[LINK] Einstein's fridge an example for NICTA?

rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Mon Dec 11 21:40:31 AEDT 2006

[snipping a big snip]

>Moderately to strongly disagree with the comments made above. 
>The problem with all of this is that benefits are determined by the reporting mechanism (eg royalties/money).  Any other benefits are automatically discounted to valueless. 
>As I understand it, the Web was developed in Europe and has not been a great money spinner for anyone.  On the above analysis, you'd have to conclude that it was a waste of funds to invent the Web.  The reality of course is somewhat different. 
>The problem will only be solved by creating metrics which properly value the outputs of these organisations.  That value should be determined by net benefit to the economy, not by net benefit to the government/ research organisation.  
Can't be done for real fundamental research - at least, not in advance.

The problem is that economics cannot forecast the unknown. What you 
can't predict, you don't fund. I can think of two really good examples 
of this, some decades apart: alternating current; and lasers.

In the case of a.c., the economic analysis of the day said it was 
pointless. Electricity was for industry; a.c. was therefore economically 
unnecessary. The economic predictions were wrong.

Laser was a completely pointless abstraction: until an application 
arrived, there was no way an economist could predict its economic impact.

Velocity-caused time dilation, ditto - until you have fast-moving 
objects trying to communicate with objects (relatively) at rest.

And so on. The regrettable outcome is that you have to take some science 
funding as risk money, and ignore those who believe that all research 
should have a measurable payoff within the life of the government doing 
the funding.


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