Music Property

The topic of intellectual property gets me every time. As much as I am opposed to the notion of property in general, intellectual property is a complete farce. Along with Rick Beato and David Bennet, Adam Neely is one of my three main music theory staples on YouTube. Here, he goes into more depth than I would have expected, but it’s worth hearing the perspective of a musician. I won’t break down his video fully because it speaks for itself. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts and pull out highlights.

Podcast: Audio version of this page content.

November 8th, 1548 is the day in history that the French King Henri II opened the door to intellectual property, an obvious giveaway to a benefactor, creating a publishing monopoly. He turned community cultural knowledge into property, turning the benefit of many into the benefit of one. This is the crux of capitalism—favouring the one over the many.

Before continuing, it seems that there is a schism in the legal system itself. In fact, it is very fractured even within this small domain. At the same time it wants to be precise and analytical, it’s dealing with a subject that cannot be analysed as such. To add insult to injury, it exempts musicians and musical experts and requires music consumers to decide the outcomes of trial cases. To be fair, even relying on so-called experts would lead to mixed results anyway. They might as well just roll the dice. This is what happens when right hemisphere art enters a left hemisphere world.

nature + work = ownership

Adam establishes a grounding on the theory of property rights à la John Locke’s ‘sweat of the brow’ concept, wherein nature plus work equates to ownership. He then points out how intellectual property has even shakier ground to stand on. It relies rather on notions of originality and creativity, two concepts that have no intersection with the left-hemisphere heavy legal and jurisprudence systems. Moreover, like pornography, these things cannot be defined. They need to be divined. Divination is no place for lay jurists. It’s a recipe for disaster. The entire English court system is rife with problems, but the left-brainers feel these are just trivial devils in the details. I beg to differ, yet I am voiceless because I won’t participate within their frame.

Adam also points out how out of date the law is insomuch as it doesn’t recognise much of the music produced in the past few decades. Moreover, the music theory it’s founded on is the Romantic Era, white European music that often ties transcriptionists in knots. If the absence of certain words to emote experience is a challenge, it’s even worse for musical notation.

In any case, this is a hot-button issue for me on many levels, and I needed to vent in solidarity. This video is worth the 30 minutes run time. His ham sandwich analogy in part V works perfectly. It’s broken into logical sections:

  1. 0:00 Intro
  2. 1:45 Part I – Rhythm-A-Ning
  3. 7:07 Part II – Property Rights
  4. 11:25 Part III – Copyright
  5. 15:58 Part IV – Musical Constraints
  6. 22:18. Part V – HAM SANDWICH TIME
  7. 26:51 Part VI – Solving copyright….maybe?

Give it a listen. Cheers.

The cover image for this is of Thelonius Monk (circa 1947), who features heavily in the video.

Operant Chickens

As with chickens, humans can learn through reinforcement AKA operant conditioning.

In this video clip, we see a chicken learning that pecking a red circle yields a payload of food. Yet there is a problem with this algorithm. I don’t expect this study was meant to elucidate this point, but I’ll continue.

Except for one instance where the blue circle was pecked to yield nothing, the chicken learned that packing the red yielded a treat and so became fixed on seeking the red. What the chicken did not explore where the other colours—beige, green, and yellow. Perhaps these might have had a larger payout or a ‘better’ reward. Perhaps even a penalty or punishment, but I’ll ignore that eventuality.

The point is that through operant conditioning, the chicken is habituated. I feel that this is a metaphor for many such habituations in humans. People are indoctrinated (habituated) into all sorts of beliefs and behaviours, from the organisation of social and political systems to economic systems.

When I see people defending Democracy as Churchill did as “the worst form of government, but the best so far,” I can’t help but consider the parallels: Democracy is the red dot; capitalism is the red dot.

This not being a self-help blog, I’ll mention is passing the routines we get ourselves into that are analogous to this chicken—wandering through the world as if with blinders. The difference between a rut and a grave is the depth or dimensions. Are you in a rut on your way to the grave?

This is all I wanted to say. No chickens were harmed during the production of this blog entry.

Hierarchies and Meritocracy

Jordan Peterson and Russell Brand chat for about 12 minutes on sex differences and personality, but that’s not where I want to focus commentary. What I will say is that Peterson continually conflates sex and gender, and I find that disconcerting for a research psychologist.

I’ve queued this video near the end, where Peterson delineates his conception of how the political right and left (as defined by him and the US media-industrial complex).

I feel he does a good job of defining the right, and he may have even captured whatever he means by left—radical left even—, but he doesn’t capture my concerns, hence I write.

To recap his positions,

Premises

  • We need to pursue things of value
  • Hierarchies are inevitable
  • [One has] to value things in order to move forward in life
  • [One has] to value things in order to have something valuable to produce
  • [One has] to value some things more than others or [they] don’t have anything like beauty or strength or…competence or…whatever…
  • If [one] value[s] [some domain] then [one is] going to value some [things in that domain] more than others because some are better
  • If [one] play[s] out the value in a social landscape, a hierarchy [will result]
  • A small number of people are going to be more successful than the majority
  • A very large number of people aren’t going to be successful at all

Conservative (Right)

  • Hierarchies are justifiable and necessary

Left

  • Hierarchies … stack [people] up at the bottom
  • [Hierarchies] tilt towards tyranny across time

Critique

I feel I’ve captured his position from the video transcript, but feel free to watch the clip to determine if I’ve mischaracterised his position. I have reordered some of his points for readability and for a more ordered response on my part.

To be fair, I feel his delivery is confused and the message becomes ambiguous, so I may end up addressing the ‘wrong’ portion of his ambiguous statement.

We need to pursue things of value

This is sloganeering. The question is how are we defining value? Is it a shared definition? How is this value measured? How are we attributing contribution to value? And do we really need to pursue these things?

Hierarchies are inevitable

Hierarchies may be inevitable, but they are also constructed. They are not natural. They are a taxonomical function of human language. Being constructed, they can be managed. Peterson will suggest meritocracy as an organising principle, so we’ll return to that presently.

[One has] to value things in order to move forward in life

This is a particular worldview predicated on the teleological notion of progress. I’ve discussed elsewhere that all movement is not progress, and perceived progress is not necessarily progress on a global scale.

Moreover, what one values may not conform with what another values. In practice, what one values can be to the detriment of another, so how is this arbitrated or mediated?

[One has] to value things in order to have something valuable to produce

I think he is trying to put this into an economic lens, but I don’t know where he was going with this line. Perhaps it was meant to emphasise the previous point. I’ll just leave it here.

[One has] to value some things more than others or [they] don’t have anything like beauty or strength or…competence or…whatever…

This one is particularly interesting. Ostensibly, I believe he is making the claim that we force rank individual preferences, then he provides examples of items he values: beauty, strength, competence, and whatever. Telling here is that he chooses aesthetic and unmeasurable items that are not comparable across group members and are not even stable for a particular individual. I won’t fall down the rabbit hole of preference theory, but this is a known limitation of that theory.

If [one] value[s] [some domain] then [one is] going to value some [things in that domain] more than others because some are better

We’ve already touched on most of this concept. The key term here is ‘better‘. Better is typically subjective. Even in sports, where output and stats are fairly well dimensionalised, one might have to evaluate the contributions of a single athlete versus another with lower ‘output’ but who serves as a catalyst for others. In my mental model, I am thinking of a person who has higher arbitrary stats than another on all levels versus another with (necessarily) lower stats but who elevates the performance (hence) stats of teammates. This person would likely be undervalued (hence under-compensated) relative to the ‘star’ performer.

In other domains, such as art, academics, or even accounting and all measurement bets are off.

If [one] play[s] out the value in a social landscape, a hierarchy [will result]

Agreed, but the outcome will be based on rules—written and unwritten.

A small number of people are going to be more successful than the majority

Agreed.

A very large number of people aren’t going to be successful at all

Agreed

Conclusion

The notion of meritocracy is fraught with errors, most notably that merit can be meaningfully assessed in all but the most simple and controlled circumstances. But societies and cultures are neither simple nor controlled. They are complex organisms. And as Daniel Kahneman notes, most merit can likely be chalked up to luck, so it’s all bullshit at the start.

In the end, Peterson and people like him believe that the world works in a way that it doesn’t. They believe that thinking makes it so and that you can get an is from an ought. Almost no amount of argument will convince them otherwise. It reminds me of the time Alan Greenspan finally admitted to the US Congress that his long-held adopted worldview was patently wrong.

Video: CSPAN: Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman and Former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan Testimony

WAXMAN: “You found a flaw…”

GREENSPAN: “In the reality—more in the model—that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works, so to speak.”

WAXMAN: “In other words, you found that your your view of the world—your ideology—was not right. It was not what it had it…”

GREENSPAN: “Precisely. No, I… That’s precisely the reason I was shocked because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.”

To paraphrase musically

Video: Social Distortion, I Was Wrong

System Failure

The system is broken. It’s not just broken in the United States. It’s the entirety of Western Civilisation. It’s not time for a reboot. The virus is still inherent in the system. It’s time for a new system.

The reaction to this line of reasoning does something along the lines of, ‘It’s easy to criticise. What’s your solution?’ So let’s begin by parsing this enquiry.

Firstly, not all problems have solutions.

Humans, it seems, need resolution and closure. And they seem to gravitate towards easy answers, specious or otherwise. But humans have an abysmal track record of solving complex problems—political issues, social issues, economic issues, and so on. It’s not as much as there is no solution, per se, but that the interactions within the complexities are too many to consider. The system has a temporal dimension, which means even if I solve the problem at time-nought, the solution may not hold at time-prime.

Secondly, that one can recognise a problem does not mean one can fix it.

This was the denouement of Occupy Wall Street a few years back. They shed light on the problems, but those in charge—hawking ‘solutions’—established a frame wherein a problem without a solution is worse than a problem ‘remedied’ with the wrong solution. You don’t have to be a mechanic or body shop guy to recognise a smashed car even if you can’t fix it.

Auto smash

What then?

Harry Potter’s Hermione’s Magic Wand

If I had a magic wand, for a start, I’d abolish Capitalism, private property, and religion and go from there.

What’s wrong with private property?

‘Do you live on the street?’ is a typical response I hear when I suggest abolishing private property. ‘Give me your address. I suppose you wouldn’t mind if I moved in’ is another. I’ve discussed eliminating private property elsewhere, but the underlying problems remain:

  1. Why accept the usurpation of the commons to private property?
  2. Why accept the premise that one can own what one doesn’t possess?
  3. Why accept the premise of a first-come, first-served principle?
  4. Why accept, given the notion of property rights, that distribution must occur within the domain of economics?
  5. If one accepts that property should fall into the domain of economics, why not apply a ‘best use’ litmus instead of a ‘first come’ or ‘ability to purchase’ litmus?

Usurpation of the Commons

I don’t accept this usurpation. In nature, where conflict exists, violence or the threat of violence is the arbiter. As humans in nature, it’s no different. Like the meat one purchases behind the veil of a grocery mart, we are shielded from the inherent violence,

In many jurisdictions, property owners are justified in homicide if another person encroaches on their property. Many homeless or indigent people have tried to squat on unoccupied property only to be forcibly removed.

Monopoly Game Board

Property is like the game of musical chairs. And if you are late to the game, the chairs may already be taken. Imagine joining a game of monopoly late in the game and ownership of all the property has already been distributed. How do you think you might fare?

Possession is 9/10 of the Law

Possession is different to property. That I possess a place offers a different justification for my occupancy of it than a place that I own in absentia. Sure a philosophical argument could be made against any right to possess, but I’m not going there—at least not today.

This becomes a situation where usage is a determining factor. Can this ownership be justified if you’ve got a dozen places scattered around the globe?

First Come, First Served

It’s easy to see why this is in place: It’s simple. And at the start, there were few people and a seemingly infinite amount of land, but this was not sustainable. Land is ostensibly a fixed resource whilst humans multiply somewhat geometrically. So, given enough time, this allocation problem was predictable and inevitable.

But, given that property is something we insist on, what are the alternatives? Do we have a lottery periodically to redistribute property? Do we reset ownership whenever a new potentially qualifying owner emerges? Do we establish duration of ownership with some expiry? Do we not allow property to pass to forward generations? Or do we simply disallow ownership because this solution is too cumbersome to implement?

Disclaimer: In an attempt to economise my time yet still contribute content, this is a post dredged from Drafts (from May 2020) and posted with touchups in the manner of applying lipstick on a pig. Sadly, it’s still relevant.

Cyclists are Economic Disasters

A colleague of mine posted this today. It was in quotations but was uncited. I attempted to discover the source, but the best I could do was to find a post from 2017 citing another author, Kaushik Patel on LinkedIn, but I do not know if this person originated this. It doesn’t really matter. In the spirit of full disclosure, my colleague is a fully indoctrinated, unapologetic Libertarian Capitalist. He also is an avid bicyclist, so reconciling the meta must be a challenge.

A Cyclist – is a disaster for the economy:

1. He does not buy the car and does not take a car loan.
2. Does not buy vehicle insurance.
3. Does not buy fuel.
4. Does not use the services of repair shops and car washes.
5. Does not use paid parking.
6. Does not become obese.
7. Yes, and well, dammit ! Healthy people are not needed for the economy. They do not buy drugs. They do not go to private doctors. They do not increase the country’s GDP ! On the contrary, every new McDonald’s outlet creates 30 jobs: 10 Dentists, 10 Cardiologists and 10 Weight Loss Experts.

So, what do you prefer- Cycling or fast food?

Like the Jackass parable, I recently shared, how one reacts to this is largely predictable if you know the worldview of the reactor.

This piece takes the perspective of the cyclist critiquing GDP economics satirically through the lens of an orthodox economist. Of course, there are also many internal contradictions and mistruths. I don’t intend to fully critique what I take to be a meme, but I’ll comment somewhat. To be fair, I get annoyed by bicycles intermingling with either automobiles or pedestrians. I’d prefer there be dedicated thoroughfares for bikes. When I am walking, I feel they’re like mosquitos or horseflies. When I’m driving, I see them as drunken toddlers. Who knows what they’re going to do next.

Meantime

Crossed my Facebook Feed

To be honest, I see them as anachronistic. They serve a purpose—many purposes, in fact—, but that doesn’t obviate the nuisance factors. I am not wholly anti-bicycle, but I feel they need a better implementation strategy. I rode bicycles until I was twelve years old or so. Not being the nineteenth century, I still view them as child’s toys. Regarding adults, there are generally two categories—the privileged (and self-righteous) and the underprivileged (and disenfranchised).

Privilege

The author of this quote is likely in this category. How dare someone try to undermine my god-given right to responsibly ride a bike for the greater good of humankind. These people not only own expensive bicycles. Some own several for on-road cycling, off-road cycling, and perhaps even performance cycling. Generally, they own the accoutrements and matching aerodynamic vestiments—padded bicycle shorts, a tight jersey, a sleek helmet, and proper cycling shoes, each contributing to the economy.

In the categories are the commuters, who cannot necessarily wear their gear on the commute, but trust me, they got it in the closet, and they’d wear it if they could.

Underprivilege

This category is for the poor who need to commute a relative distance but either can’t afford or justify an automobile or have had their licence revoked. These people are not a part of bike culture. They are bicyclists by necessity. This is not a play to the greater good. It’s just a way to not have to walk as much.

More Colour and Shape

There is a large cultural component evident here. Japan has a bike culture. When I lived outside of Tokyo, I could drive past parking lots filled with thousands of bicycles. But that’s their culture.

A parking lot for bicycles in Niigata, NiigataJapan

I didn’t even own a car in Japan. I relied on their public transportation system and my feet. I drove friends’ cars and motorbikes. Japan also has favourable motorbike regulations, but that’s another topic.

What does it mean?

The meta of this satire is that from the perspective of the GDP, the cyclist does not contribute to the larger economy. I’ll not mention beyond this that the cyclist is a male.

He does not buy the car and does not take a car loan

This presumes that the bicycle is the sole means of transportation. Perhaps it is. Perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps he buys a car but pays cash. Why is he introducing financing into the equation? Of course, the bike needs to be purchased. Some are more expensive than a used car.

Does not buy vehicle insurance

This relies on the previous situation, but—and I hate to be the one to break it to you— not all people who own cars or drive buy automobile insurance. Do all jurisdictions actually require a person to purchase insurance?

Does not buy fuel

Ditto. Presuming this means petrol for the motorcar.

Does not use the services of repair shops and car washes

This is just silly. As with fuel, obviously, this is scoped to auto repair. And many people don’t use or rarely use car washes. Whilst one may bypass auto repair, you may not escape the need for bicycle repairs or tyres or frames and so on. Sure, these might be less expensive, but they are no zero-cost events.

Does not use paid parking

I am presuming this person either does not live in a congested city where one would have to pay for parking or his city subsidises parking, thus contributing to GDP.

Does not become obese

A bit of fat-shaming, perhaps? I guess he’s never seen a fat person on a bike. I’ll give him that the person on the bike might get some cardiovascular activity that wouldn’t have happened otherwise, and perhaps he’d avoid becoming morbidly obese, but I’m not accepting this one. Moreover, I’ll suggest that selection bias is more the factor.

Healthy people are not needed for the economy

Here’s the punchline. Healthy people don’t contribute to the Medical-Industrial Complex. Speaking from the perspective of the US, these people pay for preventative care, buy upscale food, eat in upscale restaurants—not to mention McDonald’s—, live in upscale housing in upscale neighbourhoods, shop in upscale stores, and so on. I’ve heard the sentiment that if you don’t spend money on Organic™ food and health supplements and treatment modalities, then you’ll spend it later in trying to recover your (inevitable) lost health.

How does McDonald’s generate dentists? Conveniently, he left out the medical personnel who get to treat knee injuries, injuries from falling and getting hit by cars (or maybe just car doors).

Closing

In the end, economics is not a good measure for much of anything, but it is a measure that can increase or decrease and, for what it’s worth, we can compare X to Y.

After all is said and done, I don’t care about the GDP, and I don’t care about cycling. Chalk it up to non-attachment or apathy—perhaps a little of each.

Superinstitutional Heros

I’ve never been a comic book guy or into heroes or superheroes. In fact, I have always had a thing for the underdog. This article points out The Batman’s Privilege Problem. I’ve skimmed a few comic books and graphic novels, and I’ve seen a few movies, but I am not really steeped in this space to speak to the nuance—and there is probably a difference between comics and graphic novels, but like I said: not inters. I just don’t identify with most of it. Not the violence. Not the Truth, Justice, and the American way of legacy Superman. But I do sense a privilege problem. Defenders of the status quo. I wonder if comic book aficionados tend to be more politically Conservative.

A quick Google search, and I’m mostly correct. Evidently, Marvel authors trend toward the Right. This article ranks some figures Conservative, Centrist, and Left, although the Left feel more Liberal than Left, and they are all constitutionalists. Apparently, X-Men were born of the Civil Rights movement in America in the 1960s. Still not my bag. Where are the Anarchists? At this rate, I’d settle for a Marxist.

One last mention: this piece points out that even where there are prominent social justice issues raised in one or another comic, the subtext (or overarching meta) is Conservative. This likely creates tension in a manner of speaking, but it creates dissonance for me.

I don’t have much more to add, but the article caught my fancy. It resonated for me, and having not posted for a while, I figured what the hell.

Still a Slave

“Wage slavery is not the same as slavery, and this diminishes the experience of plantation slaves in the antebellum Southern US states” is a sentiment I’ve heard repeated over the years.

I’ll argue that it is the same. Saying wage slavery is like when the then-president of the United States, Bill Clinton, denied that oral sex was sex despite it being an obvious part of the name. When one says wage slavery is still slavery, s/he is making a commentary on the lack of agency, a lack of personal control. That the worker has a choice over which master to slave under is hardly a consolation. That a plantation slave has a choice of picking cotton or tobacco is of no consequence.

To disqualify wage slavery as slavery is to disqualify a 3-month pregnant woman as being not as pregnant as a 6-month pregnant woman. One might be closer to term, but they are equally pregnant.

That a plantation slave may have had less freedom and run the risk of physical beatings, torture, or even death is a sad commentary. That they may have separated from their families and have no autonomy is a matter of degree.

The slavery connexion occurs where the human needs to comply. Sure, a wage slave can opt out and live as a transient—ostensibly homeless; perhaps s/he can home-surf. Perhaps s/he can beg or live off the land.

Wage slavery is not the same as slavery

To me, the common missing element is to be able to operate as a functioning society, that as communities, we might contribute however we see fit. Of course, that narrative will quickly provoke an appeal to Tragedy of the Commons. People are selfish and act only in their own self-interests. And this is accepted uncritically as fact rather than evaluating whether this worldview is a consequence of Modernity or Capitalism, whichever nomenclature one has opted to adopt.

Wage slavery is slavery. Depending on the information source bout 50 per cent of Americans are a paycheque away from needing to deplete savings to survive; some have assessed a single paycheque from homelessness without intervention. One paycheque from poverty. Over two-thirds of Americans have been living paycheque-to-paycheque since the Covid-19 pandemic hit. If this describes you, it likely provides little solace that you are not alone. Who on the Titanic was relieved to know that other people shared their plight? Is there a silver lining for those who are paid fortnightly or monthly? And God forbid the ones whose paycheque arrive daily—perhaps in cash from the till.

Research from the Federal Reserve found that 4 in 10 Americans couldn’t afford a $400 emergency, and 22 per cent say they expect to forgo payments on some of their bills. It’s not much better in the UK, where the runway appears to end at 2.5 months rather than 1, although about two-thirds of renters would expect to make it more than a month.

Slavery, like turtles, all the way down. Just be thankful the worst that can happen is that one starves to death or pursues the life of Valjean. Dissociating wage slavery from plantation slavery is like separating the abbatoire from the butcher’s shop. When you’re the chattel it makes little difference.

Neo-Feudalism

It seems that Capitalism took a wrong turn and is retracing The Road to Serfdom. Hayek worried about government intervention in business, but he did not imagine a world where corporate leaders would grow large enough to not only be able to control government power through money and influence, but it could actually ignore governments altogether—or at least to a large extent.

The last time government was challenged at this level was by the Church. In the end, it resolved into a tenuous stalemate. But this next conflict will be ostensibly bloodless, opting to be fought with political weaponry.

serf master cap

To the workaday people, it doesn’t change much. Denial is an interesting bed partner anyway. As most deny being wage slaves, they now just deny being serfs. In their minds, they are free, just inches from the goal line. I’m not the one to break it to them that the goal line away from in inches is the wrong one. They’re an entire field’s length to reach their goal. Thank goodness for denial and mechanisms that assuage cognitive dissonance. Ignorance is indeed bliss.

For some, the COVID response doubled down on the transition from Capitalism to Communism. For others, it was a reinforcement of the strength of Capitalism—and if in the milieu of fighting between authoritarians and Libertarians. But the phoenix rising from the dust—hardly flames—seems to rather be a sort of neo-feudalism. This seems to be a more likely future than Capitalism in a nation-state world. I assume that Nation-states will continue to exist, but they will serve only to contain the commoners, the ones who can’t afford to escape the fetters.

I don’t have much to add to the discussion at this time, but this article sums up some of my perspectives. My question is how the Capital aspect is extricated from the system. The serf part is easy.