Connecting Copyright and Love

“Jaron Lanier, 49, is many things — composer, performer, computer scientist, philosopher — but one thing he is not is a machine. His book You Are Not a Gadget, published this year, compels readers to take a fresh look at the power — and limitations — of human interaction in a socially networked world. ” – Dan Reed in Time Magazine’s 2010 list of 100 people who most effect our world.  Below is a poignant excerpt from You Are Not a Gadget.

What Makes Liberty Different from Anarchy Is Biological Realism

The open culture crowd believes that human behavior can only be mod­ified through involuntary means. This makes sense for them, because they aren’t great believers in free will or personhood.

For instance, it is often claimed by open culture types that if you can’t make a perfect copy-protection technology, then copy prohibitions are pointless. And from a technological point of view, it is true that you can’t make a perfect copy-protection scheme. If flawless behavior restraints are the only potential influences on behavior in a case such as this, we might as well not ask anyone to ever pay for music or journalism again. According to this logic, the very idea is a lost cause.

But that’s an unrealistically pessimistic way of thinking about people. We have already demonstrated that we’re better than that. It’s easy to break into physical cars and houses, for instance, and yet few people do so. Locks are only amulets of inconvenience that remind us of a social contract we ultimately benefit from. It is only human choice that makes the human world function. Technology can motivate human choice, but not replace it.

I had an epiphany once that I wish I could stimulate in everyone else.  The plausibility of our human world, the fact that the buildings don’t all all down and you can eat unpoisoned food that someone grew, is immediate palpable evidence of an ocean of goodwill and good behavior from almost everyone, living or dead. We are bathed in what can be called love.

And yet that love shows itself best through the constraints of civilization, because those constraints compensate for the flaws of human nature.  We must see ourselves honestly, and engage ourselves realistically, in order to become better.

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