RE: [decentralization] Re: Decentralized Thought Experiment
- This conversation on morality has turned into the classic 'how do you make money
on open source' theme. While that's interesting, and completely appropriate, I
believe that it sidesteps the question of intellectual property exists.
Software was the first industry to get hit by IP issues, for obvious reasons,
and because Stallman picked up on the broad issues right away we got the concept
of free software. But free software and open source are not the same thing.
Free software is a moral stance, as opposed to open source, which is a practical
stance. RMS said that information _should_ be free. That's an interesting
direction. I re-read a bunch of RMS rants to see what he really meant, and
generally found that his supporting arguments were more about practicality, i.e.
the open source concept. I do believe that he saw the big picture, and had a
real vision related to the nature of information, but I don't believe he ever
successfully articulated it. [...pointers to meatier RMS stuff that would prove
me wrong are welcome].
It seems to me that there is a job to be filled for anyone who can articulate a
moral case for free software -- who can pin down why it is that information
wants to be free. Until that happens, all of the dialog related to morality
will keep getting sucked back to 'how do you make money on open source', which
is not the same issue.
So I'd ask a different question. If you leave out the issue of making a living,
are there moral dimensions to whether intellectual work can be property?
Information seems to want to be free in the same way that momentum wants to be
conserved. If that's all there is to it, I can't see a moral dimension, at
least not unless you're willing to say that it is virtuous to never brake.
- Quoth Lucas Gonze on Thursday, 3 May:
: ...are there moral dimensions to whether intellectual work can be property?
Sharing is good and hoarding is bad. That's the kindergarten version.
Codifing IP in law thus institutionalizes evil.
Having the ability to help someone and not excercising it because it
is not to your personal advantage is a moral evil unless the personal
detriment is more severe than the alternative benefit. That's the hoi
polloi version, which is basically form of Utilitarian altruism.
(With a Human Rights aspect, it can be qualified: While you have the
right to be wrong, it's still wrong.)
I think Stallman uses a Kantian ethos. Larry Wall uses a Christian
ethos, which is pretty close (variations on the Categorical
Imperative, aka Golden Rule). Eric Raymond seems more like a
Rand-oid. From an "Objectivist" perspective, only the pragmatic
benefits really matter, morally -- this has a natural appeal to
those whose focus is economic.
From a libertarian perspective, IP rights can only be created by the
use of governmental force (or by contract). (Power flows from the end
of a gun. -- Mao) And the use of force is immoral unless it is
required to prevent a unjustified forceful incursion (or to enforce a
From a democratic perspective, information is merely assertion of
truth value (albeit perhaps in a convoluted sense, in accordance with
the semiotic pragmatics of discourse), and the ability to make
decisions on a truthful basis is essential to the function of
democracy. IP rights have in practice been leverage to create a
choke-hold on the flow of information by technological means. The
reasonable fear of the advocate of political democracy is that
this choke-hold results in effective private control of the body
: Information seems to want to be free in the same way that momentum wants to be
: conserved. If that's all there is to it, I can't see a moral dimension...
Conservation of momentum has several moral dimensions. It means I
can't hurl lead globes at your head. It means I would be a fool (a
moral concept) to stand in front of a fast-moving Mack Truck.
Certainly a deontic proposition cannot be inferred from a descriptive
proposition, being in a different modal class, but given a deontic
framework (an axiomatic system, for example), descriptive facts will
certainly impact what deontic truths can be validly derived.
Does a technique for making "weapons of mass destruction" from OTC
goods want to be free? It will be, inevitably -- if I am aware of it,
others with less compunction will be soon, and I'm sure there are many
such who are more intelligent and interested than myself. In fact, it
is reasonable to expect that at some point in future human history, if
recent trends continue, the technology required in order to destroy
the physical universe will become reasonably inexpensive. These
aspects of info freedom definitely have a moral dimension. Others do
by analogy, although for different kinds of information the dimensions
will be orthogonal.
If I knew about conservation of momentum, but prevented others from
using it in their works by the threat of legal action, my action would
be absurd to the point of moral and aesthetic abhorrence.
And there's the rub: The issue is as much aesthetic as moral.
That is not a reason to belittle the importance of the issue, however:
Riots and street battles have been fought over Schoenberg operas.
Blasphemy against Islam, for which the death penalty is not uncommon,
is at least as much an aestheticly- as a morally-defined issue.