Knowledge: The Most Valuable Raw Material
What’s the raw material essential to any human enterprise? It might be tempting to point to the compounds that made plastic and concrete ubiquitous, but in fact, neither are necessary in every instance of human creativity. The only raw material we can never do without is knowledge. And where does one mine this most basic of necessities? In cities.
It didn’t take much for me to see “knowing things” as less of an act, and more as a commodity to be traded like wood, or metal ore. I was sitting in the Alumni Lounge at the University College, covering Gail Lord’s presentation on Cities, Museums, and Soft Power, when she said something that’s been stuck in my head since:
“The cities that are growing are full of a different type of raw material. They are full of knowledge.”
At Lord Cultural Resources, we speak frequently about the world moving toward a knowledge-based economy. You only need to look at the unfathomable revenues brought in by companies dealing in computers, web services, and entertainment to see that creating and sharing information is a booming market. And while technology is making much of this possible, one must also give credit to where these developments are often taking place.
Cities are the perfect breeding ground for innovation. Almost by definition, cities are not able to deal in the massive extraction of raw materials and natural resources. In order to remain economically viable, cities pack information based services into every nook and cranny. Coming into a city, you could hire a lawyer, develop an app, and take in the latest thing in the art world without having to go further than a block or two. With all these information-based industries and their staff working together in close proximity, it’s no surprise that there’s cross-over, and innovation in abundance.
And the world needs innovation. In the 21st century, we have some big problems that need fixing, and they’re going to take more than just hard work. We need artists to inspire us, scientists to create technologies for our betterment, and politicians to push for policies that promote progress. And you know what? Whether they’re commuting in, or already there, you’re most likely to find these people in a city.
In order to make the best use of this valuable resource, cities need great institutions to act as refineries. Museums, universities, and public spaces need to become accessible to everyone, and they need to do more than they’ve traditionally done. By offering a more diverse and satisfying experience, these institutions will ensure that people can come together and come up with the great ideas we’re all in need of these days.
Watch Gail Lord’s full presentation here:
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