Knowledge that we can show exists, but cannot directly access, rests at the foundations of society and technology.Messier 106
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.
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