What is the “Knowledge society”?

What is the ”knowledge society”? We tend to think of knowledge as something connected to individuals and so we need better skills and education to develop in synch with the world. But is that all there is to it? It would seem that the post-industrial economy is more complex than the skills of its workers. Large organizations can have thousands of employees working for them and thus very sophisticated management structures. But it’s not only about skills and organization, there is also institutional knowledge. Knowledge that various parts of organizations can access and use. Knowledge that others can be allowed to use on certain conditions. This is the formally organized knowledge.

The knowledge society may have the answers to many of today’s challenges

It can be very valuable: it can be traded, it can be licensed, it can attract investment, it can give competitive advantages. As the knowledge society advances, the economy becomes increasingly reliant on intangibles. In fact, the more advanced an economy is, the higher the degree of investment is into immaterial assets. Knowledge can be used to improve processes in areas which traditionally relies more on physical production, such as raw materials or agriculture. The greatest productivity increases can often be made thanks to knowledge in such industries: better processes, better marketing, better energy use and so forth.

It is often said that the future is digital, and while that may be true, even more so is the future intangible. The knowledge society may have the answers to many of today’s challenges, such as jobs, growth and to some extent energy and climate. In the knowledge society, there can be economic growth without exhausting resources. There can be new jobs, good jobs that rely on the work of the mind rather than the body. The common denominator for the intangible economy is intellectual property rights. That is the formalization of knowledge, which makes it possible to buy, trade, loan and sell.

In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of articles based on Nima Sanandaji’s report, Immaterial Value Creation in Europe. This report shows that intellectual property rights underpin large and increasing parts of the economy across all sectors. If the future is digital but digital technology challenges intellectual property rights, those technologies must be made future-proof. The perceived conflict of intellectual property and technology must be solved with better technology, not with lesser value of knowledge. Only so can the knowledge society prosper.

Nima Sanandaji’s report makes this case. I wish you an inspiring read.


This article is part of a series of articles published from the Netopia report Immaterial Value Creation in Europe, by Nima Sanandaji.