Moving to Freedom, .Org(on)

Ray Kurzweil: Information should not be free?

Just getting started on Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near, and enjoying it so far, although this is a speed bump:

The biggest obstacle here is the understandable hesitation of publishers to make the electronic versions of their books available, given the devastating effect that illegal file sharing has had on the music-recording industry.

I thought the problem was more that the music industry doesn’t have a clue, and brought on their own decline by turning out mass-produced crap that surprisingly didn’t sell as well when more entertainment alternatives became available.

He goes on to discuss the growth of electronic readers:

The primary issue is going to be finding a secure means of making electronic information available. This is a fundamental concern for every level of our economy. Everything—including physical products, once nanotechnology-based manufacturing becomes a reality in about twenty years—is becoming information.

—Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near, p55-56

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Earlier in the book, Kurzweil discusses intelligence permeating the universe in a coming epoch of man/machine expansion, but I don’t see that happening in a world of “secure” information delivery. I can more easily imagine a few large corporations stifling innovation as they seek to control and profit from their information. Established corporations getting fat off a new crop of toys won’t be interested in continuously pushing the boundaries. Yes, there will be some innovation along with some competition, but it seems to me, those who “own” the information are more interested in locking things down and making a steady income stream on selling the same thing over and over.

I believe that information has to be free. Once it is published, it is not for anyone to say what is done with digital bits that can be freely copied. It’s hard to picture what the new system will look like or how it will work, but there must be a better way of providing incentive to create. We see with free software that people are willing to work for very little or for nothing in many cases, and in other cases they make large sums of money off of “free.” Will that be enough to create the technologies of the singularity?