The crime of reason


Date Thursday October 23rd 2008
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium, PARC

PARC Forum

There is increasing talk about the disappearance of technical knowledge from the public domain, both because it is a security danger and because it is economically valuable. I argue that this development is not anomalous at all but a great historic trend tied to our transition to the information age. We are in the process of losing a human right that all of us thought we had but actually didn’t – the right to learn things as we can and better ourselves economically from what we learn. Increasingly, figuring out important things (as opposed to unimportant ones) for yourself will become theft and terrorism. Increasingly, reason itself will become a crime.


Prof. Laughlin earned an AB in mathematics from UC Berkeley in 1972 and a PhD in Physics from MIT in 1981. He served two years in the US Army. After MIT he went to the Bell Labs theory group, and from there to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he still consults. He joined the physics faculty of Stanford in 1984. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has won many prestigious awards, including the Oliver E. Buckely Prize, and Earnest O. Lawrence Award, the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Physics and the Onsager Medal. He shared the 1998 Nobel Prize in Physics for his theory of the Fractional Quantum Hall Effect.

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