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With each passing day humanity moves deeper and deeper into the information age. Not too many people were thinking about reality as a series of informational structures until Claude Shannon came along and proposed the discipline of information theory in 1948. Now, I’m not going to pretend to know all the nitty gritty details of the theory, but it seems to mark the beginning of the period of time when people realized that nearly every system could be explained as being a part of an on/off system of bits…ie naturalistic systems could be seen in a way that made sense from a computational perspective. This viewpoint seems like one of the final blows dealt to the materialistic system of thought that reigned so heavily throughout the enlightenment time period to the mid 1900s. Shannon’s information theory began to look at reality as a system of probabilistic events rather than a set, finite, clock as a universe Descartes type reality. Thus Shannon’s ideas were a precursor to the field of AI. Today many people take for granted what was considered to be a field shaking line of thinking in the 1940s. While most people may not know of any of Shannon’s ideas in the concrete, they are, for the most part, living in his informational outlook on reality. The amount of information created, transmitted, and received by people today dwarfs that of the average person in the 1940s by some insane orders of magnitude. We’re steeped in pools of information. The question many people are wondering is: what’s the most optimal/fairest way to manage information distribution? For the purpose of this discussion it may make more sense to ask the question: who owns the created information? If anyone.
Disclaimer: I’m riffing off the cuff of the dome here so if anything I say doesn’t pass a sagacious fact checking test, I apologize in advance. Copyright law today seems to be heavily trenched in a pre-informationally (sic) minded reality. A copyright basically says a person uniquely came up with an idea and because they came up with the idea they get to disproportionately benefit (in a financial sense) at everyone else’s expense. When copyright first came into fruition no one could really see just how valuable intellectual property would become in the age of information. Today, some of the most valuable patents and copyrights are literally just arrangements of code. Now, I am an ardent supporter of the free market and I certainly believe that creators are more incentivized to create if they are rewarded for it. This is always the argument for keeping copyright laws the same. I do believe that human curiosity and financial gain are not as coupled as most people would like to think. Humans like to explore and tinker regardless of the financial outcome. I say the foregoing statement to make light on the fact that strict financial gains are not the only drivers of human creativity. Making life more enjoyable to live actually seems like the biggest driver for innovation and creativity.
Quick side note: Times right now seem so tumultuous because it is becoming evident that humanity once again needs to re-examine our fundamental axioms of reality, our first principles. It is once again time to ask the questions: Who are we? What are we doing? Where are we going? What is important to us? The old answers to these questions seem like they are not working anymore. Re-examining first principles is extremely hard because it makes people wonder about the purpose of their lives. Peter Thiel has made the argument that technology has actually stagnated greatly in the past 30 years (other than computation speed) due to the psychological blocks preventing people from discussing first principles. He makes the claim that people would rather not think about first principles than have to bear the potential risk of beginning philosophical debates about the nature of reality within the political and psychological spheres (Note how no politicians ever touch on ontological topics, nor do the psychologists, usually. This is why I believe religious fundamentalism is regaining such a strong footing…at least in that domain there are meaning of life conversations taking place which people clearly so desperately crave. However, with any fundamentalist cause the risk of demagogues running amok always stands at the forefront of the movement, so I’m not necessarily long on fundamentalism being the best way to reintroduce first principle discussions). Again, to a lot of people, it makes sense to avoid first principle discussions given the history of war is mainly a history of people fighting over differing first principles. So, toying with first principles and violence are usually heavily correlated. That, in my opinion, is still not a good enough reason to not have the discussions because not talking about them may actually lead to more misery and confusion.
Back to the copyright discussion: It is becoming more and more clear that no human being is ever hermetically isolated from another human being. We all function in an informational web of such un-imaginable complexity. Our bodies themselves are immensely complex networks of information communication. I am beginning to see the informational sharing network of the internet in a way that is similar to how information travels in our bodies or how information travels in a mycelium network between mushrooms. This means, to me, the more that information can flow freely, the more robust, powerful, and healthy the entire system would be. Imagine if in your body certain cells decided to withhold information from other cells because they believed that their grouping of cells was entitled to said information over other cells because the information originated in their cell mind…does that sound like a system that would produce the healthiest possible body? I guess what I am saying is that if humanity begins to see people as individuals all connected to a group network, we will realize that the more open the network is, the more that individuals can thrive. We’ve already seeing the amazing effects of making academic type information freely available. Free YouTube tutorials have enlightened and enriched so many people. I believe that if copyright laws were loosened everyone would become immensely richer, and reality would become a much more intelligent place. Seen from a strictly informational perspective does it make any sense to hide things from the network if we would all benefit from sharing? I also firmly believe that opening up copyright wouldn’t destroy hierarchies of value at all…Pareto distributions seem like they are hardwired into the nature of the universe. This means that people can still be unequal even if copyright laws change dramatically…and isn’t that the concession that the current copyright proponents want to hear? An easy example of this phenomenon is this: there are countless derivative works of Rick and Morty, but no derivative work will ever be more valuable than Rick and Morty itself and it could be argued that each derivative work made of Rick and Morty actually increases the value of the original Rick and Morty because it shows that people care enough about the original to make their own works based off of it…if some person were to create a derivative Rick and Morty work that was deemed, by the marketplace, to be better than the original Rick and Morty then that person should be applauded…right? However, that pretty much never happens.
I personally have no problem with people creating derivative works of my content because I know that no one can replicate the real Ambiguous. Mimicry, to me, is a sign of respect. It is also how most people learn. Infants learn the most through the mirroring of their parents behavior. Perhaps the more people we let imitate each other the faster people will learn. I personally want to live in the most beautiful and interesting reality possible and if that means freely sharing all information I am okay with that. Trust me, I am a strong individualist and I am very interested in being wealthy. Going forward, I believe personal wealth will be more tied to sharing rather than having a knowledge advantage over people, and isn’t that a beautiful thought? In summation, I find myself asking a question I ask myself frequently: where do my ideas come from? Every artist, inventor, scientist etc. has been asked the question: “how did you come up with that?” and if we are being totally honest, the answer is almost always “I really don’t know” or “the idea just popped into my head.” I seriously do not believe that idea generation is an act of personal will. It almost seems like the ideas exist on some plane of reality and certain people have an easier time interfacing with that plane of reality. If that’s the case then no one really ever has an idea, they are given an idea. So, if ideas are seen as supra-personal concepts then perhaps no person could ever really own an idea…it wasn’t theirs in the first place to own. Doesn’t it seem silly to want to own something that was given to us so freely in the first place? I believe it is the responsibility of the artist to use our natural sensitive inclinations to tap into the idea plane/field as much as we possibly can and share the fruit with everyone. If sharing is they key to making reality more fascinating to all, then count me in. Of course, the sharing has to be done in a thoughtful and considerate way otherwise the sensitive people will be less willing to bring back the fruit that we all nourish ourselves on.