Monday, February 26, 2007

Knowledge and experience: Plato vs Kant

The notion of reality - what really is apart from what we think is- presents problems. Plato , regarding the amount of error in what we perceive as real, asserted the notion that our perceived world is a flawed and limited image of the "real" world of "Ideas". These ideas constitute a true essence of everything we see, in Plato's system. What we see however, is not real, because it can change, as do our perceptions. This notion of the possibility of erroneous perceptions also informs Emmanuel Kant's thesis, that there are three realms of reality- the subjective, which we know but cannot share(I can feel pain, and know that I feel pain, but you can only speculate that I feel pain); the objective, which is that which we can agree upon(Fred over there is in pain because he's screwed up his eyes, is rolling on the floor and moaning while clutching his bloodied knee) and the nuomenal, which is really what's going on (indeed, Fred is in pain, and not playing an elaborate joke on us; or fred is a really good actor; or fred comes from a culture which expresses pleasure that way; or.....).

Which concept better represents the more accurate representation of reality?

Both Plato and Kant attempt to explain the interaction of knowledge and experience. Plato's theory posits a metaphysical realm of "Ideas". In these "Ideas" the true essence of things lies. There are problems with the concept of his Idealism; there are an infinite possible number of ideas( an Idea for man, and idea for blogger an idea for adam, and idea for Adam as blogger, an idea for someone reading Adam's blog.........). Secondly there is the lack of explanation how these "Ideas", however imperfectly, touch our conciousness.

Kant's idealism has the advantage, in terms of coherence, of saying the noumenal realm is probably beyond our understanding. Indeed, much of kant's work is based on creating criteria to judge whether a system of knowledge actually reveals the noumenal. The nature, the ontology, of the noumenal is really not asserted.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Whose digital rights?

The fight over intellectual property rights had another shot fired by Steve Jobs across the bow of the recording industry. Recounted in Stereophile Is This the End of Copy Protection? Jobs argues that DRM coding will ultimately fail, so the music industry should give up on it, and move on.

At this point, I wish people would stop conflating the record distribution industry with the music industry.

Musicians can now produce music more inexpensively than record labels could create advertising. I'd suggest that recorded music has become advertising for performers. Sadly, recording industry giants will wither away, as did steam locomotives and muskets. On the other hand, artists will have more control and about as much income as they did under the ancien regime.Those who fear for the folks in the recording industry should relax- the few good promoters will find employment promoting and organising shows, tours and
concurrent publicity.

A parallel is in the publishing industry, where publishers like Baen make their author's works available for free online. After several years with this experiment, Baen concluded it boosts sales, so they intend to continue.

Since I'm not an economist, I can only speculate that the efficiency of electronic distribution (I could write a book or record a song on this computer, upload it and make it available world-wide for pennies cost to me) off-sets the expensive of big publicity, printing and physical distribution systems that were necessary prior to the rise of the internet. The creator now can publish without requiring the huge distribution infrastruture that was required previously.

This means that you only need to offer premium experiences(paper books, high quality CD's) to those that really want to buy. As a result, the bureacracy, and large physical plant systems previously required to transmit intellectual work are increasingly obsolete. This obsolescence will disconcert those who make a living in the old ways. On the other hand, services, like live performances, and experiences, like reading physical books, cannot be duplicated, and that is where I speculate, the economy is going.

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster