Along with my voluntary duties facilitating the Open Seminar, my research attention has focused on characterising the interplay and policy tensions between intellectual property rights (IPR) (i.e. copyrights, patents, trademarks) and a transition to a low-carbon economy. The following is the summary of a conference paper (Brussels 26-28 of May 2009) and can be seen as a preliminary research statement. I am also currently in the process of conducting more interviews and writing up my thesis. A final draft of the paper is available upon request.
The ‘knowledge ecology’ we need
Are the core assumptions of the knowledge economy sustainable?
A ‘dematerialized’ knowledge economy does not lead inevitably to a low-carbon society, much less to sustainability. It first has to consider the challenges of a sustainable type of knowledge creation and valuation. A different unit of analysis of an ‘economics of knowledge’ is required if such things as fairness, welfare, behavioural changes in individuals and sustainable innovation are to be achieved any time soon. The current unit of analysis of the knowledge economy (the abstract copy of an idea) leads to Intellectual Monopoly (Boldrin & Levine, 2008) and to a substantial destruction of the knowledge embedded in the natural world. A different reframing of the core assumptions and values of the knowledge economy is therefore required, perhaps more in line with the values of competition and cooperation observable in the ‘knowledge ecology’ of the natural world. The sustainability of knowledge (human and that embedded in nature) seems incompatible with monopoly in knowledge (only human and on its way to transform the natural world). The observation that ‘property in copies of ideas is good property, enhancing competition, while property in abstract copies of ideas is bad property because it leads to monopoly’ (Boldrin & Levine, 2008 p.100) seems to suggest that ‘the physical copy of an idea’ could be adopted successfully as the correct unit of analysis for a true ‘economics of knowledge’; it also raises the possibility of complementing the safe minimum standard used in ecosystems services valuat ion (e.g. critical natural capital) with a corresponding safe minimum standard for the knowledge we produce (e.g. critical human-made/intellectual capital), so that society does not hugely overvalue human innovation over natural-world innovation and in the process perhaps destroy what is best of both. In short, a new governance of knowledge presents itself as absolutely imperative. Empirically, this project has set out to analyse how different intellectual property regimes affect the innovation process in three key areas in terms of CO2 emissions. viz., road transport engine technology, inputs to agriculture, the low carbon household.
© 2009 Andrés Bucio
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