IBM Watson, How it Works

The Knowledge Revolution is Underway

Our Relationship with Knowledge Has Been Hijacked, But Do We Really Recognise It?

August 10, 2017, Tuomo Kuosa

How can you identify reliable knowledge sources and trustworthy experts? What types of knowledge or information need to be memorised, learnt, comprehended, and mastered? How is reliable knowledge created, how should we access it, and what kind of knowledge should be saved? Just a short while ago, answers to these questions were quite clear or merely a matter of taste, but now all this is rapidly changing.

In the past two years, we have really begun to grasp the fact that automation and artificial intelligence will soon make many expert professions obsolete. At the same time, even in the public debate we have acknowledged the possibility that automation may deny permanent employment, even in times of economic growth, for most of the contemporary middle classes. Proposed solutions for these problems have included, for example, universal basic income, increases in property and consumption taxes, and even a new “robot tax”.

All these changes and proposed solutions have part of their origins in one core phenomenon: the spread of automated information creation, which is constantly being improved thanks to developments in AI.

But, in the public sphere, attempts to address some of the implications of AI and automation, or automated knowledge creation, have mostly revolved around questions like, “what is the future of work?” or “will there be greater income inequality”, and to some extent from the point of view of changes in available technologies, products, and services.

However, this fundamental change also encompasses several significant issues that are much more difficult to identify and understand, and haven´t been discussed in public yet. One of these issues is our relationship with knowledge, i.e., how we fundamentally view knowledge, knowing, truth, knowledge creation, learning, education, language skills, expertise, degrees, etc.

Currently we all have some specific opinions and attitudes towards each of these concepts, but we should expect many of these attitudes to change and our positions to be remarkably different in ten years.

One of the main reasons behind our difficulties in identifying changes in our relationship with knowledge is the fact that it deals with much more invisible forces. It is easy to see firsthand the effects of automation on employment rates or income inequality, but much more difficult to pinpoint how exactly AI is changing the way we think about the value of, say, a university degree. While it is easy to get a large group of people involved in debating the former, especially when their own livelihoods might be at stake, the latter is often forgotten.

We might ask ourselves, then, has our relationship with knowledge been hijacked? Has what we consider reliable or trustworthy knowledge changed? Do we still really need to memorise all those things that were the sign of a well-informed person decades ago? And how will the answers to these questions change in the next two or three decades?

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