Cheating is really a build-or-buy decision. Should you develop in-house competency or just get it done and move on? Cheating is a really only a word to denigrate someone who refuses to reinvent the wheel.

When you refuse to reinvent the wheel, you are putting aside what you can get easily from other sources so you can focus on what you don’t know: what you’ll come up with next. So these cheating kids are wild cards in school but big assets everywhere else. Kids who cheat are much better prepared for the work world than kids who try to learn everything themselves. 

The Atlantic reports on the widespread and lucrative industry of cheating. It’s an arms race of sorts. Kids become increasingly brazen in their techniques and teachers become increasingly technological in their traps.

The efforts teachers will go to stop cheating are extreme. For example, there are typing programs that learn to track a typing speed or style to catch an anomaly in someone’s test-taking style. What a total waste of money for school but a great invention for a sci-fi spy movie.

Kimberly Williams, professor of education at Cornell, points out that the key to preventing cheating in the first place lies in the teaching itself.  “We need to make sure what we teach is meaningful to students so that they actually want to learn it or see value in their own learning of it,” she said. “If they don’t, then we’re sunk and they are wasting their time anyway. It is a wake-up call for higher education that we need to teach better and in more meaningful ways so that learners want to learn.”

If you tell your kids to never cheat on a test, what you’re really telling them is to never look for a faster way to get something done. You are teaching kids to react without thinking: if someone tells you to learn something, do it the hardest, most time-intensive way, rather than the easiest way, which is probably to use the Internet when you need to recall something.

But cheating goes beyond just taking a test. Because in the work world, the best companies are stealing ideas.  The Wall St. Journal summarized the importance of copying good ideas in an overview of the Chinese Internet arena. The biggest IPO in history will be Alibaba, a Chinese company that copied Amazon but made it better. And the next big IPO coming out of China will be Weiblo, a (copy and) improvement on Twitter.

The people making the most money are using the work other people have done as much as they can. Because the world is set up to reward people who can add to other peoples’ thinking, which is what teachers call cheating.

Marc Andreessen is the inventor of the Intneret browser and has subsequently funded a slew of the major Internet technologies you are familiar with today. He wrote: