Roland Dürre
Saturday January 5th, 2013

Change, Knowledge, Future

“In the biological sense, a business cycle is sustainable if it does not produce any waste“. Consequently, we can say:

No Waste!

The aforementioned definition of sustainability was given by Klaus Töpfer during a conference in the early summer days of 2012. At the same conference, he said a few more things that seem important to me.

Change Produces Knowledge. Knowledge Produces Change.

Perhaps this is an explanation for the high acceleration that seems to take place in our time. The “age of information” makes knowledge available for everybody at ever higher speed. Consequently, we can change our world faster than ever before. In doing so, we again generate a lot of new knowledge. And so on, and so forth…

Now the question might arise: how can we escape from this vicious circle? We might wish to minimize the change and the acceleration happening in our individual and collective lives through more knowledge?

But is that really what we want? Maybe the acceleration is what we desire, like a drug that provides us with “never ending fun”?

I think it makes sense to spend a little time thinking about this.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

4 Kommentare zu “Change, Knowledge, Future”

  1. Chris Wood (Saturday January 5th, 2013)

    Roland, I remember a talk at Interface a few weeks ago, where you came up with this “definition” of “Nachhaltigkeit”. A lady in the audience pointed out why this was not right, but you seemed not to understand her.
    On a more formal and pedantic level, may I point out that, according to the laws of thermodynamics, nothing can happen without waste!
    In general change does not produce knowledge, and knowledge need not produce change. If humanity manages to destroy itself, this change will involve destruction of knowledge.
    As I pointed out in http://if-blog.de/en/cw/ethik-nach-dem-humanismus/#more-215, life can be regarded as a form of knowledge, so that the current wave of destruction of life on Earth can also be regarded as destruction of knowledge.
    Happy New Year!

  2. rd (Sunday January 6th, 2013)

    Via Facebook:
    Joerg Rothermel hat deinen Beitrag kommentiert.
    Joerg hat geschrieben:
    „mmh – mal überlegen: können Wissenskreisläufe auch Abfall erzeugen? Bestimmt doch – aber was ist dieser Abfall? :-)“

  3. rd (Sunday January 6th, 2013)

    @Lieber Chris,

    ich meine, dass Du und die Dame nicht richtig zugehört bzw. genau gelesen haben. Klaus Töpfer hat von “Nachhaltigkeit im biologischen Sinne” gesprochen. Durch diese Einschränkung bewegt er sich in einem Sprachspiel, in dem die Gesetze der Thermodynamik zuerst mal nichts verloren haben.

    Nach meiner Meinung hat “destruction of life” überhaupt nichts nicht mit “destruction of knowledge” zu tun. Wenn die Arten sterben kann ich doch mehr Wissen über die Arten zusammentragen und speichern. Also – weniger “Vielfalt von Leben” aber mehr “Wissen über das Leben” 🙂

  4. Chris Wood (Monday January 7th, 2013)

    Roland, from the point view of science, the laws of thermodynamics apply to all processes in the Universe, even to making a joke. Everything else is supernatural, e.g. what religions believe. But I did not realise that your statement was word play. I do not see that the word play was funny enough to repeat in a serious blog.
    In my referenced posting, I pointed out that every species has in its genetic material the knowledge needed to survive and reproduce, (in a suitable environment). Thus a fertilised, (uncooked, etc.), goose egg contains the knowledge that foxes are dangerous.
    As far as I know, only for one species of bacterium has this knowledge been (almost completely) stored on a computer, and then used to generate a living bacterium (of that species). The knowledge in any other species is destroyed when it becomes extinct.
    Humanity is not capable of storing such knowledge for more than a small fraction of species. Even if it could be stored on computers, it would be effectively destroyed when no intelligent being existed to use the information or to run the computers. A book cannot be said to contain information, if nobody can ever read it.
    (I use “knowledge” and “information” here more-or-less as synonyms. Let me know if you see that as a serious mistake).

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