Men understand men,
Women understand men,
Men don’t understand women,
Women don’t understand women.
Men understand men,
Think not too far ahead,
Be happy instead:
A smiling dot
Embracing a fate
As, like it or not
A trace within a trace
With an iota
A familiar face
Within an insignificant race
And a trillion names
Whoever you are,
Living and laughing and sad and expiring
On a sphere of rock:
Your simian cot
And passing less than a cosmic heartbeat,
Chained to a dying star
A wall mounted window mirror edges
Onto the mirror image of the Godhead
As a willow swings limply on a park that was once a river
At the edge of the urban mirage
By the halfpipe at the perimeter of Wandle Park.
His eyes are old and rheumy but fixed upon
The all encroaching grey Albion
His bow of burning gold lost in a recollection ditch
Patriotism gone to sleep for an overnight stay
In a truck in a lay-by
And with a sandwich and a flask of still warm tea
He’s waiting for the football to return
So we can bring the flags out to burn again
His chariot of fire down at the DVLA
Caught by the wardens in the wrong parking bay
Deemed not roadworthy,
And long gone are the glory riding days.
Sword asleep in an unsteady hand, he was jumped by the clan
Divine countenance all smashed up
By them hooded heathens on some midnight street
The night bus, three stops from city centre, around five past three
Damned, those agents of iniquity
They answer to no one except perhaps the TV
And bored, their sportswear forms can be seen, all flickering
Under amber street lights
That frustrated civil planning which has choked out the starlight.
These events were all documented
And archived to the cloud
Captured by the moire of myopic CCTV
The Demon’s Name Is Surveillance
That timeless interface into the artificer scenery
Absurdly observant, yes
Lawsuits follow later
I see what you see.
Later patched up
He casts his eyes over
60s era tower-blocks
Which grew out of hard earned, hard etched symmetry
Sprouted from concrete ground
Leaden stone partitioned into upraised homes,
Post prosperity, partial state property
Preserving property values, overblown
You can fit a family in there,
But there are too many families there.
The foundations were built on green fields
And pleasant pastures
Now long paved over
The satanic mills all outsourced to India
The shape of the land was long lost
To the shapeless
And the all encompassing,
And now Pagan rites to the media are conducted on the mount
Satellite TV techs, all fluorescent jackets and further cups of tea
2 sugars and milk, please.
Radiation warnings like prayer flags draped between iron broadcast masts
We are fit to worship radio waves on the high heavens
They bring us Phil Mitchell and Pat Evans
The lamb of god got sick
It had to go
Since we started feeding it cornmeal
Was later served up
With mashed potato
And garden peas
Fresh from a tin
And powdered gravy…
The arrows of desire
All landed upon the council estate
Which may yet explain
The knife fights
The gang rapes…
No Jerusalem but plenty building yet to be planned
As the boom returns and the cranes come back
And all will be made again grand
There will soon be no god here left to offend
As the last stone church falls down
And he looks around at what he thought was the very end
In England’s green and pleasant land
Man: You are walking along any place you choose.
Out of nowhere comes a loud buzzing, and a large and (obviously very stupid) fly collides with your cheek
Insect: You are flying, thinking about bright and shiny things to collide with. Suddenly a giant, (and obviously very stupid) floating face collides with you.
This article is aimed at people who sell bits and bytes and wonder why people don’t always pay for them.
Napster Was Just The Beginning…
At risk of pointing out the obvious; digital information does wonderful things for art and culture because it is both abundant and egalitarian. Once something goes digital; it can be copied indefinitely and shared freely with anybody who has access. It allows the unlimited distribution of old songs, books, films and things previously no longer available to the world.
It is also insurance for our older treasured cultural works threatened by physical degeneration. Consider Google’s ‘liberation’ of books to the public domain through its meticulous program of scanning and uploading lots of very old texts. It is nice to think that they are now available to everybody without charge, and easily accessible. As they should be. You could think of it ‘doing backups on historical data’.
An old hacker maxim says Information wants to be free. In the physical, and on a large commercial scale (think Google’s servers), the cost of information storage is now so low as to be worth (in economic terms) almost zero. Its price continues falling, as technology improves and hosting moves to the cloud.
The buyer now has the choice to pay for something digital – so can we really expect everybody to willingly give their hand earned money away for our bits and bytes?
Point I am making: In this instance we must not mistake pay for with value. If I love your music, adore you as an artist but don’t pay for it, I maybe incongruent in how I value you (maybe I’m ripping you off?). However, I clearly value your work in some way, perhaps not monetarily.
Do you love your girlfriend less if you can’t afford to buy her a meal? What if you are too cheap? What if you steal the meal for her?
Speaking Of Piracy:
And just because I download your album, doesn’t mean I don’t value your music. The loss of a physical sale is not so much a loss as a lesser gain; as not everyone who downloads something illegally would have purchased it with no other option. The free download option has given rise to a semi (emphasis on semi) honorary system dubbed ‘try before buy’. It has been around in one form or another for many years now with the idea of ‘shareware’.
It appears that information starts to centralise as the efficiency of communication increases. A better network facilitates a faster diffusion of information. Think of examples from film or fiction where someone leaks a story to the press – information is very adept at duplicating itself. It starts off leaked from one source, and eventually winds it’s way back to the major (central) information outlets, CNN, BBC, Google News, so on.
The accidental citizen journalist scoops the major news network, just because he/she was THERE.
Music Is A Good Example…
We can extend this metaphor of ‘diffusion’ to the distribution of music. New tracks, especially ones by artists who are well-known and highly commercial will be let released quickly as the insatiable demands for them can be fulfilled. This includes new channels such as peer-to-peer file sharing and digital distribution.
Why wait for your CD to arrive if someone has already leaked the album onto a torrent, which will take you a few minutes to download for free? It’s probably unfair but humans often value utility over the ‘relatively small ethical snags’ or guilt. This is especially when the implications of illegal downloading aren’t clear.
What is the Internet, asides from a conduit? It is a repository and a medium in which the majority of human information is being indexed. I think of it akin to a big hard drive with an ever-expending storage size that we haven’t properly mapped yet. You can find almost anything there, if you know what sectors to look in.
Collectively, the internet doesn’t really follow an ethical code. Just because sharing pre releases of albums for free is illegal, doesn’t mean our giant hard drive (the net) won’t make that available to you. If you know the right search terms or places to go, it is all there waiting.
If I download Rihanna’s new album, to me, that doesn’t seem to take anything away from her considerable wealth. But if I leak a pre-release of her album, I don’t necessarily see the damage that I’ve done to her sales. She looks rich and successful to me regardless, even if I do take a cut out of her figures. And if I am harming her business, can we quantify the damage I’ve done? It’s all a bit thorny and therefore easy for me as ‘Mr. Digital Native With BitTorrent’ to really not care that much.
What am I getting at in all this? It’s that people, in their practical way, don’t see the consequences of these abstract laws they break. They don’t want shackles and limitations if they honestly believe that they are committing little or no wrong. And if they believe themselves to be anonymous (which is easier to be online), they are less afraid of legal ramifications.
We have an environment where everyone has the ability to share files at great speed, with negligible cost to both sender and receiver AND both are completely unconstrained by geography. It’s easy to see that your CD is going to get out there, whether you like it or not. There are people who ‘crack’ software that they don’t use and share music that they don’t listen to. They do it just because they can, and they enjoy the challenge.
Don’t Fight The System, Change The System
Impose artificial scarcity on an essentially unlimited environment and the system will correct itself whether your ethical stance likes it or not.
Digital natives cannot be told how to value things. Don’t stake your money on convincing them to. A couple of years of torrenting and 4chan and people get a sort of blasé approach to the whole thing.
As an artist you may do a limited press run of 100 CDs, but once someone has encoded that to an MP3 all the scarcity is gone, at least as far as the music is concerned. Perhaps the intrinsic scarcity (and value?) now shifts to the physical product…
You know as well as I do that people still like to appreciate and feel beautiful, tangible things. Give them a CD or DVD product with inherent physical value in related to your music and those buggers who pirate your sounds will have a hard time cracking and sharing that experience!
There are tangible and intangible things that are beyond piracy. Your brand and beautiful physical goods are amongst them.
Yet Another Thought Experiment – A World With No Scarcity
Here is a thought experiment for you to ponder… (because I spend too much time in my own mind and so do you).
If physical resources become susceptible to the same kind of abundance as digital information has, what happens to value? What happens to scarcity?
Theoretically: matter equals frozen energy and almost all resources can be described as matter. Maybe at some point in the future, if humanity will acquire the ability to harness immense amounts of energy (zero point, fusion? etc.) and the mechanism to ‘freeze’ this energy into things. Maybe we’ll be able to create abundant matter of any variety we like, and it therefore all experience no physical scarcity.
At this point is what sort of economic system and would we be operating under?
New Economies Of Lossless Replication:
So, perhaps these digital shenanigans are a preview of the coming new economics (given a few hundred years of technological advancement). Economics driven by a value system that does not incorporate scarcity any more. Maybe this marketplace’s values will be driven instead not by financial gain but by something higher, such as the need for self-actualisation, e.g. the need to express our creative selves and the altruistic urge to see people around us happier?
I and many others believe that the need to acquire is a phantom happiness that passes onto the next new, desirable thing that comes along. Perhaps when the need to desire material things is removed, the pursuit of happiness will be redirected toward immaterial things. Spiritual things.
Maybe towards a more authentic pursuit of happiness, which comes from things we cannot sell each other, but give only freely. I say this with the caveat: we often tend not to value things we don’t work for.
How does this relate to the new digital economy? Perhaps it is a prototype of a system to come as our resources increase and marketplaces start to see less and less scarcity. A testing ground for us to see how we can make money out of things that are essentially free.
Maybe a little paradoxical; what do we do with all the money then?
No Replicators Allowed?
Think about it, if someone invented a replicator that was commercially viable for the general public, the damage that it would do to the marketplace would be almost unlimited. I wouldn’t be surprised if there where lawsuits to try and limit the distribution and usage of this hypothetical replicator.
We’re already seeing the first steps in this with 3D printers and the ban on certain blueprints (namely weapons…)
And, we already have replicators that work losslessly with digital information. We call them computers! And they’re doing plenty of damage.
It makes me think; money is an incentive and a way to systematize and control the exchange of goods and services. But if these goods and services arrive instantly and without effort, you don’t need to incentivize anybody. Money becomes redundant. The inequalities in power caused by an uneven distribution of resources go away. What then? Green uptopia? I wonder.
Pay What You Want – You Might Have To Eventually
Asking for people to ‘pay what they want’ for something could be the preview to a new economy.
If you think of it as a continuum between price fixing on one end and haggling everything on the other, then this form of everyone individually valuing things is the ultimate form of liquidity.
Radiohead offered pay what you want on their album “…”. This went very well. They later sold the album at full retail price, which also did well.
Such a society could be full of deeply spiritual and contented people. Alternatively it may come to grow lazy now that the impetus and motivation to ‘do’ anything was removed.
If you had every material thing you ever wanted, what would you do?
You’d probably be forced to chase the intangible.
You are skydiving, descending, in freefall at 15,000 feet. Your chute fails to open. Your second chute refuses to open. You have only two chutes, things look hopeless.
You are above what appears to be a pine forest. It is now 10,000 feet below and the ground is rushing up to meet you..
You recall a story of an airman in the second world war who survived a fall from a similar height, and who also landed in a pine forest. The only advice you remember that he gave was to land on your back, creating as much surface area as possible, thus dispersing the blow.
You also intuitively understand that falling from 15,000 feet without an operating parachute is instant death.
You can now choose to believe either of these things and act accordingly. Should you choose to believe the airman’s tale you can guide your fall over the forest and brace yourself for landing.
Should you choose the alternative you can make your peace and prepare yourself for the end…
Symbolically – the direction and outcome of life is no different from this situation.
Inevitably, you are going to die. This is neither bad nor good, it’s just the way things turn out. You can either go on through life and deny it, or accept that life is shorter than it should be and that you have many things to do before you hit the deck. Are you doing these things?
Are you ready for the end, when it comes?
I pass unseen through the lives of others
Reflected, yet perceptive
Unperceived by every pair of eyes
That pass me by
I watch the anger, and adoration
Then later lies and alibis
That come around twice
Prosaic sadness, love triangles, cruel rejections,
Depressives rerunning the daily introspective
A thousand hours spent staring at yet another lover lost
Learning what it is to be put out to pasture
In excess, so complex, hate, screaming and madness
I visit places where cupid’s arrows have gone awry
Orgiastically pulling stilettos out of an ex’s eye
Where we are wishing
Not for the last time
That the memories would die
And I show myself to some
But judge no one
Singular, I push on
Just as soon gone as I was there
Taking in the sights
And the small affairs
Of someone else’s life.
Disclaimer: I am not a vegetarian or vegan and have no ‘dog in the fight’ here
2. Isn’t it hilarious that, like feminism – hardline veganism/vegetarianism has, unfortunately become contaminated by the type of people who become hardline vegans/vegetarians? ^_^