The Crime of Reason: And the Closing of the Scientific Mind

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9780465005079: The Crime of Reason: And the Closing of the Scientific Mind
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We all agree that the free flow of ideas is essential to creativity. And we like to believe that in our modern, technological world, information is more freely available and flows faster than ever before. But according to Nobel Laureate Robert Laughlin, acquiring information is becoming a danger or even a crime. Increasingly, the really valuable information is private property or a state secret, with the result that it is now easy for a flash of insight, entirely innocently, to infringe a patent or threaten national security. The public pays little attention because this vital information is technical” but, Laughlin argues, information is often labeled technical so it can be sequestered, not sequestered because it's technical. The increasing restrictions on information in such fields as cryptography, biotechnology, and computer software design are creating a new Dark Age: a time characterized not by light and truth but by disinformation and ignorance. Thus we find ourselves dealing more and more with the Crime of Reason, the antisocial and sometimes outright illegal nature of certain intellectual activities.

The Crime of Reason is a reader-friendly jeremiad, On Bullshit for the Slashdot and Creative Commons crowd: a short, fiercely argued essay on a problem of increasing concern to people at the frontiers of new ideas.

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About the Author:

Robert B. Laughlin is the Robert M. and Anne Bass Professor of Physics at Stanford University, where he has taught since 1985. In 1998 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the fractional quantum Hall effect. The author of A Different Universe, he lives in Stanford, California.

From School Library Journal:

Starred Review. Al Gore, in his Assault on Reason, elevated our consciousness of the sharp decline of reason, logic, and truth in public discourse. Physics Nobel laureate Laughlin (A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down) delves deeper into the problem, focusing on efforts to sequester technical knowledge using the cloak of a freely available information-rich world. With humorous honesty (it can be fun to think apocalyptically from time to time), Laughlin uncovers the barriers scientists, engineers, and laypeople encounter when they try to learn how the world works by standing on the shoulders of giants, the discoveries of others. Intellectual-property advocacy and voluntary self-censorship are creating gaps in our records of knowledge. Legislatures are criminalizing understanding and speech, because it is easier than criminalizing behaviors that challenge economic stability and national security. While this short essay can sound like the ramblings of an old man, his argument is profound and not easy to dismiss. Strongly recommended for academic and public libraries.—James A. Buczynski, Seneca Coll. of Applied Arts & Technology, Toronto
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