Quantum Entanglement: Why Digital Ownership is so Fucking Complicated.

“Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs (or groups) of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each member must subsequently be described relative to the other.” – Wikipedia

Quantum entanglement is, albiet unfortunately, the best way to describe digital ownership. An entire marketplace that exists which cannot be perceived by the eye. Yet it can be conceptualized with the mind. So like the quantum and subatomic existence itself. A bridge between the ethereal and the physical. Digital ownership is essentially a belief in the optimization of ethereal data. Which is exactly what quantum physics is. Both of which have strong pervasive effects on the physical world and how we interact as a society.

Both quantum entanglement and digital ownership share three well defined characteristics.

1. Digital ownership and quantum entanglement are abstract and more theoretical than physical.

When you try to unlock your cellphone no real physical boundary locks you out. It is the access to information and computing power you desire that bars you. A bitcoin does not transfer physical currency into your bank account, but is based on the acquisition of valuable data. This is why theft and copyright are both serious problems in the digital marketplace.

2. Both quantum physics and digital ownership are considered fringe enterprises to popular culture.

Consider the fact that probably fifty percent, I would say considerably more, of Americans have no idea what quantum mechanics is or why digital ownership is relevant to their lives and you immediately understand the specialization required to even have a conversation about them. Unfortunately, of that fifty percent a majority are older and control a large portion of the regulatory system and financial structure. Which is why digital ownership is being regulated so poorly.

3. At their core both quantum entanglements and digital ownership are defined by the relationship between two separate entities moving freely through space and time and how they communicate and affect each other. Both of which are not easily governed by traditional laws. One being the laws of physics and the other the laws of the physical marketplace.

Digital ownership is complicated because when we alter a product after we bought it, possibly optimizing the product, we are infringing on the copyright of the original producer. So once we have the product, even though we paid for it, we are still entangled with the original producer of the product. Which means that you, your product, and the three headed demon of regulation, production, and distribution are forever linked regardless of how much space and time between you.

The reason that this entanglement is a huge bummer is because when you buy something, a phone, a car, a laptop, you expect to own it. What happens with a lot of these products is that there is a certain amount of data and information that you do not own. It is withheld in order for the company from which you purchased the product to maintain a revenue stream. This is essentially a practice born of the broken economic model that says over consumption is a good thing. If a lawnmower brakes don’t fix it just buy a new one. That is the American way. In opposition to this there exists a group of people who like to fix stuff when its broken, you know people who aren’t jackasses. Unfortunately fixing a computer or optimizing a cell phone is slightly more complicated and delicate then replacing the blades on a lawn mower.

The main problems holding back personal optimization are the digital copyright laws, which are pretty stupid and laborious like all things produced in Washington. What ends up happening is that costumers lose there ability to modify and fix their own products without paying exorbitant costs to companies that own all of the information necessary in order to properly diagnose or maintain these products. Left to fend for itself in the echo chamber that is modern politics the idea that massive digital copyright reform will be expedient is nil. Allowing companies to create a sort of information monopoly in order to hold the market hostage.

The questions now are why would companies do that and how do we fix this problem? Luckily the answer to the first question is easy. Unfortunately the second one is not.

The main and obvious reason that companies would like to maintain an information monopoly is money. If you buy a phone and want to make it faster or have a car and want to fix the error code the only place to go is back to the dealership. This way a company doesn’t just make their nut off of the original sale but also supplement their income with various maintenance fees. Furthermore with current copyright laws this is not only legal but encouraged. Which is slowly changing.

The secondary and slightly more insidious reason for information monopoly is that once people realize they don’t need to rely on the distributor for information they will likely become less dependent on the distributer itself. In that once people realize they can buy something that is possibly of a lower quality at a lower cost and then upgrade it or improve it themselves, the marketplace is diluted and the costumer strengthened. Which is never what producers of cars, cellphones, and money itself want to happen. There is a good quote from the Tao Te Ching that sums up our economic system perfectly.

“Therefore the holy man when he governs empties the people’s hearts but fills their stomachs. He weakens their ambition but strengthens their bones. Always he keeps the people unsophisticated and without desire. He causes that the crafty do not dare to act. When he acts with non-assertion there is nothing ungoverned.” – Lao-Tzu

Lao-Tzu figured out how to keep the public complacent in the 6th century BC. It was perfected, albeit unfortunately, by McDonalds circa 1987.

As I said the answer to the first question is easy, the second question not so much. In order to figure out how to properly appreciate, regulate, and grow the digital marketplace we must find a place where it works well. Enter MOOC’s.

A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course. Which roughly translates to universities openly distributing select courses for public consumption and they do it for free. Now I have a tendency to rant, as do most media members, about how shitty big institutions tend to treat people outside of those institutions. So I want to take a moment here to talk about how awesome MOOC’s actually are. The fact the private universities are willing to freely distribute what other people pay a good chunk of change for is beyond altruistic. Some have gone so far is to say it is disrespectful to those paying for the education. But the general idea that all people deserve at least an opportunity to gain and education has never been approached quite as liberally as it is here. Which is pretty amazing.

Now there is a very specific problem with MOOC’s that keeps them from being as awesome as they could be. Which is, albeit unfortunately, public interest in MOOC’s. The MOOC’s Research Initiative recently found that as a whole there is a small percentage of active users for MOOC’s and that as the courses progress people tend to drop out. No good deed goes unpunished. The reason for this is likely two fold. One being that people who would be apt to take, comprehend and appreciate MOOC’s are likely either already enrolled in some sort of educational institution or working jobs that demand an exorbitant amount time and therefor limited by other constraints to participate. Secondarily and ironically, the fact that enrollees are not paying for the education makes them less invested in the education itself. If you miss a class or a fail a test it stings a little less when you don’t have 50,000 dollars riding on it.

Fortunately for our original problem of digital ownership, the incentive to stay in communication with the institution you purchase a product from is bolstered by the mutual self interest of both parties. So by taking the approach of MOOC’s and applying it to digital ownership you can rely on autonomous information and then allow the exchange of ideas to developing both ways.

As an example imagine you purchase a new phone and through the information you get freely from the company and personal desire to innovate you find a new way to optimize the product. This is where autonomous information kicks in and quantum entanglement actually becomes helpful. Instead of you being considered a criminal, as you would be under current copyright laws, the company from which you purchased the product could instantaneously recognize the power of the updated design and use that new information to improve the product. This way the customer gets what they want, information, and the company gets what it wants, exceptional return on their investment, essentially getting free research and development from the customer themselves. Which is the ultimate goal of MOOC’s an should be the ultimate goal of both producers and consumers of digital property.

This may seem overly simplistic but in reality there are two choices.

1. We continue down the current path with digital ownership where the honest people are punished with exorbitant fees and mindless regulations. Where digital piracy is a constant threat and free exchange of information is suppressed. We allow the lumbering giant of Washington to interfere with the unstoppable innovative strength of the quantum. We maintain stone age thinking in a renaissance culture.

2. We find ways for the customer and the producer to work harmoniously at innovating that products that they are indelibly linked by. Through autonomous information, personal innovation, and pervasive deregulation. Allow the marketplace itself to govern the demand and quality of the product consumed. You know like a free market which we supposedly live in.

This reality is already being realize with the innovation of things like MOOC’s, bitcoin, and Kickstarter. Proving that the consumer knows what it wants and furthermore is capable of personal efficiency and political solvency, probably more so then the corporations themselves. So as long as we are entangled with each other and are defined by one another (the consumer and the producer that is) it is in the bet interest of both parties to share information and improve the products we both love. This is not a revolutionary concept but it is one that runs against the gain, albeit fortunately.

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