Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Friday October 20 2006

Every week I now write (for money, you understand) a bit for this blog, about intellectual property.  And every week I struggle to make sense of it all.  Usually I fail.  Thank goodness for links.  At least I am able to include worthwhile things, in the form of links to worthwhile things, in my bloggage.  It was like that last night, when I agonisedly concocted my latest concoction, in which I actually made confusion the basis of my posting.  I will link to this from this when it’s up.

How I miss the days when arguing about property meant choosing between the economically progressive and the economically cretinous, between the creative and the destructive, between freedom and tyranny, between, to be blunt about it, good and evil.  The economics I was taught at university all hinged on the scarcity of goods and services.  But in the age of instant copying, nothing copyable is scarce any more and the clear distinctions between what is obviously right and obviously stupid disappear.  Or, they do for me.

One day, they will invent a three dimensional copier.  You will fill a thing like a microwave oven with magic toner powder (or in the case of bigger objects a thing like a fridge or a thing like a room or a thing like a giant warehouse), and then press COPY.  And out will come a chocolate bar, or a piece of sculpture, or a jar of mango chutney (or a car or a airplane or a spaceship).  They’ll start with sculpture, because making something look like chocolate will be a whole lot easier than making something taste like chocolate.  Then small spare parts for machines.  But eventually: everything.  Beam me up, Scotty.

At which point, arguments about everything will become like arguments about intellectual property now.

Any comments (comments here have been good lately - thanks everybody) about intellectual property, copyright, patents, etc., will be most welcome.  They are bound to be more coherent than my collected ramblings on the subject.

Feel free to copy all this onto your blog if you think it’s good, putting your name at the bottom of it.  Or then again, if you do that, I might sue you, you thieving bastard.  Who can say?