U.S. Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service, Lincoln, Nebraska


Date of this Version



Published in ENVIRONMENTAL MODELLING, SOFTWARE AND DECISION SUPPORT: STATE OF THE ART AND NEW PERSPECTIVES, edited by A. J. Jakeman, A. A. Voinov, A. E. Rizzoli, & S. H. Chen (Amsterdam et al.: Elsevier, 2008).


Much of human creativity is geared towards moving energy and materials rather than information, even though information has become another crucial component of human welfare and livelihood. Information, unlike energy and materials, is not subject to conservation laws. By copying information from sources and distributing it to new destinations we do not lose information at the sources. This is what is known as non-rival goods in ecological economics (Daly and Farley, 2003). As with gravity, by using information we do not decrease the ability of others to use it. Nevertheless, exchange of information is restricted by patent law, as well as by institutional, cultural and traditional hurdles that create protective barriers hindering the free flow of this valuable commodity.