Technology is advancing on multiple fronts. Here’s a partial list of fields:
- additive manufacturing (3D printing)
- virtual reality
- artificial intelligence
Once significantly advanced, any one of these technologies has the potential to fundamentally blur the line between ideas and physical objects. All of these technologies strive to take reality as we know it and “digitize” it into malleable information that we can then control.
Biotechnology seeks to make life itself programmable. Additive manufacturing and nanotechnology seek to treat physical goods like software. Virtual reality seeks to digitize full-fledged experiences. Artificial intelligence seeks to scan the measurable world and use all of this data to build reusable decision-making models.
So now let’s consider intellectual property. Fundamentally intellectual property is about assigning exclusive ownership over ideas. When we consider that increasingly we are using our technology to transform the whole world into “ideas”, one starts to see where the conflict arises. Few of us, I think, would want to live in a world where all of reality is subdivided, apportioned, and proprietarily owned (as if that sort of future would even be feasible).
Here is a short round up of links symptomatic of this underlying collision course between technology and intellectual property.
- Michael Weinberg’s paper and podcast interview on the IP implications of 3D Printing.
- David Koepsell books “Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes” on his new book “Innovation and Nanotechnology: Converging Technologies and the End of Intellectual Property.” Interview here.
- Cory Doctorow’s talk “The Coming War on General Computation.”
- I’ve also written my own post on the possible intellectual property implications of virtual reality.