Friday, January 30, 2009

Nature versus Nurture

120 generations — from now back to Plato and Socrates

500 generations — from now back to the invention of writing, agriculture and the first cities

80,000 generations — from now back to the Plestocene (the dawn of Homo Sapiens).

I found this in Denis Dutton's The Art Instinct (pg 23-24). He uses it to explain why evolutionary psychologists (and Komar & Melamid) have discovered that every human culture, everywhere in the whole world, finds the same type of painting most pleasing: landscape.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The systemite view regarding the Contraction of 2008-2009

1. The world governments must spend 2% of GDP on stimulus packages (the IMF recommendation).

2. "...the global contraction will last several years...if governments don't complement fiscal stimulus with equally ambitious plans to clear banks' books of bad assets..."

[Source: "Global Search for Growth Will Turn to U.S.", WSJ, January 28, 2009]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

There’s always room for more government

Total government spending — federal, state and local — as a share of the economy throughout the 1930s was just under 20 percent.

Current total government spending is more than 35 percent of the total economy.

[Source: "F.D.R’s Example Offers Obama Cautionary Lessons",NYT, January 27, 2009]

Friday, January 23, 2009

An Extremely Short History of Copyright Law

”As the authors of the [United States] Constitution knew, copyright was created in Great Britain by the Statute of Anne in 1710 for the purpose of curbing the monopolistic practices of the London Stationers' Company and also, as its title proclaimed, "for the encouragement of learning." At that time, Parliament set the length of copyright at fourteen years, renewable only once. The Stationers attempted to defend their monopoly of publishing and the book trade by arguing for perpetual copyright in a long series of court cases. But they lost in the definitive ruling of Donaldson v. Becket in 1774.

”When the Americans gathered to draft a constitution thirteen years later, they generally favored the view that had predominated in Britain. Twenty-eight years seemed long enough to protect the interests of authors and publishers. Beyond that limit, the interest of the public should prevail. In 1790, the first copyright act—also dedicated to "the encouragement of learning"—followed British practice by adopting a limit of fourteen years renewable for another fourteen.

”How long does copyright extend today? According to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (also known as "the Mickey Mouse Protection Act," because Mickey was about to fall into the public domain), it lasts as long as the life of the author plus seventy years. In practice, that normally would mean more than a century. Most books published in the twentieth century have not yet entered the public domain. When it comes to digitization, access to our cultural heritage generally ends on January 1, 1923, the date from which great numbers of books are subject to copyright laws. It will remain there—unless private interests take over the digitizing, package it for consumers, tie the packages up by means of legal deals, and sell them for the profit of the shareholders. As things stand now, for example, Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt, published in 1922, is in the public domain, whereas Lewis's Elmer Gantry, published in 1927, will not enter the public domain until 2022.“

[The above three paragraphs are from the article "Google & the Future of Books", Robert Darnton, The New York Review of Books, Volume 56, Number 2, February 12, 2009]

Sunday, January 11, 2009

On Giving Up Your Soul

"There's no such thing as life without bloodshed," McCarthy says philosophically. "I think the notion that the species can be improved in some way, that everyone could live in harmony, is a really dangerous idea. Those who are afflicted with this notion are the first ones to give up their souls, their freedom. Your desire that it be that way will enslave you and make your life vacuous."

[From the NYT interview/article about Cormac McCarthy]