The move from knowledge to information

Technology and Human Reproduction FAQ’s

Recently, there has been a fundamental change in the ways that scientific, social, and cultural knowledge is being produced[23]. One of these configurations is the new informational economy that has emerged in the last two decades on a worldwide scale. The emergence of a new technological paradigm organised around new, powerful and flexible information technologies makes it possible for information itself to become the product of the production process. In other words, knowledge about human reproduction is being produced through technology.

In this new mode of information, research and transmission, the two principal functions of knowledge, have also been transformed by technical and scientific developments. These developments are themselves based significantly on language as a game within computerised societies as they enter into what is known as the post-industrial age and cultures enter the Postmodern Condition[24].

Scientific knowledge now defines the object of study, but in seeking the truth it is obliged to legitimate the rules of its own game[25]. For the last forty years, the ‘leading’ sciences and technologies have had to do with language. The developments have had to do with phonology and theories of linguistics, problems of communication and cybernetics, modern theories of algebra and informatics, computers and their languages, problems of translation and the search for areas of compatibility among computer languages, problems of information storage and data banks, perfection of intelligent terminals, paradoxology. This list is not exhaustive.[26] Science has played a leading role in technological developments that are constituted by and are affected by knowledge.

Such technological transformations can be expected to have an impact on knowledge. Cybernetics, for example, aids research by giving genetics its theoretical paradigm. In terms of the transmission of knowledge, the miniaturisation and commercialisation of machines are already changing the way in which learning is acquired, classified, made available and exploited. Knowledge can fit into the new channels, and become operational, only if learning is translated into quantities of information.

Along with the hegemony of computers comes a certain logic, and therefore certain sets of prescriptions determining which statements are accepted as ‘knowledge’ statements.[27] This knowledge is exteriorised with respect to the ‘knower’ and becomes a commodity: it is produced in order to be sold it has exchange value. Knowledge now as an informational commodity ceases to be an end in itself; it loses its ‘use value’.

In this respect, it has become the principal force of production and has affected the composition of the workforce. The mercantilisation of knowledge affects the privilege that nation-states enjoy with respect to the production and distribution of learning. Since there are those who have ‘knowledge’ and those who do not, it is conceivable that knowledge will become the major stake in world competition for power.

Multinational corporations already have cross-national access to storage and control of channels of data and what counts as knowledge. The State must therefore reconsider its relationship to civil society as well as to the large corporations. The idea that the State can control or even guide investments, for example, needs re-examining, which has implications for the restructuring of the State in New Zealand. Lyotard[28] can visualise learning to circulate along the same lines as money, where the pertinent distinction would no longer be made between knowledge and ignorance, but rather, as is the case with money, between ‘payment knowledge’ and ‘investment knowledge’.

If this were the case, communicational transparency would be similar to liberalism. Liberalism does not preclude an organisation of the flow of money in which some channels are used in decision-making while others are only good for the repayment of debts. One could similarly imagine flows of knowledge travelling along identical channels of identical nature, some of which would be reserved for the ‘decision makers’, while the others could be used to repay each person’s perpetual debt with respect to the social bond. Lyotard refers to this position as his working hypothesis that defines the field within which he considers the question of the status of knowledge[29]. It is also a working hypothesis that suggests a way for AMAT to interpret its objects.