Reboot 8.0 – Workshop: Knowledge Ownership

In addressing the matter of intellectual property tools for software protection by suggesting a workshop entitled “Knowledge Ownership” I basically opened up a can of worms. At this point I admit that the worms are a bit shy and it has taken me one week before I could write up my notes and thoughts on the results of this workshop.

The reboot 8.0 t-shirt proclaimed “practical visionaries unite!” I like the idea of being both practical, and a visionary. Best of all I like the idea of working together.

We had a workshop, and we need a sweatshop. Be it that I have an outstanding relationship to sweating, be it that there is much work to do, we have not yet even gotten warm on the issue, much less identified what it is that needs to be done. When the workshop came to a close I had this nagging feeling that I had missed the mark of my goals and expectations by far. Then I listened a bit to the feedback, the notes generated and to my own views of where we got and were we are, and my conclusion is that the worms are shy and need a bit of fresh air. Yes I missed the mark of my expectations, but then they were huge.

I got an email from JF Groff to remind me of the patent commons, and yes, that is one step in addressing some of the present needs. More action is however needed. At reboot 8.0 intellectual property was an issue is several presentations and discussions. Of those that I attended there was , Tim Pritlove‘s “Creative Chaos”, Rasmus FleischerThe Grey Commons” and the news item of “Pirate Bay” that gave me the chance of witnessing one cool Swede not so amused at what the police does during working hours. In our workshop we did focus on software, which in my view is a category in itself and not necessarily served by the same tools as music or graphic arts.

We – geeks – are not where we need to go in terms of having an appropriate tool that is fit for purpose in terms of dealing with software as intellectual property. I had great fun at this workshop, the level of participation was excellent and we could have gone for a couple of more hours. I was fortunate enough to have a group of people show up that were truly ready to think, some I had interviewed in preparation for the workshop. The goal was to create together though a bit of thinking, prodding and provocation what may be the next action in finding a fit for purpose solution to the problem of software protection in the intellectual property domain. We arrived at the consensus that indeed the present tools do not work. Patents do not work for software protection. Copyright does not work for software protection.

Still all that I could think of when starting the workshop is my friend Juba Nour‘s advice “Come to class, take in what is there to take, and get rid of it. Don’t accumulate what you know. Tomorrow you are a different person from today. Tomorrow’s class is another one. Unload your memories, knowledge and habits and come to train fresh.”  (Reference: “Shiun”  July 2004). Why did I quote a 6th dan Aikido Shihan when at the onset of this inquiry?

For me, coming to a workshop looking for solutions and action that is fit for purpose does require a fresh mind. To have a fresh mind, you need to be informed by your knowledge, but you do not need to have it clutter your thinking.

So we asked ourselves what is it that software is? Is it information or is it knowledge? Can software – the information – be protected?

While there was a consensus that software can be protected, it being information, not knowledge. Knowledge can be owned, but it is dynamic and bound to information through human intelligence, being a human intangible asset, the question remains if that knowledge can be owned by any other than the cognitive beings operating it. Take this though a few rounds of thought and the idea of general intellect as discussed by Adam Arvidsson and we know that this a beautiful philosophical question that is very relevant to what we are trying to figure out here.

That is, what kind of protection, if any, does software need? I asked the question of what it is that software needs.

I had help from somebody whose face I remember clearly and whose name I did not make a mental note of, who created two flip chart pages (1 and 2) of notes. UPDATE: Carsten Ohm, it was. Many thanks again Carsten and Ton for commenting and filling in my memory blank. One of these pages summarizes the results of the workshop rather well. knowledge ownership

What is the need for software protection? – None, we have open source. -Authorship -Attribution -One open source Licence -Psycho-therapy (you had to be there to get this one, or else I may explain this later in an expanded context)

Prior to this very brief and in a rush brain-storming we had established the consensus that copyright and patent law do not cover the needs of software. My question remains, how do you bridge the gap and deal with the fact that right now conflicting tools exist that are aimed at protecting software?

What is it that is being protected?

The action generated at the end of the workshop – that is a few minutes after it ought to have already been concluded – was to create a wiki to discuss these issues. What we did not get to do was to find a few brave willing people willing to join forces and brains in starting up this wiki.

Go ahead, challenge us! Comments, emails and welcome.

Update 2: June 12, 2006 added images

reboot 8 preparation

reboot 8.0 is happening on June 1-2 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

I have been exchanging ideas via email with Thomas about what I would like to see happening. I am delighted that this idea has found good resonance on his side as it is something along the lines of what he wanted to do.

Here is my thinking on how to start creating a new connected conversation on intellectual property at the edge of the values paradigm shift:

1. who we are: reboot is a gathering of 400 or so people all with a vested interest to some degree or another in internet technology, software, social software, technology itself, society. the kinds of people whom we are so fond of calling geeks. that is, those rare souls that dare to break a few old worn out patterns and to explore new territory. most of these geeks blog in one form or another, all think. we are coming from a bit all over the world, mostly from the more connected affluent world, mostly europeans, but also people from canada and the usa. i expect the danish blogger community to show up en mass. is this right?

2. the world that we live in: whatever it is that we want to call our age – information, digital, knowledge, techno-freaked-muddled, post-industrial, web 2.0 – it is an age where resources are plenty and easily sourced. logistics and knowledge do play a major role. part of the logistics is the communication, and that is where most information technology finds itself. yes, we all know that africa exists, some of us have been there and it does not change the fact that we live in a world of abundance. clearly not all logistics problems are solved, to say nothing of the mess in communications. counter-arguments are welcome in comments here or directly via email.

3. my observation/assertion: there is a paradigm shift currently taking place in what concerns creating a thriving business. a thriving business is a business that is sustainable . to me a business is sustainable when it makes its community prosper (read, happy, fulfilled, satisfied, peaceful). note that for a community to prosper, maintaining the status quo is not a requirement. all to say that

business is about people .

business is not  about goods or money, but about people making their world – this world now – work for them and

allowing all to live in dignity . the business paradigm shift in progress is from capitalism to values. the shift is from humans serving things, to things serving humans.

4. my inference:

in a world where resources are abundant and that is dependent on both logistics and communication, the key resource is intelligence . ok, this is not mind boggling, but what does that mean? that means that the advancing edge of evolution resides within intellectual assets. what does that mean? it means that we eat potatoes and rice, and that we thrive on culture. education is more important than ever, and the ability to work together in a win-win mode is imperative. i could quickly digress and jump into much philosophy too quickly, so let me get back to what i want to say. given that you (the reader) is both of more than average intelligence and used to thinking out-of-the-box, you will either very quickly follow my line of thought or you will not be shy about asking questions that will further your understanding of what are sometimes in my mind huge leaps in logic. present day intellectual property tools (laws, jurisdiction, systems, treaties, agreements) were tailored for the needs of the industrial revolution and were created in the late 1800’s. these instruments did not anticipate the evolution in technology with which we live in day in and day out, or with the fast development of digital devices or instant communications. the situation is bit like trying to drive a car by pedaling: ridiculous.

if the crown jewels of our age are intellectual assets, how are we going to deal with intellectual property rights?

5. this is the scenario. before reboot, what i want to do is to pick the brains of a few people attending and other geeks around me, and to ask them what questions they have about intellectual property (IP). in particular, what i want to learn about is what they are thinking IP-wise and where the needs and confusions are. in obtaining this information in an informal way, it will inform me as to where the issues are and how i can ask the questions of the plenum (those gathered at reboot) that will get us all some answers that can be actionable.

6. how do i work in an interactive sweatshop (forum) is to ask questions and get answers from the participants. the questions have to be provocative enough to get both good quick thinking and a good level of participation. having several bloggers online in the room will make this interactive query into intellectual property and assets all the more interesting. having people in back-channels getting information from the outside, would make it all the more interesting. individual intelligence is great, collective intelligence is what this inquiry will be about.

This is the starting point of the public conversation. I welcome all input, commentary, counter arguments and brilliant insights. In particular I am looking for a few good people working in IT, what I would like to call the digital practitioners, to contact me so that we can set up a phone/skype/iChat/in-person interview as soon as possible.


NB: Send email to nexe at mac dot com (or any other mac email of mine that you may have) and/or leave your comments here. Comments are moderated and will only be published after approval. For the next two weeks I will be accessing the Internet via UMTS and will not be online continuously. There will be delays until comments are published or until I respond .