Ownership is Obsolete in the Digital Millennium
Challenging the idea of Ownership is never a subtle exploration. Ownership is a concept woven into the fundamental socio-economic fabric of the entire modern world. Probing the divide between Subject and Object, between Person and Personal Property, between the rights of Corporeal Entities acting as Individuals (cf. Corporations, Governments) and the Sovereign rights of the Individual (cf. Human Rights), Ownership has become both an unwitting target as well as the subject of serious reconstruction intended by multiple “actors” or actionable principles whose effects have increased in both intensity and frequency since the turn of the Millennium.
There are many references to suit the radical if not revolutionary terra-forming that has occurred owing to the existence of the Internet itself, first as an International Superhighway connecting the tangible and virtual worlds in “cyberspace”, second as a paradigm of commerce that represents the earliest stages of a unified Global Economy, and third as a quantum-state-machine to offer at once the Road and the Vehicle for the next stage in the Evolution of Humankind.
The potential of Social Evolution is already being realized given the actors and their undeniable actions as represented on the ‘Net. But the connections between these aren’t always obvious, and their challenge to the underpinnings of Ownership seems like an omnidirectional fog rather than a singular weather event.
Obsolete or Relevant in Pure Terms?
The effect of globalization began long before the Internet ever existed, but its effects were much like the Interstate Highways built in America during the 1950’s and 60’s, have redistributed the life and times of business yet again; nations as states as counties as cities as corporations as townships as individuals –
If Globalization is the actual force at work, and the field of effect is Global Economy, it must be difficult for teams which assume that theirs is limited to Nations, States, Counties, Cities… many players are simply not aware of the rules of the game, and one might be led to conclude that there simply aren’t any.
Having a few tumbleweeds rolling around would be an upshot for some internet properties, and the average industry has seen more than it’s fair share of “globalization.” Housing and Real Estate, Precious Metals, Manufacturing, Higher Education, and even Transportation have been simonized if not revolutionized by the single biggest threat to the status-quo that ever existed.
Now that the IoT looms large the Net is gaining extensions into the real world as never before. It is no longer just the real world being copied into the virtual landscape, the shift in leverage here occurs as the boundary between virtual and real dissolves and the Net itself is claiming new land. Terra Firma.
Little surprise, then, technologiess such as Blockchain are making bold new claims on the land rush that is the new gold rush that is the “new” internet, and these claims are as big as Texas. Or at least the idea of Texas.
Rhetoric aside, there aren’t many of my peers who are naïve about the impact of the IoT, or technologies such as Cryptocurrencies and the demand for world-changing architectures. Some of these are concepts as large as the principle of ownership itself, which can be contrasted and compared among cultures foundational to ours. By “ours” I mean the entire modern multi-national global culture upon which the internet convenes- one that is many things including backwards in its own way.
The issue of Ownership has taken many-a- mask from the ancient gallery and walked on down the hall- at times shaking the foundations of Industry, at other times threatening to set a straw fire under the entire economic fabric of nations.
Early tremors of this include Digital Rights Management (DRM) schemes in the wake of Napster’s debacle/phenomenon (2000-2002), which resulted in the adoption of some innovative and highly relevant business models<sup>1</sup>.
Other signs of globalization are not so immediately apparent, but equally as inflammatory with regard to principles of Ownership. It is possible that DRM is the mouse-trap which grew a bigger-and-better mouse known as Crypto-currency.
Some interesting developments in that regard have now matured. Rather than supporting the right to piracy via hack-ish file sharing software, Crypto-currency is (at it’s heart) an expression of some of the most egalitarian concepts available in society, and the means to execute.
It’s the eventuality of the distributed nature of the underlying architecture of the Net- which is not unlike nature itself- and this eventuality looms large unlike massive outside sets of waves double in height- it’s the single rogue wave that it still massing like a giant ground swell of Tidal proportion.
There isn’t a better way to say it:
Imagine for a moment that Ownership ceased to exist. Not your Car. Not your Home. Ok- Not enough? Not your Computer. Not your Phone…
I still think this concept needs a little help- so let’s really come to terms:
It has been said that one of the chief differences between the Settlers of North America and the Natives (around CE 1500) was that the Natives did not understand Property as in the idea of Ownership. On one hand there are undeniable pieces of personal property that every tribe would recognize; but this was so small a concept that one didn’t need rights or laws about such things. It was a thing apart.
Communal living in the tribal sense was more a coping mechanism for the dire impact and the somewhat delicate survival balance between nature and man. To understand this from the mindset of the Modern world is almost impossible, not because it changes how we think about our belongings, but because without Personal Property and the entire cultural backlog that supports it, worldwide business in the modern sense will cease and the operations of all modern infrastructure will cease and that is an event of global proportion that more surely than global warming will cast us back into prehistoric times.
We’re almost desensitized to this concept of world destruction. Armageddon has been spoken about and written about in so many different ways from zombie apocalypse to simple annihilation of the species that we are numb to the fear.
However, Ownership is the least obvious of the formal threats facing our modern world, and yet it is possibly the most viable.
Some would argue the point in which Ownership is foundational to modern infrastructure, such that threatening this single concept poses a global event of significant proportion.