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Neglecting the Lessons of Cypherpunk History

davide marney This is not about cryptography (103 comments)

The author says that "cryptography is underhanded", but you will look in vain to find any technical meaning of that phrase anywhere in the article. What he really means is that the major corporations (Google, Apple, et al.) are underhanded because they are working with state spies to cripple algorithms and put in back doors, etc.

But trying to cripple cryptography this is something we already are aware of, and there are ways to shore up the technology to make it much, much harder for government to spy on us in bulk. Even using weak, crippled cryptography forces the spies to expend computing resources. Cryptography is all about raising the cost of spying, when dealing with government, not with preventing spying.

about two weeks ago
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US Midterm Elections Discussion

davide marney Re:Vapor voting on its way out (401 comments)

You do know that ballots "filled in by hand" are actually counted by machines, yes? No one literally counts ballots by hand, the error rate is over the top. Imagine 100 people counting 10,000 ballots: how many of them would you expect will come up with the exact same answer? And, if they don't agree, how will you tell which ones were counted correctly? The answer is, you'd look for a way to remove humans from the equation, because humans are notoriously bad at repetitive tasks. You will use a machine to do the counting. Every time.

The question you really should be asking yourself is, which is more error-prone? Optically scanning a hand-written ballot and counting the votes, or reading a touchscreen. Occam's Razor alone should convince you that the system with the fewer number of moving parts and chances for errors is the more reliable.

about a month and a half ago
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Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

davide marney Re:The metaphysics of evolution are a different st (669 comments)

Hm, are you really sure about this? The tagline of evolution isn't, "survival of those who just happend to be here, in no particular order, and for no particular reason", but "survival of the fittest." "Fitness" is properly a design principle, I would argue; it is an optimization (selection) with a purpose (survival). Adding millions of years and hundreds of genetic mutations to the equation doesn't change any of that.

Even your statement that "very likely you'll see increased complexity over time" betrays (if that's not too strong a word) a hidden assumption of progress. Why very likely? If truly random, why not equally unlikely?

about a month and a half ago
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Pope Francis Declares Evolution and Big Bang Theory Are Right

davide marney The metaphysics of evolution are a different story (669 comments)

Behind the theory of classic evolution lies a metaphysical explanation for the universe: that life "progresses", from simple to complex, from the more fundamental to the more sublime, from problem to solution. The metaphysics of evolution is very much rooted in the philosophy of positivism and progressivism. It is anti-religious not in the sense that it is against the idea of a God, necessarily, but in the sense that the concept of a God is not needed to explain the natural world. God is irrelevant.

One does not hear debate on the metaphysics of evolution very often, and that is a shame. The philosophy of Progressivism, to me, seems more like wishful thinking, than a real explanation of why things are the they way they are. Is progress absolute? Certainly any objective evaluation of history, with its long record of extinctions, would seem to argue otherwise.

Regarding the Bible's metaphysics, however, there is absolutely nothing in common between progressivism and traditional Christian teaching. The very first chapter of the very first book lays it all on the line: God said, "Let there be light. And there was light..." and so on, for 65 more books. The doctrine of the Bible is that "in Him we live and move and have our being." This couldn't be more orthogonal to the doctrine of positivism.

So, while the Pope may rightly observe that a changing creation is still a creation, I'm not sure that really gets to the heart of the matter, which is a metaphysical argument about origins.

about a month and a half ago
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Isaac Asimov: How Do People Get New Ideas?

davide marney The "Great Man" theory of how progress is made (150 comments)

Asimov's advice for how to run effective bull sessions for creative geniuses is based on the assumption that progress is made by a few "great men" who can see and imagine things that all others miss. This theory is not exactly politically correct these days, to say the least. Modern history books are full of attempts to find and highlight what I might call the "Forgotten Man" of history, the story of ordinary people who represent an entire class of people who collectively brought about change.

Personally, I subscribe to a combination of the two ideas. Masses of people lived for tens of thousands of years in exactly the same manner as their ancestors until someone came along with a genuinely new idea that was then adopted and perfected by mass experimentation and use. So: great men for the original ideas, but forgotten men for productizing them.

about 2 months ago
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If Your Cloud Vendor Goes Out of Business, Are You Ready?

davide marney I'll worry about this ... (150 comments)

when Netflix stops using AWS. And Expedia. And NASA. And the CIA, fer cryin' out loud.

Sheesh.

about 2 months ago
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Statisticians Uncover What Makes For a Stable Marriage

davide marney Re:The factors, condensed (447 comments)

4. Taking marriage vows seriously. A vow is a promise, a promise you make primarily to yourself but of course also to your spouse and your children (if any). Life has ups and downs. When things get really rough, you will have to depend on the promise you made to keep you in the marriage until you can get to the other side.

That said, it is possible for your partner to make it impossible for you to keep your vow, by breaking the relationship itself. If someone is unfaithful and abandons the relationship, for example, or if your partner dies, no amount of trying on your part can repair that. In that case, I would say as there is no vow that can be kept, there is no vow at all.

about 2 months ago
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Ask Slashdot: Multimedia-Based Wiki For Learning and Business Procedures?

davide marney Confluence is heads and shoulders above the rest (97 comments)

I've been involved in many, many projects to share internal knowledge over the years. I had pretty much given up all hope on wiki technology until I got to the latest versions of Confluence, which strikes an excellent balance between flexibility, simplicity, and automation.

Doing the task you outlined (create multiple playlists of media files) could be done in a variety of ways: Create a "File List" page and upload your content, then create separate pages linking to them; create a page and attach the multimedia files, then use the Multimedia Widget to automatically create a gallery of them to playback; or, host the files on a shared disk and link to them from Confluence.

about 3 months ago
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Systems That Can Secretly Track Where Cellphone Users Go Around the Globe

davide marney Using geolocation for fun and profit (76 comments)

That eeevil corporations and government can track my phone is of course, no surprise. However, how easy would it be to fool such systems, and make them think they're tracking me, when in fact they are tracking someone else, I wonder?

about 4 months ago
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Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

davide marney Re:equality by key figures (561 comments)

Mod parent up. A point rarely made: what should matter is if there's any problem getting hired/promoted because of gender, etc.

about 4 months ago
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Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

davide marney Re:How about some real number? (561 comments)

You completely missed the point. It's not about "magic", it's about making money. If you could buy gasoline for your automobile that was 30% less expensive at gas pump A vs. gas pump B, why would you ever use pump B? Ditto for hiring.

about 4 months ago
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Economist: File Sharing's Impact On Movies Is Modest At Most

davide marney Even high-quality downloads have a positive impact (214 comments)

The paper goes into some detail regarding the latest X-Men movie, where there were 7million downloads of a pre-production work copy of the movie, and, with heavy news coverage, it could be assumed that everyone seeing the movie would know it could have been downloaded for free. Even there, the small, positive bump in revenue was found. That's the smoking gun, IMHO.

about 5 months ago
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Reproducing a Monet Painting With Aluminum Nanostructures

davide marney Applications (27 comments)

That sample image is only 50 microns wide, barely as wide across as a human hair. That's one small security tag, my friend.

about 5 months ago
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FAA Bans Delivering Packages With Drones

davide marney Re:The FAA should have no word on this (199 comments)

It's much like saying the FAA should regulate paper-plane throwing or bungee-jumping

Hey, don't give them any ideas! It's bad enough already.

about 6 months ago
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Teaching Creationism As Science Now Banned In Britain's Schools

davide marney This works fine, unless (649 comments)

the creationists are right, even partially so.

about 6 months ago
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IRS Lost Emails of 6 More Employees Under Investigation

davide marney Re:Massive conspiracy (465 comments)

Anyone who would use "Only a godless sinner" to justify an evil action such as cutting off people's heads or driving jet planes full of fuel into office buildings is NOT a religious person, they are a political person who has hijacked religion in the name of their cause. Is the KKK a "Christian" organization? Please. There are millions of peaceable Muslims living in the US. Look around you.

about 5 months ago
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Google and Facebook Can Be Legally Intercepted, Says UK Spy Boss

davide marney Oh, so THAT'S how they do it "legally" (104 comments)

Now this is making more sense. When the NSA says, "we aren't spying on all Americans", it means "WE aren't spying on all Americans, the Brits are, and then we get to see what they collected." So: technically correct, but morally bankrupt.

Is it any wonder that ordinary citizens are cynical about their representatives? Whose interests are they really representing? Not ours, that's for sure.

about 5 months ago
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Cox Promises National Gigabit Rollout; Starting With Phoenix, Las Vegas, Omaha

davide marney Cox is different (129 comments)

I've had Cox business service to my home for nearly a decade now. They have not raised the price one penny in all that time. The service is rock-solid, and the speed is exactly what they advertised; I have never experienced any bandwidth throttling that I can detect. There are no blocked ports or other shennigans, and their tech support staff answer the phone in person when you call for help.

My experience with other vendors was pretty miserable in comparison. YMMV, but Cox has earned my business.

about 7 months ago
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The Mifos Project Makes Software To 'Accelerate Microfinance' (Video)

davide marney "You're rich, I don't have to pay you back" (39 comments)

I tried out funding a micro finance loan, but was never paid back; the borrower basically said, "Everybody in America is rich, I don't need to pay you back." A friend of mine who worked for many years in East Africa said such feelings are very widespread. Take care; if people don't pay you back, they aren't really getting the point of financing growth, and will therefore stay stuck in poverty. It's not that I lost a lot of money (a few thousands), but I lost the relationship I could have built.

about 7 months ago
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Silicon Valley's Love-Hate Relationship With President Obama

davide marney Re:Did you know (131 comments)

When was the last time you saw a dollar -- or even a million dollars -- cast a vote?

about 7 months ago

Submissions

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Pushing against the surveillance state, politely

davide marney davide marney writes  |  about a year and a half ago

davide marney (231845) writes "I was on my way to the local cineplex, thinking about the article I'd just read about how several states had worked together to amass a database of 20,000 license plates scanned with drive-by sensors. What's with that? It seems like everyone wants to get in on the surveillance party.

Everywhere you turn people are probing you, searching you, tracking you, and it's really beginning to tick me off. As I parked my car in the lot, I said to myself, "in fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they start searching people in movie theaters."

Sure enough.

After paying my ticket, a security guard comes up and asks me very politely if he can search my backpack.No, I answer equally politely, you cannot.

The guard is momentarily stunned, and repeats the question. I repeat my answer. Why? he wants to know.

Because it's my stuff. I don't let people look through my stuff just because they want to. Are you telling me I can't come to this movie theater unless you look in my backpack?

Oh no, sir, I'm not saying that. Look at me, he says very sternly, eye-to-eye. I am telling you I did NOT say you have to leave the theater. Do you understand that?

Okay. So, what ARE you saying?

I'm saying that I want to look at your backpack.

Hmm. Look, I wouldn't even let the police look in my backpack unless I was being formally charged with something. Do you have a reasonable cause to suspect me of doing something wrong?

No sir, but we have "reasonable cause" to search any bag we want, because that's company policy.

Really? What are you searching for?

We're looking for drugs.
No, I don't have any drugs.

We're looking for movie cameras.
No, I don't have a movie camera.

We're looking for guns.
I CERTAINLY don't have a gun.

We're looking for glass bottles.
No, no bottles.

Look, my movie has already started. What's it going to be? Are you going to let me see this movie or not?

OK, sir, no one has ever refused to let us search a bag before. You can go this one time, but I'm putting you on notice that the next time you come here, your bag WILL be searched, and I'm going to notify the manager.

Hmm, OK. (Off I go to my seat)

10 minutes later, the manager tracks me down in the theater and basically repeats the exchange, almost verbatim. Must be something corporate sent out as a script. At one point she says, "Nobody else has a problem with this, why do you?"

Why, indeed? I'm not entirely sure. The fact that a corporate rent-a-cop can walk up to you and demand to rifle through your belongings just sticks in my craw. We can't live with this level of security. If we don't start pushing back, where will it all end?

Of course, that movie theater completely lost my business, that pretty much goes without saying. It may be their policy to look through their patron's things, but that sure doesn't mean I have to pay for the privilege."
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SOPA makes strange bedfellows

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 2 years ago

davide marney writes "What do 1-800-Contacts, Adidas, Americans for Tax Reform, Comcast, the Country Music Association, Estee Lauder, Ford, Nike and Xerox all have in common? According to OpenCongress.org, they all have specifically endorsed H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. A total of 158 corporations have signed up in favor of the bill, and only 87 against. $21 Million has been donated to Congressmen who favor the bill, but only $5 Million to those against. Thanks to OpenCongress for these insights. This goes a long way towards explaining why this bill has so much traction, despite all its negative publicity."
Link to Original Source
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"Process" People vs. "Resource" People

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 3 years ago

davide marney writes "You start an interesting new project, involving you and a handful of your friends and associates. The project initially starts out small, but it starts to catch on. Great! Now there are 10 people who all need to start coordinating their work. Time to get organized!

The geek in the group says, "hey, I can set up a Google Site and we can manage our project there. It has a place for documents, a calendar, discussion threads, everything." A few people nod their heads; yeah, they've used the web before. The rest of the group is thinking to themselves, "ok, whatever, why are we creating this whole web site just for this little, tiny project; but, go along to get along, I guess."

Half the group starts putting things into the web site. The other half ignores it completely. Things quickly start breaking down.

"Did you get my email telling you we've changed our meeting space?"
"What? Did you post that on the web?"
"No, I don't know how to use the web site."
"Well, OK, let me post that for you so the rest of the group will see it."
"Oh, no need, I'll just email everyone."
"Well, not everyone reads email; you better let me put it up for you."

. . . . . . .

A classic case of low efficiency caused by a clash of operational styles: is group work done as a series of individually-managed tasks in a personal process, or by collectively building up a common set of resources? Are you a "process" person or a "resource" person?
  • Process Person:
    • I am personally organized, but I don't expect anyone else to be
    • I have my own, customized system for managing work
    • I have my own, customized filing system
      • I use it to store my own works
      • I use it to store copies of other people's works, if they are important to my project
    • I live and die by notifications (email, etc.), to do lists, and my personal calendar
    • I am constantly updating my and other people's status
  • Resource Person:
    • I expect that everyone on the project is as organized as me
    • There should be one, central place for everything important to a shared project, and everyone should use it.
      • (Implied) There is a common process for managing work
      • (Implied) There is a common filing system
      • (Implied) There is a common event calendar
    • I'll check the resource and synchronize my status when I need to
    • Notifications are nice to have, but only for truly important changes to status or events
"
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Electronic Voting Deflects Recount

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 4 years ago

davide marney writes "According to the Virginia Board of Elections Democrat Gerald Connolly defeated Republican Keith Fimian for House District 11 in Virginia by 981 votes out of 226,951 cast, a difference of 0.4%. Even though Fimian is entitled by law to a recount at taxpayer expense, Fimian just conceded the race, stating that "In our race, we have not seen any obvious errors in the results". District 11 spans a city and parts of two counties, all of which use either touch-screen or optical scan machines. Whatever the arguments about electronic voting, in this case it produced a result that was trustworthy enough to convince a challenger not to contest a result within 0.4% of the total. If the main requirement of a voting method is to produce a clear, uncontested winner, electronic voting worked very well in this case."
Link to Original Source
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Can a garbage heap save us from global warming?

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 3 years ago

davide marney writes "In a Washington Post opinion piece, Hugh Price argues that using a decidedly low-tech solution to sequestering excess carbon — making piles of agricultural waste — is better than any "green" technology. Sometimes the easy answer is the right answer. After all, that's how coal forms, and we know that works pretty well."
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Subtle but brilliant UI change to Google homepage

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 4 years ago

davide marney writes "As part of Google’s facelift, there is a new "on-demand" navigation UI:

- Go to google.com using just the keyboard – no mouse
- Note that there are no menus, headers, footers, etc. – just the logo and the search box
- Start typing for a search term – still no navigational UI, the page is still tightly focused on search
- Now touch the mouse, and the navigational UI fades into view

I think this is a brilliant innovation. It’s a great way to show one “layer” of a UI that is stripped down, and completely task-focused, and yet still add a second layer of additional functionality without requiring the user to explicitly ask for it by clicking a button or a link."

Link to Original Source
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Comparison of Pixel Qi's Epaper+Color+Video Screen

davide marney davide marney writes  |  about 5 years ago

davide marney writes "Pixel Qi, the commercial display technology spin-off from the OLPC project, has posted of new set side-by-side photos that compare it's new 10-inch laptop display with anti-glare and standard LCD screens in an indoor, office setting. Impressively, the Pixel Qi screen looks nearly as good with the backlight off as the others do with backlight on. This translates into a much longer battery life for a Pixel Qi-equipped laptop. The Pixel Qi screen also has terrific anti-glare characteristics, which should make it much easier on the eyes."
Link to Original Source
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Fun With Numbers

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 5 years ago

davide marney writes "There are approximately 450,000 words in the Health Care Bill. How does that compare to other masterful works of literature?

War and Peace: 460,000 words
Lord of the Rings: 560,000 words
KJV Old Testament: 600,000 words"
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The Joys of Privoxy

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 5 years ago

davide marney writes "Recently, I was introduced to Privoxy, a perfect little gem of a utility that blocks the 15% or so of web content that is devoted to showing ads and tracking your behavior. Privoxy's great strengths are that it runs on a very wide range of platfoms, works with any browser, comes configured out of the box, and installs in minutes. On any given day I move from using IE on my company's WinXP box to Chrome running on my personal laptop, to Opera running on my OLPC XO-1. We don't have a Mac in the house yet, but if we did, Privoxy could run on that, too. What joy to have one, common privacy solution that "just works", across the board!

One unexpected benefit to running Privoxy was it convinced me to finally pony up for a paid subscription to Slashdot. Once I saw how many ads Slashdot is having to sneek in there to pay the bills, I decided that paying $5 for reading a thousand pages ad-free is really not too much to ask for the hours of benefit I get from reading and contributing."

Link to Original Source
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White spaces test "rigged" says Google co-

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Davide Marney writes "As reported by the Washington Post, Google co-founder Larry Page claims that an FCC field test of white space wireless devices was "rigged" to make the test device fail to detect wireless microphone broadcasts. A Google spokesman explained later that testers had hidden the wireless microphones within the same frequency as local television stations, preventing the test device from detecting them. Paige was on Capitol Hill to boost the company's "Free the Airwaves" campaign."
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States throw out electronic voting machines

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Davide Marney writes "According to the Associated Press, millions of dollars' worth of electronic voting machines banned by U.S. state legislatures are sitting unused in warehouses across the country. Many of these machines cost $3,500 to $5,000 each. Surely we can come up with a good way to re-use all that iron! The peripherals are actually pretty cool: touch screens, built-in card readers, register-paper printers, flash drives that can be sealed. The OS is typically Windows. And, as a bonus, they each come in a extremely rugged carrying case that converts into a stand."

Journals

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America's Social Programs, the Gamer Edition

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 4 years ago

China has a "One Country, Two Laws" policy that lets Hong Kong operate outside the restrictions of mainland China. This is a great idea! I bet it could work for America, too. It could set up two versions of entitlement programs: one for those who believe that the government should provide universal coverage, and one for those who believe that government governs best which governs least. And may the best team win!

Team Blue, the universal coverage believers, would continue under the existing entitlement laws of the U.S. They would continue to pay into Medicare, Social Security, and the new health care assurance programs.

Team Red, the limited government believers, wouldn't pay any taxes for social programs. If their employer provides health care and retirement as a benefit, they would get its cash value instead. They would be free to create new social programs such as voluntary cross-border health exchanges, health savings accounts, retirement bonds, etc.

There would need to be some fair-play adjustments, such as how to deal with people who receive government support now, but aren't paying taxes. Naturally, anyone living off of the government would want to be on Team Blue! We could simply divide this population between the teams based on random selection.

Each team could then deal with this population according to its philosophy. Team Blue might want to continue down the path of the recent health care bill. Team Red might do it differently, perhaps focusing more on efforts to take people off of welfare.

If China can do it, so can the Americans. Game on!

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Moving Beyond the Copyright Shouting Match

davide marney davide marney writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Tech Dirt has a series of articles on the"lies" that the copyright industry tells, and takes particular exception to those in the U.S. Congress who support their cause (see the articles on Rep. Waxman and Sen. Hatch).

I am definitely one of those who feel that the original intent of copyright law has been so distorted that it is now possible to have it serve its opposite purpose: to prevent, rather than promote, the useful arts.

While I am with the author in spirit, I am not in the letter. These articles do little to advance the cause. They are largely just a collection of raw assertions that people are lying. There is little attempt to actually prove any of these claims, as far as I can see.

In the end, what does shouting "liar, liar, pants on fire" truly accomplish? Very little. So, please, let us move on. It is very easy to lay blame and to critique. Much more difficult is to propose a solution.

We have a problem between two communities: the entrenched copyright-holding community, and the consumer. What can be done to bring these two groups to a better understanding of each other's needs?

First, I think we can agree that copyright is a good thing. The right to control copying is rooted in the concept of basic fairness: if a person creates something, they should get to decide who else can have it.

Secondly, I think we can agree that getting something for nothing is unsustainable over the long term. People ought to pay for what they use. None of us would last very long if we never charged anyone for our time and effort.

Thirdly, I think we can agree that the current business model for monetizing the right to copy is broken. Copyright holders try to control distribution and end use, which is technically impossible. Consumer scofflaws use content they haven't paid for, which is unfair.

Add these together, and I think it's pretty obvious that what we need is a consumer-friendly way to pay for content in proportion to how widely it is shared, not purchased. The whole concept of a financial "transaction" with a buyer, seller, and product, works in a retail context, but not in a viral context. Viral communities don't have buyers and sellers, they have friend networks.

It sounds simple, but it hasn't been cracked yet. What would a payment system look like that didn't depend on storefronts and individual transactions? Could we make it lucrative enough to draw the next generation of talent away from the old, out-moded system, and into a new system? Would it be easy enough to implement, such that no reasonable person would object?

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