A few days ago I got a friendly reminder from Plaxo that I should schedule an eCard for delivery on Boisot’s birthday, and the reminder was repeated yesterday. Max would have been amused by the persistence of online identities but for me it was a reminder of great loss occasioned by his premature death back in September. This picture (by his wife Dorota) shows him a the CERN facility in Switzerland which was the subject of his latest (jointly authored) book Collisions and Collaboration . That book established that basic science absorbs uncertainty rather than seeking to reduce it. By holding many, apparently purposeless options open for as long as possible theoretical science increases the chance of commercial opportunities arising at a later stage in the knowledge diffusion cycle. The focus of Governments who directly link research funding and incentives to direct commercial benefit thus limits discovery and ironically limits the number of options available when science moves from theory to application.
I remember being impressed by Max’s ability to understand the social implications of his work when I first read Knowledge Assets . He wrote then of a new understanding of knowledge that recognised that knowledge goods, the foundation of western economies, are inherently unstable and require far more dynamic treatment than physical goods. Understanding this was he argued key to continued prosperity and social stability in industrialized countries. While for emerging economies it offers the prospect of bypassing the gruesome and dehumanizing experience of industrialization through which the developed countries initially secured their wealth.
Four years ago, Max took on our guest blog and his posts were a delightful mix of the whimsical and the profound. Deep thoughts, richly expressed. By way of tribute I have put them together in a single document for people to read and treasure. So here it is, The Boisot Blog.