Re: Obsolesence of Intellectual Property

Date: Fri Aug 04 2000 - 17:12:15 MDT

Jason Joel Thompson writes:
> Optionally, we hardcode ourselves into the information-- in fact, we make
> the "smartness" fundamental to the information. Every thought that comes
> out of your brain becomes an extension of you, as opposed to an anonymous
> dust mote in the cyclone. The system that is the "creator" becomes
> inextricably linked to the data that is the "created." Widespread
> empowerment of ideas in the frictionless matricies of the future give you
> exposure to limitless designer ideas, with a direct positive feedback loop
> to the "creator" based upon your successful use of the "created."

This is an attractive image, and I can understand your desire to see
a world which allows this sort of flexibility and innovation. It is
necessary to look more closely at the details, though. Just thinking
of generic "information", smart or dumb, paints the picture with two
broad a brush.

Some kinds of information can reasonably be controlled, and others cannot.
That's the nature of reality. Any model of the future which rejects this
fact is going to miss its mark.

Music, paintings, videos, and similar recorded works cannot reasonably
be controlled. They are the same every time, and it is too easy to
record them and digitize them and propagate them. This is the point
John Gilmore was making, that the RIAA and MPAA and the various other
associations are fighting against nature, rather than with it.

Better targets for control are information services. If the information
you provide is dynamic, up to date, flexible and adapted to the current
situation, then you can more reasonably expect to "own" the service
of providing that information.

There has been considerable work on models in which agents interact and
trade with one another in a model very much like your "frictionless
matrices of the future". Agoric computing, developed by Drexler and
Miller, envisions a net full of software agents which sell services to
one another, with full control over whom they choose to interact with
(see Take a look at the
abstract from the first paper:

   This paper examines markets as a model for computation and proposes a
   framework-agoric systems-for applying the power of market mechanisms
   to the software domain. It then explores the consequences of this
   model at a variety of levels. Initial market strategies are outlined
   which, if used by objects locally, lead to distributed resource
   allocation algorithms that encourage adaptive modification based on
   local knowledge. If used as the basis for large, distributed systems,
   open to the human market, agoric systems can serve as a software
   publishing and distribution marketplace providing strong incentives for
   the development of reusable software components. It is argued that such
   a system should give rise to increasingly intelligent behavior as an
   emergent property of interactions among software entities and people.

This sounds a lot like your picture of intelligent data. When a
data service is used, the author gets paid. This creates incentives
for ever more innovation and improvement in information engineering.
Mark Miller's work on the E programming language ( is
designed to facilitate such a world. Likewise the MojoNation effort
( has concepts which are similar.

The key to these models is that they are careful to distinguish between
what reasonably can be controlled, and what can't. They don't pretend
that you can give information to someone else and then control what
they do with it. Nevertheless they seem to suggest that many of the
properties you attribute to smart information will be possible even in
a world where IP is not owned.


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