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The Handbook of Global Science, Technology, and Innovation by Andrea Filippetti, Daniele Archibugi

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Chapter 23Knowledge as Global Public Good

Daniele Archibugi and Andrea Filippetti

Introduction

Economic and social development is strictly associated to the capacity to generate, absorb, and diffuse knowledge. The economic characteristics of knowledge have for long intrigued thinkers. Already Richard Nelson (1959), Fritz Machlup (1962), and Kenneth Arrow (1962), among others, noted that knowledge is a very peculiar commodity. On the one hand, it is often generated for competitive purposes: armies and companies do invest time and money to develop new and superior knowledge to be used against their rivals. On the other hand, it happens seldom that those who generate knowledge manage to keep it for their own private benefit. Neither industrial and military secrecy nor intellectual property rights can, in the long run, impede the dissemination of knowledge. The knowledge about nuclear fission, in spite of all the efforts made by the US government to keep it confidential, was soon assimilated and put in practice by the Soviet rivals. And business corporations are certainly no better than the military in preserving for a long time the secrets of their innovations. But this is part of the story only. A large portion of those generating knowledge, including academics and their universities, diffuse the results urbi et orbi for the sole satisfaction of seeing their achievements acknowledged and their reputation enhanced. In fact, the dissemination of knowledge is the ultimate goal of ...

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