Why should not everyone be able to use all the available knowledge that humans have created?
|January 31, 2013|
Since the sad death of Internet activist Aaron Swartz, there has been a lot of discussion of the extent to which the criminal prosecution hanging over him contributed to his suicide. Some have pointed their fingers at MIT, suggesting that, by failing to waive its complaint against him for using its network to download files, the university bears some responsibility for his suicide. MIT has now set up an internal investigation. The prospect of a felony conviction and a prison sentence would be enough to make anyone think that his or her life is effectively over. For a young and exceptionally talented person who acted from noble motives, the idea of going to prison must have been even more shattering, and the depression from which he suffered would have magnified its impact in ways that those of us fortunate enough not to have experienced that condition cannot fully imagine.
The fact that JSTOR has made millions of documents freely available, after Swartz had downloaded them, shows that his actions have had what many people—perhaps to some extent even JSTOR, which after all is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing access to scholarly publications—believe to be a public benefit. Thousands of researchers are currently putting all of their downloaded PDF files online, often in breach of copyright, as a tribute to Swartz.
There is no doubt that we should improve access to scientific resources, and the Internet makes it almost inevitable that this will happen. The only question is when. As Lawrence Lessig argues, this is knowledge paid for in large part by our taxes. More important still, in the long run, will be raising the level of general access to information throughout the world. The price now asked for a single journal article is equivalent to a month’s earnings in many countries. The Internet makes the ancient dream of a universal library possible. Why should not everyone, anywhere in the world, be able to use, without charge, all the available knowledge that humans have created?
Make any cento you want! But try to make it as good as you want it to be. You don’t really want Seidel’s freedom. His poems are licensed by privilege, prestige and money — lots of all three. His deliberate transgressions look like power — to poets, any use of power looks like freedom. But I just read all Seidel’s work, straight through, and I think he’s wearing golden handcuffs.
Pale Youths in Love
I remember when I was a pre-teen and they moved into a loft across the street from me in Tribeca, where I lived. And an older neighbor friend told me they were living in her building, on the top floor. I saw him at my corner deli, and on the street smoking, but never her. At night, I sometimes looked up at their windows and saw their lights on. He was not very impressive in person. Cute, but no big deal.
What is Work?
Without a written record, we cannot know with certainty how the earliest humans thought about work, but the importance of sharing food and other resources means that prehistoric work embodied at least an element of serving the needs of a community rather than just those of an individual and his or her immediate family.
You may also like :
Men can’t just write serious songs anymore (Kanye West’s “New Slaves,” which I find arresting, but…) or make serious films or write serious books. They also need to date/marry/love serious women who are doing serious things other than dating so-called serious men. Women who actually reflect these so-called serious men’s so-called anti-establishment politics.
There is a trite and obvious thing to say about Iceland, and that is that it looks like the moon. Descending into the Keflavik lava fields the other day, on an Icelandair flight from Paris, I was permitted to feel annoyed and a bit superior when I overheard the virgin French tourists behind me exclaiming as they gawked at the land below: Mais il n'y a rien là! By 'nothing' I thought perhaps they had meant 'no Michelin stars', but then one of them added, as if on cue: C'est comme la lune!