Behind on Writing

I'm trying to write every weekday (and have a 4-day streak right now!). Usually I try to write for 30-60min in the morning. But today I was too busy and didn't make that happen (and now it's 11pm!). What should I do? How can I have "quick but good" content? There are a variety of ways to do this. I like how Fred Wilson does Funding Fridays and Video Saturdays where it's more of a link with commentary than a full-fledged post.

I'll briefly do that now with Cory Doctorow's recent post, Terra Nullius.

It's a concise, well-formed piece about why property rights (especially for ideas), don't make sense. In Cory's words:

The problem is that property frameworks – especially when applied to ideas – demand an unrealistic simplicity of title.

Why? Two reasons:

  1. Context: You didn't just "create something" out of thin air. You "stood on the shoulders of giants."
  2. Inevitability of the Adjacent Possible: If you didn't create "your thing", someone else would have.

The idea that an individual "Lockean Titan" created something from "Terra Nullius", a land of nothing, is wrong. Cory has a brilliant paragraph on how this perspective played out in musical copyright:

[Terra Nullius / Lockean Titanism] is also front-and-center in the most pernicious “intellectual property” debates. The parts of musical composition that Europeans reify – melody – are eligible for copyright, but the characteristically Afro-Caribbean elements – complex polyrhythm – are not. Hence, the Beatles could appropriate R&B progressions and rhythms to make new music out of, but woe betide the hiphop artist who samples the Beatles to make a new composition today. The Beatles worked with unimproved nature (R&B), while samplers are stealing the property of the Beatles’ record label.

In the end, all interesting internet analyses lead to copyright. ;)

Anywho, it's a great, short piece. Check it out here.

One final unrelated note: I did a podcast with Tim Hwang today. Lots of interesting stuff, but the most powerful idea for my world is how powerful FAT* has been for the AI ethics community. Get researchers interested in "ethics as research problems" (or, as Tenzin Priyadarshi would say, "ethics as optimization"), and the rest will follow. (Very similar to Kuhn's argument in Structure of Scientific Revolutions.)