Ethical Culture 101: An Evaluation
- from joschka fischer:
Note: I've changed this from Digest #114 since that
was about patent law enforcement and no responder thus
far seems to have that comprehended.
OK...let's talk morals, dog-in-the-mangers, Microsoft
sucks-ups and people of shorter visions against
That's right! also known as :Ethical Culture 101
Dear, dear (mon dieu!) Wayne:
I'd really like you to expound on your criteria of
a) How do you know the moral nature of someone. Or
How exactly do you establish it and by what barometer
you're using? You neglected to mention this in the
b) So...you're saying the means justify the ends?
c) Name one disease that Gates Fund has stopped? What
that's unfair. compare their effectiveness with other
organizations, then. (Please no conjectures!)
d)Do you approve of authoritarian regimes if...they
give away free iPODS or Vista software to compensate?
Hey Chavez may be able to use your P.R.!
e) Considering the number of civilians randomly shot
in Iraq ( Fallujah et al ) and then relabelled as
combatants, insurgents, "possible" Al Quaeda etc.
should we give out "intents to do good later" passes
to people in the Middle east? Note this logic applies
to the 100s of murdered Palestinians in Jenin.
f) Should Gates pay the Reparations to black people
now for the ills done to them previously or currently
cause - in your opinion...the ends ( those ends )
would justify the means. Whether the intent to do
good (now or later) was there or not?
g) If Gates and others are so well intentioned, in
doing so much to stop disease or if their efforts are
so effective - why did Indonesia ( with a strain of
H5N1 now killing humans) stop sending H5N1 samples in
the hopes of gettng a Patent with an International
Pharmaceutical? Further delaying chances of preventing
h) Have you notice what's been going on in Darfur and
Mr. Jan Egeland's effort ( not much money but a lot of
brains and guts) in getting through to stop that
crisis? Effectiveness and money aren't necessarily
--- Wayne Radinsky <waynerad@...> a écrit :
> Raymond Peck wrote:___________________________________________________________________________
> > Otherwise find some better examples when you rant
> about the evils of
> > Microsoft. There are plenty available.
> People who rant about the "evils of Microsoft" are
> just sour grapes
> winers who can't accept the fact that Gates,
> Ballmer, et al, are
> smarter than them. Not only are they smart but the
> same people you
> are calling "evil" are in fact the most morally
> *good* people in the
> world. If "good" means bringing more life and
> happiness to more
> people throughout the world then Gates is the
> world's most morally
> good person because whatever pain he caused his
> business competitors
> from Microsoft's business practices has been and
> will be vastly
> outweighed by happiness he is creating and lives he
> is saving
> throughout the world through the medical and global
> development work
> done by the Gates Foundation, see
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- Andrew Hoerner says:
> Wayne Radinsky writes:You're getting at what I think is the fundamental problem -- the
>>this is supposedly a "future salon" discussion list and the patent and
>> "intellectual property" issues will have much bigger impact on THE FUTURE
>> than discussing who likes or doesn't like Microsoft. That "future" thing we
>> are supposed to be discussing, remember that?
> The extent to which the strength of the property right under patent and
> copyright law promotes or impedes invention is controversial. I would like
> to make a very strong claim that I think should not be controversial, though
> I expect that it will be.
> If the government were to do a one-time taking, by eminent domain and with
> compensation, of all existing patents and copyrights, and put the results in
> the public domain, without otherwise changing the intellectual property
> system in any way, the result would be a very large net economic benefit –
> much larger, for example, than that which is claimed from doing away with
> all barriers to international trade.
> Why? Because intellectual property is what economists call a pure public
> good, in the sense that the use of it by one person does not deplete the
> store of it for any other, i.e. it is "non-rival." Currently, only those who
> value a given song or book or piece of software more than the market price
> may legally make use of it. But this wastes value, because of all the people
> who would be willing to pay 90 percent of the price, or 50 percent, or one
> percent. Making the intellectual property available free means that all of
> those people would have new value, value that does not now exist, in the
> amount of the price they would have been willing to pay.
> Note that I am not making any claim about what the intellectual property
> system should look like in the future. I am only referring to intellectual
> property created in the past, and hence inherently fixed in supply. We can
> neither promote nor deter the past creation of intellectual property – we
> can only promote or deter the use of it.
> There are some good articles on this subject here:
non-rival nature of information means the concept of "ownership"
doesn't make sense -- "ownership" can't de defined an any logical
If I have a physical good, say a car, then I can assign the car an
If I have a non-physical good, something which is made purely out of
information, such as a car design -- a set of instructions for how to
build a car -- then I make a copy of them and give to you, and you
can make a copy and give it to someone, and so on and so on until
there's millions of copies. And I still have my copy.
The problem gets worse, though. Suppose instead of copying the car
design exactly, you copy only the key ideas. In other words, if I put
my car design in a computer file (of whatever format), and you and
everyone else is just copying that file, then I can say I "own" that
file, and you and everyone else with a copy has to pay me, because
you "stole" my file (violated my copyright). But if you're "stealing"
the ideas and putting them in your own file, then you don't have a
copy of my file. A computer program that does a byte-by-byte
comparison of your file and my file would say they are completely
different, and have nothing in common.
But, a car industry expert might look at your file and my file and
say, you know what? They're the same design.
So what I do is, I try to lay claim to the underlying ideas, rather
than the specific sequence of bytes. I sue you for "stealing" my
ideas (patent infringement).
This raises the question of when is something "different enough" to
be different. In the first case, you took my file and it's
byte-for-byte identical to mine. Suppose you took my file and ran it
through a new compression program you wrote. Now your file is
byte-for-byte completely different from mine. But a copyright expert
would say, hey, it's still the same file, it's just compressed. So
you go in and start changing the data -- a byte here, a byte there.
At what point is it "different enough" that you're not violating
You have the same problem working at the "idea" level. At what exact
point does an "idea" begin or end? It's important because the
"intellectual property" concept says you have to decide who "owns"
which idea. But ideas don't have precise boundaries.
What this means is that the whole concept of "intellectual property"
is inherently illogical. Decisions about who owns what can only be
decided in a political manner, not it a logical manner. In other
words, they are decided by which lawyer in which court case makes the
most convincing argument in the mind of the judge. But a
mathematician or physicist would have to say, hey, the question of
who "owns" which information can't be answered because the question
doesn't make sense in the first place.
And yet, you can see why people make such arguments. There is so much
economically at stake. If I'm the only person in the world with a car
design, then I can make money selling cars and prevent anyone else
from doing so -- or make everybody else pay me for using "my" ideas.
On the other hand, if car design files can be copied freely ad
infinitum, then I probably can't make any money in the car business.
So of course, no matter how "illogical" the concept of "iltellectual
property" is, I'm going to go to court and argue that it is perfectly
logical, and that you're stealing "my" property. And this is exactly
what people do.
Not only that, but people argue that without "intellectual property"
protection from the legal system, there will be less innovation. I
noticed on that website you mentioned, the cepr.net site, they talk a
lot about drug companies. Drug development is usually used an an
example of where, if a company couldn't patent its drugs, it would
never invest the R&D money necessary to find them in the first place,
because they wouldn't be able to recoup the investment -- all their
rivals would simply copy the drug and drive the price down.
So this is the real question I was getting at: Does innovation
require intellectual property laws, as sloppy, messy, illogical, and
political in nature as they are?
It seems to me like this experiment is being done. Some countries
(USA, EU, etc) are going the "intellectual property" rounte, which to
me seems like piling absurdity upon absurdity in legal arguments.
Other countries (China, Russia, etc) are paying little attention to
intellectual property. Of course, they face a lot of pressure from
the pro-intellectual property countries, who want them to get on
board with the "intellectual property" system.
What will happen? Will the countries that pay little heed to
intellectual property become the world's innovation leaders, while
the US and others get bogged down in ridiculous legal red tape? Or
will the lack of intellectual property protection in those countries
lead to too little investment in innovation, leaving all the
innovation to the US and the pro-intellectual property countries?
I don't know, that is my question.
Now there is this phenomena called "open source" which I find very
fascinating. Open source tries to embrace, rather than fight, the
non-rival nature of information.
Now some people in the "futurist" community go to far with this
concept, predicting that open source will alleviate all scarcity.
Open source only applies to information. In doesn't apply to energy
or physical goods, which remain "rival" goods subject to the old
fashioned property rules. This is why you can't download an "open
source" lunch from the internet.
However, the tendency with open source is to make information free.
With more advanced technologies like nanotechnology, open source
might be able to progress far beyond where it is today. For example
in this discussion I have been using a car design as my example of
intellectual property. In the future there might be such a thing as
an "open source" car design. The car design would be turned into an
actual car by some sort of nanotech assembly plant. So you could
download the car design for free off the internet and have your
nanofactory build it. You would still have to pay for the materials
and energy needed to build the car, however, and you'll still need to
pay for the energy to run it. And you still need to pay for the
nanofactory itself. So you can see from this example, advanced
nanotech, combined with open source, while it won't make all scarcity
go away, it could make scarcity of a lot of things go away.
Today, In the open source software world, the open source process has
produced remarkably high-quality products, such as Linux and FreeBSD.
It seems reasonable that a high quality car, and many more
high-quality goods, could be produced by such a process.
There've been rumors for many years of a patent war by Microsoft
against Linux. This so far has never materialized. I've heard people
say, it is because if Microsoft started such a patent war, then other
big companies like IBM, who have invested billions in Linux
development, would attack Microsoft right back. So that is one
theory. Another theory is that Microsoft doesn't think their patent
attacks would work in China, India, Brazil, Russia, etc, and that it
wouldn't have a big enough effect to kill Linux. Well, I don't know
what they are actually thinking, these are just ideas I have heard
about from various people. In any case, it appears at this time
Microsoft hasn't found a way to kill Linux, using intellectual
property law or otherwise. This is an important thing to watch,
because if Microsoft can figure out how to kill Linux, it might
reveal methods that any "closed-source" shop could use to kill any
At the moment, the open source crowd has succeeded in twisting the
intellectual property rules against the pro "intellectual property"
corporations. (The GPL for example, uses intellectual property law
for exactly the opposite of its intended purpose -- to enforce,
rather than restrict, the "freedoms" of the source code.) Maybe
Microsoft will figure out a way to attack this loophole directly?
In 2004, Steve Ballmer vowed to kill Google, so Microsoft will
probably succeed eventually at killing Google -- Google is a
corporation and as such has an "air supply" (revenue source) that
Microsoft can choke off. So for Google, it's probably just a matter
of time before the company gets put out of business by Microsoft.
Linux, however, isn't a corporation, doesn't require revenue, and
presents a fundamentally different problem for Microsoft.
On the other hand, the people at Microsoft are the smartest people in
the world, so it's hard to imagine they won't think of a way to kill
Linux sooner or later. I can't imagine any way they could do it, but
that might just be a failure of my imagination. I'm not as smart as
the people at Microsoft so maybe I'm just not smart enough to see how
to do it. Microsoft doesn't have their most brilliant business
strategist, Bill Gates, any more, either. Steve Ballmer and the
others still might be smart enough to pull it off, though. It'll be
interesting to watch and see how this plays out.