Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

The Evolution of Technology – The Evolution of Knowledge

I met an energetic and intelligent 84-year old man sitting beside me on the subway today. As I scanned my email on my iPhone, unaware of his peeking over my shoulder, he interupted me with the comment, “Can you see that tiny writing clearly enough?”  I showed him my iPhone and the ability to zoom in and out to make the letters larger at the touch of my fingers. He seemed rather astounded. I was rather surprised that he’d never seen this before given all of the hype around this new technology. I was making the assumption that he knew nothing of technology – he was going to remind me about the error about making such assumptions.

Engaging in conversation with this elderly stranger, he told me he had attended university in the 1940s and 50s and was hired by IBM to work on computer-calculators in Pennsylvania. He gestured with his hands and said he remembered when calculators were the size of an iPad today. He mentioned the first calculators manufactured in Canada were from Casio, a  Japanese company that opened up the first Canadian plant in the 1970s. He said he had looked all around the subway car and saw almost half of the riders using a digital device of some kind, and was extremely impressed with how far digital technology has evolved.

“Microchip technology changed everything” he said. “And they keep getting smaller” I said. Then he abruptly changed topic and told me he still had all of his original teeth and was just on his way to the dentist for a check-up at the next stop.  (I thought that was almost as impressive as his work with IBM). Then up he got and walked away – a brief subway conversation about the evolution of technology from a octogenarian’s life experience and point of view.

That conversation got me thinking not only about the evolution of technology, but also the evolution of knowledge – and the assumptions we make about knowledge. How often do we think about how knowledge gets passed on from one generation to another to improve the tools we use to make life better.

Knowledge Mobilization isn’t just strictly about learning and contributing to past knowledge from academics, or thinking about how to create new knowledge for the future by big thinkers.

Knowledge Mobilization is about sustaining vital links of experience and keeping connected to sources by being open to making new connections and developing real human relationships that are inter-generational, inter-disciplinary and multi-cultural. Like listening to the experience and knowledge of our seniors today (or those from other cultures) to help us reflect and appreciate where we’ve come from and where we are today to create a better world for all future generations. And one of the best ways to do that today is by social media. Thankfully, more seniors (up to 43 percent) are using social media to share their life experiences and knowledge, and social media is connecting different cultures.

Technology is not the sole property of one generation or one culture – and neither is knowledge. But if it is does not get passed on through the experiences of one generation (or culture) to the next by sustaining inter-generational (and multi-cultural) relationships – valuable insights, experiences and knowledge is lost.

So often we’re amazed by the “whiz-kids” who have become CEOs of social media companies working together with other “brain-childs” of today. I wonder how often they listen, learn and reflect on the past to develop something beneficial for the future rather than simply thinking about how much money they can make in the present.

On the other hand, how often has an older person been willing to expand their knowledge and learn from a younger generation full of new ideas and possibilities?

How often have you taken the time to speak to someone over 80 years old to inform and be informed about the evolution of technology (or vice versa)- and play a greater part in the evolution of knowledge?

That old man I spoke to on the subway may not have known about a new zooming-in-an-out feature on an iPhone or iPad to make things easier to read. But it reminded me about not making assumptions about another person’s knowledge. It reminded me to appreciate that the knowledge he contributed when he was my age helped shape our current knowledge – making today’s technology possible.

2 responses to “The Evolution of Technology – The Evolution of Knowledge

  1. Rick Austin February 18, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Excellent post. Reminds me of my 93-year-old aunt who is still sharp as a tack. She reads the paper every day, watches the national news every night, e-mails her friends about articles she’s read, when we talk on the phone she asks me what I think about Obama’s policy on this or that, then argues her side. We can only hope we’re all as sharp.

    • KMbeing February 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Rick for your comment. Unfortunately, so often people dismiss the elderly as individuals with outdated experience or knowledge. When we see examples like your 93-year old aunt, it’s reminds us that knowledge knows no age barrier.

      Also, please accept my apologies for not replying sooner. If you read my latest blog post, you’ll understand the reason why. Thanks again for your comments.

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