Friday, December 19, 2008

still the copyright issue

My 2 cents in "how to share and maintain the artist at the same time". I posted this on the isohunt forum today (let's put it here too, in case isohunt is closed!)

«I think we must open up to a concept that is already being explored with great success by projects like SETI Home, or Folding at Home (FAH). These are projects that depend on just the goodwill of the people. Now many people would expect for these projects to have failed miserably! In fact we are asking for people to donate without giving them anything back except being able to do "the right thing".

In fact, if you look at the forums of FAH, you will see that people are very aware of the extra money it costs them to have FAH running on their systems. Current PCs draw *much* more electricity when their CPUs or GPUs are running at 100%. FAH users have made detailed calculations of how much you spend with each particular kind of hardware, just in electricity costs, over a year. It is a lot of money actually, sometimes more than the hardware. And, nevertheless people still donate, many of them keep their PCs on 24/7! Just look at the sheer number of processor hours per week, it's incredible! Why do people do it?

Because, in the end, there are many, many of us, who are just good Samaritans. We like to do good, we want to do good, and sometimes, when the occasion is right, when we think the cause is fair, we are willing to take from what we got to give to the needy or a just cause. We are like that. And when we see a lot of people giving, that reinforces our ability to give away too! There are perhaps many exceptions out there, or many moments in which we feel differently, but in general we will support what we think is fair, even with personal sacrifice.

So my idea was to provide the same kind of logic that has given FAH, Seti and many other projects their success. We would ask for donations, for donors, to help in a very noble cause: to help those artists that gave you something, that perhaps changed your life or kept you happy in the winter, or helped you getting that special friend, etc. Artists that gave you something, now you have the opportunity to give something back. And you can give to starving artists what they need the most: money to buy food, to pay the bills, etc.

Now this for me is an interesting idea, I would be very happy to give some of my money to the artists who have given me so much over the years. Of course I would not feel very likely to do that with established and rich artists (like Paul Simon, towards whom I feel very indebted), but to those that are starting out (like Damien Rice, Regina Spektor, or the former Azure Ray), to them and others I would like to give something. Now, perhaps some of these authors have "donate buttons" on their websites (I personally have not come across that yet) but even if they do, it would be much more enthusiastic to have a single page where lots of donations were recorded and a kind of "chart" was maintained with the donors and their rankings (top donors, or groups of donors, top receivers, etc, just like in FAH).

I mean wouldn't it be fun to search for how your favorite artist was doing in the charts? how much and how many people have given to him? And wouldn't it be inspiring to see how many other people have already given and how *you*, the donor, was fairing in the general "competition" to see who gives more? I mean seeing others donate is a great incentive for us to donate too. Seeing how others have donated X and Y will probably be an incentive for us to donate something. I mean if they are doing it, why can't we?? We want to do it all along, but it sounded so weird, now we have this general page, and we can see who needs it the most (who as received less) and our contribution will be there, for all to see.

Of course, since this would be a thing involving money, the all process would have to be fully transparent. Every penny anyone would give would be publicly accessible for anyone to see (including, most importantly, the person that has made the contribution). And the sum of it would also be available for everyone to see, especially the artist that was receiving the money. The whole process would have to be exceedingly clear so that any possibility of fraud or error would be rapidly found out. The artists would have to sign some sort of receipt, better still, they could give a kind of "autograph" symbolizing their relation with their loving fans! (although if a forged signature or something would be provided it would be very rapidly found out - they would probably say so themselves if they didn't get the money!!).

In my opinion it would be also very important for the entire money to go to the artist (perhaps deducting a very small tax for operating purposes, but it would have to be really small, or perhaps voluntary for the donors - perhaps a tick box kind of - «I want 1% or 5% of this money to go to isohunt» - let the donors decide). We need to change into a culture of gratitude for this sharing culture to work out and flourish. So the providers of this page should be the first to give the example!!

If a particular artist could not receive the money for some reason, that money could go into a fund that would include the "poorest" artists that are more downloaded or more selected by donors, etc. Some kind of list would be created so that money that for some reason was not allocated to a particular artist would be divided into this "fund".

I also think payments should be made in several coins, I for once use the euro and some of the artist I would like to give money to are from my own country, so no need to convert to dollar and then back to the euro. (Besides we might be seeing some currency volatility over the coming years, so...)

I think this is a great idea. Obviously it serves to complement other ways to sustain the artist. Concerts, t-shirts and all that, taxing the internet service providers, all these things should also guarantee that the artist is able to live sustained by the quality of his art. But the "donor project" should also be an important part of it. I mean, let's face it, ART CHANGES OUR LIVES! In my time it was Simon and Garfunkel with their "The Sounds of Silence", or before that it was "I did it my way" with Frank Sinatra, songs that change the way we see life, the way we interact with the world. How much money would people have given to The Beatles or to Pink Floyd if they could? Can you really imagine how big a model like this could get!?

Perhaps this "donor" thing will not solve every problem of the technological revolution we are facing, but it will certainly help, and, especially, it might give us the opportunity to replace the stigma of "pirates" by showing that we are really "art lovers" and are willing and even anxious to strongly support the artists we love in our own way. Only then will they be able to leave the grip of the record companies.

Technology has changed, now, we need a change of paradigm, we need to change the way people see file sharing - we are not pirates, we are music lovers, and we are willing to prove it in the hardest way - by giving our hard earned money, what really counts to pay the bills. If we want to take the middle man out of the way, we must go forward and connect to the artist directly so that he may continue to give directly back to us!

(PS - perhaps this is an old idea, I'm not very literate on these matters, only yesterday did I read the "Death of Oink" article!! Great stuff, amazing! So... sorry if I am just repeating something that someone has already said far better than me!! In any case we need to DO something. Don't let the old corporations win without a fight!! Now we're the heirs of Pink Floyd, lets show them what we're worth!!)»

Thursday, December 18, 2008


A masterpiece about online sharing:

When Pigs Fly: The Death of Oink, the Birth of Dissent, and a Brief History of Record Industry Suicide

There are also many others interesting discussions in the net, I joined one on isohunt:
Join the Copyfight!

see also:
Ramblings on Creative Commons

In short: the advance of digital technology, including the internet, has allowed the distribution, organization and discovery of art in new and highly efficient ways for almost zero cost. Since byg corporations seem unable to sail the new digital winds we need an alternative method to pay directly to the artists, not by physical copy, but by virtual copy. A simple method is to tax the internet service providers with an extra tax that is then distributed to the artists. The more shared an artist is, the greater his share of the tax. It is quite simple actually, so why isn't it implemented? Because it would cut to zero the billionaire profits of the companies that represent the artists and that take the greatest part of their profits.

Although for music, books and paintings we just need an alternative way to pay the artists directly, for movies things may be different. Regarding the movie industry the story is a bit different because movies cost a lot to make, they generally involve hundreds of people with different areas of expertise, etc. So the best way to pay all of the involved is to pay to the company directly. It might happen that the cost of making movies will be greatly reduced by future technology, regarding animated movies for instance, but presently movies cost a lot to make and their revenue must match the (in this case) real expenses of the studios.

Implementing this model with music will also take a long time, because distribution companies (like Sony, EMI, etc) have amassed large quantities of money in the past century. And even though they didn't created the works of art that gave them profit they got used to two things: 1) having the copyright of the works of art; 2) having the largest part of the profit. Therefore it will be exceedingly difficult to get these companies to agree to pay directly to artists, for they will obviously disappear in the process. Moreover they are also considered the legal owners of the music created by artists (so it's not The Beatles that own the music that they have created, but the record company). So, even if we convince present and future artists to get paid directly, the songs they have made in the past, because they don't legally belong to them, will likely remain difficult to obtain legally. From this it seems clear that the old methods of distributing works of art will gradually be replaced by the internet, because they are better and inexpensive, but it will be a change slowed by the old technology owners.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


There was this collector, he had all these paintings of renowned artists, each of them filled with wisdom beyond frontiers, and he was piling them up to the ceiling. He created a vast catalog so that he could find always the one he wanted among the thousand collected. He divided them into different rooms, he reorganized them several times, by topics, by quality, by author, by size and weight and material. He made a vast list and talked about them to all his friends.

He died without ever seeing any one of them... detail.

Sometimes I wonder, if it would have been better if he had just one,
because by looking into just one
, attentively,
he would perhaps have gone farther
than collecting the thousands
he would never know.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Damien Rice

A new discovery:

The Blower's Daughter

Saturday, December 6, 2008

About life after death

(I wrote this to this forum)

I just wanted to say two things: first, regarding the meaning of life, it really doesn't matter if there is life after death, if God exists, etc., whatever is out there, each one of us must give it value or not. It doesn't matter that we are immortals created by God if we have to live according to principles with which we do not agree. Being slaves for eternity is not our only possibility. Instead we might wake up and question: "what do I think is valuable?" "what do I think is worth the trouble?" "what do I want to do, really?". This ability to be authentic is, in my experience, what gives life its ecstatic colors, without it, even if we were to live billions of years, surrounded by loving pears, everything would look like a kind of prison, or a dream. If we're not authentic, nothing around us will seem authentic.

So, freedom and authenticity is what gives life its meaning, the more awake we are, the more authentic and open to the World we are, the more we will enjoy life. And that is quite enough for me. If someone has a better motive to keep on living, I am happy for them and I would like to know it.

Secondly, regarding the lack of evidence for an after life:

What lack of evidence? Obviously, if you don't have legs you can't run. If you don't have a brain you can't memorize, add numbers, use your senses, etc. But the fact that I can't express myself in this world is no proof that I don't want to run, that I don't exist. I may be all about running although my body is in a wheelchair. I may dream of running, desire to run, think about running all the seconds of my life. No one will see it, but I will experience all these things about running anyway. The same may happen with the brain, although we might not be able to express ourselves without a working brain, although we cannot record memories or knowledge about things that didn't come through the senses, we might still be there even when the brain is not. All that we know about the brain is that it is an essential part of our body for us to interact intelligently with the world, there is no proved link that proves that brains generate consciousnesses.

I've lost my father and mother recently and my dad slowly lost his mental faculties. However, in my eyes at least, he did not loose his "spirit". By the contrary, my admiration for him just grew and grew in the final weeks I spent with him. He was becoming more giving, more abnegated, there was a happiness about him that illuminated me, a light in his eyes, a music about him, it was increasingly difficult to hear it, more subtle and filled with interferences, but it was ever more beautiful... And yet, towards the end, he couldn't even play a simple game of dominoes.

It's like if you hear Mozart on a cheap radio, it might look bad, there might be interferences, cuts in the audio, high distortion, etc. But that does not mean that there was something wrong with what Mozart's was attempting ot say. There is a big difference between what we experience, what we are, and what we can express. In some circumstances we can listen beyond the static and the distortion, we can listen to what the music means, how it was meant to be played, and then you understand, not so much what you hear, but what Mozart is trying to tell you, what was at the source of his creativity. This is certainly a much more intense experience than any high-end audiophile system can provide.

The brain is certainly a tool to express feelings, thoughts, to make plans, to interact with others. If that fails, the expression of who we are and what we want fails abysmally. But that says nothing about who we really are.

My father was in a coma, when we "came back" he was different, his eyes shone with greater joy, a joy that shone through is decaying body.

Now, I am not saying that we should believe that there is life after death, but when we look at scientific facts, they really don't tell much. If you check the studies made by Delanoy, Hutts and Hyman, you will see that there is pretty consistent evidence to show that some people at least have ESP (extrasensory perception). This is not wishful thinking, these are the results of more than a hundred years of closely monitored studies, in many parts of the world by many different teams of researchers. The apparent ability of plants to feel what goes around them (studied by Cleve Backster), or the claim by Masaru Emoto that good and bad vibes may influence reality at atomic levels, were never really addressed by the scientific community. MacDougall's assertion that the human soul weighted 21 grams also passed unscrutinized, although when Lewiss Holander made a similar experiment using cows he found out that the weight actually increased in the moment of death.

But the largest obstacle that a reductive explanation of consciousness faces (that is asserting that consciousness is solely the result of brain functions) is that no conceivable explanation has been offered for "how does a material substance generates conscious experiences?". Although there have been immense efforts in this area, and many hypothesys have been raised to serve as "neural correlates of consciousness", neuroscientists, philosophers, or any person for that matter, as failed to come up with a conceivable device that creates conscious states.

So, as a matter of fact, conscious states, conscious experience is a mystery, and scientific evidence is by far not conclusive on whether or not the brain produces, by itself, conscious states. In other words, taking into account all the scientific evidence we have available, we cannot reach a strong position on whether or not there is life after life.

On a more personal note I would have to say that I have experiences many times the ability to sync-up with friends and relatives, even if I don't have empirical contact with them for months. I cannot know what they are thinking, but most of the time I can know a part of what they are feeling if I focus on them with a clear mind (no emotional hurdles may be present - stillness is required, it's a very subtle sensation). I have met many people in my life that have that ability, and, as far as I can say, it works pretty well. Also, many people have experienced "Life after Life": Raymond Moody made an interesting documentary with interviews on some of these people, studies that have been replicated sometimes, including by a recent study by nurse working with dying people. This all falls in the category of "personal experiences" because we have no technological detector of out of the body experiences (or any kind of conscious experiences, by the way - how can I know for sure that there is anyone else that is (not) conscious in the universe?).

So, although I cannot commit to any thesis regarding life after death from a scientific point of view (the data is not enough and not studied enough), from a personal point of view, I sincerely have no doubt that the reality we capture with our senses is just a small fragment of what there is. My homo sapiens brain can't make much sense of all of this, so I just have to live with uncertainty, but living the mystery, I find, is not such a bad thing.

Now, what science is really adamant about is regarding it's scientific method and the expulsion of every kind of magical thinking. We must realize that science was strangled by religious thinkers, both in Europe and the Muslim world. Galileo and others were able to shut off the religious, dogmatic, magical way of thinking, and, in its stead, they have placed critical thinking, freedom of speech, experience as a way to test our theories. The "supernatural" had to be taken out of respectable intelligent discourse, if we had any hope of deciphering the mysteries of the world. We had to replace fear with careful vision.

Unfortunately all this criticism and testing fails when the foundations of the current scientific method are at stake. Because many scientists believe that if we let a mysterious and unanalyzable thing like consciousness into the midst of respectable, authoritative thinking, we will be inviting all the superstitions and the supernatural that was the basis of the Dark Ages to go back in again. It is like if we had spent hundreds of years saying to people «you don't have to be scared, you can look at the world without the spectacles of religion and question, really, what is this all about, with no preconceived ideas, phantoms or fears» and now we will let in again the ghosts of fear, rewards and punishments of the after-life, etc, all the magical way of thinking threatening to destroy all the clarity that man as accomplished in the last four centuries. Besides, it would be a terrible blow to any view of science as completable endeavour. For things like consciousness or free will seem to be beyond the scope of logical analysis. The idea of freedom for instance, is something that has no cause, but is also not random. How do we create a logical notion of something that does not have a cause but is also not random? Regarding consciousness, we cannot even begin to describe it. No theory we know of could describe to a blind man what color feels like. Experiences don't fit into words, although a star like the sun or the whole Milky Way could fit quite easily there, with all their detailed physical properties.

Conclusion - the problem of consciousness, or the problem of the after-life, is not so much decided on the basis of empirical evidence, for we have no concluding evidence for either side; it is generally decided on the basis of our position regarding science and religion. Unfortunately, in the name of clear thinking and critical reasoning, we are now under the pressure of the same dogmatic attitude that Galileo, Giordano Bruno and many others had to face. Many research areas are simply ignored, many scientific results are discredit just because they are "too absurd". Today, we are given the following choice: either we trust science and became "smart and skeptical", or we trust the "inner self" and go towards religion to become superstitious and confused. Alternatively we may just leave behind the orthodox choice and accept that we are just too little and limited to understand the big picture. I for one, prefer to live the mystery rather than to pretend that I know what I do not know.

In any case, the joy of life is just to "be yourself"... it is completely irrelevant if there is life after death or not, and, in any case, even if God himself came upon you and told you, you could not be absolutely sure about it. We don't even "know" for sure if we're just part of a simulation!!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Speed Racer - culture and conter culture

I saw this movie, Speed Racer, intermingled with some images from Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Somehow they seemed similar, both presented lustful images, arresting images, both subtly seemed to imply that all of that is not enough. You need to remain free in all this ballet of masks, you cannot forget who you are, your inner hearing, the ability to see behind appearances. In Speed Racer the hero uses this ability to magically know that the car will start if he engages the fifth gear. But the marvellous aspect of that motion picture, is the way it exposes, in luscurious detail, all the sins in which we give in to the Devil. (the movie actually employs this word, and "religion" too)

The plentiful colors, the vibrant technology, the loving lover, the adoration of fans, the chance to save your family, the deep relation with the brother, being loved by all the family... everything, from peanut sandwiches, to amazing cars and cities, imense racing tracks, amazing abilities, notorious feats, villains easy to win, etc. Everything appears as perfect as we could wish with only one fault: the perfection seems to ruin everything. Usually we want to improve things, we fight against excess cold, warmth, we want water, food, money, a spouse, all the things that we blame on our not being entirely and utterly happy.

But here you are immersed by an avalanche of goods. There is too much of everything, and then you realize: they are not really that happy! They are just the same, with their dreams and aspirations and illusions, ups and downs... The Matrix is exposed again. This time with no obvious solution in the horizon (as it should be - because no one grows following footsteps).

Why should I keep going, now that I know that I will not change the nature of the game, that friends and foes are driven by the same principles?

"Sorry. That's for you to figure out. I just hope, when you do, I'm there to see it."

There are no easy replies in the movie for the ultimate question it asks: "why should I go one to live in a Matrix?" - but it beautifully shows the Matrix we live in, without criticizing it, loving it, caring for it, but at the same time showing it is just baloney, fake, it can never give us what we are searching for. But all these more complex quibbles stay away, unrepresented.

I feel this movie is in line, not only with Kubrick's movies, but also with the "Chronicles of Riddick" all of them opposing the repressive power of the system (society, desires, prisons, concepts) hinting to the hidden world of what lies beyond the mind, not exactly at our fingertips, but in the realm of our consciousness. All we have to do is trust the inner soul and let the world (both inner and outer) happen.

It is interesting to notice how our mainstream culture keeps us engaged, while the "counter" culture (although part of the same) tries to disengage us from culture to engage us at a deeper level. But, in almost every case, we are always wanting for the same, greater contact with the biggest Lover, we want to Understand, to be one with, Existence...

Deeper and deeper..., the rabit hole goes...