[FOUNTAIN]Knowledge, information are potentA long time passed before the ancient proposition “knowledge is power,” changed to “information is power.” Francis Bacon declared, “knowledge is power” in the late 16th century. Combined with knowledge, information has constantly expanded the sphere of power.
Information’s fundamental and powerful challenge to more traditional expansion grew full scale in the 1990s. The development and spread of the Internet became a formidable challenge to the existing monopoly of information and the intellectuals and power holders who had dominated the system.
The development of information technology is creating a new form of power structure by bringing a revolutionary reduction of costs needed to produce and deliver information. Until the early 1980s, telephone lines were made of copper and were able to transfer a page full of information per second. Today, fiber optic cables can transfer up to 900,000 pages of information per second. The Internet made it possible for the entire world to participate in global issues beyond borders and to use influence on government agencies or international organizations.
In 18th century Europe, France emerged as a power thanks to knowledge that led to innovations in infantry. England and Germany were powerful with their advanced industrial capability in the 19th century. In the 20th century, the United States and the Soviet Union rose as superpowers with their edge in nuclear physics and other sciences and technology.
In the 21st century, the flow of information has been held back by the spatial restrictions of politics and territories that were established over several centuries. But the limitations would not last much longer. In that case, the world could see the rise of neo-medievalism, similar to the Middle Age order of dispersed power and authority. Some multinational giants’ corporate ethics, regulations and CEOs already have more influence than those of some small countries.
Of course, states have not yet faded. But their influence is no longer as powerful as in their peak days. Korea is equipped with the world’s most extensive network of broadband Internet infrastructure. Here, the politics, state administration, and the agenda-making power will no longer be monopolized by a small group.
by Kim Seok-hwan
The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.