Re: A True Hero

From: Chris Rasch (
Date: Tue Feb 13 2001 - 23:02:16 MST

> --- Max More <> wrote:
> > At 02:55 PM 2/13/01, you wrote:
> > ??? The public effort did *not* beat Celera's
> > effort. Celera finished ahead
> > with a higher quality sequencing. That's why major
> > companies and
> > institutions (such as the entire University of
> > California system) are
> > paying big money for the data.
> >
> > Max

I believe that James Kent's program made it possible to assemble the
disparate gene sequences that had been mapped by the members of the
consortium. It appears that Kent performed the first assembly 3 days
prior to the date Celera claims to have completed assembly. This
allowed Collins to claim that the tax-supported effort had created a
complete, if rough, map at the joint announcement he and Ventera made
early in 2000. From the article:

"Mr. Kent performed his first
assembly on the human genome on
June 22, just four days before Dr.
Francis S. Collins, the consortium's
informal leader, and Dr. J. Craig
Venter of Celera, announced at the
White House on June 26 that each
had assembled the human genome.

Since Dr. Venter has now stated that
Celera finished its computer assembly
just the day before, on the night of
June 25, it turns out that Mr. Kent's
brilliant improvisation was the first
assembly of the human genome, even
though one that had and still contains
many gaps."

Of course, Celera's map may be of higher quality--I don't know.


As a somewhat relevant aside, I used to think that patents and
copyright were consistent with a libertarian
political stance. Now, after reading some of the articles below, I'm
less sure.

The Libertarian Case Against Intellectual Property Rights
by Roderick Long

by Pierre Desrochers
Senior Research Fellow, Urban Studies, Institute for Policy Studies,
Johns Hopkins University

"As many psychologists and historians of technology have shown,
innovation does not proceed through major breakthroughs by specific
individuals, but rather through the collaboration of different people
who, through small and cumulative improvements, yield novel and useful
artifacts over time (Basalla, 1988). All of patent law, on the other
hand, is based on the assumption that an invention is a discrete and
novel entity that can be assigned to the individual who is determined by

the courts to be its legitimate creator. The associations of an
invention with other existing or past artifacts are therefore obscured.
Despite its philosophical foundation, however, the patent system cannot
entirely obscure the true nature of technological change. As I have
already mentioned, virtually every new patent infringes in some way on
other patents. Furthermore, most patented innovation are typically very
minor improvements. As the economist F.M. Scherer (1987: 124) has noted:

As the bleary-eyed reviewer of some 15,000 patent abstracts in
connection with research? I was struck by how narrowly incremental
(adaptive?) most "inventions" are. Even an anonymous author writing in

a brochure of the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (1994: 8) had to

admit that 90% of all patented inventions are minor improvements on
existing patented devices."

Are "Intellectual Property Rights" Justified?
by Markus Krummenacker
available at:

Contains a fairly good summary of the history of patent and
copyright law, as well as a number of references to academic studies
arguing against copyright/patent validity.

by Wendy McElroy

Argues that copyright laws give others control over what you think.

The Growth of Intellectual Property:
A History of the Ownership of Ideas in the United States
William W. Fisher III*
forthcoming in Eigentumskulturen im Vergleich (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,

Very good history of IP laws in the U.S. by Harvard Law professor, that
is generally sympathetic to reducing their scope.
It contains this astonishing quote:

"Last year, a group of intellectual-property lawyers argued in an
article in the National Law Journal that athletic maneuvers could and
should be patented. A method "for sailing an America's Cup yacht wherein

the yacht sails 10 degrees closer to the wind, for
high-jumping higher or for skiing downhill 10 percent faster,' they
claimed, could easily be classified as a "useful process" within the
meaning of the federal patent statute. If nonobvious and novel, such a
technique should qualify for patent protection. After all, if one
can patent a new surgical procedure, why not the Fosbery Flop? n2 The
chances that the courts would adopt this proposal are not
great, but the argument is colorable."

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