Intellectual Dark Matter

Link post

Knowl­edge that we can show ex­ists, but can­not di­rectly ac­cess, rests at the foun­da­tions of so­ciety and tech­nol­ogy.

Messier 106

From my post pub­lished on the Long Now Foun­da­tion’s blog.

Miss­ing mass, miss­ing knowledge

Many galax­ies would fly apart if they had as much mass as es­ti­mates based on their visi­ble sig­na­ture sug­gest. Although some have posited al­ter­na­tive the­o­ries of grav­i­ta­tion to ex­plain this dis­crep­ancy, most physi­cists now hy­poth­e­size the ex­is­tence of mass-bear­ing par­ti­cles that are not de­tectable through emit­ted ra­di­a­tion such as visi­ble light. We call these par­ti­cles dark mat­ter, and it is es­ti­mated to com­pose about 85% of all mat­ter in the ob­serv­able uni­verse.

In an­a­lyz­ing the func­tional in­sti­tu­tions of our so­ciety, we are not able to see for our­selves most of the knowl­edge that cre­ated them. Knowl­edge of this sort in­cludes trade se­crets, tacit tech­ni­cal knowl­edge, pri­vate so­cial net­works, pri­vate in­tel­li­gence-gath­er­ing op­er­a­tions, man­age­ment and per­sua­sive skill, co­op­er­a­tion and col­lu­sion among founders and their al­lies, and founders’ long-term plans for their in­sti­tu­tions.¹

This knowl­edge has profound effects on the so­cial land­scape. We must un­der­stand it if we hope to un­der­stand so­ciety. We there­fore must ex­am­ine in­tel­lec­tual dark mat­ter: knowl­edge we can­not see pub­li­cly, but whose ex­is­tence we can in­fer be­cause our in­sti­tu­tions would fly apart if the knowl­edge we see were all there was.³ Such in­tel­lec­tual dark mat­ter rests at the foun­da­tions of our so­ciety, dwarfing in scope and im­por­tance the ac­cessible, share­able, visi­ble knowl­edge on which we nor­mally fo­cus.

There are many forms of in­tel­lec­tual dark mat­ter, but the three prin­ci­pal ones are lost, pro­pri­etary, and tacit knowl­edge.

Read the rest here.