The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge | Talks at Google:
Robbert Dijkgraaf, Institute Director and Leon and Levy Professor
Date: March 28, 2017
Robbert Dijkgraaf introduces Abraham Flexner, founding Director of the Institute for Advanced Study, and his timeless 1939 essay, newly republished by Princeton University Press featuring a new companion essay by Dijkgraaf. He shows that Flexner's defense of the value of "the unobstructed pursuit of useless knowledge" may be even more relevant today than it was in the early twentieth century. Dijkgraaf describes how basic research has led to major transformations in the past century and explains why it is an essential precondition of innovation and the first step in social and cultural change. He makes the case that society can achieve deeper understanding and practical progress today and tomorrow only by truly valuing and substantially funding the curiosity-driven "pursuit of useless knowledge" in both the sciences and the humanities.