02 August 2009

The History of Maths and Knowledge Sharing

Yesterday, I watched a TV program produced by the Open University on the history of Maths.
It started in China where Mathematics as a discipline really started. A book was written in about 200BC explaining among other things how to resolve equations.
Then it moved on to India a few centuries AD where truly important advances were made such as the 9 Indoo numbers (ancestors to the Arabic numbers we use today), the creation of the number 'zero' and the first method for resolving complex equations to the power of 3 as well as the first method for an approximation of the value of Pi. Then came the Middle East and the Arabic countries where further discoveries were made in the Middle Ages.
The point in common with most of these advances in Mathematics are that they were all made in the East well before they were either "rediscovered" or applied in the West from only about the 15th Century.

And this is when it struck me! The lack of communication between these Eastern civilizations and the Western World prevented a valuable knowledge sharing that would have enabled a much faster worldwide scientific progress.

What has enabled an exponential scientific and technological progress in the last 3 or 4 centuries is the increasing ease to share knowledge around the World. The Internet being the last of these inventions to contribute immensely to this. But then, if it is so obvious that sharing knowledge between distant civilizations, cultures or communities generates creativity, discoveries and innovation; why is it so difficult for most modern companies to recognize the value of fostering internal (and external) knowledge sharing between all employees and stakeholders?