# Would a society that functions on knowledge work?

Background Information

The area of known existence is known as The Tower, this name was coined by the Meldutians as a metaphor to describe the layout of all known existence. There is no evidence to suggest there are more towers but it is possible.

The Living Universe is where the majority of life can be found. This layer contains three different universes within it, surrounding a section of space where a solitary planet can be found.

The first universe thrives with technology, used to prolong the average person’s life. Most inhabitants resemble humans on earth. However most have some alteration in accordance to their planet's climate, meaning there is a wide variation of humans in this universe.

The second universe has high usage with biologically altering micromechanics which the average human would see as magic. The dominant race here are beings called Ropipolitans; they have much thicker skin (dark shades of blue). They also are more suited to combat and have aggressive tendencies. These beings are similar to humans in the fact that they share a similar skeletal system and that they need the basic requirements to live.

The third universe is not unified in nature and is close to war with itself. There are several thousand factions of people, each fighting for their own reasons and goals. This universe contains the most diverse collection of sentient beings that cannot be found anywhere else. Humans or Ropipolitans that are found here have either deserted their own kind or have been stranded by an unexpected circumstance (e.g. wormhole). There is a high mix or technological awareness and magic within this universe that is used both for the purposes of preservation and advancement as well as for war purposes.

All three universes are positioned at even intervals from each other, but also at different elevations if studied from a 3D perspective. At the centre of these points lies a conduit of power that runs and preserves ‘The Tower’. This conduit is surrounded by a planet that is ruled by the Hyperion Royal Family. This planet is protected by a shield generated by the nexus itself, capable of preventing all outsiders from entering.

The premise

Meldutia is a planet that sits at the centre of existence, ruled by Queen Hyperia (longest known ruler of the planet). The people of this planet (Meldutians) live in harmony, using a perfect blend of natural technology and matter manipulation to survive. These people resemble humans however due to the nature of the planet (situated around a nexus of power) they are capable of living up to 10 thousand years (earth years).

The people are capable of producing all the necessities they need for themselves and anything they don't have can be procured from someone else in exchange for knowledge. From this it's noticeable that knowledge is valued highly in this civilisation.

Apart from one's knowledge, other elements that people value highly are your ability to fight, using conventional Medieval-Style weaponry and one's ability to sing. In this civilisation singing allows a person to commune better with the nexus, allowing a person to learn more about the world (like a dimensional internet of sorts). Singing in this regard is similar to resonating with the very fabric of reality. Meldutians believe fighting by the sword is the quickest way to commune with this nexus. So fighting one another is seen not as a brutish act but rather a 'holy' art in itself.

The Question

Just to make the question a bit more specific. Is it possible for a civilisation outlined above to have a medieval-like hierarchy with all they know about life and the universes around them?

Extra Information

• It's worth noting that this civilisation had already confirmed the existence of other universes (3 to be precise) that revolves around the centre of existence (Meldutia).

• Gods used to roam the world long ago but the Meldutians of the past convinced them to leave to a higher plane of existence. Gods, at least in this question, is a catch-all term to explain such a high level of technology that it appears to be magic. So all these godly beings are certainly killable despite their apparent immortality.

• Time on Meldutia moves slower than usual. For example 1 year on Meldutia may equal 500 Earth Years.

• I love the mix of the reality-check tag with sentences like Gods used to roam the world long ago but the Meldutians of the past convinced them to leave or In this civilisation singing allows a person to commune better with the nexus. You have basically setup a "magic" universe; the rules being so different to what we know that there is no (IMO) way to decide about the question. – SJuan76 Apr 22 '16 at 16:09
• Oh, I should probably explain more than. Gods, at least in this question, is a catch-all term to explain such a high level of technology that it appears to be magic. So all these godly beings are certainly killable despite their apparent immortality. In regards to the signing, well the closest thing I can think of now would be the way some crystals naturally resonate with each other. So this Nexus can also be resonated with by singing. I will admit that it is a funny mix though. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 16:13
• Wait, if 1 year in Meldutia is 500 Earth years, and they live 10000 Earth years... they live until they're 20? – Vogie Apr 22 '16 at 19:37
• @Vogie I think it's best explained that they experience time at different rates. So 1 year on Meldutia will feel like a year on Earth, but actually going back to earth will show that 500 years have passed. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 19:42

Knowledge is a tricky medium to work with. It's hard to trade, because its so easy to communicate and so easy to reproduce.

Let's say you need something like food for your family. A farmer offers to trade you some grain for some knowledge. You pick a piece of knowledge, agree upon the transaction, and share it. Your family eats food that night.

The next night, you need food again. You go to the farmer, and offer the same trade. A bag of rice for that knowledge. He politely refuses, because he already knows that knowledge and has no need to be told it again. You leave, saddened, but mange to find another farmer who will accept that knowledge for the grain. Your family eats food that night.

The next night, you try again. However, this time, you find no farmer willing to trade with you for that bit of knowledge. You see, while you were away, the farmers talked, and traded knowledge among themselves. Now everyone knows it, so that knowledge has no trade value. You are forced to trade away another piece of knowledge that night. Your family eats food that night, but you are starting to develop the knowledge that this cannot last.

Fast forward a few months. You have run out of valuable knowledge to offer. You beg on the streets, seeking table scraps in return for common knowledge, reliant mostly on the pity of those around you for day to day survival.

Now this species is clearly not going to give up with that pitiful whimper of an ending. They know enough to analyze what happened, and try to change. The real problem is that "knowledge" is too strong of a word. In philosophy, "knowledge" is often described as "Justified True Belief." for our Meldutians, we need to come up with a coin which has a similar feel to what you and I might call "knowledge," but for which enough new content appears every day to keep feeding their families. We have an English word to describe this: information.

The next day, our very hungry looking Melduitan goes to the first farmer. The farmer laughs and says, "what are you going to sell me today? Blue skies?" The Melduitan smiles and says "Not to day, my friend. I have something more interesting to trade today. In fact, it's so interesting that I'll just tell you up front, and you can decide how much grain it's worth. I'm that confident." The farmer bites, and the Melduitan simply says, "Do you know where your wife was last night after supper? A little bird told me that she was out back in the grove." The farmer frowned, "She said she just had to go to the outhouse, and then put the horses to sleep. She shouldn't have been there." "See," the Melduitan said, smiling, "there's plenty of things worth knowing."

The farmer looked at the Melduitian, and at the bag of grain. "That little trifle isn't worth a bag of grain... but I don't suppose, if I give it to you anyway, you might be able to find out more about her actions? She's been distant, as of late." The Meldutian noddeed, grain traded hands. His family did not go hungry that night.

Of course, there were questions. His wife, having subsisted on table scraps for months, making them stretch as far as she could, wanted to know what he could have been holding out. They needed that grain the entire time, why would he keep information held back rather than trading it? His daughter wanted to know when they would have more. He smiled, and told her that he thinks he might be able to get more tomorrow. Confused, his wife asks "How much knowledge have you been holding back from us?" He replied, "I haven't been holding back any. But I think I found something else that we can trade. Also, I think I found a job." "What's a job?" his daughter asked between bites of delicious porridge."

"I don't actually know, quite yet. But I think I'm going to find out."

The key difference between the connotations between knowledge and information is that knowledge tends to have a long term perceived value, while information can often be quite short term. When the farmer finds out his wife was merely visiting the grave of their firstborn son, not having some illicit affair in the grove, the information won't be quite so valuable, but the stream of information could be. It might even be worth keeping this strange Melduitan on the payroll, if he can continue bringing useful information forth.

This pattern could grow, and become quite rich. The line between what we call "knowledge" and "information" is quite blurry, and at some point some information with particularly long term value might start getting treated as knowledge. Meanwhile, we might find some knowledge lost its value as the world shifts around it, and might get treated more like information.

This would certainly be a society of spies and gossipers.

• I'd never though about the distinction between information and knowledge like that before (parallels to data and information come to mind). I can see nobles and other nobility willing to trade goods for such information in a bid to retain power, therefore those that have the most loyal vassals would in a sense retain the flow of overall knowledge and information. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 19:22
• @CEObrainz They're definitely related words. I think of it as similar to strategy and tactics. The tactics at one level is the strategy for the level below it. My personal opinion on the two words is that information is most powerful when it is flowing, while knowledge is most powerful when it is captured and held. I don't think that's a universally held distinction held by everyone, but it's the one I intended to be used when reading the answer. Even if the distinction between the names is not useful, the idea of flowing vs. stagnant is hopefully still valuable. – Cort Ammon Apr 22 '16 at 19:24
• I understand and I think it's a sentiment that a race that endears knowledge would also follow. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 19:29

Just to make the question a bit more specific. Is it possible for a civilisation outlined above to have a medieval-like hierarchy with all they know about life and the universes around them?

Yes and no.

The biggest single problem humans have for almost every single one of our forms of government, are greed, the quest for power. These corrupt the system, people find ways to get what they want.

So if you have a society where the vast majority are peaceful and, have few physical needs and generally want the best for their fellows, then a Monarchy with a benevolent dictator is actually a decent way to go. It has a hierarchy of people to appeal to. One to make final decisions, and others are free to do what they want and not bother with politics.

• Well it's interesting you say that. In the narrative I'm working on this civilisation is brought to a war over a quest for power. An object one of those 'Gods' leaves behind knowing they would fight over it. So in a sense they would succumb to their own pursuit of knowledge and power. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 16:54
• @CEObrainz so they appear to be a 'Utopia' but when the right lever is pulled, they are not so perfect... – bowlturner Apr 22 '16 at 16:56
• That's a fair assessment. One united planet might act like that, though a multitude of countries that follow a similar lifestyle may still fight/war over things that induce knowledge. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 17:05

### Not really, but

I'm guessing that by "medieval-like hierarchy", you mean a feudal government. Feudal governments arose as a way of codifying relationships. Some people would specialize in war and others would support them (agriculture, weapons and armor, etc.). The warriors could compel support from the non-warriors. What is the rationale here? What would people gain in return for supporting the feudal hierarchy?

That's not to say that you can't have a feudal government. But if you want it to be realistic, you need to think more about what services the nobility provide. Exceptional research? Publishers of research journals? Arbiters of truth?

You could try for the same force control as a medieval feudal system, but I find the medieval weapons even more questionable. These are people who value fighting skills and knowledge but don't apply that knowledge to fighting? Why? If you come up with an explanation of that, then you could justify a long term feudal system.

Just a monarchy (no nobility) would be easier to explain. A constitutionally-limited monarchy can persist for a long time after the government has moved to democracy. Centuries in several European countries now. But part of the reason for that is that the monarchs have very little power. And what power they do have, they don't abuse. Perhaps your system has people who are better about not overstepping their roles than we have been.

• Oh there's a few things I'd forgotten about. As mentioned before, knowledge, singing ability and fighting skill are the three most valued traits. I should have added that the Meldutians believe fighting by the sword is the quickest way to commune with this nexus. So fighting one another is seen not as a brutish act but rather a 'holy' art in itself. I understand what you're saying about having something to gain from others, I suppose it's best if the monarchy leads as more a figurehead than policy maker, having the final say in important matters because of superior breeding and influence. – CEObrainz Apr 22 '16 at 18:57