Intellectual Property: A Personal Perspective#
The subsequent content encapsulates Geoffrey David Cowne's1 individual viewpoint on intellectual property, its manifestations, and its broader implications.
The Concept of Ownership#
In contemporary society, it's common for creators to claim ownership and control over their creations, terming them as Intellectual Property. Yet, this notion is relatively recent in the annals of human history.
A perplexing trend among many corporations is to withhold intellectual property once its validity is established. This trend is evident in patent wars, pitching strict corporate ownership against paradigms like creative commons or open source.
Interestingly, creators can enforce copyright while simultaneously allowing varying degrees of their work's usage through creative commons licenses, which have global legal enforceability.
Attribution: Dave59 at the English language Wikipedia / CC BY-SA
Some agents opportunistically extract ideas that have been in the public domain for extended periods. These ideas are then patented and often marketed to corporations as products. This exploitation hinders the free flow of ideas, stifling innovation in an era demanding the opposite.
Knowledge Exchange: A Path Out of Ignorance#
Attribution: JohnD Alembert / CC BY-SA
Human progress owes much to the exchange of ideas and information. Urban chatter, while not always profound, underpins our innate drive to share. This sharing culture fertilizes the ground for intellectual growth. Societies stifling such exchanges, like during Europe's Middle Ages, often stagnate.
Questioning Intellectual Rights Across Species#
While our hominid relatives differ genetically by less than 2%, we don't confer upon them rights we readily bestow on artificial entities like corporations. This discrepancy is puzzling.
Intellectual Property is uniquely human. Apes, our close relatives, have no such concept. Reflect on human behaviors, especially in corporate and political arenas, before casting judgments on apes.
In 2007, the Balearic Islands set a precedent by moving to grant legal personhood rights to great apes2. This sparked a movement in Spain, culminating in laws that safeguarded these primates' rights3.
Attribution: Psych USD / CC BY-SA
The Era of Exponential Ideas#
Brainstorming and collaborative thinking, when married with modern networks, have the potential for exponential idea generation. Historical examples, like the Library of Alexandria's knowledge acquisition practices, offer insights into the power of idea exchange.
Yet, isolated societies often experience intellectual stagnation or even regression. Such was the case with Tasmania and post-Roman Europe. Current global trends, like certain political movements in Britain4 and the US, hint at a possible resurgence of isolationism.
Watch Matt Ridley's TED talk as he delves into the intertwining of ideas and their implications on society.
Reflecting on Ridley's Perspective#
While I concur with Ridley's stance that ideas breed more ideas through human networks, I contest the sole attribution of relative wealth's rise to commerce. Sociopolitical structures play a pivotal role.
Ridley humorously feigns ignorance about the workings of a computer mouse, suggesting its complexity transcends general understanding. However, the essence of such technologies can often be replicated with available resources.
Ridley's pencil analogy, underscoring the multifaceted collaboration in its creation, hints at the overspecialization in modern academia. The richness of diverse experiences shouldn't be underestimated.