Aristotle said that human beings love knowledge. He might have overestimated the demand for learning, but it's undeniable that the production, transmission and communication of knowledge is central to our conception of a good society. No society can expect to be free or prosperous if it turns its back on knowledge. The dark ages are coterminous with times when human beings turned their back on knowledge in favor of dogma. Put simply, we expect modern, democratic societies to further the cause of knowledge.
The real world is more complex. There are interests preventing the widespread availability of knowledge production. Commercial interests want a population hooked on consumption, incapable of producing anything on their own; after all knowledge is the cure to the drug of mindless consumption. A similar power, the state, wants docile citizens who don't complain about their lot. Finally, there's the traditional knowledge elite, i.e., faculty at the major universities of the world, who want to stick to the old ways because that's cognitively easy, gives them power and prestige and continues their control over an important part of modern society.
Knowledge is central to modern society. People who create knowledge are rarer than they should be. Since supply is less than demand, there's every incentive to hoard knowledge production. There's no shortage of reasons justifying cartel like behavior. Medical councils use the fear of pseudoscience to keep their profits from being eroded by wellness traditions. Universities use parents and children's fear of social stigma to charge enormous amounts of money. That's why we need systematic change. Let's take a step back and ask ourselves the following question:
How are we going to address the collective challenges of the 21st century?
I can't imagine a viable answer to the above question that doesn't involve the creation of large scale, democratic and distributed knowledge networks. This series of posts is an attempt to divine and design the future of democratic knowledge.