The Sisyphus Challenge of the 21st Century
Chapter 3: The Knowledge Explosion and its Manifestations
The triple crisis at the beginning of the 21st century is closely associated with the simultaneous transformations of speculative thought, the technological base and the structure of production, and with an explosive growth in the generation and utilization of knowledge based on scientiﬁc research. This has led to the emergence of the ‘knowledge society’, the twilight of the Baconian age and the transformation of scientiﬁc research, highly complex and systemic innovation processes, a change in the structure of production activities and a transition towards a new techno-economic paradigm, and to a recognition of the importance of traditional knowledge, techniques and production. Each of these will be discussed in turn. 3.1 THE EMERGENCE OF THE KNOWLEDGE SOCIETY Scientiﬁc advances and technological innovations are at the root of the complex processes of social change that have taken place during the second half of the 20th century. An inﬂexion point in the growth of human capabilities to understand the biophysical and social context, and to devise effective responses to the challenges posed by them, can be identiﬁed around the time of World War II. Throughout history the capacity to generate and utilize knowledge has been associated, to a signiﬁcant extent, with the conduct of war. Yet, the scale and impact of the mobilization of science for military purposes during World War II was extraordinary and unprecedented. Major advances in physics and engineering led to the construction of the atomic bomb, the development of radar and other electronic...
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