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Proceedings of the symposium of academic presidents "Knowledge gap and wealth polarization in the new economy"

Authors Woo, Chia-Wei
Issue Date 2001
Summary What will be the major problem for society in the 21st century? Wars? Not likely. I believe man now appreciates the horrendous power of destruction of the weapons he's invented, and has become wise enough to avoid deploying them. So, local skirmishes, yes. World Wars, no. Natural disasters? Not likely. I believe science is now sufficiently advanced to foresee the coming of natural disasters and to prevent them from wreaking truly major havoc. Diseases? Not likely. Unfortunately, some newer diseases such as AIDS will always spread, but I believe they will soon become preventable and controllable, and most of them scientifically curable. Nonetheless, one should always be vigilant for natural or man-made problems that are capable of causing calamities. My candidate for the major problem is wealth polarization brought about by the knowledge gap, a problem that has already arisen in a world divided into developed and developing societies, and within every society that is unwittingly separating itself into two classes: the knowledge workers and the ordinary people. Whichever the setting, we find knowledge workers gaining in wealth and power, while ordinary people perceive threats to their livelihood, disenfranchisement in the control of their daily life, and marginalization in their value to exist. Politicians do not wish to raise this subject, because they do not quite understand it, have no solution to offer, and are reluctant to alert and thereby frighten their voters. The business world does not wish to talk about this problem because corporations rely on newly discovered knowledge to develop, make, and sell products; to manage; to compete; and to satisfy their shareholders. It is then for us, the academics, to deal with the problem. First of all, it is really our responsibility, since we are the ones that create the problem by incessantly discovering new knowledge. Second, we owe it to the disadvantaged to come up with solutions because we happen to sit on the advantaged side of the knowledge gap. Third, we may be able to create the kind of knowledge that provides solutions to the problem. Fourth, because of our training, we may be better equipped to deal with such problems rationally and objectively. And finally, we have neither voters nor shareholders to please - at least not directly. A group of top academics - presidents of many of the leading universities in East Asia and Western Europe - are here to celebrate the University's 10th Anniversary with us. These are people who have themselves created new knowledge, and have managed the creation of new knowledge. They share the concern, and are willing to speak on the subject.
Language English
Format Conference paper
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