Archive for March, 2012

My response to Penn Jillette, Libertarians and compassion…

March 16, 2012

I happened to see a quote on Facebook from an article by Penn Jillette on CNN Opinion. In it he made the following statement:

It’s amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we’re compassionate we’ll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.

It resonated with me as something an Ayn Rand acolyte might say. So, here’s the response I left on my friend’s Facebook post (with edits and corrections):

Wow! Penn sounds like an Ayn Rand acolyte. I sure am glad these kinds of ideas are not mainstream, at least not today. Perhaps if enough people like Penn educate enough children who become adults and choose to take care of themselves and all those around them who are less “gifted” or explicitly disabled, then and ONLY then would what he (and Rand) is saying might work.

Contribution, either chosen, obligated or forced, has been the story of man since long and deep into is tribal ancestory. The idea that there is now enough excess capacity such that individualism is even possible to hold socially and psychologically is a testament to the previous systems’ ability to elevate homo-sapien’s survival.

Luckily, the very thing that psychologically drives Penn (and Rand) is the very thing that diminishes their ability to generate and sustain social cohesion to the point of their being politically irrelevant. There’s an equilibrium between socialism and individualism. Slide too much to either end of that spectrum and one becomes psychologically incongruent and dysfunctional. I don’t know about Penn, but Rand was clearly at the dysfunctional control-freak end of the individualism end of the spectrum.

Penn gets to say what he says only because so many people before him fought to survive so that he now floats in the excess resource capacity to say it without ever having to directly experience the full consequences of his assertions. I’m glad he’s an entertainer. It’s provides the most elegant ironic background to his “serious philosophical statement”. {smirk}

I find his “moral credit” and “joy” assertions are arrogant. He can assert those values for himself. However, who is he to claim they are universal values and then claim the “proper way to evaluate” both morally and joyfully. What a tool.


My evolutionary biology response to a copyright commentary…

March 1, 2012

I was reading a blog post titled “How You’re Breaking the Law Every Day (and What You Can Do About It)” and decided to post a comment. My comment hasn’t shown up over there yet. However, here’s what I ended up writing (with a couple of edits to correct spelling and grammar and better clarify points):

It’s so awesome to see so many commenters posting who have no skill to understand or even make the distinctions in the above article. And worse, the simpleminded auto-response zealots that incorrectly keep repeating the mantra “copyright infringement is theft”.

There’s are specific legal reasons the proper term is copyright “infringement” and not copyright “theft”. It’s because infringement doesn’t actually “harm” the owner by depriving him of the specific property. IT CANNOT as he still has his original as I walk away with a copy. Theft is defined to be when I take a physical thing from an owner and walk away with it. The owner no longer has the thing. Physical things are by nature scarce. Digital things are by nature abundant.

Or, try this on for size. We are rapidly getting close to the point where we will have matter replicators. We already have 3D printers (which is getting damn close). There will be a day where I can make a copy of your bike and then ride off on my copy. And you won’t be any the wiser as you will still have your original when you return to the bike stand to ride off on your copy. Now that’s physical goods abundance.

Or take one step further back. All of nature that is organic is based on profuse perfect copying with very slight modification over time (i.e. evolution). IT’S THE NATURE OF ALL ORGANISMS, OF ALL LIFE! It’s copy all the way down. So, big surprise that the emergent phenomena of the DNA replicators’ (that would be us humans) thoughts, i.e. memes, are entirely based upon profuse copying with very slight modification.

Attempting to stop humans from copying and modifying is to defy their basic biological and psychological nature. Doing so by government force violates a basic personal and psychological boundary of an individual. It also violates the basic boundary of a culture of such individuals. It’s what’s breaking the culture of the USA, TODAY!

And THAT is why, at the most fundamental level, the government enforced monopolies of copyright and patent are ultimately undermined and will never be successfully fully regulated. It requires all the participants to willing deny their basic “copyism” nature, something they cannot and will not do.

It’s hard to put more simply than this. I AM COPY! WE ARE COPY!