Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday quote

We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

Stephen Schneider, global warming advocate, (interview for Discover magazine, Oct 1989).

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Intellectual property is information

Property as property proper is matter. It is material. It has height, width, depth and weight (mass). One could extend this to other attributes of matter such as current, time and temperature. Thus energy could be considered property which can be bought and sold. Though something being matter does not mean it necessarily can be bought and sold, many things have no ownership, or shared ownership.

Property as matter is fixed in time and space. It can shift in time and space, but it occupies space such that its presence in one place precludes its presence elsewhere. (Exceptions are when something is considered as a whole but can be split up, like air and water).

Ownership of an item means that it is your possession or under your oversight. You get to determine how it is used (within the confines of legality).

The limitation of locality and the fact of ownership means that a person can take an item, or place a claim to an item that is not his. Such behaviour is considered theft. It would include taking a computer from work, tomatoes out of your neighbour's garden, or shifting a boundary marker.

Contrast this to what is referred to as intellectual property. I have suggested we use an alternative term to prevent equivocation on the word property; such as "concept", "conceptualisation", "idea", "abstraction", or perhaps a Greek or Latin derived neologism. I will use concept in this post.

Concepts are information. Information does not have qualities of matter. It does not consist of length (in the usual sense), mass, time, current, or temperature. Thus it is non-material. It is still a real entity, just not a material one.

Therefore concepts are not restricted by the laws of physics. Concepts can be duplicated. Concepts can be lost or destroyed. Greek fire is a concept that has been lost. There is no conservation of matter or energy law that corresponds to concepts.

This means that concepts cannot be stolen in the way that property can be stolen. If you give someone else your concept you still have it. Because you still have your concept you cannot say that it has been removed from you. You can still use your concept. The difference is that now someone else has access to the concept and can use it as well.

I used the example of an axe. If someone steals your axe then they have it and you cannot use it. But if someone sees your axe and makes his own then he has not stolen your axe, you still have it. He now also has an axe because he has used your concept: the idea of attaching a splitting wedge to a stick.

Concepts can be mildly to very complicated. Complexity does not correspond directly to usefulness. And less complex concepts are not always obvious before the fact. A less complex solution to a problem may replace a more complex solution because of simplicity and cost.

The distinction between property as matter and concepts as information is foundational. One that must be apprehended before discussion about what copyright might entail. A rule of thumb in distinguishing between property and concepts: If you give something away and no longer have it, it is material; if you give it away and still have it, then it is information. As George Bernard Shaw said,
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

2011 Top 10

I have only recently seen the cartoon Coffee with Jesus. It's theologically variable, and the commentary is somewhat wry. I found this strip insightful.

Click to read

Monday, 23 January 2012

Sunday, 22 January 2012

SOPA and intellectual property as property

The (American) National Review comments on the problems with policing the internet in relation to piracy. They rightly note the error of forcing internet companies to do their police work for them and (possibly) punishing them for failing to do so. (I do not know the wording of the act. We now have a similar act in New Zealand.)
We are in general skeptical of government efforts to foist off difficult tasks onto businesses and other private parties, who already are expected to act as tax collectors (especially of sales taxes), immigration inspectors, and more.
They are also sceptical of the determination of the authorities to deal with this problem given that they are not acting on similar abuses that are already illegal
Judging by the fact that pirated DVDs are openly for sale in practically every city of any consequence in these United States, we have our doubts about the police authorities’ seriousness in these matters.
Further they doubt it will be effective
the worst offenders would of course have no incentive to do so, their guilt being plain and undeniable. Instead, the full-time pirates would have a very strong incentive to simply switch to another website, or to a proliferation of websites, or to deploy any number of commonly available technological solutions to defeat government attempts to block them.
I concur with their concerns here. I also find the modern practice of punishing the innocent to decrease the possibility of crime less than satisfactory. Frequently such laws do little to address the law-breakers yet are onerous on the law-abiding. Moderns combine this with an unwillingness to give adequate punishment for crime. Straitjacket all men to prevent crime but minimise the guilt of those who still pursue it.

The problem with the article is that they diminish the real issue which is associating property with intellectual property
All conservatives believe in protecting property rights, and most conservatives support the protection of copyright as an extension of that principle.
This assumes that property is analogous to intellectual property.
We favor an Internet that is largely free of regulation and taxes; we also favor observing the Eighth Commandment.

While there are a few crusaders against the very idea of intellectual property, there are few questions of principle at stake here, most reasonable people having long ago made up their minds about property rights (generally for) and censorship (generally against).
Unfortunately they miss that this is precisely the debate we need to have.

Property is material. A shovel is an object that exists in space and time. So is a car, and a table. Intellectual property is not material, it is information. Whether we consider copyright for written work; or patents for processes, machines and molecular shapes; we are not dealing with an object fixed in space and time. Thus the claim that these things actually are property, albeit intellectual property is incorrect. Now one may argue that such things should be safe-guarded for various reasons, but we need to establish these reasons. Asserting an analogy to property is not enough. Is the analogy valid? A smile is more similar to the words of a book than the paper is, yet no-one thinks that smiles should be subject to copyright laws.

The extension of property rights to intellectual property rights is not obvious regardless of the number of conservatives (or liberals) who subscribe to it. The terms may share the word "property" but that does not prevent the latter being a misnomer.

To discuss intellectual property one must grasp this distinction. Failure to understand the distinction renders one's opinion of little value, not because his opinions do not matter in general, but because he doesn't have the intellectual concepts needed to address the issue. It is similar to discussing causing death without reference to intent: if you don't understand that there is a difference between murder, self-defence, and manslaughter, how can you address such things?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Persecution of the Nigerian church

Nigeria is the most populous African country; it has a large number of Christians. There have been significant conflicts between Muslims and Christians over the years, with an insistence on Sharia law by some Muslims.

A Muslim militant recently converted to Christianity. When about to murder a Christian, he is overcome with the enormity of his intented action. The militant
was poised to slit the throat of his Christian victim... when he was suddenly struck with the weight of the evil he was about to commit.

Dropping his machete, the man ran to the nearest church, asking a pastor for help.

The pastor referred him to a CAM-supported indigenous ministry, where "native missionaries are reaching remote villages with the message of Christ....

When the call came, the ministry leader was grieving the loss of several close missionary friends who were murdered in the Yobe State slaughter. He immediately met with the confessed killer and joyfully led him to Christ. He is discipling him in a secret location because of the extreme danger.
Unfortunately the man's children were targeted by group he defected from.
Upon discovering the man's conversion to Christianity, Boko Haram members invaded his home, kidnapped his two children and informed him that they were going to execute them in retribution for his disloyalty to Islam. Clutching his phone, the man heard the sound of the guns that murdered his children.
The same group stormed a church earlier this month. John Jauro recounts,
I was leading the congregation in prayers. Our eyes were closed when some gunmen stormed the church and opened fire on the congregation. Six people were killed in the attack and 10 others were wounded.
We need to remember and pray for our brothers who are persecuted thru-out the world, and we remember Jesus' encouragement that our kingdom is of another world.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:11-12)

Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Monday, 16 January 2012

Monday quote

The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell (1872–1970).

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Number of Christians by country

Interesting article from PewResearch. They give the number of Christians per country from 2010. I have a quibble about how they define Christian, thus the West may be over estimated as well as the number of Catholics in South America. The number in China is probably a little low. I don't think they should include groups that deny the deity of Christ, though this will not affect the numbers considerably.

The top 30 are

Country, Estimated Christian Population

United States 246,790,000
Brazil 175,770,000
Mexico 107,780,000
Russia 105,220,000
Philippines 86,790,000
Nigeria 80,510,000
China 67,070,000
Congo 63,150,000
Germany 58,240,000
Ethiopia 52,580,000
Italy 51,550,000
United Kingdom 45,030,000
Colombia 42,810,000
South Africa 40,560,000
France 39,560,000
Ukraine 38,080,000
Spain 36,240,000
Poland 36,090,000
Argentina 34,420,000
Kenya 34,340,000
India 31,850,000
Uganda 28,970,000
Peru 27,800,000
Tanzania 26,740,000
Venezuela 25,890,000
Canada 23,430,000
Romania 21,380,000
Indonesia 21,160,000
Ghana 18,260,000
Angola 16,820,000

Monday, 9 January 2012

Monday quote

And of course atheists will laugh at anything that confronts their unbelief. But laughter and derision are no substitute for logic and scientific reasoning and discourse.

Don Batten

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Ridiculously expensive iPhone

Luxury phone goes for an obscene amount of money.

It has a gold casing with over 500 diamonds. The carrying case is made of platinum and gems.

I don't think I would (I hope I wouldn't) bother with this, even if I considered £6,000,000 small change. Why was this made? Who would want one?

Monday, 2 January 2012

Monday quote

I love the fact that God loves new beginnings; otherwise, why would He give us creatures so many opportunities to start fresh? New mornings, new months, new seasons, new years. He is good...

Douglas Wilson


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