What America used to value

I have been re-reading old Marvel comics as PDFs.  GIT Corp published large runs of X-Men, Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Avengers, Hulk, Captain America, and Iron Man comics on DVDs (as well as Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, and Star Trek comics).

Thinking back to these early comics, most of which started in the 60s, we can see how, with the comics as an example, society really celebrated the scientists.  Fantastic Four has Richard Reed, Avengers had Hank Pym (Ant-Man and later names), Hulk is Bruce Banner, Iron Man is Tony Stark, and Spider-Man was teen scientist Peter Parker.  Now many of these scientist, especially Bruce Banner and Tony Stark were serving the nation and their battle on the Red Menace of communist Soviet Union.  Back then, our society saw science as leading the way forward to developments for our society and winning the Cold War.

Yet today, what was once seen as the part of the solution to winning the battle for democracy in the free world and not so free world is now viewed very differently.

  • The theory of evolution is to be challenged by intelligent design (aka backdoor creationism).  Note:  a scientific theory can not be proven, but is basically undisputed as explaining how things work, you may have heard of another theory, the theory of gravity
  • Climate change science is challenged because it threatens corporate profits of the dirtiest and most profitable industry in the world, Big Oil

We need to take value of our science, we have to fund research and development.  We need science to lead to all those discoveries that help humanity, not just further enrich corporations with patents on the fabric of nature, like seeds.  On issues like stem cell research we need to have honest discussions of moral and ethical implications of research.  But equally those discussions must encompass all viewpoints and not be driven solely by those with a religious agenda that may be trying to silence voices of progress and truth like Galileo was for saying the earth revolved around the sun by the Church.



Will we ever see this high capacity storage?

The New York Times reports that General Electric has created a digital storage system using holograms that would put the equivalent of 100 DVDs on one disc.

The storage advance, which G.E. is announcing on Monday  [article from April 28, 2009], is just a laboratory success at this stage. The new technology must be made to work in products that can be mass-produced at affordable prices.

But optical storage experts and industry analysts who were told of the development said it held the promise of being a big step forward in digital storage with a wide range of potential uses in commercial, scientific and consumer markets.

“This could be the next generation of low-cost storage,” said Richard Doherty, an analyst at Envisioneering, a technology research firm.

This is pretty exciting news, and I really hope that they can bring this to market.  Of course, my worry is that the RIAA and MPAA will try to stifle innovation to protect their industries, while denying or limiting consumers ability to have bigger and cheaper storage options .  You have to wonder about those defenders of the free market, what do they think about how intellectual property laws make the market a little less free. 


Question of the Day – August 6, 2008

Will intellectual property laws and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) put an end to the use of music in enhanced interrogation torture in Guantanamo Bay?

Intellectual Property laws

I am not a huge fan of Intellectual Property (IP) laws.  I do think that people should be paid for the work that they do, but as the Writer’s Guild Association strike has shown, much of that money goes to big corporations, not the creators.

I do buy CDs, which I rip to iTunes or MP3s without the Digital Rights Management (DRMs) issues.  I own DVDs of many TV shows.  So I am not some peer to peer downloading fanatic.  But I really feel that the entertainment industry has gone too far.

Dean Baker who has the blog Beat the Press has a nice blog comparing counterfeits to unauthorized copying.


A true counterfeit good is intended to deceive the consumer. This would be an article of clothing supposedly by a famous designer, an original painting by a famous artist, or fake currency, all of which are intended to capture a far higher price in the market because the consumer is misled about their identity.

Unauthorized copy,

On the other hand, there are unauthorized copies which sell for prices that are far below the price for which the “real thing” would sell. This includes handbags and articles of clothing that may carry a designer label, but often sell for a small fraction of the designer label price. It is almost inconceivable that consumers don’t know that they are not getting the designer product.

What it all means for consumers and owners of IP

 This distinction is essential because with true counterfeits, the consumer is the victim. In the case of unauthorized copies, the victim is the company to whom the government has granted a monopoly over the sale of the item in question. The consumer is a beneficiary when they purchase an unauthorized copy at a price that is far lower than the price of the authorized version. For this reason, consumers are not likely to cooperate in efforts to stamp out the trade in [un]authorized copies. The government’s efforts to crack down on this trade is likely to meet the same fate as the Soviet Union’s effort to stamp out the black market trade in blue jeans, it didn’t work.

Dean Baker has written a couple of other reports regarding IP.  One is a new model of software development, another looks at the cost of text books, and the third focuses on the whole issue of IP including drug patents and copywright laws, it is a great overview.

Future posts on this topic will include how we force IP protections into trade agreements, how it is large source of revenue to offset our negative trade balance with other countries, and other fun stuff.