Category Archives: PODCASTS

Cory Doctorow, Technology, and the Industry

I read BoingBoing.net a lot, so I see a lot of references to Cory Doctorow (not knowing before today that he was a co-creator of the site.) Cory Doctorow (not to be confused with author E.L. Doctorow) is a popular sci-fi author who also provides his books for free on the Internet (so he has some cred when it comes to his beliefs on the abolishment of copyright.) He also was highly active with the Electronic Freedom Foundation which has fought for years to protect consumers or electronic media from ridiculous corporate extortion, and protect the legal rights of media users and bloggers.

I listened to some of his various interviews today, and found that he has some interesting points regarding the future of technology and ownership and copyright. Here, very loosely paraphrased but honest to the message, are some of what Cory talks about:
NPR interview
KRUU interview

< ♦> What happens to world capital when it’s not needed to start a business? When before, venture capitalists would invest a million dollars the first year, and then ten million the second year, and then get fifteen million back once the IPO is released? Now, you can start a company for ten thousand. What’s happening to all that capital? (He explores this in a story that has smaller companies who exist to use the legal system to wantonly leech capital off the corporate big dogs.)

< ♦> Today it’s as hard to copy bits as it ever will be. It will only become easier. Saying “How do we make copying harder?” is like saying “How do we make gravity suck us harder?” It’s ridiculous. What do we do in 3 years when every song in the world can fit on a hard drive you can buy for $100? In 5 years when every movie? in say 15 years when every image, song, movie, TV show ever made can fit on a hard drive for $100? In say 25 years when all that plus every genome can fit on a drive the size of a sugar cube for $100 and you can give them for Xmas gifts, that you power up by giving it a good shake?
We shouldn’t be trying to figure out how to prevent that world, but how do we live in that world!

< ♦> (In reference to three ancient ax heads he had the opportunity to view–the products of archaeological digs. Each from different eras over a period of 30,000 years and each nearly identical to the other.) 30,000 years of no technological progress. The people of that time may have had a “tomorrow,” but no “future.” Perhaps our first great invention was “the future.”

< ♦> There is no scarcity of human labor. How does that change or effect capital? How does this affect capitalism? When huge products can be created with such collaborative effort with such minute individual effort?
For example, Google ranks sites based on how many links connect back to a site. That is to say, the more links on the ‘net go back to a site makes that site get a better ranking. Google is taking advantage of all our efforts when we make a link to some site. Our minute efforts in aggregate has create the “shape of the Internet.”

< ♦> The “theatre of security” (a concept coined by someone else) where it’s a puppet show, all this security. It’s there to make us afraid, after all, why would we need all this security if there’s not some threat to secure us from; and it makes us feel safe because now we have this security. But it’s all a way to remove our liberties while leaving us not really secure at all. If we’re being asked to trade our liberty for security, then we should be sure we’re actually getting real security. (Although, I don’t think he’s at all advocating giving up liberty for security at all! His point is that it’s impossible to have real security.)

< ♦> DRM, the anti-copying technology, is predicated on the idea that the hardware you own (PC, DVD players, iPod’s, etc,) will now and then take instructions not from you, the owner, but from someone else who provided the media (the MP3 file, movie, PDF, etc.) It’s a harbinger of the world in which the machines control us and not we control the machines.
(This, I can’t really agree with! Because you bought the PC or DVD player, and own the player, doesn’t mean you by default should have total control of the media (you didn’t create yourself anyway) simply because it’s on your hardware. I believe the creator of the media has the right to prevent that media from being used and manipulated in a way the creator did not intend!)
There’s really only one good reason for anyone to create a technology that limits the use of the media. No one wakes up and says “I think instead of stealing music I’m going to buy it today so that I can do less with it.” The only reason for DRM is to lock a user into a proprietary system. Apple wants you to be locked into their product and unable to take your media to another product, and DRM makes that possible.

< ♦> The movie industry was basically begun by pirates. When film was first being made, the Edison Company, Thomas Edison, had a strangle-hold on the way film could be used and distributed with draconian rules. So people who wanted to make movies away from his tyranny moved basically nearly to Mexico: Los Angeles, away from New Jersey and Edison’s patent attorneys. The recording industry began the same way with the creation of piano rolls. Their attitude at the time was “to protect the artist, you must protect the inventor.” Today, the recording industry only wants to protect how they earn their living.
They get around the concept of ownership rights by saying when you “buy music” you’re not buying it, they’re leasing it to you. But the problem is, according to the law, when a record company leases music 50% of the revenue has to go to the artist–but on all these music transactions the companies are claiming them as “sales” to the artists for which they’re only required to pay the artist 8%.
Suing your fans business model is like the underwear stealing gnomes in “South Park” with the sign on the wall: Step 1: Steal all underpants. Step 2:______. Step 3: Profit. “Step 1: Take everyone who was a music fan and sue them into a hole and then treat everyone else like criminals by forcing them to agree to ridiculous terms. Step 2: Something happens. Step 3: A properly chaste and subdued public returns to the malls with credit card in hand to properly buy their music.”

< ♦> Copyright is useless anymore. Once art was created via patronage. Someone had to commission you for your art, usually the pope or royalty. Then copyright was supposed to be a way for art to be subsidized by anyone with money–the industrialists. We don’t need industrialists any longer: anyone can make art now, and share it. The entire purpose for copyright is no longer necessary.

The End Is Thigh! Er, Neigh!

(OK, another stupid title.)
A recent episode of Point of Inquiry has an interview with author, theologian, literature scholar, Robert M. Price (who, by the way, was a key member of the “Jesus Seminar,” which was a collection of theologians, historians, clergy, and scientists from various fields whose task it was to determine the levels of historicity of Jesus and the acts.) He has a new book coming out, which doesn’t have an entry on Amazon yet, regarding Christian views of “the end times”.

In this fascinating interview, he discusses why it’s quite likely the man called “Jesus” never actually existed–something I’ve discussed on my blog a few times. But also, he discusses the concept of eschatology and why this concept of “end times” is so important to Christians. He shows how various famous “end times” predictors like Jack van Impe and Hal Lindsey are constantly changing their interpretation of “prophesy” over the years and decades to try to make it fit contemporary events (as has been done for 2000 years–trying to show how current events are signs of the coming end.) How books like the Left Behind are a kind of “theological pornography” so to speak, in that they provide for people of an apocalyptic-lusting mindset to vicariously watch the events unfold on the page that they wish were happening in real life, for which they believe they’ll have front-row balcony seats in Heaven for. Price discusses how the general belief in the “end times” (e.g. the beliefs of certain end-times Middle East wars and the like) not only don’t particularly match Biblical scripture anyway (it’s a hybridization of war scenarios in Daniel and persecution philosophy of Revelations), but what is in the Bible regarding the apocalypse comes right out of pre-Hebrew Persian Zoroastrian belief and its three-headed dragon/emperor Aži Dahāka and later persecuting Roman imperial symbolism John plays upon in writing Revelations.

One of the reasons he says he does this, writes books and speaks on these subjects, is because he finds more and more people who “have grown up enough” to see that this stuff doesn’t make any sense, that there’s something “wrong” with these stories of Jesus–both past and present, and Price wants to show these people that there’s a mature way of viewing these things.
He discusses, as I’ve remarked on before, that he is a huge fan of Christianity. He has nothing against Christianity or belief, but simply fundamentalists who pound their fists and proclaim with complete certainty and no doubt the absolute accuracy and historicity of Scripture–and it’s those people he tries to counter.

The Tombinator

I’ve been avoiding commenting on the whole Cameron/Jacobovici crypt of Jesus thing because I was highly skeptical from the moment I’d heard about it (which, being a skeptic and a seemingly hostile debunker of Christianity and other organized religious theism’s, this supposed proof of a dead Jesus should have been good discussion.)

I could tell from the get-go this crypt thing was bunk:
http://time-blog.com/middle_east/2007/02/jesus_tales_from_the_crypt.html
Why? Because like nearly every “discovery” that turns out to be bogus (e.g. every cold fusion announcement) it’s announced in the media before any peer review. This tomb thing was being put forward by a journalist and Indiana Jone wanna-be, and a movie director (granted, a very good director–but I think Scientology’s Tom Cruise is a good actor but he’s also an absolute idiot as well.)

So, I didn’t want to bother with it, except the most recent episode of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe has an interview with anthropologist Ken Feder who basically says exactly what I thought: this is bad science. Science, good science, is not done via press releases. When discoveries are made you submit them for peer review and professional scrutiny first. You let the scientific community examine the evidence, examine the claims, do everything possible to prove you wrong. Only then after it withstands such blazing criticism, then you can announce the findings. Until then, all you have is wild speculation.

The core of Cameron/Jacobovici’s hypothesis about this being THE Jesus’ family’s tomb rests of probability. The probability that these particular names (a couple of which are actually not quite what they think they are,) would be in this one tomb. Statistically, supposedly, it’s around 1 in 600. That’s not proof of anything. They also had some expert at ancient writings and engravings confirm that the writings on the tomb were of the right time and place. Well, unfortunately, that’s not proof of anything either. Remember that ossiary of James, Jesus’ brother some years ago? (Another example of media release before evidence examination.) The writing on that was deemed authentic…except it wasn’t. Scientific examination showed that the writing was made centuries later and made to look older. Feder, on the podcast, mentions how a colleague of his who is an ancient engravings expert, told him that with the use of the Internet and computers today, a high schooler could produce forgeries that could fool him. People can be fooled…the oxygenation of molecular structures and rate of atomic decay can’t be faked.

Anyway, I mention this whole thing now mainly so I can mention the podcast, because more important than the tomb thing is how they talk about what science is and does, good from bad science, and science education. Check it out:
http://www.theskepticsguide.org/skepticsguide/podcastinfo.asp?pid=84
(btw, I LOVED “Titanic” and I hate people like one of the podcast’s co-hosts who dump on the movie because everyone knows how it ends. Oh, so, people shouldn’t see Westerns because we all know the West gets tamed? Should see war movies because we know the German’s lost? GAH! Movie’s aren’t good or bad because of whether you know how it’s going to end or not! “Titanic” was a great movie because it has a
story that’s independent of the ship sinking, and the incredible accuracy in the portrayal of the events (everything portrayed in the movie from what officers said to each other, the number of white flares shot, the look of the stair rail carvings, are accurate with the only exceptions being the way the back half tore and sunk and that’s only because of new evidence that came out since the film was made, and the merging of some of the ship’s officers into a couple of significant characters.) “Titanic” rocked. Nyah! …doesn’t make James Cameron any less of an idiot, though. He should stick to making movies and undersea research.)