It’s amazing how much high-value information is available today for free. I used to be a huge bibliophile with science and techbooks covering most of my Palo Alto apartment save for servers and monitors. Back in the day good tech books would run about $30-40 apiece and O’Reilly the most common publisher in my collection.
Packt Publishers is one of my favorite technical publishers now and a great example of how once-expensive technical knowledge is approaching free. Packt gives away electronic versions of one of it’s technical titles everyday on their website. This week the free books are themed around Machine Learning.
It seems an alien world, but not so long ago information (especially specialized vocational information) was jealously guarded and hidden from outsiders. To learn how to become an artists or craftsman would require apprenticing yourself for years to a master in exchange for learning trade secrets typically working your way up from apprentice, craftsman, journeyman, master and eventually grandmaster. Artists and craftsmen would also organize into gilds to bring order to trade (for taxation), protect their knowledge from outsiders and economically leverage their monopoly on.
Instead of paying $10-60k/yr at college like today, young apprentices would be bound to work for their masters for generally 7-9 years. Benjamin Franklin ran away from his apprenticeship at his brother’s print shop under unusual circumstances.
The trend towards more quality free technical information favors the intellectual and curious over this more historically important accidents of birth and family connections – at least in technology and for the rank and file workers.