© OECD 2001
Governance in the 21st Century: Power in the Global Knowledge Economy and Society
advanced for expecting a diffusion of decision-making prerogatives and duties.
First, if realised, tomorrow’s technological, economic and social dynamism will
probably share the dual characteristic of enhancing the scope of feasible action and
breaking down many of yesterday’s constraining institutions and rules. Second, tak-
ing full advantage of future innovative tools, new ways of organising economic
activity, and highly heterogeneous social orders is likely to call for a redistribution
of power within and across governments, companies, communities and families.
This diffusion of decision-making responsibilities is likely to be both a cause and a
consequence of more dynamic, productive and sustainable societies in the future.
Indeed, as already mentioned, there is potentially a virtuous relationship between
changes in governance and greater dynamism – one that finds sustenance in the ca-
pacity to be creative.
The brief analysis, over the following pages, of the prospect that such changes
will occur in the early decades of the 21st century can be divided according to the
three principal topics for analysis covered so far in this conference series: techno-
logical possibilities, the advance of the global knowledge economy, and the move-
ment towards more complex and diverse social orders.
As underscored by the first volume in this series,
21st Century Technologies: Prom-
ises and Perils of a Dynamic Future
, people have always depended on knowledge, and
the technologies in which it is so often embedded, for survival. Furthermore, hu-
manity has stood on the threshold of pervasive technological change before. In-
deed, it does not seem likely that the impact of future technologies can surpass that
of previous breakthroughs like writing, printing, or antibiotics. Still, there is no rea-
son to belittle the technological developments that appear feasible within the next
decades. On both scientific and societal grounds, the changes made possible by fu-
ture innovations in info- and bio-tech, at a minimum, look to be on par with prior
technological breakthroughs that have diffused throughout all areas of human activ-
ity, such as the wheel and electricity.
Certainly the technologies now at research stages have the potential not only
to replace or improve on existing products and processes, but also, crucially, to give
rise to a wide range of unanticipated uses, skills and desires. Equally important,
there are four main areas in which the new wave of technological transformation will
probably both depend on and facilitate improvements in decision-making capacity.
First, tomorrow’s technologies are likely to contribute to a broader process of en-
hanced transparency and easier acquisition of information. Advances in information
technology will allow for vastly better filtering, anticipation and interaction, using a
variety of techniques including so-called intelligent agents, global databases and en-
tirely speech-/video-based interfaces. The introduction of these more efficient tools