Previous Fora / 2003

Knowledge based society

World Science Forum - Budapest

Knowledge and Society

8-10 November 2003



Some of the present versions of the session summaries are working material. The finalised versions will be posted at the Forum’s homepage on the web.


Knowledge-based Society

From restricted access to knowledge to self-education. The way ancient societies related to knowledge (reserving access to knowledge to certain elites) changed in Europe during the Renaissance. Our contemporary scene is characterized by an overkill of excessive information. The result: lack of knowledge and inability to process the necessary information. The goal is to build a learning society by teaching individuals how to avail themselves to self-education, as an important step to knowledge-based society.

Definition of knowledge-based society. A knowledge-based society is an innovative and life-long learning society, which possesses a community of scholars, researchers, engineers, technicians, research networks, and firms engaged in research and in production of high-technology goods and service provision. It forms a national innovation-production system, which is integrated into international networks of knowledge production, diffusion, utilization, and protection. Its communication and information technological tools make vast amounts of human knowledge easily accessible. Knowledge is used to empower and enrich people culturally and materially, and to build a sustainable society.

The difference knowledge-based society can make. In a knowledge-based society 1) all forms of knowledge (scientific, tacit, vernacular, embedded; practical or theoretical, multisensorial or textual, linearly/hierarchically organized or organized in network structures) are communicated in new ways; 2) as the use and misuse of knowledge has a greater impact than ever before, equal access to knowledge by the population is vital; 3) information accessibility should not be a new form of social inequality; 4) closing the growing gap between developed and developing countries must be a top political priority—no one can be left behind; 5) as knowledge cannot be understood without culture, research on the interface between vernacular and scientific knowledge must be developed; 6) access to knowledge should be considered as a right and should be protected from short-term industrial interests limiting this access; 7) there must be a continuous dialogue between society and science, thus promoting scientific literacy and enhancing the advising role of science and scholarship; 8) scientific discourse should stop being gender-blind, barriers that prevent more women from choosing science careers and reaching top positions should be overcome; 9) the young generation’s interest in science and commitment to the knowledge-led future of their countries should be stimulated by introducing innovative teaching methods, and by changing the image of the scientist, with the help of the media and through involved mentorship

The ethical dimension. 1) Knowledge and society form a partnership: science needs to work in harmony with and for society; science and scientific knowledge must remain “human” regarding community and environment, including moral responsibility and safeguarding humanity’s cultural and linguistic heritage as well as diversity in creativity. 2) The call is for global ethics in the pluralist society, to enable the individual to exist in a local/regional as well as in a national community at the same time, inclusive of using his/her vernacular, national, and the international language. 3) It is also an ethical dimension of research to concern ourselves with the rights of and obligations towards other living beings in the biosphere.