Why do we spread knowledge across nations?

We have access to lots of knowledge on paper sharing platforms, open course platforms, open-source platforms and question asking platforms and etc, and Tesla opened all its electric car patents in 2014 starting from which year XPeng and FF and many others in China and other countries were founded.

I don't know why we are not afraid of the backfires of knowledge sharing or the late-mover advantage? Does a company need the often mentioned technical barrier to be competitive? In China there was a saying "师夷长技以制夷" which means literally "learn from foreigners to compete with them", then I thought those platforms are very dangerous to be utilized by enemies/competitors.

I am sorry if I asked this in the wrong place again(if so, please kindly let me know where I can post this question). I asked this question somewhere else on StackExchange and somebody suggested that I should consider comparative advantage and I learned the term here but cannot still get my head around how to answer my question using that. Any suggestions? Thanks in advance.

• Basically, you think that the US should not let Chinese people learn how to do things because then China might become equal to the US? Mar 16 '20 at 14:00
• @user253751 You are basically right, but mostly I focus on the motivations(I don't mean somebody is not worth something or somebody would bite the hand that feeds him/her.) Mar 16 '20 at 14:25
• Well the motivation is: why wouldn't they? Mar 16 '20 at 16:26
• Who are "we" and "our enemies"? Is it "dangerous" for me to teach a random child on the street that 1+1=2?
– user18
Dec 12 '20 at 5:41

This is a long comment that is too long for the comment box.

In fact, many research projects in US are secretive, especially the ones related to military. At the same time, much, much more research projects in China are secretive, including some agricultural ones, which are not military-related but considered as national security-related by Chinese government.

There has always been a China-threat theory in US, and a US-threat theory in China. The majority of US military are nationalists which could be considered as right-wing, while the majority of US academia are left-wing globalists who think China is less threatening. So the later care more about free-market and free knowledge while the former might want to put some restrictions on China.

By the way, there is a culture difference on "world order" between the East and the West. For thousands of years, the Western world is comprised of hundreds of smaller yet independent states, while almost all of the Far East nations could have been a tributary subject of the "Center Empire". People from the "Center Empire" could naturally believe that there will be only one major leader in the world, while the westerners might believe that the world is consist of many equal entities. The latter is of course less concern about knowledge-sharing.

The globalists believe that the global challenges faced by all human are more threatening than China. This could be one of reasons why the globalists have gained more support in the special year of 2020.

• I wonder if there is a link between the open here and the open in this article? Sep 13 at 23:36

As "High GPA" has rightly pointed out, most of the military and national defence research tends to be confidential. Added to that, any specific area where having some specific knowledge can result in monetary benefits follows a similar pattern. This is best exemplified by the existence of patents.

Additionally, there are monetary and social incentives for sharing knowledge publicly as well. People get paid, in some form or the other, for preparing the open ware courses you mentioned. They might be just doing it because they get satisfaction from it, without any ulterior motives. So there is no shortage of incentives here.

As "High GPA" again says, I would like to believe no commoner is actually concerned what China does with the information they are putting out. I would go on a limb and say that most of the information being propagated is either: 1) already very widely known or 2) has no such dangerous/competitive implications. I have my doubts that by viewing MIT's Multi-variable Calculus course anyone would be able to cause any potential harm to anyone.

I know your question was how comparative advantage fits into the picture. However, I am not sure about that so just wanted to add the other points mentioned above

I might be wrong but the key point is the perspective. From your question I saw a very interesting word: enemy.

I understand that some entity would be against telling the enemy about his knowledge and is mostly true: US didn't gift the blueprints of the nuke bomb to the URSS.

But, that is because there is top confidential information that may not be good to share. However, does that include everything? Do I want my 'enemies' to be well feed? Agricultural technology? Health technology? basic knowledge of engineering?

So it depends if you consider there is a real enemy threat that is going to kill you or there is peace and the humans can compete at a very close field level. That is what I meant by perspective.

Also, if more people develop technology the faster technology develops and the living standards improves. In the long run an open society that shares, competes and respect the individuals tend to achieve things faster than a society defined as the opposite. For example, in Europe there were moments of Centralisation of power which reduced the development and moments of hiper-fragmentation (small states with own currency) where development grewth more.

For example, a society that has 95% peasants and 5% non-peasants vs a society that has 1% peasants and 99% non-peasant. Which one is more likely to have better quality? Of course on both cases the peasants specified are enough to feed the entire population and even have savings. This is a basic but classic example of the old regime agricultural vs the actual economic model.

Recently I read the WTF?: What's the Future and Why It's Up to Us by Tim O'Reilly, and here is a quotation from his book:

Sharing rather than hoarding knowledge can also be a powerful lever for competitive advantage. Companies too often assume that the best way to increase their share of the gains from innovation is to keep it proprietary. Yet as the open source pioneers of Linux and the Internet taught us, knowledge compounds when it is shared.

I think competitive advantage might be the answer.