Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Monday, September 26, 2005
Terry Pratchett has a new book out: Thud!. Excerpt. It’s a Discworld, and it’s about the Watch, so should be fun. I’ve got it on hold at the local library, but there’s probably scads of people ahead of me in line.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Brave New World
An Australian court has ruled that Kazaa is resposible for copyright infringements on their network. Of course, Kazaa uses FastTrack, a decentralized system, so it’s nearly impossible for them to do anything about it, but that’s beside the point.
The thing that many business models will be unable to cope with is this: The economic cost to transfer information is very close to zero. If somebody wants to get an MP3 of $ARTIST from point A to point B, it’s so cheap to do so that most people would consider it free. (as in free beer.)
I not saying that all information is free as in free speech, or that it should be. It’s just that if two people want to exchange information, whether copyrighted or not, they can, and there’s no way to stop them. There’s things that can be done to make it harder. The RIAA’s current strategy of suing 15-year olds is one. Outlawing crypto entirely is another. But as long as arbitrary information can be exchanged, there will always be some way for a sufficiently determined person to circumvent the obstacles placed in their way.
This is going to be awkward for a while. For instance, if/when usable e-book readers become widespread, there’s absolutely no economic reason why libraries should exist. Libraries exist because there’s a limited number of books. But when the book is stored electronically, everybody can have a copy. But that doesn’t work at all with the concept of selling books, so there’s going to be the same sort of thing going on then with books that’s going on now with music.
It may be that the entire concept of intellectually property will break down, and that no one will be able to make software, books, music, art, or anything else that can be stored electronically, for a living.
Or, it may be that “trusted computing” (“untrusted computing” would be a better word) will become widespread. This would mean that you lose the right to do what you wish with your computer, and in exchange people with IP can make lots of money.
Or, it may be that something else entirely happens. That IP becomes weaker, but does not disappear entirely. That the freedom of the many is deemed more important than the prosperity of the few. That the marketplace adapts to this strange new world where information can be transmitted freely, but doesn’t have to be. That some business models fall by the wayside, but others spring up to take their place. That is what I hope for.
Ready or not, here comes the future.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Star Trek IV
Just watched Star Trek IV. The plot involves traveling back in time to save the whales. I kid you not. If you don’t believe me, read the Wikipedia article I linked to.
There are several disappointing things about the future. For instance, computer display technology has regressed considerably, and we’ll be back to using EGA 200 years hence. Also, it turns out that they “don’t use money” in the future. Everytime they mentioned this fact, I kept wondering, what do they use in the future? Faster than light travel, okay. Time travel, okay. Whales as a higher intelligence, okay. But communism working? Really now, you expect me to believe that? :-)
Kirk is at his preachy best, calling people in 1986 a “extremely primative and paranoid culture”. People of the 23rd century are, it appears, far superior in every way to 20th century man. Except, of course, that they’re still judgemental self-righteous twits.
Still, that’s what makes Star Trek fun to watch, and in that area Star Trek IV does not disappoint.