Intellectual Property and Privacy

For a long time I have been worried about the quickening pace of the decay of privacy in the modern world. At a ever-increasing rate, we seem to be losing the amount of information that we generate to governments and corporations and other groups. Perhaps my idea here is not original, but it occurred to me today that perhaps there is a connection between our loss of control over our intellectual property and the tightening of the clutches around the intellectual property of those same governments and corporations.

I believe that capitalism, like most economic-political systems before it, rewards selfishness above all. Because most people are not intrinsically perfectly selfish (anyone who has taken an economics course might find the humor in that phrasing), those few who are closest to being perfectly selfish find themselves kings of their respective hills made of cash. I don’t believe this is a particularly difficult position to defend, because it is the profit motive (selfishness) that capitalists believe is the driving force that causes all economic agents to work towards an idealistically perfect conclusion. Those who are the most selfish (those who place the highest priority on the profit motive) will inevitably be those most interested in attaining and retaining wealth.

That people have a varying array tendencies regarding selfishness is a huge problem for capitalism, and it explains why the economic elites (those whose profit motives are higher priorities than for the rest of us) seem to be looking to grab at the private property of the working class. What is most ingenious about this is that they are simultaneously tightening their grip around their own property. For instance, the latest FCC proposal that people have been in an uproar over is not really about net neutrality. The issues regarding the so-called “fast lanes” is merely a red herring. The true purpose of the new regulations are to quickly usher in new restrictions on whether content can be blocked. If you look at the commission documentation, the FCC repeatedly writes that no “lawful” content may be blocked. This sounds good, yes? Until we realize the purpose of this. The implication that no lawful content may be blocked is that content deemed unlawful may be blocked. These new FCC regulations are merely a strange Trojan horse for SOPA/PIPA. And they will win this time, because now the media are playing their game. Moreover, while free speech remains largely intact at present, how can we trust that it will remain so in the future? How can we trust that the government and the ISPs will not block information that is in any way dissenting or damning?

I’m a little unfocused in this post, at least partially because I haven’t written in a while and I have a lot of thoughts, but also because I am convinced that this intellectual property stuff is bigger than it seems. There might be big benevolent players in the game (I believe that Google, Apple, Facebook, and a few others are actually on the right side for now), but eventually that might change. As long as there is greater wealth to be found from the quiet pilfering of people’s private information, there will be new temptations for the powerful. Such temptations rarely remain just so.

Intellectual Property and Privacy

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