The COVID-19 pandemic epitomizes how quickly and dramatically our lives can permanently change. The sobering finding that the pandemic affected historically disadvantaged groups in greater measure calls for the consideration of underlying cultural-historical factors of human development, at the individual and collective levels. If we accept this conclusion, then we must also be concerned with the current state of doctoral education that seeks to develop people with the capacity to help human social systems of every size grapple with acutely complex problems. In this paper, we explore the transformative potential of ‘doctorateness’ in the context of the emerging nature of knowledge and the need for scholar-practitioners with capacities, skills, and dispositions to meet the uncertainties and challenges of a complex world. Through an eco-system perspective, we extend Mezirow’s transformative learning theory beyond the individual realm and into the social, cultural, and historical space to highlight the entanglement of individual learning and development with social relationships, both of which are entangled with cultural and historical shifts. Using cultural historical development theory, we will explore the shifting knowledge production landscape and the implications for doctoral education.