The Wonderful World of Andrew Odlyzko

Every so often you are researching some different topics and the same name crops up. That had happened to me this year, and the name was Andrew Odlyzko.

The first encounter was part of my research into the economics of science — something that formed that basis of my submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry on that topic. Using Google Scholar I came across a paper entitled “The decline of unfettered research” written by Odlyzko in 1995 while he as at Bell Labs. There he outlines the benefits of and the threats too unfettered research. It is by far one of the most coherent tracts on that topic.

The second encounter was during my recent work on broadband. Odlyzko penned (typed) a terrific piece on “The many paradoxes of broadband” in First Monday (2003). I quoted from it extensively in my report and it dramatically influenced how I thought about the topic. His paper is far better than my own on this. His 2001 First Monday piece, “Content is not king” was equally provocative.

Finally, Odlyzko has written papers on the economics of network utilisation and on scientific publishing and the decline of scholarly journals. He even has speculated on the future of money and has an interesting patent on a micropayment system.

I had read through much of these before realising it was all by the same guy; a mathematician who is the head of the University of Minnesota’s Digital Technology Center. Who would have thought it?

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