The human species advances from building on prior knowledge and sharing knowledge.
The Internet is amazing for this (in the words of Lisa Simpson “Bart, The Internet is more than a global pornography network!”). Being able to access and search for information on any topic has been invaluable for myself when writing Visions Of Chaos.
But recently (actually not so recently as it has happened for a while now) when trying to access a research paper on a specific subject you get sent to some registration page that gives you a quick abstract overview and then wants $25 to be able to download the paper. This sucks and should be outlawed.
Luckily if you then search on the title of the paper you are after you can usually find a cached copy somewhere, but not always.
There are still good indexes and search engines out there specifically for scientific related papers like CiteSeer which caches copies of the papers in PDF, PS etc. For anyone into research into any science related field CiteSeer is brilliant.
Knowledge needs to be free and accessible by anyone.