I want to reformulate the very first assumption I started with. Copyright and patent related laws in the United States are all based on the 8th item of the Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states that one of the powers of the Congress is “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
My assumption is… actually, why to play games? It is not an assumption. To the best of my knowledge, I understand that the idea of exclusive rights does not correspond to the nature of the subject. Exclusive rights cannot be imposed on cultural phenomena (writings, discoveries and so forth). Naturally, I mean culture as I understand it, as I tried to describe, explore, and explain it thus far.
Now we have an assumption too. Exclusive rights cannot provide for promotion of the progress of science… (read on the Constitution). Exclusive rights are the wrong means for the declared goal, period. They cannot work; they do not work. They cause huge problems due to the conflict between these wrong means and the subject (culture) they are applied to.
This is a crucial and decisive point. Worlds of culture and civilization are different. They develop under different laws, although they relate to and depend on one another.
Many people realize that the difference exists. This is also reflected in certain basic human rights in the Western World. Ownership of real property (belonging to the world of civilization), for example, is considered a basic right and an owned property is unalienable from the owner and his heirs. However, exclusive rights to “writings and discoveries” (belonging to the world of culture) may be granted under certain conditions for a limited time. What are these conditions? The exclusive rights have “to promote the progress of science and useful arts.” A specific role of cultural phenomena is implied here: the progress of science and arts. This specific role relates to the nature of culture and RADICALLY DIFFERS from the nature and role of material property in human society.
The two worlds are different. The question is, how different are they? Or better yet, how are they different? Before talking to the first graders I formulated a few points of difference between “things” belonging to these two worlds. The term “discrepancies” which I used here, is not quite proper one, because the world of culture cannot, must not, and does not coincide with the world of civilization, in principle. Therefore, discrepancies between them are not possible. On the other hand, exclusive rights to cultural phenomena amount to an attempt to treat things of culture the same way as ones of civilization. Thus, assumed “similarities” in reality are “discrepancies.”
Material Things Versus Cultural Phenomena
Cultural phenomena and material things can be shared, but cultural phenomena cannot change hands. Once more: physical things change hands while cultural phenomena can be copied or just remembered by other people. One does not lose an idea when it becomes known by others. One does not lose a movie when it gets watched or copied by others. One does not lose a musical piece when it is heard or recorded by others. In general: one does not lose a cultural phenomenon when one shares it with others.
It is important to note the extremely interesting fact that ideas reflecting values of physical things must be shared by both parties for these things to be traded. The trading of physical things or services without sharing of ideas is either impossible, or meaningless, or harmful for one or both parties and for the trade itself, for market, and real property in the end.
Let us take tools, for example. They gradually lose their physical abilities, while being used, and thus lose their value. On the contrary, cultural phenomena derive their value directly from being “used,” which means being shared, communicated, known. Cultural phenomena gain value with each single usage.
By the way, ideas corresponding to a tool itself appreciate in many ways, while the tool depreciates from use.
Use of Physical Things
An artifact, say a unique building, depreciates because of physical use, but becomes more valuable when it gets included in communication between people, becomes known for its uniqueness. Another example―old cars or any other collectibles. It is interesting that cultural use, while bringing value to an artifact, may imply or directly require the deprivation of physical use.
Material Need Versus Cultural One
When your body feels a physical need, it signals you. After the body is satisfied, you normally do not feel the need any more. When it comes to a cultural phenomenon, the more you communicate with it, the more you need it and vice versa. The less culturally developed a person is, the less one needs access to culture. Nothing would signal a person the need to read a book, to listen to music, or to watch a painting. Satisfaction from a cultural phenomenon is of different nature. It is close to satisfaction from a normal communication between people. The latter develops if it is interesting to interlocutors and thus is growing with “satisfaction.” Generally, we can state that the need for culture increases with “usage” and “satisfaction.”
Moreover, cultural desires can cause physical sacrifices and vice versa. Physical need can cause giving up cultural ones. Cultural desire can require one to control bodily driven desires, to limit , redirect, suppress, twist, or inspire them.
Relationships between Physical Things and Cultural Phenomena
First of all, it is necessary to distinguish between physical things that have their own value and pure media that actually have no value of their own, but derive their value entirely from bearing cultural phenomena (books, musical records, movie tapes, etc.). I would term the issue as “value dynamics in consumer goods versus tools versus media versus artifacts.” Let us define these categories.
- Consumer goods mean things to be consumed and thus to disappear. They lose their form while activating their value. The most typical representative of this group is food. People who buy and use consumables are consumers. An important point is that normally people do not “put their soul” into consumables, do not feel a personal affiliation with or attachment to them.
- Tools are supposed to be used in their current form, namely to produce (fix, upgrade, destroy, preserve, etc.) other things. They gradually depreciate while being used and gradually turn into nothing, at least with respect to their initial function. People, who buy and use tools, fit the notion of customer. Since tools are normally used for some prolonged time, people can develop some personal feelings toward them, but this phenomenon is not in direct relationship with the nature of tools. They do not appeal to feelings by nature, they just have to function.
- Media are things that do not have intended value as physical ones, but get value exclusively from inscribed cultural phenomena. They are exclusively intended to communicate with people. Media gradually physically depreciate while being used, like tools do, while inscribed cultural phenomena normally appreciate at the same time. People, who buy and “use” them, are audience.
- Artifacts normally are things which once were intended to be valuable for their physical features, but derive their value mainly from unintended cultural use. These are, for example, unique old buildings, cars, tools, other relics, collectibles, etc. People, who buy them or buy access to them, are collectors-visitors, tourists. The best general name for these categories would probably be “collectors,” but I do not insist on that.
There are two general points we have to stress. Firstly, some physical things can compound features of the types described above. Secondly, this happens when people mix their social conduct or attitudes toward things. For example, a family can live in a unique old mansion suitable more for a museum than for casual dwelling. Another example is when someone buys a house, but threats it like a consumable, puts no feelings in it, and sells it at the first opportunity. Yet another example of a general nature is that when a work of art is considered as something “to entertain” (and usually to be forgotten by) people, thus turning the work in some kind of a consumer good and correspondingly turning the audience with such attitudes into consumers.
The above were my first thoughts, which hadn’t looked as clear as I would like them to. Anyway, I brought them to my students. I had not even tried to be very elaborative, because I expected nothing else but an avalanche of thoughts and essential clarification of the subject in the end. Well, it turned out otherwise this time. A lot of new questions―this was what I got. Moreover, the subject had slipped away and provoked us to turn to economics, ethics, and other areas all along.
OK, you can see and judge it for yourself. When I finished my short speech in the class, I faced a real curiosity. It did not take long to get the first question.
Alpha: Why is that “cultural satisfaction” increases desire? When you go to watch a movie, you get satisfied and return home, or go to a restaurant, or just walk and talk.
Beta: I agree, you do not watch, and watch, and watch.
Kappa: Some people do.
Beta: Yeah, some do. I would not call them people of culture, what do you think?
Gamma: Why? I understand that if you never watched movies, you wouldn’t know whether you need it, or not. You probably wouldn’t know this even after watching a few movies. However, if you don’t eat for a while, your body starts to bother you and it is doing so until you feed it.
Delta: By the way, if you are getting hungrier, you become less selective.
Delta: Let’s see…
Alpha: What? You don’t know why you said that?
Kappa: What kind of difference does it make? It makes sense. If you like certain music, say classical, you will not listen to something completely different, say rap, even if you have not had access to any music for a long time… We are differently selective with meals and with music, right?
Beta: This is kind of obvious. Music, or books, or paintings― they are all like people. The more you communicate with them, the more selective you become, valuing some and being disgusted by others…
Alpha: Isn’t it the same with meals?
Beta: Do you value one more and more, or hate another more and more?
Kappa: I would say the opposite. You may like eating something for a while and suddenly get sick of it.
Alpha: Don’t you sometimes change your preferences when it comes to arts?
Delta: Interesting… Listen, food companies try to bring new products to the market pretty often. While entertainment companies keep certain kinds of stereotypes as long as they can.
Gamma: Do you mean movies? But they do not show you one movie for a long time, right?
Delta: One movie? No. But the same stereotypes you recognize all along.
Kappa: And this is boring. Boring entertainment, ha ha ha.
Alpha: Someone said a while ago that you can read the same book over and over again. Isn’t it boring?
Gamma: Sure, if the book is boring… But you would not read it again.
Alpha: And if it is not?
Gamma: Then, yes, I can read it over and over again.
Alpha: I will not.
Kappa: I will.
Beta: Why is it baloney? Because you do not understand it?
Alpha: Because you make it up. People do not do this!
Teacher: Some people definitely do. I do.
Kappa: People read the Bible over and over again.
Alpha: Some people do because they are obligated to. It is their religion.
Teacher: And you are sure this does not make any sense beyond the obligation?
Gamma: It always does. It is like meeting old friends.
Alpha: Ah, like in a stupid TV series!
Kappa: Well, I suspect not all of your friends are brilliant, but you may still like them. Don’t you think?
Beta: Can one like a boring person, generally speaking?
Gamma: Say, parents are boring. Someone can have boring parents. But they still can be parental, kind, lovely guys.
Alpha: I bet their kids do not take every single chance to visit the old folks.
Kappa: Probably, you’re right, but this is not normal.
Kappa: You can’t measure people like things! This one’s useful, this one’s not!
Alpha: Who was talking about usefulness?
Beta: You’re talking about boredom. It is close.
Gamma: You can love a boring person, or a dishonest one, or a criminal, or someone helpless, or stupid or plain a jerk, or whatever negative character trait you can only imagine. I read all kinds of stories like this.
Alpha: Ah, it is fiction! I got it.
Delta: Do you think if it’s in fiction, it has nothing to do with reality?
Alpha: It probably has something to do with reality, but you never know what. Anyway, you cannot base a serious judgment on fiction. What do you think?
Delta: All right. Let’s look at it from another angle. Are all of your loved ones perfect people?
Kappa: It is not matter of perfection at all. You don’t choose friends on those grounds… I mean, whoever you choose to make friends with, is perfect for you, that’s it. I don’t know what that means, really.
Beta: It is the same with books, music, movies…
Alpha: Meals, houses, cars, tools, parks, lakes, mountains, forests, barber shops, shopping malls.
Teacher: It is an impressive list.
Delta: But those things are different.
Alpha: What do you mean?
Delta: Remember, I said this before. I just lost the idea then. If you are hungry and cannot get your favorite meal, you will eat anything else. Now, if you need a ride and your favorite car is not available, you take another one. If your favorite park is closed, you can go to another one. But if your friend is sick, even unconscious, you will not go visit someone else. You go visit your friend. If you cannot find your favorite book when you want it, you will not sit and read whatever gets in your way. If you want to watch a certain movie, and it is not possible for some reason, you will hardly agree to watch another one. You would rather wait until you can watch that one you wanted. Say, if you like comedies, you will not watch a thriller under any circumstances… I said, it is different. It is obviously different. You would understand.
Kappa: Hey, hey, let’s not go there.
Delta: All right, let us not.
The Recipe Case
Kappa: We all got carried away and distracted from the initial question. The important thing is that when you share your meal, a part of it is gone. You can even leave hungry. However if you share the recipe for that meal, you lose nothing… Actually, yes, the recipe becomes more known, and thus, it becomes more valuable. You are gaining something.
Alpha: One can say so.
Kappa: One can say so, and one would be right. And this is important for our conversation because this is how a meal and its recipe drastically differ in nature. The meal gets consumed and disappears. The recipe gains value every time it is shared. It gains even more value every time someone cooks and eats that meal.
Alpha: OK, why would they say that it is stealing?
Beta: Who says? About what?
Alpha: Say, you developed a unique recipe and don’t want to share it and someone learns it and makes use of it. That is stealing.
Beta: I wonder, why? I am perfectly comfortable with the notion that the sharing of a recipe adds value to it. Should adding value be called stealing under any circumstances?
Alpha: Suppose I built a business upon it! Then you come, and learn the recipe somehow, and start a similar business. You will get the money I was supposed to get. Isn’t that stealing?
Delta: Oh yes. Beta opens another restaurant to use your recipe and makes you more known. He actually advertises for you, but you put no penny into this. Why don’t we consider this stealing?
Alpha: Hasn’t he been advertised by my efforts in this case?
Gamma: Yes, but this is not quite the same. He has to tell who he learned it from. You will always be the person who introduced the recipe. This pays… You can always charge more than others in the same business.
Alpha: Ah, and he will charge less and steal my customers!
Beta: Are you listening? It is not me who charges less, it is you who charges more!
Alpha: Does anyone see the difference here?
Beta: Of course, there is no logical difference! There is no need to argue about labels and metaphors either! Just follow the money you are getting! If I make a product or service, that is based on your recipe, to be more known, I serve you! Moreover, if I make you more known as the introducer of that wonderful product or service, I advertise you and your business! You get more customers that are willing to pay more! And you call this stealing?
Alpha: But you get money also! Isn’t that mine?
Beta: I do business, but the money is yours?
Alpha: Of course! The idea is mine, thus money derived from this idea belong to me!
Gamma: You can share it. A portion of it will be attributed to the idea, that’s called royalties, and all that remains belongs to the business.
Alpha: That’s what I meant.
Beta: How about those revenues gained by Alpha from my work? He clearly gets them. Shouldn’t he share?
Delta: How on Earth can we measure all these mutual dependencies?
Gamma: Listen, listen! I’ve got another question!
Alpha: Hold it! I need to argue what Beta said!
Teacher: Go ahead.
Alpha: All right, you go.
Gamma: Thanks… but I lost it.
Alpha: Are you sure?
Gamma: I am, go ahead.
Royalties Versus Attribution
Alpha: All right. There is no such a law that if you get my recipe, you have to tell everybody who you got it from! You will not advertise me, and I don’t owe you anything whatsoever, but you do!
Gamma: Who was talking about a law?
Alpha: Law is reality, isn’t it? What are we talking about if it does not concern reality?
Teacher: This is a new turn in our conversation. We haven’t discussed existing laws yet. We are discussing relations and discrepancies between the worlds of culture and civilization.
Alpha: Where do laws belong?
Teacher: Wherever they belong, they change. I would say that we want to figure out what a law is supposed to be to ideally fit specifics and relations of culture and civilization. I think we have to comprehend these realities before we start talking about law.
Alpha: You never said that.
Teacher: Of course, I didn’t. Law was not the subject I was interested in. We can discuss it later if we find it suitable.
Alpha: OK, how can we resolve the last question if we do not turn to law?
Beta: I like the idea that we have to figure out what a law is supposed to be in order to serve.
Alpha: To serve what? Or whom? You or me?
Kappa: Or the customers, or the audience, or the general public, or the country, or… I don’t know who else. Humankind?
Delta: Law is to serve the people and the country. We have to look at the issue from this stand point.
Teacher: May I narrow this down a bit? Our question can sound like this: in which case does a law serve Alpha and Beta and our country best? The first case is when Beta is required to pay royalties for usage of Alpha’s recipe. The second case is when Beta is required to give Alpha proper attribution.
Alpha: Why not both?
Kappa: True, why not?
Delta: Well, if you ask why not, someone may ask why yes?
Beta: I agree. We have to put forward criteria.
Gamma: We already did. It is the general well being, including Alpha’s and Beta’s. If everyone is better off under a law, that means the law is a just one.
Alpha: How can we judge that?
Delta: We cannot, if we do not try.
Beta: Look, if I have to pay royalties, it compromises my business and decreases my competitiveness. I can do everything as good as Alpha does. I can make meals as fresh and delicious, I can maintain the premises as comfortable, I can put as much money in marketing, and still I will be in a weaker position in terms of business: I will have to reduce my earnings while Alpha will get additional money from my efforts.
Alpha: Which is absolutely fair because you built your business on my recipe!
Delta: The business is built by Beta’s effort.
Gamma: Well, it is natural that Alpha wants Beta to share his money, but what about our criteria? What is good for people? It is obvious that if two of your businesses compete in equal conditions, then all of your customers win… By the way, I recalled my question…
Alpha: Remember what Beta offered? He wanted to advertise me for free! Does this not put me in better conditions?
Beta: Yes, it does. But this will not take money from my business.
Alpha: Really? This will take some customers from you. Is this not the same?
Teacher: I see a difference between the two methods. In the case of royalties, we have to set up and enforce some artificial measurements to take money from Beta’s business. This becomes specifically questionable. If Beta gets no profits, his business may die and Alpha will get no royalties at all.
Alpha: In that case I got rid of a competitor, and that is good.
Kappa: For you, probably. Not for the public.
Delta: I doubt even this is always good for Alpha.
Alpha: And why is that?
Teacher: May I finish?
Alpha, Delta, Kappa: Sorry.
Teacher: So, in the case of attribution, when Beta just honestly says, who he learned the recipe from, this does not necessarily mean he loses. He can even gain.
Alpha: And how is that? Sorry.
Teacher: That’s OK. When Beta tells who taught him the recipe, he appeals to people’s feelings. Some of his customers would certainly be curious to go to Alpha’s place, but some would admire the fact of the tribute. Both businesses get in more solid relations with their patrons and public in general…
Kappa: By the way, Alpha can also tell who learned from him.
Alpha: Aha, sure.
Delta: Why not? This certainly adds credibility to your business.
Gamma: Two times, by the way. Firstly, it implies that the recipe is worthy because it gets followers. Secondly, if you are not afraid to name a competitor, this means your business is that strong that you are not afraid.
Kappa: I like this! A shared recipe benefits everybody, even when attribution is given!
Beta: Because attribution is given! Not “even when” but “because”! This is how things differ in culture and civilization! If Alpha wants my money, we both can lose! When we share ideas, we both win! This is how it works! This is how they are different! I never expected it to turn out this way! This is terrific!
Gamma: Wow! I’ve never seen Beta so excited!
Teacher: Me neither.
Kappa: It is good, he didn’t jump on the desk, like someone else sometime ago.
Teacher: Gamma, what about your question? Are you still keeping it?
Gama: Aha. When you cook some exotic meal, you use a lot of different ideas, inventions, and techniques, right?
Gamma: What about all those?
Alpha: What about them?
Gamma: What about them? Think for a second. If you want royalties from Beta, thousands of other people may ask for royalties from you! What do you think?
Delta: So everybody will have to sit down and calculate royalties day and night and do nothing else.
Gamma: And this will make no sense at all.
Beta: And then they’ll forget about the royalties one day, stand up, and go about their business normally.
Kappa: I have a declaration to make: People have to share ideas in order for civilization to exist!
Alpha: Impressive… I have one proposition and one question.
Teacher: Go ahead.
Alpha: Thank you. The question goes first. Suppose I go with attribution. What about those thousands of ideas now? Do I have to sit down and write down all ideas I use, to conduct a research, to determine their authors, and then to attach tons of paper with references to every single menu, plate, napkin, and so forth?… Now, here is my proposition. Beta does not have to pay royalties all life long but for some limited time. How about that?
Kappa: In the beginning or later?
Gamma: How much later?
Alpha: Who knows, what happens later?
Kappa: OK Alpha, so you want royalties at that very time when it is the most difficult for Beta, right?
Alpha: But for a limited time! A business is always difficult in the beginning, anyway!
Kappa: Then let it be even more difficult, right?
Alpha: Why should I care?
Teacher: We agreed on some criteria, remember?
Delta: I remember, and I remember that essentially we reached some conclusion. Free sharing of ideas plus honest attribution boosts businesses, competition and thus benefits everyone!
Gamma: Yes, and why would we look for anything else?
Beta: Well, Alpha can argue that profits reward businessmen efforts and benefit the public in the end; but how then is creativity itself rewarded?
Gamma: By attribution, how else? You created it. People who use it, honestly say so. Everybody knows you and your role in the invention and recognizes your impact.
Delta: People call or write to you, invite you to give lectures.
Kappa: Aha, Alpha, you! Do you like that more?
Alpha: What’s more? More than what?
Teacher: There were two options.
Alpha: I told you, I’d like both. Everyone would, I’m sure.
Gamma: Well, OK, then we won’t ask you. We’ll turn to the criteria of public good instead.
Alpha: All right, you haven’t answered my question, remember? In the meantime, I have something else to tell you all. Gamma rightly said that it is very natural for me (and I believe it is so for everyone) to wish for both: royalties and attribution as well. Therefore, if you don’t give me all I want, I wouldn’t like it! Then if I come up with yet another recipe, I will not reveal it whatsoever!
Kappa: And what is the point? What will you get?
Alpha: I’ll have my monopoly over it―that’s what I’ll get. I’ll not have competition―that’s what I’ll get. My business will grow―that’s what I’ll get. And that’s it and nothing else! What do you think?
Delta: You will have to put money into marketing.
Delta: So? If you don’t have big bucks for that, forget about growing.
Alpha: Really? And what is my other option?
Delta: Another option? I am going to tell something really new. Reveal your recipe in exchange for attribution.
Alpha: Ah, it is new. And?
Beta: And what? Haven’t we discussed it all?
Kappa: Yeah, Alpha, haven’t we?
Alpha: You probably did. I probably wasn’t here.
Teacher: Alpha, you were here.
Alpha: All right, I am stupid. Can anyone repeat it for me one more time?
Kappa: Alpha, you are not stupid.
Alpha: I’m not?
Teacher: I agree with Kappa.
Beta: So, you repeat yourself what we concluded earlier.
Alpha: You concluded?
Beta: Yes, we―I, Kappa, Gamma, Delta, our Teacher… with your participation. And if you disagree with the conclusions, explain why.
Gamma: Yes, Alpha, please. You can do it.
Alpha: I can… if I want.
Teacher: Why wouldn’t you want it?
Gamma: Yeah, Alpha, why? We are not enemies here, we just have different ideas.
Alpha: Exactly. Different ideas we have, we do.
Gamma: Well, I believe they all deserve some respect.
Alpha: And I displayed disrespect, right?
Beta: I would say so. You don’t even want to repeat others’ ideas. What would you call this kind of attitude?
Teacher: It is interesting, really.
Alpha: It seems like tricks and games to me.
Alpha: OK, does anyone want to repeat after me?
Beta: It is not that I want to, but I can, if you wish me to.
Teacher: Yes, Beta, please do. Let it be our first summary today. Do you mind, Alpha?
How Royalties Are Supposed to Work
Beta: OK. Some inventors would like to get attribution and royalties from every business using their inventions. This seems to be fair and will reward creative work. Thus, it becomes more attractive for people to invent and to reveal their inventions to the public. Did I tell everything, Alpha?
Alpha: (shrugs) There is one more point. You cannot give attribution for every single idea you use. This is why I proposed a limited time, say ten years. After ten years of public use, an idea becomes common knowledge and attribution is not necessary any more. Then business use of the idea does not require attribution anymore, and you don’t have to collect zillions of references.
Teacher: Very good, Alpha. We have all of your ideas summarized. Now it is your turn. Please, make a summary of Beta’s ideas.
Alpha: I had to fix what Beta said about my ideas, anyway. I believe he will summarize his ideas better than me.
Teacher: I cannot insist, although I am sure, this exercise would be very helpful for our deliberations. If we all know that in the end of the day we have to do summaries of each others’ ideas, we will pay more attention to what everyone says.
Alpha: I remember everything all of us said. I just do not feel like I want to repeat after Beta.
Teacher: OK, anyone?
Beta: I can try.
Gamma: I can.
Teacher: Let us go with Gamma.
How Attribution is Supposed to Work
Gamma: If an inventor shares his ideas freely, and anyone who uses them gives the inventor a proper attribution, then he gets advertised by all these people, becomes famous and rich. He becomes even more credible if he gives references back to those who use his invention. All the uses and attributions increase value of the invention and publicity of the inventor. At the same time, all businesses have equal access to the invention and thus have equal opportunity to compete as businesses do normally… Did I get it right?
Teacher: I think so. Now, I believe, we can summarize arguments against both positions and continue from there.
Kappa: To continue where?
Teacher: Ah! The best question! We must return to our main issue!
Beta: A summary is necessary anyway.
Teacher: OK, anyone?
Alpha: My objections to Beta’s ideas sustained.
Teacher: Please, Alpha.
Alpha: Firstly, as a creator, I would not like to wait and see how other people make money out of my creative work and tap me on a shoulder for gratitude, because that reference of yours is nothing more but a tap on a shoulder. It costs you nothing, while you earn money and I don’t. I would not introduce any other invention in that case. Secondly, you cannot provide all of zillions of references anyway. So, some royalties paid for limited time will be a fair working solution to all our problems. Thank you.
Teacher: Thank you, Alpha. Any argument against royalties?
Alpha: Summary of argument.
Teacher: Yes, summary of what was argued against royalties, so far.
Kappa: May I?
Teacher: You bet.
Kappa: Firstly, if there are two businesses based on one and the same idea, they compete using normal business means, such as marketing , productivity, and so forth. Now, if we, for some reason, take money from one business and give it to another, this would give an advantage to it over the first one, hamper the competition, and so forth. I even believe that business, which has to pay royalties on the top of all other expenses, may not start at all.
Alpha: So? The owner may go about something else. Why would they take something from me for free? Why don’t they take my equipment as well? Ah?
Delta: When someone takes your equipment, you lose it. When someone copies your idea, you still retain it. You lose nothing. There is a big difference here.
Alpha: But I lose money! How many times should I remind you of this?
Gamma: I don’t see how you lose money, so far. You get additional money for sure, because of references. You told this yourself at one point and then you called it “tap on the shoulder!” You changed your opinion ten times today, never considering all the arguments!
Alpha: I never acknowledged that your references increase my earnings, and I never will.
Kappa: By the way, I never finished my summary.
Kappa: That Alpha’s limited time and amount of royalties cannot be determined by market forces and should be set up artificially, based on nobody knows what…
Alpha: I haven’t heard this argument before… All of it, except for royalties.
Beta: Does this really affect the logic behind it?
Alpha: We agreed to do a summary and proceed to the initial issue.
Teacher: All right.
Gamma: OK, if we turn back to our topic, I’d like to recall one thing which impresses me.
Gamma: Just one tiny thing. We feel personal affiliation with people and works of art, and therefore we are not willing to easily substitute them with other people or works of art, while we do this much more easily with other types of things.
Beta: And I would like to repeat what impresses me. Each single use or reference increases the value of the creative work and publicity of its author.
Kappa: By the way, royalties don’t!
Delta: Too bad.
Alpha: Hey, stay focused.
Gamma: I think we are. It was one out of our initial suggestions that cultural phenomena increase value while being used. I believe it relates somehow to the thing I was saying.
Alpha: How can we determine this increase in value? There is some sense in your “… reference logic,” which can cause increase of value. But there is some rationale behind my “competition logic,” which can cause a decrease of value for me. These two logics are just logics. They are not proven facts. At any rate, we cannot take that increase as a given.
Kappa: All right, now, at least, we have a problem statement!
Delta: Wait,wait. I hardly see a problem here. Competition is always seen by businessmen as something hurting them! Still, it is considered to be a positive phenomenon for an entire society!
Kappa: Actually, yes,… and if we turn to our very subject, this is even more so… I think.
Kappa: Because a piece of knowledge is definitely more valuable if it is more known! Isn’t it obvious?… I mean, valuable for society.
Teacher: What do you think, Alpha?
Alpha: I think that someone saw a problem two minutes back and now one doesn’t. Someone changes one’s opinions pretty quickly!
Teacher: Still, what do you think about the idea that a piece of knowledge is more valuable for society if it is more known?
Alpha: I have to think before I can say what I think.
Alpha: Exactly… applies to everyone.
Teacher: This is a very important point, of course, although a conversation itself can work pretty well.
Alpha: So, what’s the advice? Just to keep talking without thinking?
Teacher: Hmm, a nailing question… I would say that I have to do two things in a conversation like ours. Firstly, I have to be easy on new ideas… and that actually means putting thinking aside. Secondly, I have to juxtapose different ideas in order to see how they relate to each other and how they relate to reality, and this difficult-to-accomplish job of juxtaposition actually does require, or just is a thought.
Kappa: Wow, that resonates! It is pity we cannot go along these lines.
Delta: Yeah, we have gone astray.
Kappa: I don’t know why, but an entirely new discrepancy just occurred to me!
Kappa: Look… But it is a very strange one… I am not really sure.
Kappa: All right, say you got a car, right?
Alpha: Of course, right! Ha!
Kappa: All right… The car works if all of its details work, and all assembled properly…
Alpha: That’s new!
Kappa: Now, take one part out and the entire thing does not work anymore!
Teacher: Interesting… Assuming that’s true.
Kappa: All right, let’s take another example… Sorry, I am trying to get a hold of my idea…
Delta: Go ahead, catch it!
Kappa: Thanks… Let’s take a meal.
Alpha: I’m always for it.
Kappa: You can have a small portion of it and it works for you… And the more you have, the more it satisfies you, right? Until you are completely full.
Kappa: Now, if you read a fragment of a story or listen to a fragment of a music, it may tell you a lot about the entire work. A fragment can be as meaningful as the entire piece would.
Alpha: But you would like to read the entire story!
Delta: That is right, but the more you read, the more you want to reach the end!
Alpha: Same with meals! What’s the difference?
Beta: It is not the same. You read a book to the end, no matter how big the book is. It depends on the book, not on you,… while you eat as much as you need, no matter how much is left.
Kappa: It is my fault. I shouldn’t go for meals here. My thinking was about tools… The car was the right example… A car part is nothing without the car, while a piece of story is always something. It speaks to you .
Teacher: That is right. Looks like another discrepancy around the corner, although it is not quite clear yet what it is. We probably do need to see how meals or other consumables reflect this idea, if they do.
Beta: We stopped at the point that you can judge a meal even if that is just a small piece… And it seems to be the same with music or books.
Kappa: But the meal in this case is all the same, every piece of it! And the story is all different!
Beta: Yeah, but wait, let me finish. There is another similarity here. If you have a dish, even just a small piece of it, and it tastes good, you want more of it then, you eat until you get satisfied. Seems to be the same with music, doesn’t it?
Gamma: No, it’s different. You may want it, but the music or the novel will never bring you a satisfaction in the same meaning as with food. Music may make you more hungry for it. Same with a book… We actually discussed this already… And again, it feels like this feature of a cultural phenomena relates to our personal
affiliation with it.
Teacher: I got lost. It feels like we have an issue with those parts in a car versus part in a meal versus part in an artwork, but it is not clear what it is.
Beta: Yeah. We can summarize it as that when it comes to art a part is in a different relation to the whole than it would with things in the physical world.
Teacher: Aha! Still, it is not clear what comes out of it.
Beta: Yeah… Still this is important… A part of a story can be of the same importance as the entire story… It is like with a person again. You can like or dislike a person at first impression, and this could stay the same over time.
Teacher: Yes, it is the same about idea. You can appreciate it in a short formula, and it will be the same idea in thousands of pages of explanations… Did you finish, Beta?
Beta: Not quite… When it comes to a complex thing in a physical world, it is difficult to judge an entire thing by its part. You may only guess… And the part normally does not work by itself and has no real value. The entire thing without a single part can also be of no value.
Alpha: What if you miss part of a blueprint?
Beta: A blueprint does say something to you, any part of it. It bears value, it always does. Having a part, you can restore it.
Alpha: You can restore a car too.
Beta: Yes, but a broken car bears no value, unless you use it as a blueprint! You can retrieve some information from it! It’s another discrepancy!
Teacher: Can you squeeze it out for us?
Beta: Well, a broken thing having no physical value may bear useful information…
Alpha: This was actually said already. Physical things derive their value from inscribed cultural phenomena.
Gamma: Yeah, that is right, but some physical things can be used directly because of their physical features. In this case, cultural phenomena serve to use physical abilities. In case of a broken tool, it is opposite: it serves as a media first, as a bearer of the information, which, in turn, can be used to restore the tool in its physical abilities… A broken tool cannot be used in its supposed function at all…
Delta: By the way, food does not necessarily get value from cultural use. It is mostly opposite: it is used because of its direct physical value.
Gamma: Ha ha ha, I would say, cultural use can very well make it less usable!
Teacher: Interesting. Does such decrease happen to consumables only?
Beta: I think it relates… If this is about consumables… They are supposed to disappear while used, so…
Gamma: Actually, this was said in the very beginning. Culture may make up or just increase, or decrease, or even destroy value of physical things.
Kappa: I got another idea… I don’t know whether it has something to do with our topic, or not.
Teacher: What is it?
Kappa: People change value of things by using other things.
Alpha: What do you mean?
Kappa: You use a complicated process to turn fresh tomatoes into canned ones.
Alpha: Ah, that’s new. It also was said already in the verrrry beginning.
Kappa: Oh, yes, I am recalling now.
There Is Another Discrepancy!
Beta: Hurray! I got it!
Gamma: Hey, Beta, are you OK?
Beta: I’m telling you, I got it!
Beta: You thank me first! You and Kappa! No, Kappa first!
Kappa: Thank you, Beta. Now, tell us what happened.
Beta: All right. Kappa, this is for you. A part of an artwork is always equal or greater than the entire work! While in the physical world, a part is always less than its whole!
Teacher: Well, we saw that a “part” of a cultural phenomenon can be of the same value as its whole. Yes, now after we talked about it, this becomes quite clear. But how could it be greater?
Beta: I think it can when an artwork is not quite perfect. This happens all the time. You watch a movie and it is “OK” while some scenes or characters or even large fragments of it are perfect. Those “parts” are greater than the entire thing then. That’s it, that simple!
Gamma: How about me? Should I thank you yet?
Beta: Go ahead.
Gamma: Thank you, Beta, so, so, so much!
Beta: You, Gamma, are very, very, very welcome!
Alpha: Come on, people, aren’t you tired yet?
Beta: Yeah, kind of. OK. It is about “your thing,” Gamma. Although it is still not that clear. I believe that we are touching the very nature of cultural phenomena here. It is all about human communication. A book speaks to you, a song speaks to you, the simplest sketch speaks to you. Thus, a part of it speaks to you as much as the entire work, right?
Alpha: This is about “Kappa’s thing.”
Beta: Right, but this is also the exact reason why we are not willing to easily substitute one piece of art for another one in our life. We would rather add another one but not substitute, right?
Gamma: Yeah, sounds good. While I tend to agree, it is not that clear yet.
Teacher: I have never felt that exhausted. A lot of thinking and talking, a lot of ideas, a lot of confusion.
Gamma: I’m beginning to feel compassion for lawmakers.
Delta: Please, don’t. It never looks like they feel much troubled by these issues.
Kappa: It is our society then, whom we have to feel compassion for.
Beta: You took it from my mouth.
Teacher: All right, let it be our resume today.
A Few Afterthoughts
These came to my mind while I listened to the students. I just did not want to interrupt them, but made notes.
Cultural need does not die out of satisfaction but inspires thinking, discussing (you said “walk and talk”), criticizing, generally speaking―keeping it (a cultural phenomenon) to yourself, remembering, recalling, repeating, quoting, following, etc. Sometimes you like a book so much that you start reading it over as soon as you finish it. You can read over the entire thing or do it selectively, try to remember, to relate to yourself or to others selected passages… None of that applies to a physical thing in general, to consumer goods in particular. You may like some meal and eat it once in a while, but that’s it.
If someone is watching TV continually, it is never or rarely the same movie or show. It must keep changing and oftentimes keep being forgotten for these sorts of watchers. We are hardly dealing with an audience in this case. I would say that people who “watch and watch” whatever comes on do not communicate with but just consume video-production. They act like consumers, not like an audience.
To Kappa, Again
Yes, if you are hungry, it doesn’t matter what you eat; if you are cold, it doesn’t matter how you warm up; if you haven’t slept for a long while, you can fall asleep anywhere, anytime. You would probably read anything if you were deprived from reading for a long time. But if you haven’t been brought up as a reader, such a deprivation would not bother you.
You say you will not read a boring book. It is a kind of obvious assertion. Still, there are a few ideas emerging from this. A book can be boring for one person and interesting for another. A person can be boring but loved. Now, how does this translate into the world of physical things? Can we use a non-useful thing? The answer is kind of obvious, although it is quite likely that a skillful person can use what an unskillful cannot. This is, probably, a point where three worlds differ―people, cultural phenomena, and physical things.
To My Reader
As I said, this discussion between students left more questions than answers. However, as usually, it spurred a lot of thinking and turned my mind in an entirely new direction.