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Knowledge benefits everyone, but knowledge mismatches are problematic
By Dani Rodrik  |  May 02, 2023
Knowledge benefits everyone, but knowledge mismatches are problematic
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Knowledge is essential to any functioning society, as it empowers people, creates jobs, and drives economic development. However, knowledge only goes so far as the context in which it is used, and mismatches can greatly reduce its usefulness and the value it creates.

CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS - Knowledge holds the key to economic prosperity. Technology, innovation, and knowhow all come from learning new ways to produce the goods and services that enrich everyone. Knowledge is also the archetypal ‘public good’: New ideas can benefit everyone, and unless governments or monopolies restrict their dissemination, usage does not diminish availability.

This is especially important for poor countries because it means that they do not have to reinvent the wheel. They can simply adopt the technologies and methods created by richer countries to drive their own economic development.

While economists and policymakers have long appreciated the economic significance of knowledge, they have not paid sufficient attention to the conditions that make it useful. Context matters: Any mismatch between the conditions under which ideas are generated and the specificities of the environment where they are applied can significantly reduce the value of acquiring knowledge.

Corn shows one way that this problem can manifest itself: It is grown all over the world, but it is also subject to different environmental threats depending on the local ecology. Research and development efforts have naturally focused on developing resistance to pests that are most common in rich countries in North America and Europe. As a result, thousands of biotech patents are geared toward the European corn worm, but only five unique 

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