To me, there are two types of scientific research. There are those experiments that are done to further advance the human race and then there are those motivated by the bottom-line. Obviously, this is a fairly simplistic way to look at things. Many businesses that operate to make money have also advanced the human race in some shape or form. Just ask anyone who has ever used any of the countless pain relievers on the market.
Still, if you look at James Watson when compared with the futuristic HealthWyzer company in the novel, Oryx and Crake, there is a striking difference in motivation of the parties involved. Watson wants to solve the problem presented by DNA. Yes, he wants the personal glory. Yes, he wants his name to be known. But you get the feeling when he talks about what a shame it is that Maurice Wilkins isn’t going about researching DNA the right way, it’s because Watson wants someone, anyone to crack the code. So why shouldn’t Watson have access to the x-rays Wilkins has taken? In his mind, he knows how to attack the problem. He just needs the information to do so.
Consider open-source computer programming. A great example of this is the Linux operating system. It operates under the assumption that by making its program editable by anyone, that collective effort will lead to great discoveries and the best operating system example. Look at Wikipedia. It is run on that same idea of communal knowledge for the betterment of everyone. Wikipedia is now the place to go for information. It has rendered standard encyclopedias obsolete.
HealthWyzer, on the other hand, is basically Pfizer or any other large pharmaceutical company multiplied by ten. It is run for profit, to the point that Crake’s father suspects them of manufacturing diseases to then cure at a later date. They make their scientists live inside their gates, heavily guard their research and are the targets of industrial espionage. Who cares if the human race is bettered? It’s every man for himself—each one trying to discover the next great erectile dysfunction drug or the next great way to prolong life.
Money is a powerful motivator, which is one reason some point to as to why communism often becomes corrupted. The idea of everyone working towards one goal on paper is great but in reality often falls apart. I’m not here to preach about which way is better.
But Watson’s story sits at lot better with you than HealthWyzer’s, doesn’t it? Unselfish teamwork is something to behold in the lab or on the basketball court. Just ask Northern Iowa.