23 January 2011

But, But the Constitution Says…


Innovation has always been a group activity. The myth of the lone genius having a eureka moment that changes the world is indeed a myth. Most innovation is the result of long hours, building on the input of others. Ideas spawn from earlier ideas, bouncing from person to person and being reshaped as they go. If you’re comfortable with the language of memes, you could say a healthy meme needs an ecosystem not of a single brain but of a network of brains. That’s how ideas bump into other ideas, replicate, mutate, and evolve.
Several authors have recently taken on this subject. Henry Chesbrough warns companies to adopt “open innovation,” Eric von Hippel speaks of democratizing innovation, showing how, for example, the kite-surfer community outinnovated the manufacturers that were serving it, and Michael Farrell describes “collaborative circles,” demonstrating that throughout history the best creativity has happened when groups of artists, reformers, writers, or scientists connected regularly with one another.

One of the reasons I oppose IP is because it is counterproductive.  I know, I know, the constitution basically says that patents and copyrights are necessary to ensure that people have the incentive to invent and innovate.  Unfortunately, the reality is that open systems do a better job of showing openness and innovation.

Microsoft provides the perfect example of this with its latest OS, Windows 7.  I was one of thousands of people who got to test the beta and the release candidate.  This was the most open Microsoft had been with its software, save for the recently released Office 2010.  Unsurprisingly, Windows 7 is remarkably superior to Vista, its predecessor, and is in my opinion the best Windows OS ever.

Even then, Windows 7 is still inferior to the Ubuntu distro of Linux.  Linux is an open source OS, and works far better than either Snow Leopard or 7 can currently hope to.  It is a completely free and open system, and happens to be superior to the aforementioned closed-system OSs.

Hopefully, then, you can now see that the utilitarian defense of IP is mostly tripe.  Innovation and invention require freedom, which is not truly available when inventors are scared of lawsuits and legal fees eating up whatever profits they may make off their inventions and creations.  It’s time to get rid of this monster.

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