Exploration of what properly constrains the production of knowledge is a very interesting topic and ethics forms but a part our considerations of what limits the creation of knowledge. Those constrains are however far broader than what is dictated by parochial concerns about what *should* be done in terms of generating knowledge. Because the growth of knowledge is inherently unpredictable, an argument looms that perhaps the only ethical principle one requires here is: do not apply ethical prohibitions upon the creation of knowledge. Of course, practically speaking, we should not seek to discover what is the most hurtful thing we can do to make people suffer? That would be abhorent. Or what is the most dangerous risk we can take? We can play games like this and suggest that therefore we need tight restrictions on what problems people should try to solve. Such concerns are not genuine limits upon the growth of knowledge but rather silly moral-thought experiments about how values seem to conflict (on the one hand the value of knowledge production and on the other valuing personal autonomy, for example) and they are always resolvable with a little bit of critical enquiry.
So ethics, typically, is not - or should never be - the biggest constraint upon the growth of knowledge. The growth of knowledge is motivated by problems that arise. That is what the growth of knowledge is: the search for solutions to some problem situation we find ourselves in, personally or as a community or civilization.
But there are other constraints upon knowledge. From logic for example: we cannot hope to discover simultaneously that eggs are simultaneously good to eat and also deadly poison (modulo logic games like: some people are lethally allergic to eggs, or that eating 100 of them might kill a person).
Knowledge production is of course limited due to physical law, there are limitations due to time, space and energy, there are perhaps limits yet to be explored (like the so called “no go” theorems found in pure mathematics and physics - but perhaps there are more we’ve yet no notion of). David Deutsch has explained the great dichotomy when it comes to the limits of knowledge: whatever is not prohibited by physical law is possible. So the only thing preventing us from accomplishing something we want to, and which we've decided is good to do, is *knowing* how. That's an amazing thing. Resources are almost always plentiful - the universe is vast. So taking a cosmic perspective on these things, it is not matter and energy and time that is scarce (the universe provides these in abundance, as it happens) but rather it is knowledge that is always scarce. (Of course, see his books for this - or his Ted Talk).
But also, now, and in the other direction - it is not only constraints upon knowledge but also it is the availability of knowledge - which is the limiting reagent in both the universe and our lives. Knowledge itself provides the constraint that prevents us personally, as families, communities and whole civilisations from accomplishing what we want. When we lack *that* resource - knowledge - everything else (importantly progress) stagnates. Most especially, civilisations do, and so do our own personal lives.
This idea of "constraints" as some kind of theme through which to view knowledge can be a useful one. Ethics, on this view, is but one example of the constraints on knowledge and also that there are many ways the production of knowledge is constrained...and also many constraints resulting from our lack of knowledge and lack of progress in our creation of knowledge. “Constraints” might seem to be a gloomy lens through which to view a thing, but on analysis this is an uplifting lesson to learn. Creating knowledge - learning more - is typically, in our world as it now is - the only thing (or at worst the main thing) limiting each of us personally and as a civilisation from accomplishing our goals. Your choice to know more really is the way to move forward.
*Credit goes to Ric Sims (@sharpcomposer) for remarks inspiring parts of this piece.
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