5 August 2020

Nathan J Robinson: “What’s amazing is that the difficulty of creating this situation of ‘fully democratized information’ is entirely economic rather than technological. What I describe with books is close to what Google Books and Amazon already have. But of course, universal free access to full content horrifies publishers, so we are prohibited from using these systems to their full potential. The problem is ownership: nobody is allowed to build a giant free database of everything human beings have ever produced. … [C]opyright law is an unbelievably intensive restriction on freedom of speech, sharply delineating the boundaries of what information can and cannot be shared with other people. … [W]hat would happen in a society where the relative accessibility and cost of truth versus lies was adjusted[?] What if every online course was free? What if textbooks cost nothing instead of $200? What if we made it as easy and cheap as possible to find things out and were guided by the desire to create the greatest possible access to knowledge rather than by economic considerations? … Hopefully someday our patchwork of intentionally-inefficient libraries will turn into a free storehouse of humanity’s recorded knowledge and creativity. In the meantime, however, we need to focus on getting good and thoughtful material in as many hands as possible and breaking down the barriers we can.”