keep the most capable people. We’re moving towards a qualitative growth, so those who work want to do it in a creative environment where they can renew and trasnform themselves as individuals. We can say that tomorrow’s company is a place of human development.
We don’t need any specialists anymore in our organisations, but generalists using wisdom. Our system produces PhDs who know a subject in its smallest details, when companies need generalists who are able to summarise, learn and create. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what university is producing at the moment.
The countries that have reshaped their education system to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century are very few. Almost every country is still preparing students for work in factories or in companies having a pyramid structure, even though they are going to be less and less in the future. What are your ideas to train the leaders of the Knowledge Society?
Finland is a very good example, as it reformed its education starting from primary school in order to boost the growth of young creative minds. How have they achieved this goal? They started from elementary school and limited the action of inspectors whilst giving at the same time more responsibility to primary school teachers with economic incentives. Finland is even moving one step forward, as it is studying how to provide every citizen with at least a certain income, as in the Knowledge Society there cannot be enough full time jobs for everyone. However, if the State grants a certain amount of money, you will have all you need to make a living and dedicate yourself to creating something new for society thanks to your creativity.
As regards the leaders of the Knowledge Society, the preparation that is given today by business schools is obsolete. It could work with the industrial society, as it was analytic and mechanistic. On the contrary, my idea is to provide students with a type of education that also works on intuition, spirituality and the brain’s right hemisphere.
The vision you propose, based on the change starting from every single individual, contrasts with the messages coming from the media, which often present the establishment as unalterable and the individual as helpless when confronted with big political, economic and environmental decisions. What is the message of hope that you want to leave for the youth?
Unfortunately, the old system has a strong capability of self-replication. For example, the other day on tv many EU politicians were saying that there are no alternatives to the established model. They’re wrong.
We’re going through a deep change, even though we don’t know when it’s going to manifest itself. A lot of young people, especially the most sensitive ones, are going through a hard time as they perceive the threat of collective death which we, as humankind, have created. It is actually at such a complicated time that everyone of us, through our own individual development, can try to brighten the world the corner of the word we live in…
I’m going to tell you about one personal experience I have had of late. I’ve recently taken part in a meeting organised by an anthropologist and an army officer who fought in Vietnam. They told us to rethink about our humanity. For millennia, we’ve been taught that only two things matter: Fuck and kill.
However, the warrior is the person who fights against his or her own darkness. We are over 100 million only in Europe on the path towards a new society. All that matters is to look to the future with hope and believe in our own intuitions.