explicitClick to confirm you are 18+

Intellectual property and scarcity in the digital world.

RedlegMay 27, 2021, 8:36:36 PM

                Scarcity does not exist in the digital world. We continue to apply the rules of the physical world to the digital realm, and the two realities are so different from one another, that if you applied the laws of scarcity and ignore the creations of the mind in the digital realm, there will be no hope for human growth in both wealth and progress. 


                While talking with AceArchist on Twitter I found a soft spot in the armor of Anarchism, Intellectual Property. Wait, hold on. Before you get on your soap box and scream at the screen “There is no such thing as intellectual property!” please let me plead my case. In the physical world, I have very much been persuaded that IP law is horrific. It is something I am willing to concede since it isn’t something that matters as much as the central top down control in every other aspect of our lives from the federal and state governments. So where am I going with this?


                Just as statists argue that police keep us safe by enforcing laws, thus increasing liberty, which is obviously wrong on its face, they argue that IP law keeps individuals ideas safe from replication. This is a very fundamental argument between minarchists as I once was, and anarchists as I now consider myself. If I write a book, and release it, I have a jump in the market. Even if someone else buys a copy, owns a printing press, reproduces the book keeps my name one it or even puts their name on it, which is of course fraud and immoral, they require time and physical resources giving the advantage to the original publisher. While this may seem horrible, the alternative would be some form of force by the government, and since I think the government is evil, this is something we all have to contend with, even if we do believe in IP. 


                Where does this translate to the digital world? Well point number one is, there are no physical resources, money, or time really needed to replicate digital work. It is often as simple as copy and paste.  I have made this point before that incentives matter for human development. If, in the digital world, there is no incentive to get the jump on the market with a new digital product, then why make them? Why spend months or years making the most bad ass video game you can, only to sell half or one quarter of the possible market share because your first customers all copied your game to their platform and sell it at half price? I think this is immoral and lazy, and those who would defend it are not people I would want in my life or near my family as their moral framework is fucked. Where does this tie in?


                The only tether of the physical world to the digital world is energy and storage. Once a system is set up, it can be maintained with minimal human interaction. Sure server maintenance is a thing, but all servers require it. Once those three things are in place what comes from it is infinitely available, replicable, useable, and your only gates are bandwidth and access. There are no shortage of digital 1s and 0s. There can never be a shortage of 1s and 0s. So why do we apply the rules of scarcity in the digital world? Why then would those who can take this infinite resource and turn it into things we can use not have some form of assurance that they can be paid for these digital products. 


                In the real world, labor itself has no intrinsic value. I can lift a rock over my head all day and not make a dime. Your labor only makes money if it creates something valuable like a good or a service. The value of these goods and services are set by the market and how resource intensive they are. In the digital world services require people, and those services have value and are scarce based on the number of people who can do said service. Programs, games, apps, and any other technology associated with coding is infinitely replicable and therefore worthless in and of itself, much like fiat currency. So if we accept that in the digital world, 1s and 0s are in fact not scarce and are infinite, then the skill to utilize this binary language is what is valuable. This means you can work for someone else and receive a salary for providing a service, but without recognition of the intellectual or digital property, it would be very difficult to ever become an entrepreneur in the digital space. 


                Well Redleger, in AnCapistan there wouldn’t be any laws anyway! Yes I know but there would be rules. I’m not talking about government being responsible for anything, but I would like to be convinced how in a post scarcity digital world, the rules of morality that govern the physical world should be applied when these two worlds are so divergent. When we make stealing peoples work part of our moral framework in the digital world, how are we not thieves? The resource itself is not what’s valuable, the work is. ( No I am not a Marx sympathizer, don't straw man me) The work can’t make money because it creates a product that can’t be capitalized on even though it's useful and solves a problem. There are possible solutions though. NFT and block chain technology may be the answer. But with all technologies that seem fool proof, someday there will be a way around it. I don’t have the answer, but to my fellow Anarchists my question is this; what is the answer? What is the solution? Do we apply a framework meant for the physical world and claim moral superiority, or accept the literature from the 50s we all hold so dear isn’t as relevant as it once used to be? I don’t know but I am leaning towards the latter. 


In Liberty