The Privatisation of Knowledge
Health, climate change, data governance: the three great challenges of the future can no longer be addressed without the creation of a new generation of supranational, knowledge-intensive public infrastructures.
A take-down of the current mechanism that transforms knowledge into capital for the few and contributes to social inequality, this is also a book that proposes alternatives: because the privatization of science is not an inescapable destiny. The situation can change.
We arrived at our appointment with the pandemic unprepared, despite the fact that scientists had raised the alarm almost twenty years earlier. Big Pharma, after taking investment away from infectious disease research because it was not profitable, only stepped up when governments showered companies with billions of dollars in subsidies. But they have not given up on patents, delaying the possibility of vaccinating the planet. The same is true for climate change: we have long understood that we need to find new production and consumption technologies compatible with a radical 'green' shift, but oil, gas and other companies continue to invest in fossil fuels. At the same time, we can see the growing power and influence that the markets have on our lives in a digital oligopoly that uses everyone's data to accumulate wealth for the few. Much of that information, if it were managed by organisations with public missions, could be a vital resource for improving our well-being, from our own health to protecting the environment. But that's not the aim of the Tech Giants. Human health, climate change, data governance: these are the crucial challenges of our present (and future). And Europe must drive a change of course by learning from the experience of the excellent infrastructures it already has: CERN, the European Space Agency, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. Communities of thousands of people work there, motivated not by earnings but by a passion for knowledge. They are an example of a different way of solving problems, of creating knowledge in fields where profits cannot be generated in the short term. This book proposes three major supranational public projects that bring together the brightest minds and subvert the paradox in which we find ourselves today: science that is a public good upstream, becomes a private good downstream.