Saturday, May 19, 2012


A global misunderstanding of the value of "intangible" ideas

There have been some interesting stories in the news about Europe's ongoing struggle for unity. There is a digital age under-current to this story that is not making news, a digital reason why some European countries are recovering and some are not. But where Greece seems unconscious of the problem, Spain would seem more hopeful, yet I have struggled to find the digital companies and entrepreneurs in Spain (1, 2, 3, 4) that can show the way forward.

The surface political problem is relatively clear as these two stories reveal.

Spain’s Yearnings Are Now Its Agony

Why breaking up the eurozone could be painful

What is missing from this analysis by news reporters with tight deadlines and insufficient vision is the invisible global transition of power from finance and manufacturing centered control to information age control on a continent that lags behind the United States in developing the talent pool of software creators and entrepreneurs. The young talent from Spain that they have educated is migrating elsewhere. We have an explosion of knowledge and problems to solve while these news writers have little awareness that it takes a knowledge refinery infrastructure to fix this.

Unfortunately, the problem is hardly European. There may well be misguided Wall Street type thinkers of the world inhabiting every continent. See this tortured bit of thought from the Wall Street Journal editorial page about the new economy being led by pale, socially incompetent, algorithm writers.

Rich Karlgaard: The Future Is More Than Facebook

Some European thinkers have seen and have understood some important aspects of the problem. The countries now most in trouble have done the least to invest in the digital age. Warning, heavy reading, but graph on page 16 of the first link below really sums up much of the authors' points. Note carefully the black bar of "intangible investment" from US on left thru Spain and Greece on the right.

The more troubled the system, the more they have been putting their money on the wrong horse.
The understanding of this problem goes back a number of years.

"In the field of knowledge collaboration, Europe reveals opposing paths in the business and in the academic worlds. Within Europe, the level of investment in scientific and technological activities is so different across countries that it does not merge into a single continental innovation system."

What I chafe at is the concept of defining the knowledge economy as about intangibles (meaning an idea, not a piece of metal, plastic or wood). Perhaps therein lies an interesting element of the problem. Perhaps it is harder to solve a problem when it's key components are framed as intangible. This is precisely what my digital palette model and the ecrop model address, making the idea engine tangible, from its fundamental literacy to its problem engine processes to its economic entrepreneurship generators.

We focus so much on energy policy and investment as a way to save economies (fracking, solar, wind) that other ideas that deal with creativity get crowded off the stage. Energy is a problem in need of solution but it is one created by the agricultural and manufacturing ages. Let's separate policies about energy from policies about the information age.

Ideas that solve real problems using the seemingly limitless flow of information– that's a tangible benefit. How can you get more tangible?

So why is Europe so uncreative or conservative about the use of minds and the US less so? Does it go back to the pioneering spirit of immigrants? How do you create an educational system that builds the spirit of being a pioneer into the curriculum?

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