Ownership, Legacy and Efficiency

I’m a person who creates, I always have and I always will… it’s equal parts a desire to help people, personal vanity through my creations and the high I get from problem solving and understanding things. While I acknowledge the veneer of selflessness that the open source philosophy pays lip service to, the realities are far more practical. Most open source has corporate sponsorship, even control so that the innovation which does occur is almost 1:1 with commercial features of products, whether or not there is any profit motive, a simple desire to compete for users drives this. Now there’s a viewpoint that this interaction produces a type of darwinism which leads to efficiency which dovetails nicely with our society’s bizarre obsession with efficiency.

Our civilization(s) came about through an enormous glut of resources which are the result of millenia of carbon based life absorbing solar energy and decomposing, now that we’ve taken to carelessly consuming as much as we can take, there’s a strange focus on optimizing this consumption as if your saving the planet driving your hybrid on your 2 hour commute. Elimination of consumptive behavior, however, isn’t possible… so what can we do? Virtualize. I believe a decentralized visualization/simulation protocol with ownership rights that can overlay is the only thing that can both save the consumer culture and markets we all enjoy as well as all the resources that form the basis of our current and future survival. We have one biomass, there is no do over. I firmly believe the lack of a resource glut is a major warning sign this culture is unsustainable and rather than move to a brave new world of management and regulation, a major shift in how we consume and commute would allow us to continue our present mode of exploration and abundance.

“Well this all sounds very Science Fiction, Abbey… get to the point.” My point is that in the pursuit of maintaining this pyramid schemes modern corporations are eroding ownership rights in this country, as if because virtual object have no corporeal existence they are somehow ‘worthless’, so media companies line up to stream us the same content over and over endlessly wasting power and bandwidth on a truly massive scale, for the simple purpose of denying the user ownership and preventing creators from linking directly with consumers. In the modern world the only useful purpose media companies serve is production, as an artist can easily handle (assuming they have a little help) their own marketing, distribution and booking, this relevance is still meaningful in the Movie industry… but many artists are now letting their fans buy music directly and our lawmakers are making laws to enforce this total lack of media ownership, across the board. According to them I can’t sell you a DVD that you own, you own a license to view it… this is central to why it remains illegal to decode a DVD even though software to do so is widespread. Everyone knows they aren’t stopping any piracy this way, what is it they are stopping? Our rights, and they have legal teams scaring the shit out of them. I’ve been lucky to know some creative people during my life, and as one got some notoriety and was doing the talk show circuit she wound up back in town and I got to hang out and talk for a while, and I saw a few alarming things. Beyond the beginnings of the ‘mirror thing’ (watching celebrities near mirrors can be slightly nausea inducing), I endured a number of stories about how she refused fans autographs because they didn’t buy her CD. It was pretty disturbing. A bunch of asshat lawyers scared this chick who’s career had been, errr, ‘enhanced’ by payola that her actual fans, you know… the people that would have *caused* her fame under normal circumstances were somehow out to get her. Mindblowing.

“Yeah, but DRM is stupid Abbey, it didn’t work and now we have all these sweet home network devices that allow us to stream our media libraries in our house!” Well, actually this is the focus of media companies right now to erode exactly those rights so you don’t own anything and will be committing a crime by transcoding media so it can be viewed in any other way or using other devices. Every time you stream some shit from Hulu and Netflix (I’m guilty too) or Spotify and Last.fm you are contributing to this new world. But in the end this is less insidious, because they’re relying on our own laziness to shrink the demand for owned media… slimy? yes. changing the country? no.

And in comes signed code. Part of Apple’s desire to lock down their own platform without you know, relying on engineering prowess, is to requiring every developer who wants access to the full feature set of their API to sign their app with a key from Apple requiring any app pass a submission process as well as giving them a global kill switch. Also included in this shift is apple ‘simplifying’ your apps by linking each apps data to the app itself. What if apple pulls the kill switch? oops, sorry! What if the developer goes out of business? oops, sorry! What if I die and I want to pass on my digital life? Fuck you, dead guy!

And then the final barrier: Patents. Now patents make sense in a world of knock-offs… when you make something it makes sense to protect primary movers so that the research investment can be recouped, so as to encourage investment. That is not at all what is going on in software patents. The modern system is so fucked I could lock myself in a room write the software from scratch out of my head and I’d violate a whole goddamned slew of patents, it’s unavoidable. But it’s also pointless for a patent troll to sue someone who could be a potential source of revenue. So what happens is a race where you are trying to build or acquire enough patents that when the trolls come knocking you can cross-license instead of getting royally screwed with licensing fees… but of course these shitheads only show up after a couple of rounds of funding. Because it’s no fun sticking up poor people 😛 These guys are the very bottom of our society, speculating leeches taking advantage of the carelessness or misfortune of other innovators, buying up patents in bulk for peanuts.

If we allow these things to happen we will shackle our own hands and inevitably the system eventually implodes from a lack of input as we continue to scale physical consumption for our own vanity. We have to find the courage to stand up for these rights, and frankly I’m not even sure what that entails.

Over the next year I will be migrating to technology which opposes this tide and try to more clearly define who is working on these problems and what I can do to help. I will periodically post progress updates toward this end.