A few weeks ago I was asked a seemingly simple question in a survey: “Do you think that knowledge can currently be seen as a commodity?” After a couple of seconds’ thought, I started writing my answer. Several minutes later, I still hadn’t finished and decided at that point that I should probably stop in order to prevent myself from overwhelming the person in charge of collating the answers with an unnecessary essay.
I used to work in theoretical particle physics, which is a field where knowledge is very highly valued. After all, the raison d’être of myself and my colleagues was to acquire knowledge about the fundamental laws of nature, and then to disseminate it via peer-reviewed papers, thus making it available to everyone. Equally important was that, whilst writing any paper, we carefully cited previous related works, therefore acknowledging the importance of the knowledge acquired by others. I use the word ‘knowledge’ in this sense to mean concepts, methods, techniques, and observations. If the world of science did not work this way, then everyone would be on their own and we would literally be trying to reinvent the wheel every single day. Read More »