The remarkable improvements in living standards achieved over the last two centuries by a good portion of the world's population have been made possible by advances in knowledge – at the applications end, advances in practical know-how but with these often supported by dramatic advances in basic understandings of how the natural world works. These advances have been the result of a cumulative collective process. Inventors and scientists working today to advance the state of knowledge base what they do on the knowledge created by their forebears. The key to making technology and science systems work productively has been to establish and enforce a governance structure that on the one hand provides incentives and rewards for success to those working to advance knowledge, and on the other hand keeps both established and new knowledge largely open for those who can use and further advance it.
Over the years there have developed two quite different governance systems for doing this. One is the system of public science, which emphasizes open publication and rewards of recognition to scientists whose work is understood to have advanced knowledge significantly. The other is the system of largely private technology development, where successful inventors are rewarded by patents and other means through which they can appropriate a share of the economic benefits their work has allowed, but in which, customarily, their ability to control access is limited in time and scope.