In the late 1930s, H.G. Wells proposed an “adequate knowledge organization” or World Brain, where ideas would be received, sorted, summarized, clarified, and compared. At the same time, sociologist Robert Lynd questioned ever more “bricks of data” on the growing pile of social science, and called for more synthesis and long-range thinking. Despite proclamations about emerging “knowledge societies,” little has been done to organize the broad and messy realm of human benefit knowledge that encompasses the overlapping policy, planning, futures, and leadership “communities.” The problem of the narrow brickmaker mentality still persists, along with more infoglut, more rapid obsolescence, more fragmentation, more label profusion, and even more nationalistic division. A World Brain for the 21st century should have at least seven features: timely abstracts of key books/reports/articles in several languages, comprehensive coverage, identification of not-yet-published books in the publisher's pipeline, regional and national nodes for collection and dissemination, overviews of sectoral and cross-sectoral issues, user-friendly features, and ample publicity. An appreciative environment must also be built, encompassing more and better technology assessment, ongoing “Top Ten” booklists for each sector and issue, annual prioritizing of issues, integrative research units at universities, more effort to promote civic education, more debates, more attention to good information design, and a higher status for high-quality human benefit thinking.
Futures – Elsevier
Published: Oct 1, 2007
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