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[ox-en] Some highlights from a talk

Hi list!

Yesterday evening a local group I'm a member of had organized an
interesting talk in Kaiserslautern, where Hans-Gert Gräbe talked about
"intellectual property", knowledge, and competence. I think it is
similar to Hans-Gert's talk in Vienna but because this is probably
available in German only it might make sense when I try to reproduce
some of the - IMHO - highlights. I add some additional thoughts in

Hans-Gert distinguished "intellectual property" and property in
material things. One of the things Hans-Gert was interested in was to
compare useful work to useful(?) knowledge. "Useful" has been used in
the Marxian sense here. He emphasized that for useful work you need to
plan it and it is done for a certain purpose - to produce a certain
product or to organize a production process in a way "it" produces
products which can be sold on a market.

He asked whether a concept of useful knowledge makes sense in a
similar way. There is a similarity in that as for individual material
goods / commodities individual knowledge becomes relevant for society
only if it socialized in some way.

However, he recognized big differences also. At least for interesting
knowledge it is not possible to plan its production. The relevance of
interesting knowledge is recognizable only a posteriori. Insofar it is
impossible to organize production of interesting knowledge in the same
way as useful work: You can organize a production line to produce a
certain number of goods per time unit but you can't organize science
in this way - taking science as an organized form of knowledge
production. All you can do is to provide infrastructure so it is more
likely you gain some interesting knowledge - but even this can not be
guaranteed in any way.

[This goes to the core features of the creative process: You can't
force a creative process. This is closely connected to the
Selbstentfaltungs argument where the best infrastructure for creative
processes is to provide maximum Selbstentfaltung. Maximum
Selbstentfaltung is present where alienation is minimized.]

This impossibility to plan knowledge production also applies to the
fields where a certain idea is used: It can not be determined in
advance where, when, or for whom an idea becomes fruitful. This
feature of the creation of knowledge makes it clear that an open
process where everything is available for everybody is clearly the
best infrastructure you can have. Of course cooperation is more useful
in such an infrastructure than competition. These are ideals which of
course are common in science - at least officially.

Hans-Gert also compared the way material goods flow in markets /
modern societies and the way knowledge is socialized. Markets are a
useful way to socialize individual work. In history markets became
important when the societal impact of individual pieces of work became
higher and higher and it were less and less functional to organize
this by feudal structures where only a few persons at the top
organized this process. Markets were a way to drop the active
organization and instead install the "invisible hand". In this sense
markets are individuality mediated ("vermittelt"?) by society.

Knowledge on the other hand is different here. Knowledge is more
suitable to be thought of as a big pool which is available in every
society and an individual can participate in it and also gives back
its individual knowledge pieces back to this pool. This way knowledge
as such is a societal thing - and because of this alone it is hard to
define a concept of individual property on it. Again this is something
which is widely acknowledged in sciences: "The reason I could look
farer than others is that I stood on the shoulders of giants"
(attributed to various great scientists).

So while markets are individuality mediated by society, knowledge is
society mediated by individuals.

Ok, IMHO these were the highlights of the presentation - which
contained a lot more and for sure others would find other aspects

During the discussion Hans-Gert made another interesting remark: In
software production the cash flow and the work flow are only loosely
coupled - if at all. A point from my experience I wholeheartedly agree
with. This is also different than in classical production of material
goods where the cash flow is closely related to the production of the
goods sold: On the one hand you need to buy the raw materials and on
the other hand you need to pay the work force who actually produces
the goods.

[This also applies not only to software production, however, but to
every modern product which requires a lot of knowledge work before the
actual production. A contemporary example in Germany is the new VW
Golf which took several years of development by thousands of
engineers. Now VW needs to sell enough cars - i.e. the result of the
previous effort - to refinance this effort. This is the rule for many
knowledge intensive goods today. (And VW has a problem here...)

Though this has been this way before this shift becomes more and more
wide-spread. The auto industry is a particular interesting example
because in former it times it was *the* industry which sucked up all
the (material) work force available because of increased productivity
in other sectors. Today it becomes an example of how knowledge
intensive production looks like.

It also becomes apparent that this type of production becomes a bigger
and bigger risk. The amount of money you need to invest before you can
get it back by selling products gets bigger and bigger and in a market
where you have competition you never know whether you will be the
first to be on the market with your new product and thus are able to
sell enough to refinance its development. This way a monopoly is even
more than before the best concept to survive at all.

Probably this also explains why the auto industry showed pretty big
interest in the OSCar project: They do not need to carry the risk of
the development of a product which the market probably asks for but
does not fit into the marketing strategy of the auto companies.]

						Mit Freien Grüßen


Organization: projekt

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