Monthly Archives: January 2012

If Your Hands Were on My Trademark I’d Smack Them

I'm totally sticking it to the man using this.

I recently replaced my copyright disclaimer on my blog with a Creative Commons license. Coincidentally, my friend Seth, who has been publishing Buzzgrinder for over a decade, ran into a trademark issue with the buzzgrinder brand name and the twitter.com/buzzgrinder account. It turns out someone had secured the buzzgrinder name on twitter before, and Seth had to contact Twitter and wield the trademark stick in the air to gain ownership of that account.

The concept of IP and the argument against it are complicated and it’s been hot news with the recent SOPA debacle. The entire Buzzgrinder incident brought to mind what the libertarian “solution” would be, sans the state monopoly on laws concerning non-physical property.

Entities practice some form of extra-legal ownership customs already, like what we have with Creative Commons. Twitter even has something in place with their “verified account” disclaimer, and Facebook does as well.

But what would’ve happened in a free market, when Seth wouldn’t have had a legal trademark on Buzzgrinder? For one, since Seth’s name has been associated with the Buzzgrinder name for so long, he carries the reputation of ownership with him. He would be able to prove to twitter, through ownership of the buzzgrinder.com domain, that he “owns” Buzzgrinder. Twitter could face a tarnished reputation if they, as owners of the physical servers that house twitter.com, allow some schmoe to squat on the Buzzgrinder twitter account. Twitter can simply hand over ownership to Seth.

This sort of thing happens already, without state involvement. Although there is some question as to whether or not people can own a common design, remember and consider the Etsy vs. Urban Outfitters state medallion controversy. People just “know it when they see it”, if something has been intellectually misappropriated, and people—the market—respond in kind.

Another thing to remember is that regulation is axiomatic. It will always happens—what matters is the origin of the regulation. If state involvement in intellectual property is removed, something is going to replace it in one form or another. It’s right-brain exercise to think up answers to decentralized, non-coerced IP “laws”. But imagination only goes so far. With billions and billions of people in the world, there’s no telling what market forces will come up with.

In Seth’s case, all this didn’t matter since Josh from Buzzgrinder had registered the twitter account. Smiley faces all around!

More reading (or watching) on free market IP solutions:
The Case Against IP: A Concise Guide by Stephen Kinsella
Intellectual Property at Mises.org
Rethinking IP Completely by Stephen Kinsella
The Evils of Intellectual Property by Jeffrey Tucker

Disclaimer: I write for Buzzgrinder. There you go.

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An Inexhaustive, Scatterbrained Post on Atheism and Science Fiction

Only non-believers believe in atoms.

I’ve thought before that, sociologically speaking, people look to attribute God’s qualities to other phenomena, like the universe, politics, aesthetics/art, or science. People much smarter than me have undoubtedly come across this before, like Voltaire when he said that if God didn’t exist it would be necessary to invent him.

I like that quote because it can stoke paranoid atheist fervor and gets religious people who are too stupid to entertain hypotheticals in a huffy, but the ingenious thing is that it’s an assertion, not an opinion. If someone doesn’t believe in God, then either because of our sensus divinitatis or because of humanity has been culturally entrenched with religious belief, the non-believer has to find the qualities of the divine we “sense” epistemically and apply them to something else. It’s not just a new morality from the demise of Christianity that Nietzsche described that we can reconstruct. It can be everything else.

The archetypal elements of all religions—flawed human existence, salvation, eternal life, a transcendant being—leak out and find their way into the cracks of some other construct. The more religion-minded of us might apply it to the atheism of Buddhism while the more secularized of us have an array of choices, one them being scientism.

Idolizing unscientific phenomena—even the morality found in natural law, if it impedes advancement—is mortal sin, religion is the devil, the apotheosis of the human soul (the Judeo-Christian soul or the classical Greek version, it’s sometimes hard to tell) is reached through arcane hypercomputerization, academics are the priests and the classroom is the temple. The paradox of induction, the dilemma of direct and indirect realism, for starters, which are written into the scientific method are articles of faith for scientists.

Just read Clarke’s Odyessey series, or Ghost in the Shell, Asimov, Disch, Ellison, Heinlein, Wells. I haven’t touched all of those but what I have so far is very telling.

For further, more organized, reading:
Atheism and Science Fiction at the Science Fiction Observer
Science fiction author asks, why are atheists who write space operas supposed to know best whether God exists? at Uncommon Descent
Does reading science fiction predispose people to atheism? at Wintery Knight
Why Reading Fiction Should Matter to Atheists at Friendly Atheist
Richard Dawkins Is Killing SF! at Jack of Ravens

Atom doodle by tonybaize.

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A Very Clear Post About the Definition of Religious Faith

"Knowledge? Alls I know is that I'm skeptical of it."

Whenever you want to get a lot of response from religious people, ask something basic yet broadly-defined and colored by perspective. At the Christian Libertarians group on facebook, someone asked what faith was. The responses were varied as you’d expect with such a word with varied usage. I was surprised there wasn’t the guy that said, “Anything other than what the Bible says is wrong!”, but if you read carefully someone came close.

Here was my response to the question:

‎”Faith” is any a priori proposition, something we use as a premise for inferences. Other people have mentioned something similar. “Religious faith” is an assumption about truth concerning the supernatural, i.e., “God exists”, “God is a blue octopus”, or “God doesn’t exist”.

Usually these assumptions cannot be proofed true or false (else they would be conclusions and not assumptions); they are subject to a rational actor’s internal epistemological workings and not demonstrable.

Of course, now I that I read it, I’m second guessing it. Religious faith can be demonstrably true or false but that is dependent on another actor’s “internal epistemological workings”. Person A can demonstrate—through, say, the presentation of evidence via reliable authority—that a defeating belief for Person’s B belief in God is wrong. To wit, if Person B disbelieves in God primarily because they believe Christians killed millions of witches in the Medieval period, though it is a non-sequitur, Person B might come to a belief if Person A presents them with evidence by authority that the “9 million women” belief is out-of-this-world untrue.

In this scenario, Person A isn’t dissolving a belief about God and replacing it with another belief about God, Person A is removing a barrier to further epistemic action such that Person B, believing God doesn’t exist because of an historical mass murder, is now able to exercise better epistemic due diligence concerning God’s existence.

I still somewhat maintain, as Plantinga does, that beliefs about God—any belief save for maybe strong agnosticism— is a priori, like sense perception or the rules of logic, unable to be arrived to rationally (or scientifically, if you really want to shoehorn the religion vs. science dichotomy). In this way, most beliefs about God are unscientific* yet not in the way skeptics like to frame the debate.

*An interesting note about unscientific belief. 99% of what we believe about what science has taught humanity is taken a priori (faithfully), via the reliable authority of scientists and journalists. Unless we do the (instrument aided) sense perception and inductive logic** that entails experiments ourselves, reliable authority is as close as we’ll ever be.

**Don’t forget Hume’s infamous problem of induction, a further element of faith involved with knowledge brought about by the scientific method.

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More on Alien Invasions, Moron Alien Invasions

Almost a year ago I posted about the typical alien invasion scenario one sees in sci-fi books and films, and how those scenarios were unlikely versus possible non-coercive interactions. In a Stefan Molyneux speech I was listening to the other day I was surprised to hear him mention it, though it was only as an aside. Below, he starts in on it at the 0:28:02 mark.

The thinking is sound but I actually think he is a little bit off. If the aliens do have interstellar travel their government could still have some presence on arrival because their state could just appropriate (steal) the privately-developed technology. I don’t think that a state-controlled ship would necessarily instigate war but the likelihood is far greater than if it was commerce-controlled.

It’s pretty simple. Assuming the aliens have a similar psychology and preferences as we do, violence isn’t just going happen because Civilization A meets Civilization B. Think of it this way: if you’re anything like me—and let’s hope you’re not—you simply don’t go about destroying weaker things you come across, just because you come across them, and we don’t go stealing property that isn’t ours. It just doesn’t happen, or happens very rarely, and even without the state there will be repercussions. If I come across Widget A and I believe it will sate a preference of mine, coercive methods of acquiring Widget A are going to be at the bottom of the list for many reasons.

Of course, the paradox here is powerful: fiction is inherently about the unusual, with science fiction more so, and if we are expecting a sci-fi scenario to play out in real life all we have to rely on are our expectations, which have been conditioned by sci-fi itself. If we’re relying on that we’re going to expect what’s not likely to happen at all.

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A Dead Italian Philosopher Says You Can’t Finish a Novel

If Zeno's not in hell because of this, I will put him there.

One way struggling artists assuage a stunted career is to summon da Vinci Leonardo’s “art isn’t completed but abandoned” quote. Its dogged overuse has erased its profundity and replaced it with irritation as it’s thrown in with other quotes on facebook profiles to justify unwanted, and sometimes unacceptable, behavior.

But I’d like to take it a step back and refer critics of a writer’s perpetual works in progress to Zeno and his dichotomy paradox. In this application, novels aren’t abandoned because of some self-destructive unworkability with the plot or because the writer over-affects the tortured artist sensibility; it’s because novels cannot be finished, even published ones. Before all its intended words are written, half of the words must be written. And before that half, half of that, ad infinitum. Not to mention that when it needs to be edited it also needs to be edited halfway…

Therefore, no novels really exist; they’re just partial transcripts of narratives left on the side of the road that just happened to catch the eye of an agent in need of a paycheck. This situation is actually better for aspiring writers…you’re undoubtedly lazy, incompetent, and uninspired, but those aren’t the reasons you work in progress suffers from crippling incompletion. You’re just up against an insurmountable roadblock of ontology. And you don’t need to be an artist to experience the infuriating sadism of self-appointed tasks in artistry.

So, next time a family member ask how far along your novel is, the correct answer, categorically, is “nearly halfway”. Any other response is really giving Zeno the middle finger.

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