2.b.21 – Can a factory of immaterial exist?

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February 8, 2010 — Riccardo Sabellotti - Giacinto Sabellotti

design

Can a factory of immaterial exist?

Since the sixties, in Western countries, began a period of fast economic expansion due to the reduction of economic inequality between the social classes; there was a general enrichment, witnessed by the increase in demand of both agricultural and industrial goods and services, which led to a great development in all economic sectors. It is immediately clear how the maintenance of such a prosperity is necessarily subject to a continuing expansion of demand for goods and services and therefore to the consumption of the same.
This phenomenon, called consumerism, led to a surplus of production compared to the needs of the population, despite the pervasive advertising persuasion that constantly induces new needs to feed the insatiable production apparatus. Whatever the positive consequences (like the increased availability of goods at decreasing prices) and negative ones (such as environmental pollution) caused by consumerism might be, now what creates value and competitive advantage in a good no longer consists only in its functional characteristics (the comfort of a garment, the taste of a drink, the versatility of a cellular phone, etc.) but increasingly in its ability to raise a rewarding emotion. When buying a new coat, probably we do not do it because the old has become worn or because the new one is warmer, but simply because we are attracted by a new line of fashion that gratifies our desire to strut with something wrapped around us. If the production of the coat material utilized by the manufacturing producer is only 15% of the item price, this means that the remaining 85% is represented by an intangible set of design, brand and status symbol; most price does not consist in the income of the material clothes factory, but in what we pay to the intangible factory of rewarding emotions.
Another phenomenon to be observed is that even within the manufacturing factory the intangible working is increasingly a more important work than material good processing. The physical processing of goods is less and less done manually by humans and entrusted to increasingly complex machines; machinery must be designed with new technologies, feed with new sources of energy, managed by new coordination flows, funded by new contractual models etc.. The work of man is therefore moving from the physical processing of goods to the production of knowledge that, through the designed machines, the discovered sources of energy and the designed ancillary services, will lead to the transformation of goods. Here a new kind of capitalism takes shape: the cognitive capitalism.
Knowledge is surely an intangible but also very particular good: it is a very easy to reproduce (with modern means of communication, its cost tends to zero), but difficult to produce the first time. We have seen how we have accumulated knowledge over time, but currently, given the importance of knowledge in all economic processes, also developing faster and faster, we need a new approach to adapt to the environment that changes: knowledge sharing. With this strategy it is created a genuine cognitive chain leading to the formation of a knowledge multiplier that supports the increasingly frenetic socio-economic development of man.

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