Saturday, 7 May 2011

Free and Easy

"There's no such thing as a free lunch" -English Idiom

AS most people who have ever had to stay in a summer hostel in their college would tell you, there's absolutely no such thing as a free lunch. Summer hostellers are usually left to their own devices when it comes to such prandial needs. And as such, the aforementioned idiom has come to signify the lack of any favours in this world at present. Succinctly, there is no way the universe would just let you do stuff, wihtout exacting its price in return. But, there are exceptions. And this is where we come into the realm of specifics, instead of idle bullshit. You see, knowledge, most of us would agree, should be freely and easily accessible. Because knowledge is just that. Free.

The first person to light a fire did not charge his compatriots 2 bucks to come and warm their food on it, or 5 bucks to take it away on a stick of his own. The only reason we know about such things as why stars twinkle and why a lightbulb glows is because people with knowledge have been kind enough not to view their knowledge as marketable assets.

What has changed now, however, is that certain MBA type people dressed in fancy suits and armed with terminologies such as a SWOT analysis and ARPU have decided that if everything from gold to rocks has a price, knowledge should have its own too.

This is the reason why online journals are priced at $65, ad ebooks are priced at $325 a copy. Most laptops in this country are worth about a journal and an ebook combined. And that is not surprising, since this is for all intents and purposes a third world country with a very lopsided PPP ratio. But even in suhc advanced countries as the US and Germany, you could easily get a laptop for $500. Which makes the guy who bought the aforementioned ebook and journal look like a complete idiot.

Everywhere you look, you get to see such unmitigated examples of avarice, that used to be restricted to such things as oil and ladies handbags. What is incredibly pernicious, is that it has crept into the knowledge trade as well. Big, fucking huge corporations are now responsible for storing half of all the research data created by scientists all around the world. These scientists are so fucking dumb, they think its an honour to be published in so and so international mag. The honour, and money, is restricted to the company that publishes the international mag, and shows a healthy balance sheet to back it up. There are no associated costs. hell they don't even print on paper anymore, as part of a concerted effort to go green(dollars).

In the face of it all, we have Wikipedia. That massive middle finger to all sorts of knowledge profiteering and scientific journal publishing. Companies like Microsoft still maintain that Wikipedia isn't accurate enough, or that the articles aren't well written enough, and then offer you an online subscription to the Britannica Encyclopedia at a mere $2 a month, less than it costs to watch porn.

Unfortunately for them, porn is often a bigger draw...and Wikipedia will always stay free.

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