Skip to content

sustainable intellectual development

This is a follow-up responding to a comment on my previous post:

We certainly should think about how the concept of sustainable development might mesh with our notions of Progress and how dynamic intellectual processes (creative, inventive, innovative, etc.) actually work in the real world. (Julie Cohen has a nice paper discussing the importance of cultural practices here. UPDATE: so does Mike!!! here and here) We cannot avoid recycling older concepts, ideas, themes, etc. because of the cumulative nature of intellectual systems. Recognizing this is only the beginning of course; thinking carefully about how IP rights might lead to sustainable intellectual development raises a series of difficult questions, which I do not have time to get into right now but may pick up later (especially if folks are interested!).

Another critical role that the concept should play in IP policy concerns international IP and its relationship to economic (+ cultural and social) development. Sustainable development means different things for different countries, and correspondingly the role of IP in the economic (+ cultural/social) policy frameworks of different countries will also vary (considerably). (Larry Lessig points to an interesting article by Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel laureate in economics, in which he makes this point.) WIPO’s adoption of a Development Agenda suggests that the concept has gained some traction.

Also, check out this important report, which describes approaches for effectively applying science, technology, and innovation to achieving the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

1 thought on “sustainable intellectual development”

  1. This is fantastic and interesting. I am going to read all of those things; many thanks for the pointers.

    One thing that seems interesting/important to note is that the sustainable development question in IP (at least, the little I have mentally grappled with it so far) is distinct from the natural resources perspective in at least one sense: IP is not necessarily a victim of the tragedy of the commons problems that plague natural resource allocation. In fact, it’s usually the reverse. Hence, the policies to sustain natural resource usage and the policies to sustain IP usage may have completely different qualities; you might actually expect them to be just about opposites. On one end, you want to control access to natural resources and regulate their usage and production (either through a price system or something else that “regulates” in a broad sense). On the other end, you want to enable access to creative/intellectual resources *more* in order to sustain development.

    I am going to think about this more as I read all of these things. Thanks again.

Comments are closed.