Sex, Science and Profits: How people evolved to make money Hardcover – Jul 25 2006
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Praise for Kealey’s The Economic Laws of Scientific Research:
“A brilliant book. One of the most appetizing and sustained polemics ever concocted on a serious
topic” -- Economist
“One of the most intelligent, trend-changing and courageous books I have ever read” -- Matt Ridley, Daily Telegraph
About the Author
Terence Kealey is a clinical biochemist at the University of Cambridge and at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, specializing in the biochemistry of hair. He writes regularly for the Spectator and the New Scientist.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is not entirely clear, however, why government funding for science would be a bad thing in this context. Kealey points to some government waste (e.g., the famous Japanese AI research project), and he could have collected more examples, but the reader is hardly shocked to learn that governments can be inefficient. Would Kealey also acknowledge that large corporations can be equally wasteful at times?
As another quasi-definition, he equates science with the "invisible college". He is trying to convey the idea that science is like a private club... and hence science is more of a private good that a public good. The key argument supporting this thesis is that research papers are unusable without the tacit knowledge that researchers unavoidably fail to include. This is certainly true broadly speaking. However, he fails to acknowledge that there are countless examples of breakthroughs coming from "outsiders" (people who would not belong any "invisible college"). In any case, I found this general line of discussion rather pointless... as the distinction between private and public good is a coarse abstraction. It is simply not useful to apply this language to science. It seems to me that it suffices to point out that science gets funded even when government withdraw funding. There is no need of this extra theory.
The book is filled with interesting facts and references. However, I am quite certain to have read the same argument 3 times, a few pages apart. Thus, the book could have used better editing.
I can't help but to compare this book with Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (which appeared roughly a year later). I think that Ridley's book and thesis is stronger. He makes roughly the same point, but he goes further, explaining why leaving out science to governments can be dangerous.
Still, I give this book, the highest possible rating because I think that anyone interested in science should read it.
Note: the title and cover were badly chosen. This book deserved better.
The book is essentially a tirade written a scientist angry and annoyed at the status quo of too much government interference in science: parents, government-subsidized research, and government-funded science. Terence Kealey believes that markets evolve organically, and when they're permitted to evolve organically then technology will do so as well. Companies that do not invest in research and development will be out-innovated by companies that do, and every company - no matter how small - must invest in research and development in order to have scientists that can understand and communicate in an "invisible college" of scientists. That's why patents are self-defeating: science requires constant communication and co-operation, and if anyone tries to hoard information then that would have negative repercussions for the advancement of science as a whole as well as for that individual. Companies themselves can decide what the proper amount of funding for research is based on its needs, and government subsidies to encourage corporate research are either ineffective or counter-productive. Most pernicious of all is government-funded science which "crowds out" everything else: the best scientists working with the most resources but without proper motivation, incentives, and feedback loops to ensure that their research is efficient and purposeful.
I'm always suspicious of neat arguments, and Terence Kealey's arguments seemed too neat to be true. Nevertheless, he does raise interesting questions and concerns about science today.
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