Sunday 6 December 2009

Tiredness, GM, knowledge wisdom and innovation

Some three weeks ago I drafted the post below. I was reluctant to publish it, as I do not like to address a serious topic lightly, and my blog is meant to be about my allotment, anyway. However, after two years of gardening and now with the horticulture course, my knowledge of organic gardening is influencing other areas of my life.

Although the post is still half thought through, and three years have passed since I read the book I mention (so my memory might be selective), I have decided to post it all the same - A friend has been recently just about saved by the latest medical technology from a life-threatening medical condition brought about by an innovative drug. I see a parallel with my previous post, as pharmaceutical and biotech are both industries of disproportionate power, and relying on rapid innovation.

I wish we all had more time to stop and think more.

Comments anyone?

I am very tired after a few stressful weeks, and the weather at the weekend does not allow me to exercise on the allotment, so - beside not having much to talk about - all my leftover physical energy goes straight into worry-power: very unproductive.

And what I am becoming very concerned about, without having the energy to study the topic in more scientifical detail, is what I put into my mouth.

I stopped drinking milk in the office as it is not organic, and am considering cutting on the Indian takeaway and the sushi place where, when I asked: "Is the soya GM?" they looked at me as if I was asking them to solve a differential equation... The problem seems humongous and I do not want to become a campaigning fanatic: I believe in balance and skepticism... but I also feel strongly about this. The science of genetics is so new, and yet we dare mess with genes that took thousands of year to arrange themselves as they are...

It is the idea of the "silent invasion" that irks me most: the lack of control, the idea that money means power and power results in someone else making decisions for me. That I have tiny power to influence. And that the techniques of persuasion are used on both sides to make their case more appealing, rather than debating the truth. The truth...

Musing on the idea of the pressure for innovation that comes from the need of big corporations to make money, new money with new products, useful or not, healthy or not.

My profession before gardening is knowledge management, and the theorists of KM have gone through a lot of talk about knowledge and wisdom, and more recently knowledge and innovation (to put some ROI behind the theory, I guess). Most assume that knowledge leads to innovation, but I will never forget a book by a Swedish KM guru (and an economist to boot): the most 'alternative' and 'environmentalist' of KM books "Treading lightly" by E. Sveiby. I had to reflect on this book more than usual, as I was writing a review. It did puzzle me, but the more I thought of the topic, I was fascinated. It seemed to imply that wisdom (seen as conserving) may be in conflict with innovation (seen as leap of change), although they are also linked in complex ways - the book analyses stories from an Australian aboriginal society and the supposedly underlying culture - knowledge is linked with wisdom more than innovation.

It does make some sense. Knowledge is based on your experience, it comes from trying and failing and succeeding, through your coming to terms with reality. It takes time to acquire. What about innovation? Although commonly defined as ideas that do work in practice, the world moves so fast from one innovation to the other, there is no time to reflect: what does actually work in practice? Are unwanted consequences considered? And there are a wealth of political and economical considerations connected to the furthering of innovation, that might influence the reflection...

Maybe I am getting old, but I start to think that life is going too fast, and unsustainably so. I wish there was time to stop and think more.

BTW I went back on Sveiby's website to have a look, and he seems to have written an article that is spookily relevant to my thoughts on the dark side of innovation (pro-innovation bias). Did not have time to read it yet myself, but it's printed, and in my bag.

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