In a competitive world, is teaching others what you know not irrational?
I watched an entire documentary movie on Warren Buffett, starring Warren Buffett. By the time the documentary movie was over, other than advice you are able to find in any reference text on investments that is worth its salt, Warren Buffett had not yielded any proprietary insights into sources of his success.
Ask any Billionaire secrets of their success, and you get the usual suspects. Being willing to be creative; being willing to seize opportunity; openness to taking of calculated risks; making the most of those first couple of hours after waking up, the time, which, for most people is most adaptable to innovative or creative thinking; creating structure for the important everyday things, such that you do not spend a lot of energy on things that while important, such as meals, what to wear etc., only facilitate expenditure of your energy on matters that are sources of income, returns, or wealth. One could go on, but the point is, successful people hardly ever provide any truly proprietary insights into sources of their success, hence the problem with self help, which designs itself around such generic advice.
Designing a search for success around generic advice from billionaires presumes others are, simply by practicing the advice, able to recreate the unique set of circumstances that created a billionaire. Such presumption is, of course, a low probability presumption, as such no more than a gamble on generic lifestyle advice.
In light of the foregoing, we arrive at an important inference, which is, successful people tend not to give away their truly proprietary insights into what it takes to become successful. The reasoning is rational, pragmatic, and moral, namely it cannot be useful to, via self revelation, create more competition for oneself.
Regardless of rationality, pragmatism, and morality of ‘hiding’ of truly proprietary insights into sources of success, we have teachers, lecturers, or professors standing in classrooms, teaching what they know to either of contemporaries, or the next generation. Since teachers, lecturers, or professors who are effective must ‘self interpret’ the knowledge that they provide, absent embedding of some proprietary knowledge in efforts targeted at education of others, for most students, time spent in the classroom becomes nothing but a gargantuan waste of time and effort.
If a teacher, lecturer, or professor merely restates what students are able to read in reference texts, the real value of education — contact with self interpretation of an expert on a subject — is lost.
Universities, such as Harvard, Yale, MIT, or Stanford have superior reputation, only because it is believed that depth, breadth, and quality of self interpretation of knowledge that is available via their professors is superior to what is available at most other universities.
It is because self interpreted (proprietary) insights into knowledge are not easy to convey in context of online learning that the transition to online learning, which now is induced by the corona virus crisis, poses such a challenge to quality of education of current generation of students. One would hope that the transition back to within-classroom engagement is not too far in the future.
Teachers, Lecturers, or Professors who are most effective at imparting of education infuse their teaching, lecturing, or professing of knowledge with self interpreted, that is, proprietary insights.
We arrive then
at an important question, namely:
“is society inducing brilliant persons who ought to be as rich as Warren Buffett into asymptotically ‘less than fully rational’ activity of impartation of some of their proprietary knowledge to others, with outcome they are unable to generate the sort of proprietary returns, which accrue to the favored (that is, the ‘networked’), such as Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, etc?”
For arrival at a robust answer, let us consider what exactly is taught in classrooms. Whenever education functions right, students are introduced to principles that govern activities in different spheres of life. In Physics, students are introduced to immutable laws, such as Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy, Gravity, Relativity etc. In Chemistry, students get to understand the difference between mixtures and reactions, and arrive at knowledge of immutable structure of organic material. In Biology, immutability of similarity of structure for different sorts of bodies is established. In Economics, immutability of importance of ‘preferences’ as foundation for all economic interactions that subsist between economic agents is discussed. In Finance, immutability of necessity of a scientifically validated model for valuation of assets is established.
We arrive then at an important insight, which, simultaneously establishes rationality, pragmatism, and morality of teaching that is infused with proprietary insights, namely, all that is taught in the classroom relates to things in respect of which all of society ought to be in agreement.
Given all infusion of teaching with self interpreted insights enhances students’ understanding of knowledge, which, for effectiveness and efficiency of workings of society have to be held in common, infusion of teaching with proprietary insights does not cost a teacher, lecturer, or professor anything, yet increases the probability that society continues to function effectively, efficiently, and progressively. We arrive then at that well established value of education as source of positive externality for effectiveness, efficiency, and progression of society.
When education functions right, absent any detriment to their own welfare, teachers, lecturers, or professors increase the probability that knowledge which has character of asymptotic immutability, which as such is critical for effectiveness, efficiency, and progression of society, is known to all.
One would expect that it is students who have access to insights from teachers, lecturers, or professors that exhibit the greatest of depth, breadth, and quality who are most likely to build on knowledge acquired for progression of society.
Fallout of the foregoing? Any knowledge that cannot be source of a patent or trademark is knowledge that, ideally, you ought to be willing to share. Whether or not you actually require a patent or trademark for such knowledge, if the knowledge cannot conceivably generate any economic rents for you, however, seemingly proprietary, the knowledge belongs in the pool of knowledge that is common to society.
A hair stylist with superior skills may not apply for a patent or trademark, but yet is able to retain economic rents that are induced by her superior skills at styling of hair.
The underlying reasoning is not convoluted, rather is fairly straightforward. If there exists some principle, which has character of asymptotic immutability, you are able to benefit from such knowledge only if the rest of society arrives at recognition of asymptotic immutability of the principle.
If Newton had not shared his knowledge of the law of kinetic energy, which is e=0.50mv², the design of engines for cars would be difficult. If Newton himself had come up with concept of a car, he would have gone on to profit from his equation. Absent demonstration of asymptotic immutability of e=0.50mv², however, exactly the sort of demonstration Henry Ford had to provide — knowledge that could not be hid from rest of society — it is inconceivable that cars would have caught on.
If Ford had not been able to demonstrate consistency of effects of stepping on either of the accelerator or brake of the Model T — consistency made possible, in part, by application of Newton’s Laws of Motion — no one in their right mind would have bought the Model T.
For concreteness, note that it was not e=0.50mv² that Ford was able to patent. Regardless of importance of e=0.50mv² for design of a car, all Ford was able to patent was design of the Model T. The immutable principle, e=0.50mv² remained in domain of common knowledge — no one can generate a patent on knowledge of e=0.50mv². If you, however, are able to come up with a proprietary application of e=0.50mv², like General Motors, Toyota, Honda, or Nissan, all of whom are competitors to Ford, you are able to apply for patent protection for your invention.
The only proprietary knowledge that must be kept fully proprietary is proprietary application of knowledge that, kept proprietary, is source of economic rents for the person who has the knowledge.
The current spate of disinformation that is sweeping through society attempts to generate economic rents from information. This, of course, is akin to feasibility of arrival at riches, popularity, and fame simply via appearance on television, or in a YouTube video etc. In presence of conferring of economic rents on mere information or visibility, there is arrival at conferment of economic rents on disinformation. Rather then disinformation having value only in context of spy networks of countries, and rather information having value merely as a commodity, we arrive at conferment of economic rents on disinformation.
In presence of feasibility of earning of economic rents from disinformation, economic agents begin to perceive sharing of any proprietary information to not be fully rational. Eventually, we arrive at the scenario in context of which, for generation of economic rents from either of information or disinformation, economic agents begin to challenge asymptotically immutable principles, as such, arrive at each of ‘mob mentality’ and the ‘Donald Trump phenomenon’, namely, persons who act as if there do not exist any asymptotically immutable principles.
Donald Trump is not a cause, rather is a phenomenon. All around the world, particularly in the USA, the notion that there do not exist any asymptotically immutable principles, a notion that is erroneous and dangerous is eating at fabric of well being of societies.
If we do not all look ourselves in the eye, and ask to see the ‘Donald Trump’ that’ perhaps’ lurks within, the phenomenon that is Donald Trump may be removed from our skyline, but yet society would remain filled with lots of ‘Donald Trumps’.
If anyone is in doubt as to existence of asymptotically immutable principles, let them ask a pilot what would happen if, during descent of a plane, the law of Gravity ceased to operate as a scientifically immutable principle.
All progress that transpires in society is built on acceptance of newly discovered principles, which have character of asymptotic immutability.
Absent applications of asymptotic immutability of theory of displacement, travel by ships would be impossible.
If such principles are not shared by their discoverers, the principles do not benefit the discoverer, for only specific applications of the principles, which result in either of new products or services, are able to generate economic rents for a discoverer. As I already have illustrated, upon arrival at such a new product or service, for arrival at general acceptance of a new product or service, an innovator has to convey asymptotic immutability of principles that underlie the new discovery to either of the scientific community or the general public. We arrive then, again, at the inference that knowledge of principles that have character of asymptotic immutability belongs in the public domain.
Teaching of what we know that is not a practical and proprietary application of an immutable principle, which has feasibility of generation of economic rents, is fully rational.
Every innovation that has value in context of a patent or trademark derives itself not from choice of lifestyles — inclusive of all of the ‘lifestyle’ advice from billionaires and successful people — but rather from knowledge of principles that have character of asymptotic immutability. In this respect, consider that if your car not starting in presence of turning of the key in the ignition is not to you an anomaly — a signal that something is wrong — you would not buy a car.
A car has value, only because it functions on principles that have character of asymptotic immutability.
If you are seeking new knowledge of asymptotically immutable principles on which you might be able to leverage applications that become sources of economic rents for yourself, your loved ones, and others who partner with you, check out my book, ‘Completing the Market: A Theory of Everything’, available for sale at Amazon.com.
If Bill Gates knew everyone in government, absent development of Windows Software, he still would not have been able to start Microsoft.