[ExI] property

Bryan Bishop kanzure at gmail.com
Sat Apr 19 20:29:31 UTC 2008

On Saturday 19 April 2008, Lee Corbin wrote:
> > Instead, perhaps it would be possible to modify our brains so that
> > the concept of ownership can be, in some way, hacked.
> Interesting idea.  First, we have to explain why *ownership* evolved
> (i.e. what advantages nature found to the idea). Second, we have
> to item-by-item criticize the operation of the concept, i.e. how it's
> working now and its drawbacks. (That one might especially interest
> you---can you do it?)  Third the case will have to be made that the
> replacement works better.

As I mentioned previously, the alternative is understanding that it is 
physically possible to lose accessibility to something, plus planning 
for this, which would do wonders for many of us. Although it is always 
useful to be able to abstract those thoughts away and have other 
processes dealing with those issues while we focus on other stuff. But 
I am pretty sure even in the case where we just assume that the Good 
Guys will fight for us to have our property, we are abstracting it away 
too, right? In the case of the Good Guys it's abstracting it away to 
wetware, with lots of assumptions about their reaction and hoping that 
they will opt to react, meanwhile there are other more, ah, solid-state 
solutions that offer alternatives. Like backing up your data instead of 
fighting off evildoers with a stick in front of your UPS. 

> Property
> 1. focuses the attention of an entity on a very small subset
>     of items, so that at least *someone* is really, really paying
>     attention to a particular item
> 2. holds the "owner" responsible for the general effects of
>     the thing he owns (thus my dog and my dog's behavior
>     is *my* responsibility, and you can be sure that if for no
>     other reason lest sanctions be applied to *me*, I will
>     strive to restrict what the dog does
> 3. helps prevent conflicts between different entities wishing
>     to use, or use up, the same stuff

In terms of post-scarcity economics, those conflicts would only occur 
because somebody's being too lazy to go out and get some resources, so 
perhaps there is a friendly one-on-one solution, but in the case that 
there isn't, I guess you need to really wonder about how much you want 
it -- and why did you base your plans all one watering hole? And #3 
seems to be #2 - just responsibility/acecssibility stuff. In the case 
of the dog the question is 'who gets to modify the behavior and/or DNA 
of this dog?' and questions like 'who is going to fix this mess' are 
better transformed into 'who wants to help this mess?' (instead of 
assigning blame, taking action). And we know that in reality, no matetr 
if the dog is your property or not, you can (attempt to) train him. He 
might not like it, yes, but that's because of your firewall that you 
gave him ;).

> 4. enables price signals to work---that wholly underappreciated
>     mechanism by which markets allocate goods. If something
>     isn't owned, then even if miraculously (1), (2), and (3) did
>     not apply, motivation to for its transport in space where
>     it would be more useful is lacking

Price signals in post-scarcity? Hrm.

> > It [ownership or the concept of ownership] is somewhat like a lie:
> > you may think you 'own' something and that your ownership of it
> > will cause other people to do things, but this is not necessarily
> > true, consider the cases of parents stealing from children, or
> > using the recent slavery thread, a slaveowner stealing from his
> > slaves? Oh, but that's right, the slaves weren't human -- the
> > justification in the old South of the U.S. was that slaves were
> > completely 'inferior' beings, that they were not truly human. So
> > you get to make up reasons why somebody doesn't get to 'own'
> > something... see the cases of children being taken from their
> > mothers or fathers in divorces, see the cases of homes being taken
> > from so-called owners (dwellers) when an outside 'majority' (read:
> > group with pitchforks/weapons/strength) can come in and enforce
> > their options. Hopefully it will never come to that, but if we
> > could modify our brains we might be able to remember that these
> > things are not truly 'owned' and be able to prepare for those
> > terrible sorts of situations.
> Well, some of that sounds "pro-ownership" and some of it "anti".
> I'm not sure what you are trying to say. Let me take one case
> you mention:  the cases of children being taken from their mothers.

They might sound pro-ownership, but I am pointing out the flaws with the 
idea of assuming 'ownership' is going to hold or do anything for 
you ...

> To me, to a far greater extent than other people, children *belong*
> to their parents. But even so, what if the parents decide to go their
> separate ways? What exactly are you proposing?

I am proposing that some mothers think of their children as property, 
and that when people take children away, it is clear that an outside 
group overwrote the "property" concept in the socio-memespace, so how 
useful was it, eh? The child is gone- instead of relying on a Shield of 
Ownership, maybe mom should have taken lil' Jimmy and ran away?

> And this passage is especially confusing:  "see the cases of homes
> being taken from so-called owners (dwellers) when an outside
> 'majority' (read: group with pitchforks/weapons/strength) can
> come in and enforce their option."  Well?  Isn't that exactly what
> property rights are designed to discourage?  Isn't it the case that
> my claim "they stole my property!" can effectively mobilize
> the good guys to stop those outsiders?

You ask "isn't it?" - the answer seems to be no. Ideally, hell yeah.

> If you really are wanting to "hack" the notion of property,
> then come up with your own lists like 1-4 above, or at least
> assault mine.

'erm, first, I was using the term hack in terms of the biological 
substrate bias towards understanding things in terms of property. Not 
so much in the cultural sense .. different cultures have different 
values, some don't have property, but there might be some slight bias 
in the brain anyway, so second, am I capable of proposing alternatives 
while operating with that bias built into my brain? An interesting 
question, isn't it?

Hm. I had this email written up 20 minutes ago, but didn't send, so I 
might be lacking a huge chunk.

- Bryan

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