Posts Tagged ‘knowledge economy’

sdI can hardly think of anyone dumber than the average smartphone enthusiast.

Technically a meaningless term by now, smartphone is used as a marketing buzzword to make the consumer feel smart if she keeps up employing her financial resources and personal time to consume online.

The object of the consumption are hardware gadgets, connection time, apps (mostly designed for the dummies who can’t use the web), online entertainment, and especially in-app purchasing, one of the killer marketing applications of the 2000s, first popularized by Apple.

In the process, people also consume most of their cognitive bandwidth, which, consistently with what Jon Zittrain anticipated, is directed to playing the games conceived by astute marketeers, and almost never aimed at expanding one’s competence.

As with most digital technologies, one to five percent of people are leveraging smartphones to gain power and/or expand knowledge, while the other 95% are but blind consumers. And the consumer is “a prey in the Supranet jungle”…

Mastery of technology, whether it be digital, financial, biotech, or materials’, is what generates the increasing income inequality to be observed worldwide. Take a look at the portion of people who can use technologies (instead of just being used through them), and you’ll get a proxy of the portion of people who are getting richer and richer.

[Written on the day that “smartphone sales surpassed feature phones”, whatever that means]

Please join me praising Corinne Le Buhan, who won the Economist/Innocentive Human Potential Index challenge. Loads of good food for thought in her proposal.

I, too, happen to believe that we should learn how to measure collective intelligence. And Le Buhan’s work, although still imperfect, is a step forward on the road toward quantitatively assessing the values of the “knowledge economy”.

Unfortunately, one limitation laying heavy on all methodologies aimed at measuring human development or potential and going beyond GDP, is that “development” or “potential” are political concepts.

Different groups of people (social classes, political parties, partisans of various inclinations, bigots, laics, etc.) will have different views on them, and will tend to assign very different weights to whatever groups of variables researchers may come up with.

A smartphone is a status symbol for the oi polloi, a working tool for the professional, and a nuisance for the consummated digital native; street safety and a small percent of immigrants are much valued metrics for the proletarian who takes the bus or subway everyday, while a non-issue for the chauffeur-driven lady; patents per capita is not the most crucial metric for the vast majority of Indians who leave on a $5 per day budget; et cetera.

Human development being a political issue, I am afraid it may be impossible to capture it aseptically as if it were a physical quantity. I believe that GDP sticks because it is as close as possible to a “neutral”, if relatively content-poor, measure…

All progressive researchers can do is to come up with new variables to be measured. But politics will assign the weights. Then, an index can be computed: and it will be different from country to country, depending on the respective political inclinations. Furthermore, the same index will look different even in the same country, when a new political majority prevails. That is, the new indices are probably not very useful.

However this may not be the case with Le Buhan, whose proposed metric has the goal of measuring the knowledge potential of a society and therefore can be a useful add-on to GDP and a much more far-looking measure.

P.S.: The title of our post alludes to how a few years ago The Economist announced the news that President Sarkozy had hired top-notch intellectuals to get to a measure that went beyond GDP, arguing that economic growth cannot be the only measure of a Nation’s success and that quality of life should be taken into account, too.