[Foundation-l] Long-term archiving of Wikimedia content

Anthony wikimail at inbox.org
Tue May 5 21:17:32 UTC 2009

On Tue, May 5, 2009 at 2:24 PM, Thomas Dalton <thomas.dalton at gmail.com>wrote:

> 2009/5/5 Anthony <wikimail at inbox.org>:
> > Not true.  I'm considering the historical value, but I'm recognizing the
> > fact that it must be heavily discounted due to the fact that it takes
> place
> > so far in the future.
> I'm not convinced that discounting to present value applies here. You
> can't describe all of life in terms of economics (in fact, it seems
> describing economics in terms of economics isn't entirely wise!). How
> do you assign a monetary value to future historical knowledge? For
> that matter, how do you assign a monetary value to present historical
> knowledge?

I think economics does apply here because we are specifically asking an
economic question - how best to allocate our present resources (should the
WMF buy a server, or etch stuff on nickel plates).  And I don't think values
have to be monetary in order to apply economic principles to them.  You can
have a pure barter system and still have economics.

However, I think you ask a good question when you ask how to assign a value
to future historical knowledge.  I think the only rational answer is that
the value of future historical knowledge is the value to those who are
presently alive.  That doesn't mean that the value to those who are not yet
born is irrelevant, but that it is only relevant to the extent that it can
be translated into value for those who are alive.  I value future historical
knowledge to the extent I value giving that knowledge to my children, or to
the extent I value giving my children the value of giving it to their
children, etc.

But I guess from your position on this that you would disagree with that.
So I'd ask you, how do *you* value future historical knowledge?

> Or any kind of knowledge? In economics things have value
> due to scarcity,

No, things have value due to marginal utility.

> knowledge is freely reproducible, so the concept of
> scarcity doesn't really apply - either it exists, or it doesn't.
> Access to knowledge may have monetary value, but the existence of the
> knowledge doesn't, the concept just doesn't apply.

If that were true, then why would anyone ever pay someone to create
something?  Surely the existence of knowledge can have value, and I don't
even think I'm in the minority in that belief.

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