Physicist David Kaplan gives an excellent speech about why we shouldn’t always be measuring the economic gain.
A documentary “Particle Fever” about the Large Hadron Collider — the largest and most complex machine ever built — is a very thoughtful and entertaining film. This was my favorite bit from it (or check it from the video):
The question by an economist was, "What is the financial gain of running an experiment like this and the discoveries that we will make in this experiment?" And it's a very, very simple answer.
I have no idea.
We have no idea.
When radio waves were discovered, they weren't called radio waves, because there were no radios. They were discovered as some sort of radiation.
Basic science for big breakthroughs needs to occur at a level where you're not asking, "What is the economic gain?" You're asking, "What do we not know, and where can we make progress?"
So what is the LHC good for? Could be nothing other than just understanding everything.
I wish someone could summarize it so nicely also when discussing about arts or free-economy.