Monday, November 19, 2012

On the University

It seems like an unassailably good idea to have an institution in society the aim of which is to discover and propagate truths, produce and distribute knowledge.

Such an institution should be able to attract and retain a staff that desires to satisfy its curiosity. I.e., it should employ a group of people that feels pleasure at the discovery of an unknown fact and the communication of that discovery to others when it is made.

It would be a good idea not to confuse the staff with an incentive structure that presumes other forms of ambition, such as the desire for material comfort or social status.

It is of course true that if a group of people had "no care in the world" other than to discover and propagate truths, a number of industries, whose current business model is based largely on the concealment and hoarding of particular classes of truths, and their translation into "products" which can then be sold at a profit, would become less lucrative.

It does not seem to me, however, that the species benefits as a whole from a system in which the incentive to discover a truth is positively correlated with the incentive to conceal it from others.

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