posted Nov 04, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Simplicity. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)

It's a chestnut by now, but "Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.", attributed to a wide variety of sources.

No solution to any communication issue that works in the real world will ever be simple in execution, and there's no way we can totally avoid ambiguity that the courts will have to clean up every so often over time. But we must strive for a conceptual framework that is simple in its heart, that is based on some simple concept.

Complexity in implementation could be tolerated when these issues were more or less separated. Unfortunately, when large complex systems that were not designed to interact with one another start interacting anyhow, the result is vastly more complex. A common metaphor here is that the complexities tend to behave like multiplication, and I would consider that essentially accurate. Those with good mathematical intuition will recognize that I am claiming that it will be utterly impossible for our legal system to continue with its current policies; the number of systems interacting is high and they are all combining.

We all sense this. We all feel the system is flying out of control and that nobody has a grasp on it. The major content production groups (RIAA, MPAA) react by getting more and harsher laws passed to try to return some semblance of control to the situation, but that only makes the landscape even more complex, as the laws are broad and ill-conceived, and thus open to abuse. The common man watches a bewildering, incomprehensible miasma of new laws pop up and tell him that any number of previous acceptable activities or devices are now illegal. The domain of activities one can safely engage in without a lawyer steadily shrinks, which is especially economically damaging when you're trying to sell to the general public as they can become afraid of the complexity and simply not buy. The complexity of the copyright system is rapidly exceeding the abilities of any one individual, no matter how highly trained, to keep track of it. Among the other already-stated reasons, this is partially why I do not spend too much time getting into the specifics of the current system; I simply don't have time to absorb all of its complexities and still do my non-lawyer job.

Odds are any set of solutions attempting to address areas individually will fail this criteria, unless the solutions truly can strictly partition which parts take effect under which circumstances so that they do not interact. I can't prove this because it's really hard to prove a negative, but I'm willing to bet no such set of solutions exists such that there will never (or close to never) be any ambiguity which part of the solution applies to a given case, simply by virtue of the fact that the flexibility of the Internet does not seem to allow the drawing of clear lines between the capabilities.

We must drastically lower the number of special cases, preferably even the number of classes of distinct kinds of communication from its present high count. If we do not, the system will (continue to) self-destruct.


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