Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gettin' Paid

"Information wants to be free." This is something of a cliche among hackers and futurists.

Because information can be copied and propagated much faster than real things, intellectual property is never exactly the same thing as real property. And because the development of private property was such an important building block in the history of economic development, we tried to put extend the concept we developed for land, horses, and bushels of grain to software and naming rights. But this is an abstraction, and abstractions leak.

One result of this is a quasi-Marxist exploitation of capital in an anti-matter universe. Instead of the capitalist denying to the laborer the fruit of his work, the consumer gets the benefit of millions of dollars in various kinds of technological development without having to compensate the capital that funded it. The moral of this story isn't to feel sorry for the capitalists. Among other things, for the most part developers of intellectual property couldn't have developed it without access to other intellectual property which may not have been compsenated either.

It's just that the inability to monetize intellectual achievements tends to retard their growth. As society gets wealthier it gets tech-ier, and this problem gets bigger. It would have been nice to confront it in better economic circumstances. The current economic crisis has suffered from really bad timing, on many different levels.

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