It Is Common Knowledge

 
 
By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-07-02 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Centuries of scholarship and financial competition have been shaped by the fact that knowledge was scarce—that is, in the economic sense of being something that had to be paid for.

Centuries of scholarship and financial competition have been shaped by the fact that knowledge was scarce—that is, in the economic sense of being something that had to be paid for.

Knowledge is power, power yields wealth, wealth enables access to knowledge: Its been a positive feedback loop, whether the knowledge in question was a map to the Indies or the source code for Windows. Yes, theres been a tradition of academic knowledge being shared, but thats been academic unless you could pay a research staff to filter through the flood.

The feedback loop connecting wealth and knowledge is being broken, though, as public online databases become the norm—even in fields where success was once defined by privileged access to primary sources. Last month, for example, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey released the results of its first year of astronomical data collection, giving any Internet user free access to the worlds largest collection of images and spectra (with four more years of collection planned). The National Science Foundation is funding a National Science Digital Library, a constellation of portals comprising collections in fields such as engineering, science and mathematics, with planned availability next year. By 2010, MITs OpenCourseWare project will freely share lecture notes, course outlines, syllabuses, reading lists and assignments for as many as 2,000 courses. Even today, amateur investigators in almost any field enjoy better facilities for free research and analysis than full-time professionals could buy in previous decades.

It used to be that your wealth or your contacts determined what you could know. Our network of knowledge changes that. Everybody knows.

From now on, finding the sharpest needles in the communal haystack of data will determine who succeeds.

 
 
 
 
Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at salesforce.com, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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