This past weekend at the 20th Annual Works in Progress in Intellectual Property Colloquium (WIPIP 2023) at Suffolk University in Boston, I presented yet another chunk of my long-running book project, Valuing Progress: A Pluralist Account of Knowledge Governance. This piece, Knowledge as a Resource, examines those characteristics of knowledge–particularly nonrivalrousness–that distinguish knowledge from other goods that are subject to evaluation under the criteria of distributive justice. Because knowledge can be shared without depriving the sharer of anything, norms of distributive justice that have developed in the context of rivalrous goods–norms such as reciprocity–generate paradoxes when we try to apply them to knowledge. This requires us to choose among competing and contestable values underlying and justifying those norms. With respect to reciprocity, for example, it requires us to decide whether reciprocity is grounded in the value of compensation for burdens borne or in the value of gratitude for benefits received. While the distinction between these two justifications can often be ignored for rivalrous goods–particularly where institutions like property rights and markets limit exchange to goods over which parties agree as to their value–it cannot be ignored for knowledge: we must choose one at the expense of the other. The inevitability of such choices among competing values is the overarching theme of the book.
Slides for Knowledge as a Resource can be found here: