Showing posts with label abundancy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abundancy. Show all posts
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What will happen if the world's population go down?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Lower land prices, higher labor prices, said Pete Alcorn. Surely, it will bring tremendous changes to social system: land reform, democratization and the rise of middle class. Alcorn suggest us to move beyond malthusian economy and pay attention to the tendency of population decrease.

In previous posts we have discussed a little about post-scarcity economics, which is a by-product of Molecular Manufacturing (MM). It may turn out that even without MMworld's population growth may decrease to negative within one century.

The reason for decreasing population may vary. In the past, it can happen because of wars. Now it seems unlikely. So plague -- such as virulent influenza viruses -- could be a scenario. Another scenario would be a relatively successful health and social programs which increases longevity but turned population growth into negative.

See Alcorn's talk here:

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Nanofactory licensing

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Michael Anissimov wrote a very cool piece on nanofactory regulation:
A primary concern for the development of civilian and commercial nanofactories is the buildup of NanoTrash - cheaply mass-manufactured products made of mostly diamond and empty space. Avoiding NanoTrash while preserving our freedom to design and create will be a great challenge of the early nanotech era. For starters, each nanofactory user should have a personal matter and energy budget determined by a safety authority. These limits should be variable based on product class and user profession. For example, someone that works at a hospital should have a larger energy budget when it comes to manufacturing medical products. In the same way that it’s illegal for just anyone to randomly practice medicine, not just anyone should be permitted to manufacture large quantities of painkillers, syringes, or scalpels.
The idea is to limit and allocate matter and energy budget per person. I guess this means that it operates more like a "license" than a "right". Note that when we talk about right, then the general rule is 'you are allowed to do anything unless it is prohibited'. But when we talk about license, the general rule is 'you are prohibited to do anything unless it is allowed'. For example a driving license: you may not drive unless you have a license.

Who has the power to allows and restricts? Of course, it's the authorities job. The general system in today's licensing-cycle may then be applied: granting of licenses, monitoring of licenses, warning, suspension of license, and finally, revocation of license. Also, this means that we need to consider the types of the licenses. Individual license? Corporate license? Are the licenses transferrable (Can I give my quotas to third parties)? Can parties aggregate their quotas? etc.

Regulating matter may be relatively easier than regulating energy intake. Authorities can regulate matter at the upstream level if they are presented as blocks. But regulating energy may not be that easy. As I have noted in my previous post, even the present day nanotechnology will make it possible for lay people to generate energy. Thus, the general rule in current energy law is: you can consume as much as energy it takes as long as you can either generate it or pay for it. It would be interesting to see that the rule is reversed. Energy is not scarce but they need to be allocated for security reasons. I guess -- for environmental reason -- energy consumption must be limited anyway.

I've been imagining that the licensing will come in the same bundle with the purchase of nanofactory. This licensing discussion is a good start to prepare proto-regulation for future nanotechnology. Another important step would be in designing the authority.

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Original position and veil of ignorance in Secondlife

Friday, December 15, 2006

Posner had previously told that secondlife looks more like a benign authoritarianism in a way, due to linden's leadership. But if one carefullly examines the moves of liberation organisation such as SLLA (Secondlife's Liberation Army), one can see that there is a magna charta and bill of rights baragaining now in progress. So, that's a hope of future democracy. People even have started to draft a concept for a constitutional court in secondlife (Rube Goldberg's image):

Opinio Jurist made an intriguing post:
And if one wanted to leave Second Life and create a new utopian virtual world, it would be a great place to test John Rawls' idea of a social contract and the original position. Although no one has done it to my knowledge, during the establishment of a new Rawlsian virtual world, each individual could be in a veil of ignorance about their avatar. But what they do know is that they will not get to choose their avatar, because in the Rawlsian virtual world someone else would choose it for them. How should such a world be structured in light of that lack of choice?
But there could be a problem in drafting the basic constitutional text (apart from the terms of use) as Rawlsian veil of ignorance may not apply one hundred per cent. Wealth, race, citizenship and social status are already pre-determined. The basic idea of avatar is exactly in choosing what will we become in the new world, whereas, in real world people cannot choose to be born in certain family, race or nationality. However, there still some uncertainties in secondlife which can be used as Rawls' "veil of ignorance". Non programmers or lazy people could become a second class citizen, therefore, their rights needs to be maximized in accordance with the maximin rule.

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Posner: Eventually there will be an international law of virtual worlds

In his talk in second life, Judge Richard Posner (JRP) said that we might have international law governing the virtual worlds. Here's a cite:

JRP: A currency is legitimate in the usual sense if it is legal tender-- i.e., you can't refuse it as a means of payment. So you can have a legitimate currency within a virtual world, but you could not compel people outside it to accept virtual world dollars in payment for goods or services.

Skadi Nordwind: The corporation still resides in the US.

JRP: Good question, but it arises in ordinary law--accident at sea, etc.--so there is an international law of admiralty. Eventually there will be an international law of virtual worlds.

Wow. This is almost similar to my opinion that we might have Convention on the Law and Jurisdiction Applicable to Virtual Societies in 2040. I would like now to rescind my opinion and resuggest to have it in, at the latest, 2015 (Guess why "2015"...). This is a quote from my original post titled Jurisdiction in online games:
What if there are disagreement between states on its taxation? Well, no other ways but to resolve this in a Treaty. And who knows, maybe as a part of that Treaty, online gaming societies can create their own version of body of law, independent of any state. This way they can refer their dispute to their own rules, interpret agreement in accordance with their own usage and customs, settle their problems at their own virtual court and enforce them with their own cyber police. A truly sui-generis legal community.
Custom, that's the keyword! That custom will evolve into law. I have said that virtual societies are unique as they:
  1. Develop their own customs, usages and traditions
  2. In the future, their "GNP" could be greater than a state
  3. Are in the process of developing their own dispute settlement process
  4. Are developing their own sense of citizenship, rights and obligations
With regards to custom, judge posner said:
JRP: The servers are solid, but not the software. The way law historically develops is from custom. I can imagine customs emerging from interactions among avatars, and then Linden codifying the customs, as laws, that seem best to regulate the virtual world.
What legal reporter usually do is codifying custom into codes. Well, why not start codifying it now? What are the custom enforced among avatars? Let's start codifying it and later we can make the draft convention (in a few years). We can do it through wikis if you want.

The transcript of the talk is available here.

(Hat Tip to Denise Howell)

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Jurisdiction in online game

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

"When disputes arise over in-world fraud or avatars attacking avatars, for example, what law should prevail?" That was the question asked by Wired in its interesting article about the Terra Nova Symposium.
To Greg Lastowka, a panelist and assistant professor of law at Rutgers School of Law, the virtual-world governance landscape boils down to two categories: internal and external views of governance. "The ultimate governance of virtual worlds is the state," Lastowka said. "The law doesn't treat virtual worlds as any different. The state is not going to accept" virtual worlds being treated as autonomous regions."
Although similarly transboundary, online game is "beyond" international and transnational law. Here's the reason why shutting off the computer and surrender the case to a state may not be enough:
  1. They develop their own customs, usages and traditions
  2. In the future, their "GNP" could be greater than a state
  3. They are in the process of developing their own dispute settlement process
  4. They are developing their own sense of citizenship, rights and obligations
What if there are disagreement between states on its taxation? Well, no other ways but to resolve this in a Treaty. And who knows, maybe as a part of that Treaty, online gaming societies can create their own version of body of law, independent of any state. This way they can refer their dispute to their own rules, interpret agreement in accordance with their own usage and customs, settle their problems at their own virtual court and enforce them with their own cyber police. A truly sui-generis legal community.

It's a no joke. Howbout a Convention on the Law and Jurisdiction Applicable to Virtual Societies for 2040? ;)

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Secondlife's copybot, nanofactory and the future model of constitution

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The economic downfall of a system can be caused by a machine that can copy everything. That is the lesson we get from online game, secondlife. And the remedy? Sue the software developer under DMCA. I consider that to be a bad option, and I will tell you why.

Secondlife's Constitution (read: Terms of Service) regulates:

3.2 You retain copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to Content you create in Second Life, to the extent that you have such rights under applicable law. However, you must make certain representations and warranties, and provide certain license rights, forbearances and indemnification, to Linden Lab and to other users of Second Life.

Users of the Service can create Content on Linden Lab's servers in various forms. Linden Lab acknowledges and agrees that, subject to the terms and conditions of this Agreement, you will retain any and all applicable copyright and other intellectual property rights with respect to any Content you create using the Service, to the extent you have such rights under applicable law.

This was a post at the official secondlife blog:
Today I met with a large group of Residents, members of the Sellers Guild, to talk about the implications of a recently-developed LibSL product called CopyBot. CopyBot allows the user to create a replication of an object, including textures, that is fully permissive. Needless to say this product has caused tremendous worry among content creators who want to understand how its use may possibly affect their business. In particular, they are concerned about theft of their creations, and the potential for unscrupulous people to undercut their prices and essentially take away their business...
Merely copying something doesn’t mean that a copyright violation has occurred. The law discusses ‘fair use’, for example, as one type of copying that is not a violation. If you DO think someone has copied something you made and is violating your copyright by profiting from the copying then you do have the option of using the DMCA process to file a complaint.
I have not hear any case where online game disputes are brought to a court, and the decision is enforced. In my last blog post, I refer to a story in which the court decide not to enforce an oral agreement pertaining the sale and purchase of a virtual sword. However, if brought to a court, the current copybot case is slightly different to the case I mentioned earlier, as it deals with copyright, something that is adhered in a real world.

Copybot is a software provided by Libsecondlife. Its purpose is altruistic, the program itself is open-sourced. Libsecondlife applies disclaimer which exempts liabilities from the utilization of its software. Although Libsecondlife does not directly infringe copyright, it could still be held liable under contributory infringement. Contributory infringement is a form of direct infringement in which, a party is aware that (1) there is an infringing activity, (2) it provides assistance or inducement for the infringement. Contributory infringement usually occurs when a party uploads serial numbers or providing a website to upload/download unauthorized serial numbers.

However, this may not be exactly the case with Libsecondlife as they only provide a hack software to be used outside the game itself, via a third party channel. The only problem is that, players are using the software in an infringing manner. So, although Libsecondlife is acquittable to contributory infringement, the case is "thin".

Nanotech expert has been calling the falling down phenomenon of a system due to the birth of abundancy as "disruptive abundance". It is feared that when nanofactory is available for free, then the existing system could collapse. Some experts has suggested to apply artificial scarcity in order to prevent the disruption. This is created either by restricting the ownership of nanofactory or providing technical restrictions to productions.

The fundamental difference between secondlife and future application of MNT is of course, in second life, disputed parties can log off their computer, get back to the real world and settle their dispute in a court. In the future MNT society, there is no way to log off.
Now, how are we going to settle our dispute? The only way of settling the dispute is by referring to our own rules of the game, the Constitution of the post-MNT society. What would the constitution look like? I don't know.

It would be great if parties in the second life disputes settle their case out of court, inside their own virtual world. We shall see, would they be able to settle their own problem or not? Can they use their rationality and refer the case to their own Constitution (read: Terms of Service)? I would suggest that they form their own internal dispute settlement mechanisms. I want to know how it work, as the results can be used to model the legal system of the future societies. If Secondlife citizens fail to solve their dispute and would need a court settlement, then it would be depiction of our future society: we will fail in settling our dispute and would require some extra terrestrial help (which of course, will never arrive).

When arguing about the existence of a law in international relation, Hugo Grotius said in latin: ibi societas, ubi ius. When there is society, there is law. When there is international society, there is an international law. When there is a virtual society, there has to be a "virtual" law.

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The Law of online gaming

Monday, November 6, 2006

A news from MSNBC, one year ago:
BEIJING - A Shanghai online game player who stabbed a competitor to death for selling his cyber-sword has been given a suspended death sentence, which in effect means life imprisonment, state media said on Wednesday. The case had created a dilemma in China where no law exists for the ownership of virtual weapons. Qiu Chengwei, 41, stabbed competitor Zhu Caoyuan in the chest after he was told Zhu had sold his "dragon sabre", used in the popular online game, "Legend of Mir 3", the China Daily said.
Sounds crazy but, that's reality.... (or is it not?) Oh well, can't really tell the difference these days. This raises a question. People can be criminalized for killing, there's no debate on it. But what about stealing virtual things? Here's what actually happened in the case above:
Qiu and a friend jointly won their weapon last February, and lent it to Zhu who then sold it for 7,200 yuan (US$870), the newspaper said. Qiu went to the police to report the "theft" but was told the weapon was not real property protected by law. "Zhu promised to hand over the cash but an angry Qui lost patience and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him in the left chest with great force and killing him," the court was told.
Poor Qiu. He lost his sword and now he killed a man because of it. I bet he'll never play online games again for the rest of his life. Well, this is probably not the first time that games causes trouble. Gambling is a game too and it causes trouble. If you win a bet from me and I refuse to pay, there is no way that the law will grant your claim. Same case, if you cheat on poker game, or steal my card, I cannot accuse you of stealing.

So, do you think what the police has done is right, or wrong? Should a sword be 'not protected' because they are virtual?

I think the police is correct in their decision but is incorrect in their considerations. I am no fan of online gaming, but here's my reasoning: The player had allocated costs and time to obtain the virtual thing. This is where the value is. Essentially, law does not protect property. It protects economical value. The "sword" has an economical value. It is similar as anti-virus, mp3 software or even a collection of my tags in They belong to me. Well, to a non gamer it may has no value at all. But take for example collecting hobbies: stamps, pins, postcards, paintings. Nobody will say that those products are value-less.

But, the police had made the right decision by refusing to acknowledge enforcing Qiu's claim. Online gaming is treated like gambling. If you cheat or steal my card, you cannot claim it to the court. Same way applies to virtual "swords". Those things has values, but you cannot claim its enforcement because of public ordre. If everyone gambles or play online games, there will be no actual value adding activity and this could jeoperdize the economy.

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Policy Proposal for filtering the Long Tail

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Now we have multiple choice in every areas of life, such as where, when and how we work. Even personal identity is a matter of choice–you can reinvent yourself in almost wide variety of ways. Paradoxically too much choice can be paralyzing, from buying jam and speed dating to mutual fund investing (too many fund choices, investment goes down). With all the choice peope may do better, but they will feel worse. It’s too easy to imaging the alternatives could have worked better–regret and anticipated regret kick in. As you enjoy what you choose, you imagine attractive features of what you passed up–the opportunity cost rising in consciousness can be completely debilitating.

Or, as the New Yorker puts it: Instead of calculating opportunity cost as the value of the single most attractive foregone alternative, we seem to assemble an idealistic composite of all the options foregone. A wider range of slightly inferior options, then, can make it harder to settle on one you’re happy with. Similarly, when people direct their wants toward “classes” of goals, they tend to figure they’ll get a better-than-average example of the class. When a person says, “I feel like a plate of spaghetti,” he envisions a particularly good plate of spaghetti. And, as the psychologists Daniel Gilbert, of Harvard, and Timothy Wilson, of the University of Virginia, have observed, “If it is difficult to know whether we will be happy fifteen minutes after eating a bite of spaghetti, it is all the more difficult to know whether we will be happy fifteen months after a divorce or fifteen years after a marriage.”

I am still talking about the Long Tail. Long Tail means more choice.

More choice = more freedom
More freedom = more welfare

# More choice = more welfare (False?)

Barry Schwartz, a psychologist at Swarthmore suggest that the syllogism above could be false. In his book, "The Paradox of Choice", he argued that more choices are essentially good as it reflects improvements, but, there are dark sides of having more choices:

1. Paralysis. We don't choose at all. Many people stays single, right? :)
2. Poor decisions and performance quality. We made bad choices.
3. Dissatisfaction, dissappointment. We are not happy despite our choices.
4. Opportunity costs. The cost in choosing stuff could even be greater than the stuff itself!
5. Time Pressure. Too many choice makes us feel like we are being rushed.
6. Escalation of expectation. When we spent lots of time in choosing, we expect that the stuff we finally choose is a good stuff. When we turned out wrong, we become dissapointed.
7. Self Blame. Good feelings gradually reduces. Bad feelings escalates and change forms.

More choices is better, only if it occurs in any of these two situations. First, Preference Articulation. If you really know hat you want, more choice is better. Most people never have this. Or, second, Alignable Option. If the options can be scaled down to the similar size. Most people never have this too.

For personal decisions, there is a good catch-a-phrase from Schwartz's presentation: "Seek for the Good Enough, don't seek for the best". For public policy, he then suggested "Libertarian paternalism", as prescribed by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.

Sunstein-Thaler give an example. Consider two studies of savings behavior:
1. Hoping to increase savings by workers, several employers have adopted a simple strategy. Instead of asking workers to elect to participate in a 401(k) plan, workers will be assumed to want to participate in such a plan, and hence they will be automatically enrolled unless they specifically choose otherwise. This simple change in the default rule – from nonenrollment to enrollment -- has produced dramatic increases in enrollment.

2. Rather than changing the default rule, some employers have provided their employees with a novel option: Allocate a portion of their future wage increases to savings. Employees who choose this plan are free to opt out at any time. A large number of employees have agreed to try the plan, and only a few have opted out. The result has been to produce significant increases in savings rates.
Libertarian Paternalism is "an approach that preserves freedom of choice but that authorizes both private and public institutions to steer people in directions that will promote their welfare". So, they are paternalistic in the sense that people are being directed to choose a certain option, but libertarian in the sense that people can say no.

That means, if you are, you will not be confusing people with long lists of books, but refer them to your filtering, self-reviewed selections and in the same time still allowing people to look for more. If you are a supermarket, you will only put good, cheap and high quality stuffs in your shelves. If you are a restaurant, you will advise your customer not with abundant menu but with "today's special menu". But, how do we know that they are working their best in giving their reference? Well, we don't. This could arise the principal-agent problem. But, it may be better compared than not choosing.

Both Schwartz's and Sunstein-Thaler's theory indicates the importance of choice theory in the economics of abundance. Schwartz's theory will trigger behavioral approaches in economics. Meanwhile, Sunstein-Thaler's will produce a public policy formula for decision-makers, legislators and governments. Schwartz's video presentation in Google is available here. Sunstein's-Thaler paper is downloadable here.

Contentment is always better than riches.


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"Scarcity" and "Cost" in the economy of abundance

In corellation with our previous discussion on the economics of abundance, there is a review on the topic at Harvard Business School's blog. One of the commentator said:
This is easily observed from the prices of any number of e-books on the web. The most popular carry higher prices than the less popular, even though they all cost virtually nothing to reproduce. This emphasizes the point that prices are set by demand, not the constraints of supply. Of course, the price floor created by direct physical materials doesn't exist any more. But production costs never determined price: Demand always did.

The scarcity effect, therefore, has nothing to do with physical constraints. If there is a popular Stephen King novel that exists only in digital form, the price charged for it would be determined by how much the individual reader wants the book. It might cost one-hundredth of a cent to reproduce, but still cost $4.99 to download.

I think it can be true assuming the consumers does not share the book it has purchased through P2P softwares. Prices at the initial sales are determined by consumer demand. But once an information good is released to the market, it's becoming a public good. Any attempts to limit its movement would be artificial (through DRM and IPR), and not natural. So, will there be an adjusted "price"?

Scarcities and Costs

Another commentator said:
The cost of creation is increasing in every creative area such as games, Internet websites, and digital contents. It was possible to make a website with one or two developers five years ago, but it is impossible now if they want to make it attractive to consumers.
Besides creation, one element of cost that I can figure out is time-cost and opportunity cost. The time you spent searching for cheap products at e-bay could be more valuable if it is used in analyzing the ups and downs of the stock market. So, another form of business model could be in making search faster and more filtered. That's what user-review sites such as Digg is doing.

Of course we still need to diffrentiate between purchasing movies at netflix and buying a laptop from e-bay. Movies can be directly downloaded, there is a time cost there. But a laptop needs to be packaged and sent. Thus, there is a distribution costs plus time cost there. This triggers the improvement of two business models: (1) Delivery and (2) Direct Marketing. And where do the tax goes as the transaction is made on the internet? Good question. Then we might need to regulate the internet, but I rather hate the idea of regulating the net.

Walmart could be threatened and so as CBS. So, will market monopoly finally comes to an end? Not really. Where do you search the goods before ending up in netflix or you tube? Google. That's right. What kind of monopoly will the future have? Our next topic is "Competition in the economics of abundance".

Do leave me comments...

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Economy of Abundance

Friday, October 27, 2006

A wonderful power point presentation from Anderson's Long Tail, titled "Economy of Abundance" is now available on line. There is a good summary from David Hornik in his blog:
The same businesses that are the poster children for the Long Tail, are the poster children for the Economy of Abundance. And the same businesses that are the victims of the Long Tail are the poster children for the Economy of Scarcity. With bandwidth and storage approaching free, iTunes can offer three million songs (P2P offers nine million). In contrast, with limited shelf space, Tower Records can only offer fifty- or sixty-thousand tracks. The end result, consumer choose abundance over scarcity (something for everyone) -- Tower Records gets liquidated while iTunes grows dramatically. Television is undergoing a similar transformation, from scarcity to abundance. TV initially consisted of only the major networks. Consumers were limited to 3 choices in any given time slot. With cable the number of channels was dramatically increased and a broader range of content became available (Food Channel, Discovery Channel, ESPN, CNN, etc.). To many, 250 channels may constitute sufficient abundance as to approach infinite choice in their minds. But the true television of abundance is YouTube. With unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage, television is subject to microprogramming -- millions of shows, viewable on demand at any time. Now not only should NBC be worried, so too should be Comcast.
Anderson did not take into account molecular manufacturing in his presentation. I have the feeling that full scale abundancy will-- for the time being-- be only availabe to non-physical goods. The cost for sharing files in P2P is of course, almost zero (there is of course the time costs and therefore opportunity costs being incurred). E-books, songs, videos, you can sell it this way. But that is not the case when you sell vegetables through the internet. There are still costs thay you will have to pay, you need to grow it first, then maybe sell it at e-bay. Consider other commodities such as water. Do you really think there is going to be a long tail for water companies? Nope, water market is always monopolistic.

Those aspects, Anderson did not consider. But, those scarcities may not last long. Thus, there could be a long tail too for water or plants, not the real water or plants, but programs containing molecular structure of water or plants. This is what we call, the nanotech's economy of abundance.

I am taking this opportunity to point out that futurist and nanotech expert had actually come up with the idea of abundance, but seen from the nano perspective and not from the economical and marketing perspective.

Abundant economy will revolutionarize the Law. Creative Commons and EFF movements is a reflection of this, but it is not likely that the developments are limited into those areas. The trend of the future law will follow the long tail trends: decentralized, personalized, fast, consumer-dictated, open, shared, highly networked. In Burgess words:
In a system based on scarcity, those holding the levers of production will not easily give them up. In domestic and international markets based on scarcity, the function and responsibility of directors and officers is to maximize shareholder value—at nearly any cost that does not fall afoul of laws, or at least not so far afoul that the penalties exceed the financial gain resulting from illegal actions.

So, what kind of culture do we want? In a system of plenty, will we continue to keep score by maintaining the preponderance of benefits inside corporate walls and coffers? Will we continue to stifle the spread of benefits through secrecy and protectionism? Unless something changes, history suggests that laws, regulations, and protections will continue to be designed for the exact purpose of directing all profits and virtually all of the benefits to shareholders.
Will corporation remained existed? I have a feeling that the trends toward "limited liability" will be reduced. Limited liability has been quite abusive in that it escapes real liability and hide it behind corporate walls. There is of course a doctrine of lifting the corporate veil, but it doesnt really work if you can hire good lawyers. So I think there is going to be a shift from limited liability to common but differentiated liability. Next question, will multi-national corporations (MNC) ceased to exist? Their number of employees will shrink of course, but it isn't likely that they ceased to exist. They will evolve, maybe as a completely new entity. I must remind you to Google. That, is the prototype of future MNC. And what does google have in mind? Stakeholder, not shareholder. Participation, not centralization. Opennes. Boldness in buying You Tube with the risk for violating multiple copyright laws. The world is changing and the future law must accomodate this.

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Long-tailing Nanotechnology?

Monday, October 16, 2006

CRB wrote a very inspiring review of the Long Tail in her blog:
Chris Anderson, in his interesting book, The Long Tail, says: “When the tools of production are available to everyone, everyone becomes a producer.” He’s talking in the context of the explosion in computer technology and internet access to software that allows ordinary people to create videos, music, books, and blogs on every conceivable topic, but the thought is an important one in other contexts as well.
If nanofactory is available for everyone, will everyone becomes a producer? Could be, but that may not necessarily means that there will be no majority producer who controlled the market. There will still be trends and hits, but would it mean that the tail becomes longer?

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Long-tailing the legal service: The Googlawfirm

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Hit-driven economics is a creation of an age without enough room to carry everything for everybody. Not enough shelf space for all the CDs, DVDs, and games produced. Not enough screens to show all the available movies. Not enough channels to broadcast all the TV programs, not enough radio waves to play all the music created, and not enough hours in the day to squeeze everything out through either of those sets of slots. This is the world of scarcity. Now, with online distribution and retail, we are entering a world of abundance. And the differences are profound.

Being an underdog? Worry not, the internet gives you hope. Welcome to the economy of abundance, where there is a demand for everything, everyone.

I am sure that most of you have heard about Anderson's Book, The Long Tail. But if you haven't heard it, here's a short description from wikipedia:
"....products that are in low demand or have low sales volume can collectively make up a market share that rivals or exceeds the relatively few current bestsellers and blockbusters, if the store or distribution channel is large enough..... Where inventory storage and distribution costs are insignificant, it becomes economically viable to sell relatively unpopular products; however when storage and distribution costs are high, only the most popular products can be sold".

If you look at the wikipedia's graph above, the long tail is the yellow part. Let's assume that this is a music or film industry. The red part is the Hit, bestseller singers like, say Robbie Williams, or blockbuster movies like say, Saving Private Ryan. The yellow part is for the less known singers, street musicians, amateurs, Cafe Singers, or independent movies, etc. Now, the bottomline here is, there is always a market for everyone. The traditional 80-20 power law, where 80 per cent of the market is controlled by 20 percent producers could no longer be applicable.

What makes long tail possible? First, The Internet. Second, human's psychology. Hey, everyone's unique. I like documentaries, you like war movies and the other loves drama. There's no accounting for some people's taste.

Recently, there is an article in on how the future legal service will respond to this long-tail phenomena. The article asked several important questions. Here, I'll try to suggest some possible answers:

Q: Lawyers mostly create new legal work at high cost for one client at a time. Aren't lawyers at increasing risk of competition from Internet-based models of legal service and information?

A: Yes, as they are doing this virtual online legal service thing

Q: And are they even at risk of having to compete with their own past work, much of which is now available on the Web in official and unofficial repositories?

A: As far as I know, some companies' legal departments are now looking for answers to their problems in Blawgs. It is more efficent, and cheap.

Q: What indeed will the long tail of lawyering look like? Will the power law effect that the "rich get richer" on the Internet, exacerbate existing inequality in the legal profession?

A: Could be in terms of internet companies, No for lawfirms. Traditional lawfirms are, I think, is being jeoperdized by the Internet. They still survive as they relied on (1) Trust, (2) Jurisdictional Protection (through bar exams), (3) Local Networking. Lawyering is a service business and "Trust" is the best marketing tool. This is what differs lawyering from selling books at Amazon. But, it may not last long.

Q: Will local and traditional CLE organizations be supplanted by national Internet-based CLE organizations and CLE content aggregators? If so, will speaking and reputation-building activities be drastically reduced for lawyers whose volunteer efforts have made CLE work until now?

Lawyers will speak through blawgs, I think.Q: If Internet-based services can assist clients in locating just the right lawyer, and if lawyers across firms can work together collaboratively on project teams, exactly what is the role of the law firm going forward?

A: If the legal service can be completely unbundled, then there is no need for a lawfirm. But it may take time to get there. Only until lawyers can practice in different jurisdictions, maybe. Confidentiality could also be an issue if we can work cross-lawfirm, I guess.

Q: In an era of information abundance, much of it highly pertinent to law practice, does one risk liability by not taking full advantage of it? How do rules of ethics and liability need to change to acknowledge the fact that lawyers cannot know everything, even with a good portion of the world's information literally at one's fingertips? Will tenacious clients be able to find out more about their legal problems than their own lawyers have gotten round to discovering?

A: When I talk to computer programmers, they know more about creative commons licensing than any corporate lawyers I've ever met. Creative Commons is the "living law" of intellectual property licensing, but there are some lawyers who never even heard about it.

Consider the role of tax consultants and investment consultants, they are taking the role of lawyers. Also, internet users are becoming more advanced and they have a very good personal knowledge management skill. Lawyers know better on how to wrap their arguments, they know the theories better. But, practice may not always require theories. Take for example free boilerplates provision available on the internet. Programmers just put it in their programs and launch them. But of course, there are cases when they still need alegal advice from a lawyer.

I think giant internet companies will eventually replaces lawfirms. I think both Google and Yahoo has the power to do it. Take for example, Ask Yahoo and Google Scholars. They can make a good future consultation service. All they need to do is to agregate! Google can agregate legal knowledge from various continents in their website and provide a legal service across all jurisdictions. This will certainly kill all giant lawfirms but it will help lots of lawyers to spend more time with their family :)

Email me in if you are interested in the concept

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Redefining Property

Saturday, June 17, 2006

I have been reading a book from Uwe Wesel, Der Mythos vom Matriarchat: Über Bachofens Mutterrecht und den Stellung von Frauen in frühen Gesellschaften (The Myth of Matriarchy, About Bachofen's Mother Rule and the Position of Women in Previous Societies). The book is thin but it summarizes anthropological findings from Bachofens, Richard Evans, and Engels, among others.

So, what is the relationship between Property, Family, the State and Matriarchy?

This question has been answered by Engels in his book The Origin of the Family:

Engels' ideas on the role of property in the creation of the modern family and as such modern civilization begin to become more transparent in the latter part of Chapter 2 as he begins to elaborate on the question of the monogamous relationship and the freedom to enter into (or refuse) such a relationship. Bourgeois law dictates the rules for relationships and inheritances. As such, two partners, even when their marriage is not arranged, will always have the preservation of inheritance in mind and as such will never be entirely free to choose their partner. For Engels, a relationship based on property rights and forced monogamy will only lead to the proliferation of immorality and prostitution. (Wikipedia Summary)

Ill try to simplify...

During the early Stone Age, people hunt and collect food in the wilderness. Man hunt for animals, women collects fruits and leaves. Some anthropologist said that Men collect 20 per cent of daily nutrition and Women collects 80 per cent. The relationship between women and men are equal, no one is superior.

And then the food become scarce. Along with food scarcity people began to invent new tools. Some migrated and formed an entirely new societies. The Age is then turned into the New Stone Age. In this newly sophisticated societies people begin farming and domesticating animals (using the tools they have invented). Now this is exactly where the concept of property begins. They begin to define whats belong to them and whats not. They begin to create land boundaries. They began to create structure and create customs of patriarchy -- of course -- with the purpose of not letting family inheritance outside their clan. The society is becoming even more complex. They need leadership, they need law, they need a state. So, they creates Kindom. The Sumerian kingdom is one of the very first state in the world.

So thats how men begins to rule the world. But, Wesel also mentioned other example. There are societies which are closely related with the early savage people, societies which are not ruled by men. These are the Iroquis, The Minoans in Crete and the Egypts. I dont know much about the Iroquis but what I know for sure is that the Gods of the Minoans are females and so does some of the God of the Egyptians, Isis. Interestingly, ancient scholars noted that in these societies where women commands, there is a fair distribution of properties. The Minoans does not recognized money. The result of their harvest do not go to market, but is collected at the palace and is divided. It is also said that the same thing happens in Egypt. Palace is the central of goods distribution.

My question is, could there be any relationship between women rules and the concept of property? To me the answers are still unclear.

The study of property is important in finding the real properietary nature of molecular nanotechnology. In my previous post, I have suggested that Molecular Nanotechnology should be declared a Common Heritage of Mankind. From Aristotelian conception, anything can be subjected to property as long as it has a Telos, or, as long as it has a purpose.

Aristotle in his Politeia said:

For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Every one thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he is himself concerned as an individual

That is known as the "Tragedy of the commons". Garret Hardin concludes that mankind are somewhat individualistic. Chaos could be the result when all goods are made "common" to everyone. This justifies "property", as regulated by law. However, this does not apply in an infinite world. In a world where every goods can be obtainable for free, there will be no such tragedy. Post MNT society is exactly this kind of society. Goods are a matter of information and information can be available for everyone, for free. So, property in an MNT society would serve no more Telos....

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Barriers to "Star Trek" economy

Monday, March 27, 2006

An interesting post from the Adam Smith Blog:
In an article in the current Business newspaper I examine how people increasingly expect goods to be free. From matches given away in restaurants and bars, we have been through free downloads and even free DVD movies given away with daily and Sunday newspapers. Skype has given us free telephone calls around the world. Many people, especially young people, prefer to read newspapers and magazines free over the internet. It leads to a new type of economy. It does lead to a rethink. If people are receiving the goods free, the price element of competition diminishes, and those of quality and convenience probably increase. It isn't quite a Star Trek economy where food and appliances come free from the replicator, but it's on the way to somewhere we haven't been.
Over at wise-nano, you will find an essay written by Giulio Prisco, titled “Globalization and Open Source Nano Economy”, in which he argued:
"Basic goods should be free, or priced within the means of everyone. In other words, Coca Cola can be expensive, but water must be free. Armani suits can be expensive, but basic clothing must be free. Who will develop royalty-free MDL descriptions of basic goods that everyone on the planet can use? The answer, I think (or at least I hope), is that they will be developed with an Open Source development model by armies of MDL programmers."
Hear hear! And Nanotech can make that happen. But for the near-term, we must get rid of bad laws that prevent open-source. In India, copyright relinquishment must undergo tight process like giving written notice to copyright registraar. In many other states, you cannot just append "Attribution, Non Commercial, Share alike"* to your writing as an indication of license as in their laws, "copyright license" must be written and signed by both parties.
These laws won't work after MNT is discovered. Even today, ther already become serious impediment to the economy. They will have to be rewritten. Immidiately.
Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani
* In Creative Commons, that means a work can be copied freely given that the copier sufficiently attribute the work to original author, in a manner prescribed by him. Noncommercial means that people may not use the work for commercial purposes. Share Alike means any alteration of the work can be distributed under an identical license.