Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Trouble With Owning An Idea Is...

...The owners always want exclusive benefit of the profits to be made, for as long as they can get away with of course (human nature being what it is), but absolutely no responsibility towards the societal costs that can accumulate, over time, with it's actual usage. Societal costs that usually accumulate in direct proportion to the lack of pre useage examination of what some of those effects can be. Which is why we came up with the notion that testing ahead of time might be a good idea; especially for the really dangerous stuff that start off with obvious red flags. Unfortunately, stuff that can still bite us in the ass, after a time of usage. don't always come with those handy, pre positioned wavers of warning

I mention all of this because, as someone who has spent his life dealing in ideas (studying them, using them, making a living coming up with little ones to solve small problems, as well as being completely captivated by a particular set of same, that I stumbled over quite by accident), I am amazed at how cavalierly most people treat them. Not only in how we benefit from those who made the effort in the past to bequeath them to us, one way or another, but in not appreciating nearly enough how dangerous they can also be; even if they seem innocuous at the start.

Ideas, like creation events themselves, are both the possibility of new, thoughtful, loving structure, but also the certainty that some part of things as they were will be done away with.

In many instances what is replaced is a positive, as was often specifically intended, so that we do actually benefit. Other things are often diminished, or taken away, that were not intended, and are also not very positive at all. In some cases these are mostly annoyances of one form or another that we can deal with, for the most part, because the benefits make it well worthwhile. Other times, however, they are much more than annoyances. They are outright detriments to health, or property, or other process streams that already have enough problems to deal with.

Capitalism, of course, was never intended to be either all that cognizant of the future, or that open to the interconnectedness of things; both in the physical world, and in the realm of social organizations. Even though it is stating the obvious that they didn't have a word for systems (or integration, at least as we know those words today) back when it was created and built upon, it is easy to forget that you have to have a particular mindset in order to conceive of things happening simultaneously, and that interactions can cross over into one system set or another, in often very complex and subtle ways. They didn't have that mindset then because the major means by which they inter associated at the time (how they stored, moved, and retrieved information), was becoming the printed word. And that, my friends, is why Capitalism is a linear, segmented, assembly line kind of organizational model.

The upshot of all of this is that the old idea of property, and ownership, while still applicable in some ways, is quite inadequate for the reality we live in now. Anybody's idea of property now must include the reality that "everything is interconnected." Which is precisely why you can't just be dumping, or burning, or building, or even tearing down, without some serious consideration of what the effects might be on your neighbors. And I think we are, as a society, coming to accept that notion as it relates to property in the traditional sense; as it relates to intellectual property, however, I don't think so.

And this is especially irritating to me because it is society that makes being able to get, to know, and utilize ideas, possible in the first place. Providing the mediation of all the social glue that keeps cooperative effort going at all. So, no matter how sharp, determined and resourceful an entrepreneur you are, you were assisted in getting to the point of having, and being able to implement your big, new, "disruptor" because society gave you that chance; and not the chaos one would otherwise expect if things had broken down and gone back to the rule of force.

And yet, when progressives like myself deign to ask you share both the benefit, and the responsibility, you cry foul; very loudly.

I would like to think that the Open Source movement understands this situation; from both sides of the equation: as in knowing they can't possibly shoulder all of the responsibility for an idea so, as a logical consequence, cannot then ask for exclusive rights to whatever benefit arises from it. I certainly deserve the credit for coming up with the idea, and hopefully we'll work out better ways to keep incentives in place to turn recognition into a path for more opportunities to explore for more good ideas, but I'm not going to get greedy about the material gain. Not unless I'm ready to be taxed significantly so as to provide general compensatory support for the things I didn't foresee would happen after people started using it; along with the side effects of all the other ideas we didn't fully investigate beforehand. After all, the whole point of opening an idea up for all to share and work with is that more minds are thinking about what actual useage might mean, before the fact, and then provide not only process improvements, but remedies to the bad effects at the get go, and in the process get some credit themselves.

None of the ideas that I have been lucky enough to have stumbled over in my life belong to me (just as very little of what I advocate now is actually new). Not as property in the old sense anyway. They belong to the society that gave me the chance to be able to think, to read, to question, and most of all, to be curious about so many things. This despite the fact that there was tragedy, chaos, and a lot of poor decisions made all throughout my life; by me and those around me. And this because I was also lucky enough to realize that a great deal of why there was so much chaos, tragedy and poor decisions was precisely because society was becoming increasingly unable to deal with the accumulation of bad side effects.

Capitalism has had its day. Just as property as we used to know it has had its day. You can certainly own what you make and use, like a home, or any other personal property, but you cannot own either the technology, or the overall productive capability that a functioning social group provides. You can certainly lay claim to a share of its output if you participate in the social process of providing the material means of production, as well as a say in all group decisions, but that is where it must end. That is why we must find a better way to work the balance between personal freedom, and the greater good of the community as a whole. And I can guarantee you that Capitalism cannot be involved any longer.