The disruptive impact of a knowledge-based technology

Cheltenham Science Festival, 2011
Jim Al-Khalili, Cheltenham Science Festival, 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

War is the spur and the technology is originally concentrated in just one place, close to the frontline.

But then it spreads and multiplies – and the commercial centres become the centres of the new technology.

Within a few decades the old technologies – which have been steadily advancing up to this point – have been rendered obsolete and a whole new range of skills and technologies – particularly those that allow the more rapid and lower cost distribution of knowledge – are in demand.

More than that, the technology itself allows the revolutionising of multiple aspects of daily life by spreading knowledge ever wider and accelerating the rate at which new knowledge is acquired.

Eventually the technology is globalised and there comes a point where the old centres of manufacturing are eclipsed but the technology itself is more important than ever….

The computer revolution? No, the coming of paper to the Arab world as outlined in Jim Al-Khalili‘s wonderful Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science. I’ve only read about 50 pages so far but I cannot recommend this book highly enough – as it has lots to say about today’s world as well as that of 11 centuries ago.

(The Arabs learned how to make paper from Chinese prisoners of war and first factory was at Samarkand, close to the front line. Then it spread throughout the Islamic Caliphate – at a time when the Caliphate was open to ideas and scientific exploration. The availability of paper spurred the mass translation of works of Greek, Indian and Persian science and then allowed Arab scientists to disseminate their new ideas. It also transformed the leather, wood and ink and dye industries. Arab works – not just those of the ancients – became known in Europe and then became essential in spurring the humanist revolution we call the renaissance…)

Enhanced by Zemanta