Knowledge economy

The knowledge economy (or the knowledge-based economy) is the use of knowledge to create goods and services. In particular, it refers to a high portion of skilled workers in the economy of a locality, country, or the world, and the idea that most jobs require specialized skills. In particular, the main personal capital of knowledge workers is knowledge, and many knowledge worker jobs require a lot of thinking and manipulating information as opposed to moving or crafting physical objects. It stands in contrast to an agrarian economy (where the primary activity is subsistence farming for which the main requirement is manual labor) or an industrialized economy (which has mass production but where most jobs are relatively unskilled). Knowledge economy emphasizes the importance of skills in a service economy, the third phase of economic development, also called a post-industrial economy. It is related to the terms information economy, which emphasizes the importance of information as non-physical capital, and digital economy, which emphasize the degree to which information technology facilitates trade. For companies, intellectual property such as trade secrets, copyrighted material, and patented processes become more valuable in a knowledge economy than in earlier eras.

The global economy transition to a knowledge economy[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] is also referred to as the Information Age, bringing about an information society.[8]The term knowledge economy was made famous by Peter Drucker as the title of Chapter 12 in his book The Age of Discontinuity (1969), that Drucker attributed to economist Fritz Machlup, originating in the idea of scientific management developed by Frederick Winslow Taylor.[9]


A key concept of the knowledge economy is that knowledge and education (often referred to as "human capital") can be treated as one of the following two:

  • A business product, as educational and innovative intellectual products and services can be exported for a high value return.
  • A productive asset.

It can be defined as:

[P]roduction and services based on knowledge-intensive activities that contribute to an accelerated pace of technical and scientific advance, as well as rapid obsolescence. The key component of a knowledge economy is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on physical inputs or natural resources.[10]

The initial foundation for the knowledge economy was introduced in 1966 in the book The Effective Executive by Peter Drucker. In this book, Drucker described the difference between the manual worker (page 2) and the knowledge worker. The manual worker, according to him, works with their hands and produces goods or services. In contrast, a knowledge worker (page 3) works with their head, not hands, and produces ideas, knowledge, and information.

The key problem in the formalization and modeling of knowledge economy is a vague definition of knowledge, which is a rather relative concept. For example, it is not proper to consider information society as interchangeable with knowledge society. Information is usually not equivalent to knowledge. Their use depends on individual and group preferences (see the cognitive IPK model) which are "economy-dependent".[11]