Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The knowledge revolution

Chichilnisky, Graciela (1998): The knowledge revolution. Published in: The Journal of International Trade & Economic Development , Vol. 7, No. 1 (1998): pp. 39-54.

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We are on the threshold of a truly revolutionary era of discovery - ranging from the origins of the universe to new states of matter and microscopic machines, from a new understanding of the oceans and of the biological connections across the Earth's species to the functioning of the human brain and the origins of consciousness. This `golden age' of discovery, with frequent breakthroughs occurring virtually in every field, is inducing far-reaching social changes. We are undergoing a social and economic revolution which matches the impact of the agricultural and industrial revolutions. This is a `knowledge revolution' driven by knowledge and by the technologies for processing and communicating it. Knowledge is an intangible public good. It is privately produced, and it is replacing land and machines as the primary factor of production prevailing in the agricultural and industrial revolutions. This alters the terms of the debate between capitalism and socialism, and leads to a human-centred society with different types of markets, corporate structure and financial structures. Property rights on knowledge are key. Human capital is the engine of development. Markets require more egalitarian distribution of wealth for efficient functioning. The golden age of industrial society, with its voracious and unequal use of the Earth's resources, is reaching its logical limits. A new pattern of economic growth, knowledge-intensive growth, replaces the resource-intensive patterns that prevailed since World War II. This leads to a vision of society that is very innovative in the use of knowledge and very conservative in the use of the earth's resources, a new society centred on diversity and human capital and offering the prospect of substantial economic progress without damaging the ecosystems that support life on earth.

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