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I have a project I'm working on that may bring about some new scientific knowledge. I hope to solve 3-SAT in quasi-polynomial or polynomial time. The idea is that this brings us a step closer to P=NP. In fact, there is a remote chance that this would even prove P=NP. From what I know, this is thought by most of the scientific community to be untrue (they usually believe P does not equal NP). I think that it would bring up issues of computer security. It would bring about possible attacks on security, although there are workarounds. To be specific, it is a computer algorithm that may allow computers to do new things that were previously unobtainable. I don't yet know if it will work, but I'm considering what may happen ahead of time.

I've been debating about releasing the information. Yet I guess I don't truly know what my choices are and what they could entail.

  • It seems that if I find something new and keep it to myself, I'd be guilty of elitism.
  • If I release it, I know I have choices on which select elite to publish with, which select elite should have access to it, which select elite should understand it, etc.
  • Or I could make it more free, but with a possible danger to myself and the select elites that I choose to love, befriend, respect, etc.

More generally, though, I'm wondering what I'm neglecting to think of. I think a lot about the philosophy behind what I do, especially the science that I've been interested in, but I haven't read up much on the philosophy of it. So perhaps someone could provide me with a better introduction to the philosophy of science and knowledge, that covers ideas I haven't thought of here.

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    This is still a fairly broad question, and if someone wanted to close it on the grounds that it does not "generally involve facts, references, or specific expertise" they probably would have a valid point. You should give us more information on what type of knowledge you are thinking about withholding, although either way it's not "elitist" to withhold knowledge you create. It could be selfish or altruistic, if you are talking about withholding something like strong AI, which could have potentially very good or very bad consequences in the wrong hands... – stoicfury Jan 22 '12 at 5:43
  • Let me give the technicalities, followed by an explanation. I hope to solve 3-SAT in quasi-polynomial or polynomial time. The idea is that this brings us a step closer to P=NP (found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P_versus_NP). In fact, there is a remote chance that this would even prove P=NP. From what I know, this is thought by most of the scientific community to be untrue (they usually believe P does not equal NP). I think that it would bring up issues of computer security. It would bring about possible attacks on security, although there are workarounds. – Matt Groff Jan 22 '12 at 14:07
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    @Matt Groff - Attacks based on P=NP are much less likely to be rapidly exploited than attacks based on a stupid buffer overflow or various other things that already exist. It's not that big a deal, and if you can't think of dozens of ways to do something positive with it if it is true, then you're not thinking hard enough. I recommend you focus your energy on getting this to work or not (I bet you've overlooked an important case), and be glad that you're not working on nuclear weapons! – Rex Kerr Jan 22 '12 at 17:06
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So perhaps someone could provide me with a better introduction to the philosophy of science and knowledge, that covers ideas I haven't thought of here.

What you are actually asking about does not really relate to the philosophy of science or epistemology (the philosophy of knowledge) but rather, to the ethics of intellectual property.

Broadly speaking, there are three main options one has with regard to a new discover/creation; one can keep it a secret, one can put it into the public domain so that anyone may make use of it, or one can publish it while retaining some exclusive rights for a limited period of time. (The notions of "copyright" and "patents" have been developed as methods to achieve the latter.)

I don't really see how your notion of "elitism" has much to do with anything; if the idea is published (regardless of whether you protect it via patent/copyright or not), it is now out in the open and available to everybody (after a suitable waiting period, if appropriate.) If the discovery is of genuine value, it will be exploited by somebody-- that could be you or your designee, for a time, but ultimately, could be anybody. There's no "elite" about it.

On a practical level, in order to get the discovery taken seriously by other people, it would need to be published in a peer-reviewed form. It's always possible to attempt to bypass this channel, but it rarely works; usually, the reluctance to attempt peer review is the calling card of a crank.

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    "If the discovery is of genuine value, it will be exploited by somebody..." Let's not forget this eventuality: unless you've been developing in a cave in the Himalayas, there is some case with continuity to another's research which will eventually lead that person to the same insight. – xtian Jan 24 '12 at 2:24
  • "If the discovery is of genuine value, it will be exploited by somebody..." Nevermind the existence of piracy. Regardless of patents and copyrights, your exclusivity has no existence in China. There is the option of hoarding it as "corporate secret", which, much like Coca-cola's formula, allows you to maintain the secrecy and control of the invention while still allowing others to benefit from it. – Thomas Apr 2 '14 at 18:20

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