Still with Atlas Shrugged. I really would like to hit the fellow who proposed that genius be abolished, that genius greedily hides away information that would otherwise be available to the rest of the populace. [Insert rant about pet peeve: populace is the people. Populous means that any given place that is described as such has a lot of people living there. I am to the point of giving usagesmacks for that error.]
There are things that everyone may know by simple observation: that thing is red; this thing is brown; cacti are sharp if you touch the spikes with your bare finger: any information conveyable in by the senses is available to anyone who has the sense to experience it, and the mind to remember it.
The value of raw information is inversely proportional to the ease with which it may be gathered, and directly proportional to the value of the use toward which it will be put. Say that it is sunny outside today where you live. Any person with access to the outside who is capable of noticing sunny/not sunny can gather this information. But is it sunny on the direct opposite side of the world? That'll take a little more doing. Note for the pedants: yes, in some cases, it is easier for a geek to search up something at the computer than to travel the maze of twisty little passageways to spend some time in the Big Blue Room.
Of what worth is information about the weather? Sometimes it's something to chat about when there is need for conversation-filler, and other times it is mission-critical, in the case of hurricanes and floods, or even whether to hold the party indoors or outdoors.
Rare information, information of high difficulty to gather, is valuable when it will be used for something of value. If the person gathering the information puts a high value on "Because I want to know," then it's valuable, by gods!
So, you've got information. Say it's information about the weather. You have two users of the information. One user notices that it is rainy today, and notes, "I will get wet if I don't bring my umbrella." Another user notices the same information, and looks at patterns in weather, and notices that it gets abysmally rainy every year at about this time, and will mark it on the calendar for next year, so that the household will have all roof leaks patched and umbrellas deployed before the rainy season hits again.
The distinction was not in information available: it was what was done with that information. Phillip Morris paid me $8.50 an hour, indirectly, to sit in a relatively comfortable chair and gather well-organized, clearly categorized information on whether people in any given household smoked and did a few other common activities, sorted by gender, age, income, and education level. Mind, $8.5/hr was my cut of the racket. I didn't get very many people to talk to me for numbers dialled/time spent on phone. I have some very interesting journals from that year, where I was basically getting paid to sit still, behave, and talk to people from the quiz on my computer screen every now and then. They're all on paper, though. (I need to transcribe them one of these days...) Evidently they were doing something very valuable with that information; also evidently, it is more difficult to extract information about what people are actually doing in relation to their demographic information than it seems to the layman.
Two people with identical inputs and different processing facilities available to them will come to different conclusions based on the inputs. The one with the better processor will likely come to results that are more interesting, and more adaptable for further use.
"Nobody invents anything, he merely reflects what's floating around in the social atmosphere. A genius is an intellectual scavanger..." --Atlas Shrugged
So far as that goes, there is a point. It's all out there. A genius is the sort of intellectual scavanger who can see things floating around that haven't been put together yet, but really should be, and has the wit and the craft to combine them in ways that no one (or relatively few) have thought to do. Scavangers make creative use of bits that others think worthless.
The continuation of the quote goes, "...and a greedy hoarder of the ideas which rightfully belong to society, from which he stole them." Um, no. The raw ideas that were out there are still there, for use by anyone who sees how to use them. Unless you delete all reference to and knowledge of your source material, you have not "stolen" (made unavailable for use by its rightful user) anything. The source material is still there for anyone who needs it. You have an improvement, or an innovation, giving proper propz to the original ideas.
The concept that the new idea formed from the bits of the old ideas is rightfully belong to society is a laugh. This is quite like saying that since the person of Ms. Society gave some bits of cut-up wood to a master carpenter, and the master carpenter crafted them into a chair, since all the raw materials were Ms. Society's to start with, Ms. Society should have the chair for free. Certainly, since the materials were hers, she is due a fair exchage for them if the master carpenter does not give her the chair, but if the master carpenter gives her the chair, she should rightly give to him fair exchange for his time and application of expertise.
The greedy hoarder of ideas is the inventor who drafts beautiful things but never looks into how to make them so that the public may have a chance at buying them and thereby benefitting from them. The greedy hoarder of ideas is the one who surpresses ideas from public release lest people learn and make more new ideas from the scraps of the old.
Furthermore: society? Who is Society? I know! You are society! Oh, you have never even heard of that idea that was the key one that sparked my inspiration for the invention? So sorry. Oh! You! Are you Society? You must be Society.... no? You learned about it in school, though. Getting warmer.
Notice, that in math, it's difficult to divide by zero or infinity...