Knowledge Management: Corporate Cultural Anthropolgy?

I often look at the current culture around me and wonder how people a thousand years in the future will view us. In one respect, I may not have to wonder any more.

In a move that is reminiscent of oral tradition, businesses are realizing the strength of pooling the collective knowledge of employees into a technological resource to be accessed by everybody. The knowledge possessed by one person is retained after they leave the company, and can then be learned by someone who may never have known the first person by accessing the technological resource that the first person’s knowledge has been stored in. This process is known as knowledge management.

This is not all that dissimilar from the revered storytellers, druids, and clerics of the past. These community figures gathered knowledge from many, sometimes diverse, sources, and then passed that knowledge on to apprentices, bards, and initiates, who in turn passed it on. It’s the way we preserved so much of human history. The human touch makes it that much more powerful because it gives the information relevance.

Knowledge management starts with that same human component, but then incorporates a contemporary twist by using an electronic database (because we all know and understand that a library of history books is just as valid a database as anything on a computer). It would appear at this point that the information loses its humanity at this point, when in fact, it does not. One of the nice features of knowledge management is that the stored information can then be disbursed through electronic means, or through personal contact.

In a thousand years, when anthropologists look at us, will they look at this new take on an ancient practice and see it as part of the oral tradition continuing in a modern form? Will they see this as a further dehumanizing of the human race? Will they thank us for working to preserve what we knew? Will these attempts to archive what we know survive the thousand years to be discovered and analyzed?


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