Today, with a smart phone, any individual on the planet has access to the power of most recorded knowledge. Over the past two decades, connectivity has spawned social networks, chat rooms, usenets, blogs, wikis, bulletin boards and other ways of communicating. As we communicate more, and arm ourselves with more information we face the difficult challenge of how to make decisions. If the First Enlightenment was about science – “how we know what we know”, then our Second Enlightenment might be about decisions.
From Enlightenment About Knowing To Enlightenment About Doing?
In the 16th century “New Learning” led to “Natural Philosophy” and in turn to the Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Enlightenment was a cultural movement of intellectuals challenging dogmatic ideas, advancing knowledge using the scientific method, and reforming society through reason. During the Enlightenment people developed an agreed body of knowledge and a process for improving it, “science”. Science can be described as a continuous process of deciding what we know. Science has advanced markedly since the Enlightenment, but these advances have not been accompanied by a corresponding set of advances in deciding what we do. Recent interest in better methods of developing information through consensus, such as James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, should extend to better methods of making group decisions.
About the Authors
Michael Mainelli is Emeritus Professor of Commerce at Gresham College (founded 1597) and Executive Chairman of Z/Yen Group. His latest book, The Price of Fish: A New Approach to Wicked Economics and Better Decisions, Nicholas Brealey Publishing £12.99, written with Ian Harris, won the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards Finance, Investment & Economics Gold Prize.
Dr. Ghanea-Hercock is Chief Researcher in the Security Futures Practice of BT Technology, Service and operations (TSO). His latest book, Social Cohesion: The Making of Society, Lulu Press, 2009, is available free online.