Saturday, 27 February 2010

That Knowledge Deficit


I came across a very powerful article by Jeffrey Sachs in The Broker Magazine issue for February 2010. Though I am not his huge fan even when he wrote “The End of Poverty” five years back, I got excited by how bluntly he made a critic on government and the development enterprise regarding the climate change issue after Copenhagen. He wrote, in his final remarks on his essay “Rethinking Macroeconomics” regarding that knowledge deficit in the policy-making halls of governments. I love the lines. This is the reason why I am reproducing it here.

“Finally, another fundamental problem of governance is the lack of interface between politicians and ‘knowledge communities’, that is, the communities of expertise in critical areas such as energy, food production, disease control, poverty alleviation, and so on. We have not solved the problem of the proper integration of scientific and technological knowledge in public policy making. The US Congress is nearly scientifically illiterate. This is very dangerous. The politicians posture without understanding the technical underpinnings of the structural challenges we face: their magnitude, timing, spatial extent and future dynamics, or the costs of mitigation and adaptation. The real experts are very far from the podiums and negotiating tables.
We cannot feed the planet by going back to traditional farming. We cannot solve the problems of energy, transport and health by relying on outdated technologies. Leaving science to the margins of political decision making or, even worse, overriding the science, is life threatening. The proper mobilization of expert knowledge, with all its limits and evolving character, is a fundamental need and challenge. Without expertise, we are flying blind into a complex and harrowing future.”

His essay paralleled my arguments in the previous post in this blog (The Problem with Representative Democracy, December 2009). It is a sad thing that indeed there is this knowledge deficit that exists almost everywhere in society, not only in government.
I remember many days back when Holy Name University celebrated its university days and people were asking in the radio about lighted flying objects in the air.Captain Mendez, a self-proclaimed weather expert-science man, made hilarious claims. I also remember how a university official defined revenue generation and better financial management, arguing that better financial management is about a balanced budget. And again, I remember priests trying to be businessmen and culture experts at the same time, without considering their limited understanding about projected demand and forward-backward linkages.

I am not saying that nobody should say his/her piece and do his/her act on one thing when he feels the need to. What I am saying is, one should be careful with making pronouncements and decisions, outside his/her core expertise. Better still, one person should not involve himself/herself in something that he/she does not have knowledge about. It will save the world a lot of time and cost.

This has significant implications in Bohol though. It means that 30% of department heads in the provincial government should at least quit their job and give it to someone else. It means that several mayoralty candidates should defer their decision of running for office. It means that at least 40% of school administrators at one organization I know of should rethink their positions.

A knowledge deficit exists because the people who are running organizations and offices are unfit to hang on to their positions. A knowledge deficit exists because those that who are worthy are not given a chance. A knowledge deficit also exists because those who are good are not good enough to assert their claims. A knowledge deficit exist because those who are expected to sharpen their trade tools and read their books, failed miserably to fulfil these basic duties.

The challenge is gargantuan. Now is an age of information, an age of knowledge. It is a misery that even at the first level, that of awareness, several of us are unsuccessful. How do we expect knowledge, and understanding to come?

7 comments:

glennnavs said...

Any idea anyone? on how to overhaul the system and put the right people on the right position on the government? even just put the "not-so-knowledge-deficit-type" to start with........
nah,...... just vote wisely.... please.... (di raba ko ka-botar kay dia ko tunga-tunga desyerto)

marlims said...

This article is so timely and relevant.

I hope voters should rethink of their choice of candidates in the coming elections. We must be strict of qualifications and not just rely on referral system.

Research Paper said...
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Trevor Batten said...

"I am not saying that nobody should say his/her piece and do his/her act on one thing when he feels the need to. What I am saying is, one should be careful with making pronouncements and decisions, outside his/her core expertise. Better still, one person should not involve himself/herself in something that he/she does not have knowledge about. It will save the world a lot of time and cost."

This is a very dangerous and difficult statement. Underlying it is the fundamental question of the meaning and validity of knowledge itself. In this context, perhaps your statement damns itself.....



"A knowledge deficit exists because the people who are running organizations and offices are unfit to hang on to their positions. A knowledge deficit exists because those that who are worthy are not given a chance. A knowledge deficit also exists because those who are good are not good enough to assert their claims. A knowledge deficit exist because those who are expected to sharpen their trade tools and read their books, failed miserably to fulfill these basic duties."

This is assuming that the systen is (or should be) rational. In fact, there is no reason at all to assume such a thing -especially if we had a better understanding of what "rationality" actually means. Then perhaps we should understand that different systems have different rationalities -and that two or more systems may each conform with their own rationalities but not with each others..... On one level, this is the basis of "culture" -which usually manages to get itself left out of the equation by professional (social) system programmers and operators.

So there is the question of which system exactly are we operating in -and on which level? A global Industrial-Military-Edutainment complex" as basically defined by Eisenhower and Galbraith -or a (more) local system of post-colonial corruption held in place by other dynamics?



"The challenge is gargantuan. Now is an age of information, an age of knowledge. It is a misery that even at the first level, that of awareness, several of us are unsuccessful. How do we expect knowledge, and understanding to come?"

This is indeed a great problem. Primarily because the "age of informnation" is actually the age of propaganda and misinformation via the mass media and, unfortunately, the education system: To say nothing of the political/economic system and the NGO's who support it by appearing to criticize it. All systems Propagating propaganda, partly out of ignorance, partly out of cultural bias, partly out of personal ambition and partly to further the interests of those who are able to manipulate and exploit the process.

If you wish to talk of "Knowledge" then you should be aware that technology is increasingly our master -while at the same time we are mostly all totally ignorant of how it actually functions. Most people (including many "politically active" intellectuals) even do not wish to know. This reduces all "political" thinking to mere (wishful) "magic thinking".... All cleverly hidden by the solid conviction of their own rationality.

So we may need first to understand basic concepts like "technology" and "culture" and how these relate to concepts such as "knowledge" and "rationality". Without all the bits that the current system manages to ignore, those who oppose are likely to end up constructing a tower of Babel in an infinite time loop... No doubt, with those who run the system standing around laughing at our stupidity.

Miko Cañares said...

Hi Trevor,

Apologies for the delayed reaction. I have not made a post since April because of several pressing concerns.

I agree with several points that you made. They will serve as reflection points for my writing and researching. I will tremendously benefit from you. If you are open to review a paper, I am currently writing on governance and security. I will surely appreciate it if you can make a review before I submit it to formal review process.

On a last note, I am curious what led you to the site. Whatever and whoever it/that is, please extend my thanks.

Miko

RAV Samael Ben Shabbatai said...

There is a deficit in knowledge because there is a deficit in teaching and a deficit in will to teach. I had a child in regional school and the whole teaching was to hiss the flag, sing the national anthem, learn how to sweep a floor with a hand behind the back and the broom in the other and the words of the Christian bible. With such a schooling system we will not go far, at least not further then the local church where people are dumbed useless. I went to this country a couple of years ago with a luggage of knowledge to handle over to anyone who wants it. I found not many who want it and worse, when i try to teach, local people are angry, claiming to know everything and not willed to change any of there habits in any way. If we do not start at the base to teach the children we will not progress. This teaching starts by what the world is, how it works, what is safe and dangerous. One example and a main problem is the pollution with plastic all over the nature. How to explain the dangers if children do not know what the stuff is, how it becomes and what makes it so dangerous for the environment.

Project C said...

There's knowledge deficit because we're not perfect and constantly in a process of discovering - and rediscovering - and making mistakes after mistakes along the way. That's where I think the genius is! (Or say, intellect). Say, "I'm no better than you!" and let's move on and rediscover all over again...