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A murder mystery, set in a future where you actually are unable to see things that you haven’t paid a license fee for. Summary afterwards.

It starts something like this:

The flight from RIAA international in Washington to Paris was quiet and uneventful. There were a few films showing early, but I hadn’t paid the license fee for that studio so I couldn’t watch them. I connected my laptop to the Internet and tried to get some work done, and then read some Othello. I’d managed to get a lifetime subscription to Shakespeare’s works at a bargain price, so I had plenty of reading material. An hour before I landed, my editor called through.

“I’ve just got word from our parent company, they’re authorizing a large sum of money if you can get the exclusive rights to your interviewees portfolio. I’m sending you the details now. Do you know who his agent is?”

“He doesn’t have one.” I said.
“He doesn’t have one?” echoed my editor, “He’s the oldest man in the world, and famous for his anecdotes and he doesn’t have an agent? My 6 year old son has an agent, and the best content he’s created is a couple of finger paintings. Do you know I have to pay 800 dollars a year license fee to see them?”
“Really? We still haven’t appointed an agent for Clara and she’ll be 16 soon, old enough to get her own”
“Well, we sent Sam to a fancy school, and they insist on all their students having agents. Anyway, back to my point. We can get an agent for this guy easily enough.”
“He won’t accept one. I did some reading about him, he’ll give interviews to anyone even nonpress, but he always refuses to have an agent or to grant exclusives.”
“Crazy! Well, he might change his mind when he sees how much money we’re offering”
“I’ll do my best”

The plane was beginning its descent and I still hadn’t filled in the forms. Since this was purely a business trip and I didn’t intend to do any sightseeing, I filled in the one labeled Waiver For National Monuments License Fee. It would mean that the Rights Management System in my eye would stop me from seeing the Eiffel tower on the skyline or the Arch de Triomphe, but it saved the paper a bit of money, and I could always get a temporary license later if I felt like doing the tourist thing.

The hotel had a bit of an unreal feel to it. My room was decorated in the old style, but the furniture was plasticy and new. There were notices on the wall, written in French, unintelligible now to anyone except an academic. It was strange to see ordinary notices, probably about the price of breakfast written in the language of philosophical treatises. The old man who’d shuffled out to unlock the heavy front door spoke English to me, and Arabic to the elevator. I figured the notices were mainly for ambiance.

I lay down on the bed with a drawn out sigh, as I always do when I get to a new place to stay. The plan was to be away 3 days, and do two interviews. The first one wasn’t until the morning. Clara was due to play soccer fairly soon, so I used my laptop to connect to her schools video feed, and watched the game, occasionally sending messages of encouragement over the big screen. My subscription to the schools sports output only allowed me to send 2 messages per game, so when she scored after I’d used them both up, I had to pay a large add on fee to send my congratulations. Still, it’s extra income like this that keeps the tuition fees low, so I didn’t mind very much. Besides, I could probably claim some of it back on expenses.

And so it goes on. The murder probably hinges on the fact that the victim was unable to see something that it is taken for granted everyone has paid the license fee for and so can see. Current theory is that the murderer set up a room or a scene to look exactly like a famous painting in the louvre, causing temporary blindness. Perhaps the murderer is his younger wife who has been recording all his reminiscences and wishes to copyright them to herself. Their value in license fees is enormous. One incident is an artist who is creating a sculpture and before it is finished a rival has it declared a work of national art, and suddenly he can’t see the art he is creating because he hasn’t paid the fee. The interviewee is the oldest person in the world and his anti altzheimers surgery has given him a perfect memory of his whole life. The people who gave the surgery that had this unexpected outcome are sueing for some of the value of his reminiscences, to force him to charge fees and give them a cut. French died out because it was a dead language, and couldn’t adapt. Night time images of the Eiffel tower are already under copyright, which is why I chose France as the setting.

Schnee Schni Schnappy

The title is a reference to the German song. This post is not about that. This is just a local copy of a comment I wrote on someone elses blog, discussing the Iraq war and the behaviour of soldiers.

In reply to a comment on apostrophers post about becoming monsters:

This whole ‘snapping’ thing doesn’t give me a lot of solace. Wife beaters claim that they ‘just snapped’, and we still judge them harshly. Whether or not someones snapping reduces the guilt on them depends on how we feel about their reasons for snapping. In the case of wife beaters, we don’t care that they commited the act in a fit of rage, when she didn’t bring him a beer, because we don’t think that’s a very good reason for ‘snapping’. If someone can ‘snap’ over something they shouldn’t ‘snap’ over, then most people think of them as just as guilty.

For most of us, having your friend killed next to you seems like a good reason to snap, but I think that it is very different when you’re in a war situation and your friend is standing there with a machine gun. In that situation, you should expect him to be killed, and if you can’t handle that without committing atrocities than you really really really should not be in the army.

When you work with wife beaters and get them to analyse their thought processes, you discover that ‘snapping’ is not so thoughtless a process as they and it appears you believe. Even in a fit of rage, people plan and have the ability to reason [it is a suspension of morality, not rationality]. ‘Snapping’ is a choice, and you can be trained to make it a less appealing choice (one way is through harsh punishments, other ways include self-talk, etc). This is something that should be one of the main concerns in training anyone who is going to be given a gun.

As an aside to an earlier point, historically speaking, battles in the past weren’t always brute attempts at domination. There were rules to war even before the Geneva convention, to the extent that when Henry gave the order to kill the prisoners at Agincourt because they didn’t have enough men to keep them all under control (they were outnumbered 6 to 1) his orders were ignored. There have always been people who broke the rules of war, and in the past there was little that could be done, except not to invite them to parties, but there has been the notion of morality in the way you treat prisoners and enemy noncombatants for a long time.

Posted by: kyb at May 23, 2006 07:54 AM

A Logic / Discussion aid site

” has challenged you to continue this discussion in a more structured environment”

x people agreed with these assumptions / conclusion.

  • Definitions
    • Request clarification of whole definition or of specific words
    • Can be challenged on basis of not sufficiently close to normal usage, alternative suggestion
    • Can be challenged on the basis of creating a tautology.
  • Assumptions,
    • Clarification – Request to create an argument with this as the conclusion
    • Challenge is to create an argument with ¬this as the conclusion
    • Request an assumption addition
    • Claim an assumption is unnecessary
    • Request evidence
  • Conclusion.
    • Specify what logical rule was used
    • Challenge by claiming it is a fallacy – named.

Pseudo Hard Science

Cognitive dissidents post on Kant

  1. kybernetikos said,

    May 18, 2006 at 4:32 pm

    “In particular, it’s hard to imagine science without an objective and definable truth.”

    I do find myself wondering about the relationship between Postmodernism as a phenomenan in art, philosophy and literature and Quantum Theory as a scientific world view. I think quantum theory is the beginning of a science without an objective and definable truth, but mathematicians can still find a way to describe it fairly well with probability. I’ve read a number of writers who believe that art and literature produces the world view necessary for the next wave of scientific discoveries and theories. When you see that many discoveries are independently made at the same time, and sometimes discoveries languish for years before suddenly catching on it becomes easier to believe that the actors of scientific progress are cultures not scientists. It’s interesting that some of the originators of Quantum personally hated the idea, almost as if the culture forced a bunch of people who were modernist by nature to discover what seems like a very postmodern truth. Of course, things work the other way too.

    What can be known has always been a central question in philosophy, and little progress has been made. I’m personally with Descarte and Berkeley: we know that there are thoughts and minds and we know that we are a mind and we exist. All else (including the exact meaning of these words) is speculation. Of course some speculations are more reasonable than others.

    I think that Godels proof that interesting mathematical and logical systems are incomplete or unsound, and quantums proof that observations and reality are in continous interaction immediately put the whole concept of discovering reality through making observations on very shaky ground.

    Your philosophical model of universe may actually be affecting the physical universe.

    Any ideas about where the current trends in literature and art will lead the scientists of the future?