Author Archives: timeandillusion2012

Brain space and real estate (a post quite unrelated to other topics)

Here is a brief post. It is partly to blow off steam. It is just a thought that has floated around with me for a few years. It has nothing to do with the philosophy of time, really, or mind.

It’s hit me again since starting a non-academic job.

Intellectual Property

If I play your song or publish something with your words in it, there is an issue of intellectual copyright. I certainly can’t pretend I created it. Do I have the right to play it or publish it? Can I play it or publish it for money, without your permission? With your permission?

The standard idea is that, if I use it, you decide what rights I have to it. You can let me have it for free or you can demand I pay you. If I use it without your permission, you can demand I stop or charge me. The right of what is done with it is yours to decide.

Now consider this: let’s say you write the song using my paper or publish your book using my printing press (bit out of date but anyway…). Or let’s say you manufacture a new kind of seed that spreads into my garden and grows there. Do I have to pay you for using my paper, my press, my garden?

The latter situation sounds really wrong. If you use my resources, I shouldn’t have to pay you. In fact, more fair seems this: I should charge you for using my materials, processes, or property.

What property do I have?

Well, I have my house and things I buy in a shop. What about my body? What about my immune system or brain?

Using My Body For Your Profit

Let’s say someone works out a way of manufacturing a drug through the following process: it spreads through the atmosphere until it enters a person’s body. Like a virus (I guess it is a (manufactured) virus), it hijacks the body to manufacture more of the drugs. So, their intellectual property is now in me.

Do I owe money to the person who worked out this way of making the drug? Indeed, should I give them back the drugs that my body creates? If I refuse to give it to them, are they lawfully entitled to come and take the drug from me?

I can of course give my paper, rent my press or land, and even perhaps agree to use my body for drug manufacture.

However, this seems right: if anyone makes money, I should make money. My body is not a commons.

Finally, this is the case even if I treat it as a commons. If someone has been tramping through my land, or taking my lunch from the office, or using my photocopier every day, and I let them do it, that they have always done it may count for something. However, I don’t think it can count for rights on its own. If I own it, they do not have the right because they have always done it. There are lots of reason why that might happen, many not good. Look at any persecution-enabling law. Or perhaps the habit is unlawful; the law in my area is very weak and has never been able to enforce itself.

Perhaps I — and they — didn’t know I had the right to say no, and that no to decide what can be done.

Ghosts and the Law

If there are ghosts, and the ghosts affect people to the point they can’t live somewhere or can be possessed by them, then we should probably have a legal system that has laws about ghosts. I should be able to sue you for leaving a haunted object in my house. Alternatively, if you need to get rid of a cursed object, I could rent out an old spare dump of a house to store it for you. The local neighbourhood could have a Cursed House, where people hire the owner to hide their haunted things from them.

That is, legislature ought to follow what is true, what we legislate for ought to be based on what we believe, including what we hold to be metaphysically or ontologically true.  As such, it changes based on changes in what we hold to be metaphysically or ontologically true. If I hold that there are ghosts, and have laws for it, then come to the belief that there are no ghosts, I should probably throw away laws about it (that doesn’t mean I throw away laws about beliefs in ghosts; beliefs in ghosts are very different to ghosts).

What is lawful depends on what we hold to be actual. If we change what we hold to be actual, we change what we hold to be lawful.

(This thought is connected to a thought I played with when I was an academic teacher, that differences in political systems rest on differences in metaphysical views about human beings.)

What about my mind and what happens in my mind? Is it a possession or is it something else entirely? Significantly, is it like land or materials that I own, something can be used or co-opted by other people? Or can we not treat it this way?

Maybe there are aspects of the mind that can’t be treated by like materials or possessions (it seems a common move to claim specialness about the mind and then spread that specialness to all its features — to the point that it seems one can say almost nothing about the mind at all).

However, certain aspects of the brain certainly have a material nature. This seems right: I have brain processes and those brain processes are mine. They take up time and space, and they are for my use. What they do is intimately related to my mind — may indeed be all that my mind is. They take energy, resources, time, space.

Earworms Owe You Money

So, my idea is this: let’s say someone co-opts some of my brain processes and uses them for their own gain. Regardless of what they do they don’t have the right to do so. If they do it, they are using my resource. So, given how these things work, they should ask my permission or pay me to use them.

For example, crap earworm song manufacturers (‘Desposito’), advertisers (‘Where’s the beef?’), self-help gurus (‘there’s no I in team!’) are co-opting my brain processes in order to spread their garbage and make money.

They didn’t ask my permission. It is my resource they are exploiting for their profit. It doesn’t matter if they’ve always done it. They are using something I own for their own benefit — and definitely to my disadvantage.

I’m happy to let good songs catch me but let’s charge these folk for filling our brains with their noise.

We can apply this to images such as adverts and hyper-garish pictures (vision involves visual processing). They are taking up our brain space. We have uses for it. They didn’t ask permission. They owe us money.

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Seeing Straight in Front of You

It is common to talk about the direction of vision, visual direction, or line of sight, and in general where things are located visually. It seems right to say that things seem to be located in a particular visual way to the seeing subject. In addition, there is a particular direction to this appearance, in that some things can be said to be visually off to the side or straight in front of the seeing subject. However, I have problems with deciding what actual or real direction should be used to evaluate this visual appearance. A consequecne of these problems is I can only find bad reasons to hold that a visual appearance of direction is inaccurate.

This is a discussion about vision and space, not vision and time. But I think that what I’m going to say here relates to both. The issues for vision and space are very similar to issues for vision and time. The difference is that, for many theorists, time has a direction in a way that space does not.