Tomorrow’s societies will be knowledge societies. Tomorrow’s markets will be knowledge markets. Tomorrow’s wars will be fought not by the conventional weapons, guns, missiles and so on, but they will be fought in the knowledge markets with the new thermonuclear weapons called information and knowledge. The war on a patent right, which took place between Eastman Kodak and Polaroid, was settled for about one billion dollars. This is half of India’s R&D budget! So these wars in the knowledge market will be quite expensive.
The power of knowledge in the knowledge society is there for all of us to see. The paradigm shifts are truly dramatic. For more than a century, the world’s wealthiest human being has been associated with oil, starting with John Rockefeller in the last nineteenth century and ending with the Sultan of Brunei in the late twentieth century. But today, for the first time in history, the world’s wealthiest person is a knowledge worker, his name happens to be Bill Gates!
I want to emphasise that to meet the twin objective of growth with equity, knowledge cannot be the prerogative of a few; everyone in the society must have access to knowledge and become a knowledge worker. Nations which do not create knowledge societies will vanish onto the oblivion. But those that do create these knowledge societies will have the potential to lead the world. India has a chance to become a leader provided it sets this process of creating the knowledge society in place with speed and determination.