Re: Hal Finney's optimal-production argument

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Tue Oct 30 2001 - 19:38:50 MST

I believe that Lee has distilled the discussion down to
some key components (and would therefore encourage everyone
to read his argument).

I'd like to extend it a bit from an extropic position.
(Apologies to Hal if he as already argued this because I
can't follow the thread back through the Javien discussions.)

Lee points out the differences between "inventiveness",
"craftmanship" and "universal distribution". This goes
to the heart of the issue.

If you are downloading an MP3 file, to listen to it once
and make it available for redistribution, the extropic
benefit is arguably minimal. If you are downloading it
in a study of musical styles and creative exercises,
its extropic benefit is greater (e.g. how much would our
development of technology {and/or dark uses of it}
accelerate if textbooks were downloadable for free?).
If you are downloading it (esp. if it is a patent) to
figure out how to work around it, then its extropic
benefit is presumably even higher.

I agree with Lee that there are clear extropic benefits
to allowing critics, artists, and engineers "free" access
to information. It encourages the distillation, focusing,
refinement and trancendence of the "state-of-the-art".

I question whether "free entertainment" uses of prior art
are generally extropic (as perhaps Eliezer may have suggested).
It comes down to a question of whether the "free entertainment"
uses of "informarion" are productive from an economic or societal
perspective. Yes, we could construct a society where everyone is
maintained in a Matrix VR pod thinking we are evolving through time
(where the beginnings and ends are artificial constructs), but is
that "productive" in what we currently perceive as reality?

As Lee says, "we could instead encourage gradual, incremental
development and universal access". Well the patent laws
(and older copyright laws) seemed to support that. What
is necessary is to turn back copyright trends that provide
exclusive long-term rights (beyond a reasonable period)
so that information after a limited period of protection
really does become "free".

In a practical world we should encourage "the production of
totally new information and invention" but we should be
tolerant, perhaps even supportive of, "incremental changes
and adaptations". So we should be accepting (and supporting)
of those sources that distill information into condensations
we can label as black, white, and grey. At the same time we
should discourage practices that seek to distribute IP
without any recognition or compensation for those individuals
who produced such information.


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