Monday, November 10, 2008

The Means of Innovation may trump the Means of Production

"The proletariat seizes the power of the state and first of all transforms the means of production into the property of the state." -State and Revolution

So here is the muse ( and the reader is expected to know the gist of Marxism, Lawrence Lessig, GPL and creative commons licensing ): The Soviets transformed Russia from an illiterate peasant class agrarian and artisan culture to a literate heavy industry culture in just a few years. Skipping the misery of millions as an indictment of the regime, I'm selecting the industrial output as an indictment. Russia produced big, clunky, undependable crap. Always inferior to anything made in the West or Japan/Korea.

Over in another part of the world, almost immediately after the fall of the Soviets, a new form of human called "geeks" created a computer operating system and ancillary programs, then big cross-platform scripting frameworks, that changed every game of man. The output was tangible and definable in some ways, but the epiphenomenon was what everyone knew was the remarkable aspect. The epiphenomenon was innovation.

The proletariat can nationalize a few cranes and the port, oil, and coal, but my musing is that the means of innovation is the goose laying the golden egg. And those without that goose have a less vibrant or resilient lifestyle.

3 comments:

Lord Rybec said...

So in other words, if the government controlled the innovation, rather than the means of production, they would have far more power than if they controlled the production, but not the innovation.

I agree with this to a degree. As with the production, if the government doesn't use the innovation effectively, they would be in just as poor condition as the Soviets with their poorly managed production. However, if the production was managed well, it would give far more power than poorly managed innovation.

The point were innovation wins out is where both are managed well. Well managed innovation is worth far more than well managed production.

So would you agree that with current copyright and patent laws, the U.S. might be categorized as the poorly managed innovation?

Effectively, the U.S. government does control innovation in some degree with patent laws. However, their poor control and management allows organizations to actually use patent laws to stifle innovation, rather than to encourage and support it. (As was the original intent...how ironic.)

So, I submit that the U.S. is similar to the USSR in the U.S.'s treatment of innovation, as to the USSR's treatment or production.

LanceMiller said...

"So would you agree that with current copyright and patent laws, the U.S. might be categorized as the poorly managed innovation?"

Yes.

The Serpent Lord said...

Until Cultural Imperialists in Hollywood and Silicon Valley hijacked the conversation with their "Intellectual Property" disinformation campaign, the United States had the most productive copyright and patent system in the world:

US Patents have just about right lifecycle to promote innovation in industrial process, but treating computer algorithms like industrial processes hinders innovation. Hopefully the backlash against business method patents will expand to include software patents too.

US Copyright is simple, universal and automatic. We don't have Europe's "moral rights" restrictions (which do not provide any extra incentive to innovate.) We have the Fair Use clause and the Public Domain, including everything the government produces. Not all countries have this.

Current obstacles to innovation in the US include: the difficulty of starting very small businesses with big mortgages, student loans, medical bills, etc.; concerns about software patents; uncertainty about future regulations (especially concerning carbon emissions); licensing ghettos (mutually incompatible free licenses); businesses with lock-in technology dependency schemes (Windows, DRM); the criminalization of business law (onerous copyright infringement fines, DMCA.)