Re: The Freedom of Digital Information

From: Jason Joel Thompson (
Date: Thu Jul 27 2000 - 12:54:14 MDT

> It is very foolish for anyone to claim "ownership" of a piece of digital
> information. If something can be easily attained by anyone at almost no
> cost at all, and the price for prosecuting the MILLIONS of people
> it is prohibitively high, then that something is essentially free. The
> recording industry (and the motion picture industry and the book
> etc. etc.) can whine all they want, but their claim is akin to me claiming
> that I own all the air in a 20 foot radius about my body - I can't keep
> anyone from breathing it, I can't track everyone who is breathing it or
> previously breathed it, and I don't even know where all of it is at any
> given time.

Ho hum.

This argument is getting boring. Not your fault, but it's been endlessly
repeated by so many dot com fast trackers that its starting to lose its

It goes like this: "You can't own it, you can't track it, you can't control
it, so why even bother?"

Which is a defeatist attitude. There are two distinct issues here: a) is
it -desirable- to own it? and b) is it -possible- to own it? Arguing
against 'b' is not a good way to argue against 'a.' If it *is* desirable
then we should get more imaginative about making it possible. If it's *not*
desirable, then you should argue that position.

Okay, so maybe I'm just not a fan of "it's impossible, it's can't be done,
don't even bother," statements, I -am- a transhumanist after all, and
somehow I don't think that the "law of information must be free," is as
immutable as the speed of light barrier. (Oops, did we break that one?)
People who say its going to be "impossible" to protect information in the
future need to stretch their imaginations a little.

If we decide we want to be able to protect something that comes out of our
own head, then we look for ways to do so. You claim that encryption will be
only a minor annoyance in the future: if that's true, then we've got some
big issues. Being able to protect information is only going to become more
and more important. I wonder if the "information must be free" advocates
include personal data and private communications in their manifesto?

Do you think I'm going to put my -brain- online when any mad hacker kid can
come along and tinker with it? "Check it out doodz, I hacked Jupiter Brain
K777 into a raving lunatic. -And- he does my accounting!"

If it becomes possible for me to easily read your mind would you advocate a
means of protecting -that- information? Or would you shrug and say, "it's
information! It's like air! I can't control it."

My vision of a desirable future includes a fully networked frictionless
information matrix and lots of secure nodes of (nearly?) absolute privacy.
In my opinion, the technology for protecting your personal information IS
going to be possible-- I don't share the defeatist attitude expressed above.
I think the concept of -absolute- freedom is bunk... the concept of freedom
only exists in a world with barriers to freedom-- "un"freedom creates the
value in "freedom."

Individuals should be empowered with the means to control their own
information, including the ability to release it into a frictionless medium
and let it replicate indefinitely. They should be able to make the
determination of what stays private and what becomes public. And in the
absence of good technological security, do I think that we should
collectively agree to protect that information through legal means?
Absolutely. People always get up in arms about this: "I don't want
government bureaucracy interfering with my freedom!" But humans have always
understood the importance of social contracts, ever since the first time we
figured out that the right of your fist ends where the right of my nose

A recent farcical 'fairytale' posted to this list perpetrated the idea that
we needed to return to simpler times-- if only we were to get rid of all
those stuffy "laws" then we could live in peace and harmony with each other,
and dance with unicorns and what not. (Hello entropy?)

I anticipate us requiring more intricate rule sets to enable us to
successfully interact with each other in the future and this is simply a
testament to the increasing complexity and depth of those interactions.


::jason.joel.thompson:: ::wild.ghost.studios::

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:35:16 MDT