The ties that bind the recession and software piracy

Provocative thoughts in Smithsonian Magazine from Jaron Lanier, a long-time internet guru and the author of a fascinating book, You are Not a Gadget. He suggests that there is a discomfiting parallel between the recession and the information age. He talks about his forthcoming book The Fate of Power and the Future of Dignity, suggesting “that a file-sharing service and a hedge fund are essentially the same things.” Fascinating. He says:

 “[T]he rise of networking has coincided with the loss of the middle class, instead of an expansion in general wealth, which is what should happen. But if you say we’re creating the information economy, except that we’re making information free, then what we’re saying is we’re destroying the economy.”

He illustrates, pointing to parallels between the mortgage bubble and software piracy:

“To my mind an overleveraged unsecured mortgage is exactly the same thing as a pirated music file. It’s somebody’s value that’s been copied many times to give benefit to some distant party. In the case of the music files, it’s to the benefit of an advertising spy like Google [which monetizes your search history], and in the case of the mortgage, it’s to the benefit of a fund manager somewhere. But in both cases all the risk and the cost is radiated out toward ordinary people and the middle classes—and even worse, the overall economy has shrunk in order to make a few people more.”

Thought-provoking and I look forward to reading the book. To the extent that both the mortgage bubble and file-sharing concern information and value, he is undoubtedly correct. I also think that Lanier’s statements provide further illustrations of the need to rethink our ways of analyzing cyberspace and cyberlaw. Indeed, I’m no fan of the exceptionalist / unexceptionalist debate (and even then, tilt more towards the unexceptionalists). Pursuant to several articles I’m working on now, I think we need different ways of approaching the topic, perhaps such as those made by Jacqueline Lipton.

HT @FrankPasquale for the article in Smithsonian Mag. Cross-posted to Infoglut Tumblr.

The most valuable course I ever took

As one description of this YouTube video suggests, those of us under 40 may not remember a world where book reports, term papers, and essays were written on typewriters. But I do. My Bar Mitzvah gift was a typewriter, a Smith Corona with a removable ribbon.  At that time, removable ribbons were a great innovation. I later owned a Swintec that was state-of-the-art for its ability to erase up to a whole line of text! Now that was high tech (back then, anyways).

Have no doubt, typing was the most useful course I ever took.  More useful than math, IP, or Civ Pro.  There’s no substitute for being able to type with all your fingers rather than having to hunt-and-peck.

If you’ve never used an old-fashioned manual typewriter, you might not get the joke below.

H/T to my sister via Facebook.

Physics and rap music

Geek alert: the Large Hadron Collider (“LHC”), making its debut this year, is the world’s largest particle accelerator.  Built by CERN (the European Center for Nuclear Research), the LHC is a 27 km particle accelerator near Geneva, running through both France and Switzerland.  As noted in the NYT, the LHC “will smash together subatomic particles at a rate just short of the speed of light in search of new forms of matter and new laws of physics.”

Some have objected to the LHC as creating an unnecessary risk of, um, destroying the world, such as by creating a micro black hole that swallows the planet.  Several LHC opponents have filed a federal lawsuit seeking delay of its operation, and the government is seeking dismissal.  Ultimately, it’s somewhat moot, as the LHC makes it official debut on “Red Button Day,” Sept. 10, about a week after the court hears the motion to dismiss.

Although I love physics, my physics knowledge is more of the “wouldn’t warp travel be really cool” variety.  So I don’t know how risky the LHC really is.  However, I can say with more confidence that this rap video explaining the operation of the LHC, apparently done by folks connected to CERN, is pretty entertaining (if you’re a physics geek, that is):

Bonus assignment: check out PBS’ program The Elegant Universe, a three-hour miniseries on the development of physics string theory.

H/T on rap vid: SlashDot