Takeaways from The Crime of Reason

OK, I’ll just admit it, I am a lousy book reviewer. So, rather than go through the motions, I have decided to just post my nuggets that I have taken away from Robert B. Laughlin’s The Crime of Reason.

  • While most knowledge is freely available, most economically valuable knowledge is kept secret. What is more, it is not kept secret because it is technical in nature, rather, we define it as technical when it is kept secret.
  • The book made me think about the availability of knowledge on the Internet differently. Rather than access to all knowledge, it has become a great cover for those who want some knowledge hidden. I am not talking about JFK or 9/11 conspiracies, I am talking about knowledge that are held as proprietary or trade secrets.
  • There are certain things that it is just plain illegal to know. Try to gain the knowledge of how to build an atomic bomb for example. The closer you get to knowing, the more likely you will end up in jail.
  • Explaining a genuinely new idea is extremely difficult because the listener does not possess the contextual knowledge of the speaker.
  • Most entertainment is the celebration of disposable knowledge. In fact, when we are relaxing we avoid useful information. This is why some people do not like my Facebook posts and Twitter updates. They are on these technologies to relax and I am confronting them with potential useful information. (Sorry, but I do not plan to stop. Just unfriend or unfollow me, I am really OK with it.) Let me quote from the book, “Soap operas are enjoyable because their intellectual maintenance costs are low.”
  • All advertising is information you do not want to see. “Advertising is Fun’s evil twin brother. The two go everywhere together.” If you want to enjoy yourself from free you have to accept advertising.
  • TV commercials are spam. Once you realize this the email variety is not as bad as we think.
  • Gaining real knowledge has a cost. What is worse, the more you try to reduce the cost of gaining knowledge, the more spam you will have.
  • I close with this quote, “The right to learn is now aggressively opposed by intellectual property advocates, who want ideas elevated to the status of land, cars, and other physical assets so that unauthorized acquisition can be prosecuted as theft.” This is a dangerous belief. For more on this read this article entitled IP and Libertarianism by Stephan Kinsella.

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