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Comment: Re:No one needs a motivation to invent (Score 1) 234

by MarkusQ (#44920061) Attached to: The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

" my point was that the only reason for a society to grant patents is to provide a viable alternative to the former system (closely held trade secrets) without the risk of the secret dying with the inventor?"

I guess my question would be WHY you see ONLY this reason, and refuse to acknowledge the others. I mentioned at least one of them. But you have rejected it without any real argument or refutation, and simply repeated your original statement again. The fact that inventions were created before the motivation of patents existed, is not evidence that patents do not create motivation. The real question, which you have refused to even acknowledge so far, is: which is BETTER? A system with no patents, or a system with patents.

Actually, you're changing the argument here. This part of the discussion was about why patent laws were enacted in the first place (was it to motivate people to invent, or to motivate them to disclose the details of their invention?). It was never about whether patents do or don't motivate people to invent thing, only about whether the supposition that they do was behind the creation of the patent system.

You argued that this was "obvious" from the constitution by imposing a modern perspective--shoe horning a Randian perspective on a document written a century and a half before that view gained currency--and a bit of selective reading. I countered that given the prevailing circumstance (e.g. trade secrets as a prevalent practice) and the clear written statement (e.g. the law itself, which I cited above) a much more probable explanation was that the intent was to motivate disclosure of existing inventions rather than (as you would have it) invention per se.

This may seem odd to modern sensibilities, in a world where "the profit motive" is taken for granted (and condoned) and we have more information at our fingertips than we could possibly digest, a world where cases such as starlite (which may well be a fraud in any event) seem like musty relics of pre-Victorian era, but I think it's safe to say the founders of our nation would have had as hard a time seeing things from our perspective as we have seeing it from theirs.

Likewise, as for your question about my phrase "the only reason for a society to grant patents" I think you are confusing motivations of the two parties (society and the inventor). There are many things that might motivate an inventor (dreams of wealth, fame, glory, desire to scratch an itch, prove a point, discomfit a rival, etc.) but society as a whole is largely indifferent to these. If we are to be strictly randian (as seems to be the tenor here, at least in so far as the constraints of historical accuracy permit) the only thing that works as a societal motivation is something that benefits people in general, imposing a cost on (in an ideal case at least) no one but the inventor. The most salient of the possibly candidates is clearly disclosure--we all gain information, and the inventor is out one secret.

I will, though, admit that "only" was too strong and there are indeed other (far less plausible) candidates. Perhaps we all love a Horatio Alger tale enough to want to foster them, or can't help but indulge our schadenfreude habit when a mustachio twirling industry is turned on its head by a plucky upstart. But I haven't been able to turn up any contemporaneous support for these theories.

By your argument, I could claim that firearms are not effective for hunting because animals were killed long before firearms came along. I don't buy it. It's not black and white, it's a matter of degree.

Again, I believe you are getting yourself tangled. You started this line of discussion by making the contrary black and white claim:

You: The idea (which history supports) being that when you don't allow people to profit from their own efforts, things don't get invented.

Me: That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them.

You: Well then, it makes sense, because we have far more than a shred. We have at least 300 years of historical evidence, continuing into modern times.

...and I objected, pointing out that history very clearly show that things were invented before patents, and that patents are not, as you seemed to be arguing, the only (or even the best) reason or people to invent things.

--MarkusQ

Comment: Re:No one needs a motivation to invent (Score 1) 234

by MarkusQ (#44879513) Attached to: The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

"That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. Say maybe if the world were full of saying like "IP protection is the mother of invention" or "invent a better mouse trap and the world will grant you exclusive use of the idea for a limited time."

Well then, it makes sense, because we have far more than a shred. We have at least 300 years of historical evidence, continuing into modern times.

I would certainly like to see this supposed evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. I can not imagine what it would look like, considering all the evidence we have that people invented things before there were patents.

"Of course, we don't see any of that. We don't live in that world and it takes a rather twisted view of human nature to swallow the notion that patents somehow cause invention. "

You are blaming abuses that exist in our current bureaucratically-fouled system on the very concept of patents. That's like blaming the 4th Amendment for the time the police broke down your door without a warrant.

You response to this point makes no sense. I have said nothing about any abuses here, and haven't blamed anything on anyone.

"If you want a patent on your gizmo, you have to fully disclose the details so anyone reasonably competent can make and use one after the patent expires. That is what society gets out of it."

No shit, Sherlock. What is your point?

Uh, my point was that the only reason for a society to grant patents is to provide a viable alternative to the former system (closely held trade secrets) without the risk of the secret dying with the inventor? And that that is the perceived social good that motivated the creation of the patent system? It seems rather clear to me.

"The promotion of progress isn't about gulling people into inventing stuff (they were doing that already)."

Nobody said it was. I didn't claim it was an attempt to trick people. It *ISN'T* an attempt to "gull" anybody.

Well, "motivate" then. I admit that "gulling" has a pejorative connotation, but operationally it amounts to the same thing. Your claim (which I dispute) is that people wouldn't invent things unless we offered them patents, and that we therefore offer them patents to get them to invent things. You can call it an incentive, a bribe, an inducement, a reward, or anything else you like.

" It's about making sure that other people can copy those inventions, build on them"

Only AFTERWARD. It's about MOTIVATING people to invent, SO THAT society can benefit from it later. We are arguing the same thing, except that you're denying the necessary first half of the argument.

No, we are not. You are claiming, despite considerable evidence to the contrary, that the intent of patents was to motivate people to invent things. I, on the other hand, am pointing out that the intent of the patent system was to induce disclosure of invitations.

--MarkusQ

Comment: No one needs a motivation to invent (Score 1) 234

by MarkusQ (#44870429) Attached to: The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

That would make sense if there was a shred of evidence that people only invent things because they hope to patent them. Say maybe if the world were full of saying like "IP protection is the mother of invention" or "invent a better mouse trap and the world will grant you exclusive use of the idea for a limited time."

Or suppose we had clear evidence that primitive people lived lives little different than those of other animals until some freak accident created the first intellectual property laws, triggering the taming of fire, agriculture, and so forth.

Of course, we don't see any of that. We don't live in that world and it takes a rather twisted view of human nature to swallow the notion that patents somehow cause invention.

On the other hand, all it takes to support the notion that patents were intended to cause disclosure of inventions is a little reading. For example, in the second paragraph of The Patent Act of 1790 we find the prerequisites for obtaining a patent and the reason for them spelt out. In the second full sentence of US patent law we are told that those seeking patents must:

[...] deliver to the Secretary of State a specification in writing, containing a description, accompanied with drafts or models, and explanations and models (if the nature of the invention or discovery will admit of a model) of the thing or things, by him or them invented or discovered, and described as aforesaid, in the said patents; which specification shall be so particular, and said models so exact, as not only to distinguish the invention or discovery from other things before known and used, but also to enable a workman or other person skilled in the art or manufacture, whereof it is a branch, or wherewith it may be nearest connected, to make, construct, or use the same, to the end that the public may have the full benefit thereof, after the expiration of the patent term;

If you want a patent on your gizmo, you have to fully disclose the details so anyone reasonably competent can make and use one after the patent expires.

That is what society gets out of it. The promotion of progress isn't about gulling people into inventing stuff (they were doing that already). It's about making sure that other people can copy those inventions, build on them, progress from them, rather than having the secret die with the inventor thus forcing everyone else to (as the saying goes) "reinvent the wheel".

--MarkusQ

Comment: You have that exactly backwards (Score 2) 234

by MarkusQ (#44866503) Attached to: The Man Who Created the Pencil Eraser and How Patents Have Changed

"At the heart of any patent, there should be some trade secret."

I think most people would disagree with you. The majority of ills in our patent system today are due to patented "trade secrets" [...] the workings of most useful INVENTIONS usually become pretty obvious at the point the invention hits the market; thus the need for a patent in the first place.

If the working of the invention become obvious at the point the invention hits the market, society has no reason to offer the inventor patent protection in exchange for being let in on the secret. Only in cases where the trick wouldn't be obvious to a practitioner skilled in the applicable arts do we have any reason to say "Oh, come on, just tell us how it works and we promise not to compete with you!" -- in other words, grant a patent in exchange for full disclosure.

Patents are supposed to be what we grant the inventor in exchange for their revealing a "trade secret" that we wouldn't have otherwise been able to figure out.

-- MarkusQ

Comment: Re:In the voice of a British peasant (Score 3, Insightful) 99

Oh, thank you, sir! For the privilege of accessing the hardware I have paid you money for, I am forever grateful!

This is the sort of entitlist mentality that shows how out of touch some people in this community are.

So objecting to "you bought it but we still get to control how you use it" is somehow "entitlist"?

I agree people shouldn't buy shackled hardware in the first place, but that doesn't mean that it's in any way ethical to sell it. And claiming that the public has made an informed decision by choosing heavily marketed closed systems over the essentially unmarketed open alternatives doesn't pass the laugh test.

-- MarkusQ

Comment: The Software! (Score 2) 591

by MarkusQ (#43357703) Attached to: If I could change what's "typical" about typical laptops ...
Current hardware is amazing, but we've become so inured to bad software (chose any definition of "bad" you like, slow, bloated, buggy, insecure, incompatible, leaky...except perhaps "ugly" which we're doing Ok on) that so far no one else has even mentioned it. Until we start addressing that, better hardware will just lower the bar on the next round of software.

Comment: Etymology of online/offline (Score 1) 457

by MarkusQ (#42567973) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Practices Impede Developers' Productivity?

"Online" and "offline" in the meeting sense considerably predate the internet sense. Originally it referred to equipment that was in the main production flow or pulled to the side for repairs, dating back to perhaps WWII and possibly further. The meeting sense was in use by the 1970s at least, and didn't seem new or strange then.

-- MarkusQ

Comment: Re:/. worthy? tech section? (Score 2) 992

by MarkusQ (#41261851) Attached to: Texas Opens Fastest US Highway With 85 MPH Limit

what's "tech" about raising the speed limit? why is this on /. anyway?

I think it's because of the effect it could have on all the car analogies. Raising the speed limit might subtly alter the impact of such arguments, strengthen some or totally invalidate others.

If you think of the car analogies we routinely use to explain technical subjects to a non-technical audience as cars, our shared cultural assumptions about cars (how many wheels & doors they have, how fast you are allowed to drive them, etc.) are like the fuel those cars run on. Changing the rules is like changing the fuel. Some will run better, other worse or not at all.

--MarkusQ

The Media

+ - Are climate skeptics "too rational"?-> 1

Submitted by
ananyo
ananyo writes "An opinion piece in Nature by Dan Kahan, a professor of psychology at Yale Law School, suggests that the 'problem' with many people that reject the conclusions of climate science is not that they are 'irrational', as recent media reports suggest-but, if anything, that they are too rational.
As Kahan says in the piece: "If anything, social science suggests that citizens are culturally polarized because they are, in fact, too rational — at filtering out information that would drive a wedge between themselves and their peers.
For members of the public, being right or wrong about climate- change science will have no impact. Nothing they do as individual consumers or as individual voters will meaningfully affect the risks posed by climate change. Yet the impact of taking a position that conflicts with their cultural group could be disastrous.
Take a barber in a rural town in South Carolina. Is it a good idea for him to implore his customers to sign a petition urging Congress to take action on climate change? No. If he does, he will find himself out of a job, just as his former congressman, Bob Inglis, did when he himself proposed such action."
He suggests part of the solution would be for the media to avoid "catchy simplifications" in their reporting of psychological studies."

Link to Original Source
Medicine

+ - Scientists Explain How the Brain Cleans Itself-> 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Every organ in the body has to expel waste somehow. Despite the brain's importance in the body, scientists were previously unclear as to how the brain flushed out its toxins, because it did not have a lymphatic system like other organs, which filters out waste. The previous theory stated the cerebrospinal fluid, in which the brain is encased, expelled junk, as waste floated through tissues and made its way onto the surface – but that seemed wildly inconvenient for the amount of waste that the brain must produce. Now, researchers have discovered a second, faster cleaning system on top of the cerebrospinal fluid, and it may shed some light on what happens during disorders that affect the brain."
Link to Original Source
Mars

+ - Curiosity survives brain transplant, prepares for first drive->

Submitted by alancronin
alancronin (1171375) writes "If you thought your OTA update took too long, how about four days? That's how long the Curiosity "brain transplant" took, and is now finally complete. This now means that the main computers have switched over from landing mode, to surface mode — and thus we hope — meaning the rover's good to go. That said, it's still a painfully slow process, with Curiosity's wheels likely remaining steadfastly motionless for at least another week — and even then we're looking at a trip of just a few meters. When it comes to interplanetary travel, though, slow and steady definitely wins the race — in the meantime, you can soak up the view."
Link to Original Source

+ - Ask Slashdot: How to ensure data would survive a Carrington event 2

Submitted by kactusotp
kactusotp (2709311) writes "I run a small indie game company and since source code is kind of our life blood, I'm pretty paranoid about backups. Every system has a local copy, servers run from a raid 5 nas, we have complete offsite backups, backup to keyrings/mobile phones, and cloud backups in other countries as well. With all the talk about solar flares and other such near extinction events lately, I've been wondering though, is it actually possible to store or protect data in such a way, that if such an event occurred, data survives and is recoverable in a useful form? Optical and magnetic media would probably be rendered useless by a large enough solar flare and storing source code/graphics in paper format would be impractical to recover, so Slashdot, short of building a Faraday cage 100 km below the surface of the moon, how could you protect data to survive a modern day Carrington event? http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2012/03/06/3446150.htm"

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