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Brian Eno 3/13/2016
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Selection made on Version 7
Unlike the Enlightenment, where progress was analytic and came from taking things apart, progress in the Age of Entanglement is synthetic and comes from putting things together. Instead of classifying organisms, we construct them. Instead of discovering new worlds, we create them. And our process of creation is very different. Think of the canonical image of collaboration during the Enlightenment: fifty-five white men in powdered wigs sitting in a Philadelphia room, writing the rules of the American Constitution. Contrast that with an image of the global collaboration that constructed the Wikipedia, an interconnected document that is too large and too rapidly changing for any single contributor to even read.
And our process of creation is very different.
One of the issues hinted at here and very critical at present is the issue of authorship. Where does any given idea come from? Who is responsible for it and how should they be recompensed? How can we even begin to work that out?
There’s a lovely little book by an artist called Daniel Spoerri, called ‘The Topology of Chance’. It was published in the sixties*. In it he looks at the plate of food on the table in front of him and traces every particle - including plate and cutlery - further and further back. Where was the plate made? Where did the clay come from? How is clay made? etc. What’s so nice about it is that you realise that everything, even the most mundane thing, has roots going back and back to the dawn of time; and that almost every natural process somehow impacted on its development. The more I think about the genesis of ‘creative work’ the more I recall that book. Tracing where any piece of art or science comes from is astonishingly complex and ultimately futile - because even if you could name all the threads in that tapestry you can’t retrospectively assess the relative value of them. It’s chaos theory worked backwards. All of us who make our living from some notion of ‘ownership’ of ideas - like copyrights, for example - are starting to recognise this dilemma. Indeed, one of the big challenges of Entanglement is how we pay for things and get paid for them. It isn’t a trival question: I imagine that our solutions to that problem will entail some new kinds of thinking that may lead us to a whole body of new philosophical ideas - economics leading philosophy. Wouldn’t be the first time (whispers Karl Marx).
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Boris Anthony 3/14/2016
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A lovely example indeed here of how “zooming” in and out of problem spaces can give us different perspectives towards a resolution. If, for example, we stay within existing / prevalent consumerist/capitalist models, we may ask: “How do we ensure authors get a “ding!” at every sale?” Zooming up however, we may ask, for example, “Is that necessary if the author’s living wage is covered by the state or some other institution? As long as no one is profiting beyond recovery of costs and re-investment…” And as Mr. Eno says, nothing prevents us from finding new models at either level. In fact, I think we must.
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Ben Toth 3/24/2016
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‘What is an author?’ by Michel Foucault might be of interest - a short and thoughtful piece on the history of the idea of authorship. http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Foucault-AuthorFunction.html Elsewhere he once suggested that as an experiment all books should be published anonymously for a year or two to see what happened. Interesting, but impossible under the present formation of commercial publishing. On the academic publishing front the open access movement is struggling against big capatalist beasts such as Elsevier to give birth to a new way to circulate ideas.
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Kevin Ford 3/23/2016
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Brian, Kirby Ferguson produced a thoughtful and eloquent 4-part indie movie series that I think is related to what you mentioned above about the book, The Topology of Chance. This book is now on my list of things to read, but I wonder if Kirby knew of it when he made his series. Also related, three years ago I proposed a project for the Knight News Challenge that was inspired in part by Kirby’s series but mostly by Harvard Law Professor William Fisher’s CopyrightX course. I think there’s a whole lot of room for social experiments to study what you wrote: “…how we pay for things and get paid for them.” Flattr is one interesting alternative.
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Matt Nish-Lapidus 11/14/2016
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This also reminds me of the more pop-culture focused Connections TV series from the BBC. James Burke hosted and did a great job of telling the stories of contemporary objects that aren’t as modern as they seem.
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D.A. Wallach 5/30/2016
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I agree that attribution / authorship is a muddled concept and always has been. It’s interesting, even in low-tech formats, to compare the attribution models across media. In academia, citations in theory track the provenance of all key ideas and facts, whereas in recorded music, performance art, etc. there is no real analogue. Of course something approximating it is forced by the legal regimes around sampling in music, but nothing comparable exists for “conceptual sampling.” I’ve always thought it would be cool if an artist could annotate a soundcloud-like player with the sources/references behind particular moments.
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gabriel licina 4/10/2016
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In which case, all things are derivative and there is nothing new. Sounds dull.
Luckily, with new tools we can actually trace back the particles of clay. Not just in a theory kind of way, but in a legitimate carbon dating, molecular marker kind of way. Which is, one could say, a very new and different way of creating information. The article speaks of a non human method of design. While this, like every single thing ever, comes from the base matter of the universe, using that as a metric for makes everything inconsequential. Fun for philosophy, but not great for designing houses, or music, or whatever.
What’s even more interesting is that the copyright system can be seen to be a capitalist conclusion from this “all things are beholden to the source” mentality, which I believe you are pointing out. The solutions to these issues are probably not that new (even those most mundane things have roots), but are exposed in those “Gods of the Copy Book Headings” that Kipling spoke of.
This discussion is licensed under Creative Commons. It’s not a new idea. It’s called sharing. I learned that before I could walk. We’ve just spent a long being taught how to not do that.
So, maybe there is nothing new, but at this point, it is pretty different.