Ownership of Knowledge

Ownership of Knowledge

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March 30, 2012

Before there were universities, knowledge was curated in monasteries. Prior to organized religion, knowledge was archived in stories, songs, dances and art embedded in everyday life.

Appropriation of this indigenous knowledge by church and state initially served to consolidate the power that accompanies the knowledge that was previously dispersed through communal ceremonies and rituals. Eventually, through plagiarizing and distortion, this socially-constructed knowledge came to be publicly viewed as the property of church and state—a commodity to mold, controlled and sold in the universal marketplace of ideas. In time, this commodity was commercialized by markets and institutions, in order to hoard this wealth of knowledge our ancestors took pains to learn for their and our benefit.

Today, as this history of the ownership of knowledge is obscured by bureaucrats, politicians and entrepreneurs, our ability to endure — indeed, to survive — is impaired by the ignorance imposed by its withdrawal from public consciousness. Only by restoring this intellectual property to its rightful owners, who themselves might choose to share it with others, can the power of knowledge once again serve humanity; at some point, hoarding and theft must be called to account.

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