Re: When is an MP3 file like a lighthouse.

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Oct 25 2001 - 05:36:50 MDT

Brian D Williams wrote:
> From: "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <>
> >
> >But the age of downloading is here, regardless.
> So apparently is the age of theft.

As Larry Niven once said, "Ethics change with technology." I agree that
there is an ethical rule stating "pay for what you copy", but this is a
very different rule than "pay for what you take", and those who equate
freeloading with theft will continue to find that the Napster generation
are deaf to an argument that rests on a flawed analogy. You can tell the
Napster generation that nice people tip; you can't tell them that what
they do is theft, because it's not. And besides, didn't I just finish
asking people to untangle their wishes and their predictions?

> Each download that is paid for increases wealth, each download that
> is stolen decreases both wealth and value.

Uhh... this is blatantly untrue. Freeloading may increase total
unfairness, but it still increases wealth. Downloading always increases
wealth. If the artists paid *me* to download their works, each download
would still increase wealth. Suppose that I have $1000, the artist has
$1000, I have 0GB, and the artist has 1GB. The following payoff matrix
shows that each download increases real wealth:

Graph: Wealth of agents, by {user, artist}.

                        If I download | If I don't download
I pay artist $100 $900+1GB, $1100+1GB | $900+0GB, $1100+1GB
I pay artist $0 $1000+1GB, $1000+1GB | $1000+0GB, $1000+1GB
Artist pays me $100 $1100+1GB, $900+1GB | $1000+0GB, $900+1GB

Graph: Total wealth of all agents in system

                       If I download | If I don't download
I pay artist $100 $2000 + 2GB | $2000+1GB
I pay artist $0 $2000 + 2GB | $2000+1GB
Artist pays me $100 $2000 + 2GB | $2000+1GB

Now of course you can argue that unfairness is a real economic cost that
decreases efficiency. With this I agree, although whether it's enough to
overcome the vast wealth created by downloading is a separate issue. You
can argue that money paid to the artist generates future wealth and I
agree with this as well. But in the short term, each incremental download
always generates wealth.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat May 11 2002 - 17:44:15 MDT