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Monthly Archives: August 2010

Technology transfer in an information economy

From the beginning when the first farmer planted then harvested her first crops in ancient egypt heralding the agrarian revolution, past the spinning jennys of the industrial revolution bringing us to the information revolution of yesteryaer.”What ?”i hear you say , “we just got used to this newfangled internet  thingee , and now your telling us its already over?” fortunately not just yet however the writing is on the wall.
The revolution will not be televised and before we fully grasp what has occured we will be in a new age.Not as radical as the changes preceding it but nevertheless it shall bring about changes in the way we conduct everything from business to all aspects of social life.The knowledge economy is imminent and unless adequete steps are taken to ensure an equal playing field developing countries risk being left to play catchup to a race that they will almost certainly never win.
The last revolution brought us intellectual property  , patents and copyrights all ostensibly designed to encourage development but as the system has gotten more beuracratic and complicated it has self sustaining behemoth that hinders as much as it helps.
So what exactly is the knowledge based economy and what does it have to do with developing countries, i thought all countries went through the same process of agrirevolution to industrial with the end goal being a shining democracy.
A couple of decades ago that might have held true but with the advent of the information age the game changed and we are still in the process of defining the next model we should all adhere to.
From the harvard business review:
“Think about it: If the Industrial Economy died and made you God (or China), what kind of IP rights would you design for the new, clean slate information economy? One knee-jerk response is to favor the same kind of regime. “Since information is so valuable,” you might say, “it must be protected with even more Draconian rules.” But the industrial paradigm isn’t a match for the information economy. The crucial difference, utterly fundamental but only in the early stages of being worked out, is the zero cost of reproduction of information goods.

You must know this already, but let’s look straight at it: if a farmer produces a bale of hay, one horse or another eats it, but not both. A steel mill’s ingot goes into a sedan or a skyscraper, but not both. So a price mechanism and market is needed to mediate the competition for a scarce resource. But when a hacker produces a new capability on Linux, any number of people can use it without taking it away from anyone else. We can all have our code and eat it, too.”

The advent of open and permissive channels of sharing knowledge vis-a-vis the internet and the open source movement have brought about a seismic shift in the way that business is seen to be done.If  a company sucha as Red Hat can package and make millions from what is essentially a free ( as in libre not gratis ) product it really changess the whole supply and demand dynamic to some degree and the underlying economy has to adapt to survive or perish a slow and painful demise.

Enter ACTA.

Arstechnica “Though countries like Morocco are involved, rich countries have driven the ACTA process. The World Trade Organization–ignored. The World Intellectual Property Organization–bypassed. Instead of using the very fora that they played such a role in establishing, countries like the US, EU, Canada, Japan, and Australia formed a coalition of the willing. ACTA has been negotiated in secret, though the recently released negotiating draft text envisions a permanent secretariat that will receive new members.According to the paper, infringement could occur “if a medicine or product is made for which a company holds a patent in any country, no matter how unclear in scope and validity of the patent is.”
With large parts of the developing world remaining largely ignorant of the slowly creeping ACTA , it remeais to th e current standard bearers to put up a fight for the future of the new economic dispensation.
What happens in the next few years may very well decide how we will live out the rest of our natural lives.As one developer put it “it would be better if everything was open-sourced, in my opinion, but I won’t run after closed-source software authors armed with an axe and whispering “little pigs, little pigs…”. It’s their choice as a developer, and I’m forced to accept it as an user if I like the software.”

Hopefully the open source movement can bring its weight to bear and help make real the shape of things to come.

UPDATE:Interesting article i read on der speigel today , gist of it is essentially the quasi agrarian Prussian states were able to catch up and for a brief period surpass the earier industrialised British due to lax copyrights.

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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Technology Business

 

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