Thursday, June 3, 2010

TED Thursday: An Ecology of Creativity

This is an excerpt of the TED Thursday Feature focusing on Lawrence Lessig's Revisiting the Re-Mix / Ecology of Creativity discussion, as posted originally at the Old School Heretic Blog.
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As for Riskail, creativity is highly valued and respected, indeed it is considered an essential complement to Life and Liberty.  Freedom of expression is considered part and parcel of Liberty; one cannot have one without the other.  They are both, Life and Liberty, Embodied Principles; abstract concepts of such intrinsic importance to Civilization that they have become enshrined and exalted beyond common Archetypes, most Saints and even the Vestals and Madonnas, as beloved as they are.  The Embodied Principles have stood the test of time and revolution, survived the chaos and madness of the most troubled times and the glorious excesses of the best of times as well.  They endure.  They persist.  They are outside time and deeply rooted in the heart of Civilization in a way that makes them ever present, like witnesses to all the crimes committed in their name or the small acts of honesty and integrity that oftentimes get overlooked or forgotten by all others.
 
The Academy which sprawls throughout Devukarsha, with campuses and labs, lecture-halls and libraries scattered across all the Twelve Tiers and beyond contains millions of years of accumulated, preserved, edited & annotated, regurgitated and re-mixed records, data, information and the works of countless generations, all collected and contained (barely) within its secular precincts where every gate has carved above it the single word Epistomonikos.  Allow me to use an excerpt from the short-story of the same name to illustrate:
"It was an old word from an old world that meant 'Making Knowledge.' The Academy at Devukarsha was a place that was focused, some would say even obsessed on just that; the manufacture of knowledge. Like a barbarian-industrialist's soul-deadening prison-factory, the vast campuses of the Academy churned out an incredible amount of books, recordings, lectures, performances, tutorials, theories, and more. It was a huge secular cathedral dedicated to the intricate arcaneries of learning and the ancient and accepted traditional methodologies of teaching. One came here to study or to disseminate knowledge, to peel back the veils of ignorance, or to ponder great thoughts. Otherwise they found themselves driven away at the point of a blade -- and that only if they were fortunate not to have provoked a feud with some recognized authority, erudite specialist or tenured professor. Seruka had come to this place to learn and she would fight to the death to protect her right to study, to gain knowledge, to make her mark on academia. She still carried the matching pair of slim stillettos that her grandfather had presented her on her fifth birthday. At first they had been longer than her arms and she had to wield them like tiny swords. Now they fitted her hands like direct extensions of her will as only something long-practiced could ever do."

And from Epistomonikos once more, a further description of the Academy:
"A massive hive of erudition and learning consecrated to the ten thousand Secular Saints, the Academy was home to numerous Cliques, Cabals, secret societies (ssshh!), committees, panels, inquisitions, laboratories and more. More than a hundred libraries were liberally scattered across the campus, each one jealously guarding its share of the amassed wisdom and hoarded knowledge of countless millennia, all carefully preserved by hereditary archivists, librarians (both committed and freelance), specialists and curators who watch over priceless collections of the relics and detritus of humanity's long climb upwards from oblivion's very brink. Clerks, scribes, monastic illuminators and calligraphers (both digital and by hand and brush/pen) struggled to process the ever-growing back-log of monographs, dissertations, research findings, patents, and other pixel and paperwork generated by innumerable students, Scholars and Experts, many of whom occupied themselves in correcting the errors of the woefully ignorant past, censoring the scandalous lies of vituperative frauds of bygone eras, and offering expert critiques on just what was meant by the greatest intellects, philosophers and scientists of previous ages."
Knowledge is another of the Embodied Principles within the cultures of Riskail, and it is a powerfully present one within Devukarsha in particular.  In order for Knowledge to continue to grow and develop, the free flow of information is essential, however, if one makes all information equally open and free, that kills off the very sources of creativity from which it flows and depends.  Even the telepathic Domnarchs and Mind-Tyrants of Mendakar realize this all too clearly demonstrated fact.  When creators do not gain benefit from their work, they are reduced to being data-peasants and the equivalent of sharecroppers or the psychic equivalent of galley-slaves.  Creativity grows dull, stunted and choked upon the franchise-ware and mind-debris of the imaginatively illiterate, just as pre-civilization collapsed under the weight of monocrity (the unholy trinity of monoculture-monopoly-medocrity) during the Age of Toxicity.

Creators do need to be respected, but they cannot become tyrants in turn as some have demonstrated in the past when their ownership of their own works -- almost always derived in part from previous works of others -- were used as weapons in order to stake-out intellectual fiefdoms and empires that restricted all others from doing exactly what they themselves had done.  It was a dangerous and pernicious form of hypocrisy driven by greed and worse.  The loss of creative works denied to humanity and lost to Civilization because of these barbaric, medieval-minded practices remains a matter of solemn conjecture amongst the archivists of the Academy.  The damage strikes deep, and exerts a negative influence that is still felt to this day the farther back one researches into the stacks, exhibits, and collections.  As hard as it is to believe today, but once, long ago and far, far away the mouse was a slave and the emblem of an oppressive corporate regime, not the happy-go-lucky mascot of the Eternal Revolution that we know and have come to revere since.

There is a razorsharp line between the needs of the few and the demands of the masses.  Both have interests in the creations of their fellows, but Civilization has the most pertinent and legitimate interest of all.  Thus all acts of creation are considered uniquely the property of their creator for one hundred standard (legal) years, after which they all become part of the Public Domain.  With no exception, no extension, and no conditions other than free and complete access for all.  When the average expected lifespan can reasonably be measured in terms of centuries, there's plenty of time and patience comes far easier than when human lives were of may-fly shortness and the myth of scarcity was all-pervasive.

Anyone convicted of plagiarism during the creator's century of exclusivity loses all rights and titles to their own properties, including their genetic profile, and are summarily executed by being stuffed into one of the Execution Bells which date back to the First Revolution.  As their blood runs down the outer walls of the bell tower all their possessions are auctioned off below, and anything unclaimed or unsold is turned over to representatives from the Flea Market to do with as they so wish.
 
But of course, as any competent subversive or criminal can tell you; the first thing is to not get caught.  The second is to hire a damn good lawyer. 
 
Only the incompetent and stupid ever get rung to death for something as foolish as plagiarism.  It's just not worth it.  Especially when acquiring permission to use other people's works still under the Century Mark is a relatively simple and painless process.  Usually.  Many, if not most creators clearly and explicitly designate the extent of the license they are willing to extend to all interested parties directly within the body of their work.  It's an ancient tradition dating back to Old Earth.  It's still referred to as the Creative Commons License.

2 comments:

  1. I smiled and chuckled all the way through this. Top stuff.

    An excellent illustration of *everything* being grist for the gaming mill.

    ...summarily executed by being stuffed into one of the Execution Bells...

    The shades of the 'monks of Antwerp' atrocity myth from WW1 (and everything it says about the tabloid mindset) are, I assume, wholly intentional.

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  2. I assure you, no memes were unduly hurt in the production of this post.

    The atrocity myth that you reference also inspired Fantomas to execute a gem thief who crossed him in one of his adventures as well. It's just too good of a very bad, bad thing to not use it...

    Glad you got a chuckle. It was one of those daft moments and I wasn't sure how it would turn out.

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