Ideas on Intellectual Property Issues

The underlying problem with Books, Software, Music, Film etc… is
1. They can be copied
2. Nobody is going to pay a huge amount for one copy
3. If everyone copies the first copy and nobody pays then there is no incentive for the artist/programmer to go to all the trouble.
I tried to imagine what would happen to the intellectual property industry if you did away with copyright and patents. Intuitively, it seems there would be no incentive to produce. Or would there?
Then I thought that actually the demand for the stuff will be just as great. The problem in the digital age is that as soon as you have one IP good, you have a virtually infinite number. So the rules of supply and demand of normal goods don’t apply any more.
But if you look closer, I think there is a way. Looking at how the dynamics of supply and demand work in this case. Basically until the first item is produced, the demand is very high (as high as it would be with non digital items). But as soon as the first item is produced and distributed, the supply becomes effectively infinite so that the value is completely lost.
So the solution is to concentrate the economics on the first item. Here’s how:
My solution is advance commissions.
1. Artists/programmers do one or 2 items for free (or get whatever they can from sales of copiable media) to the point where people know they are good. For example JK Rowling writes the first in the Harry Potter Series.
2. Once a reputation has been established they sit back and say. OK folks, if you want any more, you have to pay. I’m not writing another Harry Potter/Singing another Spice Girls song, till I have $x in my bank account. Once I have, the content will be distributed for free on the internet. Lots of people can contribute small amounts of money and when the amount is reached, the content is distributed.
This way, the artists are rewarded (but to a fixed degree which they can decide on) and you don’t need to get into all this paranoid Digital Rights protection stuff which IMHO is never going to work but is going to piss a lot of people off.
Potential Problems
1. What if the guy takes the money and runs? (Certify that we have the item written but in a safe or something)
2. The “my $10 isn’t going to make the difference” so I won’t bother syndrome (same problem with the environment – whether I drive an SUV or not won’t change global warming so it’s not worth making the effort – bad reasoning if you ask me)

Crap Science Cont’d – shock discovery – Fish Feel pain when you lift them out of the water by a hook attached to the inside of their mouth

Crap Science Cont’d – Shock Discovery – Fish Feel Pain

The researchers, led by Dr Lynne Sneddon, say the “profound behavioural and physiological changes” shown by the trout after exposure to noxious substances are comparable to those seen in higher mammals.

see this

Another example of crap science. Fish change their behavior when you torture them. Wow that must have really taken a lot of hard work to figure out. Maybe it’s the way it’s reported but it seems to me you don’t have to be a genius to figure out that for example thrashing around and gasping for breath is a sign of being not all that happy with the state of affairs.

What amazes me about this is that people see it as something that has to be proven. I would have thought that proving that fish don’t feel pain (however that might be done) would be the perogative.

Fishing is truly an amazing thing. I remember they used to use images of men fishing to convey the tranquil life – I remember in particular one advert for Flora Margarine. I would love to see a comedy sketch where middle aged men sit on fishing stools and hook squirrels out of the trees so that they sqeal in agony – mixed with say a margarine advert. If you think about it the only difference is that the fish are not furry and they don’t squeal when you torture them. Otherwise everything is the same. “ah but we put them back”. Lovely.

Pseudo-science and codependent Variables

You come across such blatantly poor science in the press. The above snippet is actually completely made up but reached several mainstream newspapers and web sites. See this for a debunking. There are so many findings published out there which if we stopped for 5 minutes to think about them we would realise that they were utterly meaningless. How could you possibly run a controlled experiment that would prove that????

For another example take a recent spate of articles about the science of happiness. See for example this. Reading the original new scientist article in detail I discover that all this was discovered by “a variety of methods such as asking people how happy they felt at random intervals over a period of time.” Nowhere is there any attempt to define what happiness is so that people understand the question in a standardised way. Nowhere is there any attempt to filter the effects of the fact that happiness is a status symbol in the west. You just ask people how happy they think they are and that is supposed to tell you if your public policy is working for example. Most people are embarassed to say they feel sad because it’s socially unacceptable.

Here’s another very poor science story. Marriage makes you live longer.

Haven’t these people heard of codependent variables.
1. If no-one wants to marry you you are more likely to be a miserable git who dies young of some psychosomatic disease. Just because there’s a correllation between two variables doesn’t mean that one causes the other. Sunshine makes people smile and wear less clothes. But we don’t conclude that smiling makes you wear less clothes or vice versa.
2. (linked to 1.) the sample of lifelong singletons is too small. Very few people are single their whole lives and those that are probably do so for reasons which are likely to affect their health. So you can’t say that the act of getting married improves your health or happiness.

Here are some more

Depression linked to heart disease
Mediterranean diet ‘extends life’(How can you possibly test the effect of two foods on longevity. First of all they can’t possibly have data on what people have eaten for their entire lives. Secondly they can’t possibly have enough controls who doesn’t drink red wine. How many teetotallers do you know?)

About the world’s worst web site

I would like to know if anyone has ever managed to book a flight on the site If I was trying to make it as difficult as possible to book a flight, this would be pretty much how I’d do it. It breaks every rule of good web design and user-friendly commerce. Does anyone have any theories as to why they haven’t noticed that it’s impossible to book a flight on their site despite having a “user poll” and a “new user friendly design” last year. I would also be interested to know why they don’t just use the design of which is perfectly OK.
Here’s a typical example of a work flow I go through on the site
1. When I arrive, I have to click once to even start on the site to get past a fancy picture.
2. I get to the home page where I can search for a flight (in the previous version you had to log in first). But it defaults to a date 3 months ago and a single flight. I search for example for MXP – ATH, with the airport codes. Then instead of getting a list of possible flights with prices, as you do on most sites, I get more choices asking me to confirm that I only want it for one person (I really want to know the prices and the times)
3. I press search again without changing anything because I obviously didn’t want to change anything.
4. There is a message saying “Error:Sorry the Service is currently not Available.” (it’s supposed to be an italian site) but then a list of possible flights with no prices and no button at the bottom.
5. I suppose that it doesn’t work in Opera perhaps so I try it in IE.
6. I go through all of steps 1-3
7. This time there is no error message and a submit button. There are however no prices on the flights so I have to choose one by time without knowing whether it will cost a fortune or be cheap.
8. I am asked for a log in!!! “To complete the booking in you must effect a log in” (I didn’t want to book necessarily)
9. I scramble around for my login details (I have actually done this before once in desperation but of course I don’t remember them). I have my loyalty card number but this isn’t enough. There is some PIN number which they sent me by POST ages ago and I don’t have it here. I assume that the username must be my airmiles number and try the lost PIN link. Eventually a mail does come with my PIN.
10. I go back to the login screen and log in. It works but my original search has been lost.
11. I do the search again (steps 1-3)
12. I pick the flights again without knowing the prices and this time the next screen is not a login but a form asking me to confirm my phone number, personal details etc…
13. Still without knowing the price, I am told the flight is being booked (some people would panic at this point but I assume they won’t actually take money out of my account without telling me the price, even though they potentially have my credit card details linked to my airmiles number).
14. Finally I am given a price and told that the flight goes via Rome to Athens and is ridiculously expensive (350 Euros for a flight that goes over a sat night). I am given the choice between tariffa normale (which is 660 Euros) and tarriffa speciale with no explanation of what the main difference is.
15. I am again told that the booking is being confirmed and booked (I hope not)
16. Now I am shown a new price (397 Euro) which includes all the taxes etc… and is even more ridiculously expensive.
17. I click on “payment options” and get the same price again saying it will be an e-ticket and that I should choose between e-ticket and paper ticket (but there is no way to make this choice).
18. I make the only choice I can and am asked for my credit card number (but not the expiry date). There’s no way I’d go beyond this point but no doubt there are another 20 steps or so before I’d ever get my ticket if at all.
(Total steps 24 – many more if I didn’t already have a PIN, total confusion 100%)
One theory is that’s how Italians like it. For example to catch the bus 2 km from the nearest town to where I live, I have to walk 0.5km to a bar and back to buy the ticket. This is not written anywhere on the bus stop or on the outside of the bar. You just have to know. Yet there are people on the bus when it goes past. To buy an ice-cream in some places, you have to first (without seeing what’s on offer) queue up at a cash desk for a ticket, then go and queue up again for an ice cream. If you decide it wasn’t what you wanted, you have to queue up again at the cash desk to change it. This even happens for buying a beer at the bar in some places.
My final theory is that because the Italian banks are so rubbish, nobody in their right mind would have a credit card (at BNL, the bank I am forced to have an account at to get my salary, I have to pay the bank to have money in my account – there is no such thing as interest. You also have to pay to close the account and to have a credit card). This explains why some Italians just stick money under the mattress instead of putting it in the bank and having a credit card. So nobody would use an e-commerce site anyway.
End of RANT.

Get revenge on junk mailers and make money

I recently heard a funny story about a US marketeer who went on TV to defend the business of direct marketing. Anti-marketing organizations found out his name and address. They then wrote a script to crawl the internet and sign him up to over 250,000 physical catalogues. Now he has to move house or employ someone to unsubscribe him. Poetic Justice I’d say. Anyway this got me thinking that maybe you could make money like this. Just set up a paper recycling plant and then run this script with the address of the paper recycling plant and Bob’s your uncle – an unlimited supply of paper to recycle and zero collection costs.

Why Insurance is usually a waste of money

Imagine someone says to you. You pay me 30 cents and if you throw a 6 (with dice), I’ll give you $1.20. Does it make sense to give them 30 cents? No of course not (6X30=180 therefore on average you wil pay 50% more than you get back). Insurance is just the same equation. Insurers use scientific techniques called actuarial science to work it out so that on average you lose money by paying them. So over a long period, if you buy insurance, you will always lose money by buying insurance just like you will always lose with enough throws of the die in the above example.
But it gives you peace of mind, I hear you insurance salesmen say. But it doesn’t give me peace of mind to know that I am giving money to someone on the basis that probability says I will lose money in the long run as against not giving them money.
There are 2 exceptions when I do pay for insurance.
1. When I’m forced to by the law. In the case of car insurance, this is fair enough – see reason 2. But in the case of insurance for my rubber motor boat engine, it’s bollox – another story.
2. When if the thing happened I could never pay for the consequences – e.g. house burns down, write off a lamborghini – etc…
Otherwise, even if the amount is large – e.g. a car, it still doesn’t make sense. The dice equation doesn’t become invalid just because the amounts are larger – as you can actually cover it…

How can Italians watch Italian TV?

Apart from the incredibly beautiful scantily clad Italian women which adorn the gameshow hosts in 80% of programmes, but say nothing whatsoever in some strange hang back to the UK in the 1950’s, Italian TV is excruciatingly bad. One smarmy game show after another, kitsch sets, awful tasteless musical interludes. Yet I am reliably informed that it is like this not because it’s the cheapest thing that they could come up with and they’re short of cash, but because people actually like watching this stuff – how can this be????? I would be grateful for ideas.

Why I don’t have a TV


  • In the time people spend watching TV you can learn an instrument, a foreign language, etc…With 2 hrs a day, you could be pretty good in a foreign language or an instrument in 2 yrs.
  • Because it’s supposed to be relaxing but it makes me tense. People are always saying things like: “I just want to have some time to relax in front of the TV, it’s so nice to just switch off”. I don’t like the idea of switching off
  • It’s full of adverts which people get paid a lot of money for just to make you do things you don’t really want to do.