Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Music, passion and shining eyes

This post started off with the video below, and then I went off a bit on a stream-of-consciousness tangent about copyright. Feel free to peruse any part of the post.

I think there are many thoughts here that the Rebbe would agree with. "A true leader is the one who has absolute faith in those following him." Or: "What measures one’s success is not his power or money, but the number of shining eyes surrounding him."

And, after you’ve watched the above video, watch this:

And some copyright idiocy:

(It seems that just like klipah is always attracted to kedusha, stupidity and bureaucracy are always attracted to something intelligent and creative.)

Update. This is the original pi video:

* * *

Just to remind everyone, the reason why one cannot own information is that "ownership" implies violence towards someone — the person you’re preventing from using the object you own. Such violence can be justified only if you’re doing it in self-defense: i.e., to defend yourself against an act of violence from another person. For example: if I own a pencil, it means I can prevent you from using my pencil. So, that’s violence. But it is justified, because if you use my pencil, it means I cannot use it. So, you’re doing violence to me. Since one of us is going to have to do violence to the other, let it be the one who found (bought, made, created ex-nihilo) the pencil first.

In other words, the concept of ownership only applies to scarce resources. If there is a competition for a resource (such that only one person can use it), let the person who "owns" it have rights to it — i.e., justification to use force to restrict someone else’s use of it.

But in the case when a resource is non-scarce (like information is), there is no justification. Just because I am using the concept you developed, I am not preventing your use of it.

* * *

The other problem is that we don’t have a clear idea what ontology of information is. I.e., what the information is. From materialist point of view, information is nothing but the matter that contains it. So, if you write a poem, and I memorize it, you cannot own my knowledge of your poem, since that would imply your owning my brain.

From a version of idealist point of view, information is not matter; it’s properties of matter. It is something which is associated and created by the matter. So, brain and mind are not the same thing, but the mind is created by the brain. The same argument goes here. If the song that you wrote is created by my brain while I am thinking about it, you cannot own it. You cannot own my mind, since it’s a product of my brain, which you don’t own.

From platonic point of view, ideas actually exist in a separate reality — an ideal "world". All material objects are instantiations of these ideas. So, a physical chair is a material instance of an ideal chair. Therefore, one might say, by creating an idea, I am actually creating an ideal object existing in a separate ideal reality. Or, perhaps, it always existed there, and I am merely discovering it. Either way, you might say, I have rights to the idea.

There are two problems with the latter argument. First, in order to claim ownership to this platonic version of idea and then use force to restrict my use of it, you have to bring evidence that the platonic world of ideas actually exists. It's a nice philosophical model, and it's something nice to talk about over a cup of tea, but you can't claim ownership on a piece of my brain or a physiological process happening in it (which, a priori, is what information seems to be), unless you bring clear empirical proof. You can't use force to take someone's money, shut down a video he posted somewhere, or put him in jail, unless you have a clear evidence that the phenomenon which is claimed to have been stolen actually exists in reality, outside of the philosophers' imagination.

Second problem is that even if the platonic world and its ideas actually existed independent of human mind, we are back to the non-scarcity argument. Yes, you have discovered (or invented) a resource. But you can't claim to have rights to it if it is non-scarce. You have no justification to use force to prevent my use of your song, if my use is in no way limiting your use of it.

And saying "I own it, because it's the law" is a meaningless statement. All you're saying is: "I own it, because Joe will shoot you if you try to use it". Imagine if I said that about your car. Remember, saying: "I will use the government to make X illegal" is no different from saying "I will take a gun to prevent someone from doing X". If you do not think it's moral for you to do that yourself, there is no way it can be moral for the government to do it. For instance, I can shoot someone attacking me. Therefore, it's moral for a government employee to shoot him (since the government is just an organization which I hired to protect my rights — or, rather, that hired itself... or made me hire itself... but that's a separate topic). But if it is immoral for me to go to Bill Gates's house with a gun to take his money and give to some poor guy on a street, it's immoral for the government to do so as well.

So, saying "it's a law" does not imply morality. I always find it curious that the defense that TSA officials use for searching the diapers of 90-year-old ladies ("I followed the procedure") is the exactly same defense that Nazis used at Nuremberg trials.

* * *

© None of the ideas written above may be reproduced in any form without my explicit approval. In other words: get off my platonic farm before I get my shotgun.


yr said...

So, what right do you have to prevent me from using your pencil (assuming an everlasting piece of pencil lead, and that I don't use, or chew on the eraser) when you are not using it?
It seems clear that humanity has always assumed that the usufruct of an entity belongs to the owner of the entity. That is why landlords can charge rent on otherwise vacant apartments.
It is a short leap from there to describing the benefit one gets from using someone else's idea as the "usufruct" of that idea, which belongs to the originator of the idea. (note: my question is mainly to your second point, which assumes platonic ideals. the first point - that an idea is not an entity that can be owned - is essentially the reason that intellectual property is not real property in Jewish law, and copyright protection is the result of artificial regulations created by the community.)

Certified Ashkenazi said...

That's the obvious first question.

I need to think more, but at the first estimation: access? In case of an object, it's simpler. Look, I need my pencil. And I don't want to have to go around town looking for it when I need it. Even potentially.

It's more difficult to ask about trespass. I think different people would give you different answers. Some libertarians don't consider trespassing a crime, although you have a right to kick someone out if you need (or even claim to need) the space he is occupying. (But no jail, etc. Although, you could prove that he is being nuisance, etc.)

Is trespassing ossur in yiddishkeit?

For the usufruct of the idea to belong to the originator of the idea, he has to be the idea's owner.

I am thinking if we can explain all of morality in terms of Chassidus. For example, if I still your object, I am preventing you from raising the sparks in the object which were destined to you (and I can't raise them).

If I say that everything is HP (al pi Baal Shem Tov), then why is murder objectively bad? Without Hashem's will, the person would not be killed. Gottlieb would say that free will is more important than anything else (since free will = G-d, kivyochol), and in this case, you can't logically divorce murder from free will, but we believe in HP al pi Besht and also in nimna ha'nimnaos.

Certified Ashkenazi said...

Re: access: just like the argument about Saddam. He should've been taken out not because he had (or didn't have) WMD, but because the only way he was allowed to remain dictator by the "international community" is he provided access to international inspectors.