4th October 2012
Sex, Science and Profits by Terence Kealey #2
In June 2009 I wrote a brief review of Kealey's book: being one of the best books I've read. (Funnily enough, my quick review comes up on google search above a review in The Guardian, on the very first page when you search for this book.)
I'm reading Kealey's book for a second time now as I think systematically about a theory of innovation. Fascinated by Deirdre McCloskey work, I've gone back a second time to my heavily underlined copy of Schumpeter's book, and also refreshed Veblen's key thoughts (but will need to read his work in some detail).
Innovation is the most intriguing thing in the world.
It seems to be purely accidental, and it is. But it is not, really. It does have some characteristics of "building on what's already there". So there must be something to build on. There must be "progress".
As I've detailed in DOF, the scientific method has almost made routine key advances in science. To the extent you follow the scientific method, you will discover new things (as I have – re: RSI/ eyestrain – and continue to do so). Openness of mind is key.
But innovation goes beyond discovery. It is about implementation that gives commercial advantage.
If I wanted to, I could have packaged my knowledge about RSI/eyestrain and sold it. I could have copyrighted a "Sabhlok method" and sold it to IT firms with a GUARANTEE that I'd ELIMINATE any possibility of RSI in their companies (currently hundreds of thousands of 'ergonomists" are hired but these people are pure quacks with ZERO knowledge about RSI). But I am not driven by an urge to make big money.
So the urge to make money is the key. Openness + urge to make money. These, plus dignity, etc.
Anyway, I'm keen to read (and review at one go) all authors who have an explanation for innovation that goes beyond the "Walrasian" framework (competitive general equilibrium). If you can think of other authors I should read, please let me know.
Kealey's book, if I remember it well, completely demolishes a role for government in innovation. True, one can argue there is a role for government in a few – the very large things. Colonisation of other nations is one example.
Without the support of royalty in Portugal and Spain (and later the Netherlands and England), Europe would have remained confined within its own lands. Ships cost a lot of money and only kings had the capacity to take huge risks of this sort. Once a "proof of concept" (i.e. route to India/ existence of "West Indies") was demonstrated, the state could (and should!) get out of the way.
While browsing around for the current status of Kealey's work I chanced upon his talk, below, which was uploaded on Youtube earlier this year. Since the book is absolutely amazing, I assume the talk is too. I haven't listened to it yet but will do so as time permits.
Btw, the book is available on Kindle for just $10. A bargain! I prefer BOTH hard and electronic copies of the books I like (so I can quote without having to scan/type), so this is one that I'll probably buy as well. (Since I've installed Kindle for PC I've started buying electronic copies of key books that I already own. This tells me that there at least a small demand from book owners to purchase BOTH hard and soft copies of books.)
The Case against Public Science by Terrence Kealey