Robert Laughlin


The Crime of Reason
16 minutes, 7.6mb, recorded 2008-10-24
Robert S. Laughlin

Spectrum Radio's Steven Cherry interviews Robert Laughlin about his new book "The Crime of Reason and the Closing of the Scientific Mind." Professor Laughlin explores the inherent conflict between the government's efforts to support and protect the commercialization of Intellectual Property and the scientific researcher's need for free access to information in order to expand our knowledge in critical areas. Will ignorance be the price we inadvertently pay for safety and commerce?

Robert Laughlin's provocative book addresses the stunning expansion of both Intellectual Property Rights and government powers to control and criminalize the dissemination of knowledge. In this interview with Spectrum Radio host Steven Cherry, Professor Laughlin notes that America has turned to Intellectual Property as the means of wealth-generation for the future, partially in reaction to the commoditization of physical products. This has resulted in a fundamental tension between capitalism and science, between the free market and free thinking.

With examples drawn from nuclear physics, biotechnology and patent law, Laughlin, a Nobel laureate in physics, paints a troubling picture of a society in which the only information that is truly valuable in dollars and cents is controlled by a small number of individuals. And Professor Laughlin issues a warning about the chilling effects on researchers of the government's use of 'quasi-legal means' to control both the direction of research and the dissemination of knowledge.

Highlighting the insidious side effect of the Information Age ('...the result is you cannot have free information.'), Professor Laughlin discusses the precedent-setting civil and criminal legal actions against academic researchers and the resulting negative impact on the fundamental growth of knowledge.

Professor Laughlin views his book as a 'cry for help,' a plea for all of us to join in the debate over the ramifications these trends will bring to bear on our scientific progress.




Robert B. Laughlin is a professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Stanford University. Along with Horst L. Störmer of Columbia University and Daniel C. Tsui of Princeton University, he was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in physics for his explanation of the fractional quantum Hall effect. He has also won the Oliver F. Buckley Prize, the Benjamin Franklin Medal for Physics, and the Department of Energy's Earnest O. Lawrence Award for Physics.

Laughlin was born in Visalia, California. He earned a B.A. in Mathematics from UC Berkeley in 1972, and his Ph.D. in physics in 1979 at MIT, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. In the period of 2004-2006 he served as the president of KAIST in Daejeon, South Korea. Laughlin is also the author of "A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom Down" (2005), and lives in Stanford, California.

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