04 January 2007


Cory Doctrow kicks out the intellectual jams in recent interview. A few of my favourite bits:
The economists' best research of the effect of P2P downloading on music and movies is that it has a marginally negative effect on a negligible portion of works in the top 40 (in other words, it puts a small tax on blockbusters), no effect on works in the middle of the pile; and a positive effect on works in the “long tail” produced for niches. As Tim O'Reilly says, “Piracy is progressive taxation.”
Doctrow is of course a famous critic of current copyright law.
Reading novels has always been a minority pass-time, and the people who read novels fetishize the form factor the way that, say, a classic car hobbyist loves his tailfins. I recently wrote an op-ed for Forbes where I described these people as “pervy for paper” (I count myself among them). For us, the paper codex has value that has nothing to do with its technical merit.
I actually expect that in the next dozen years or so, displays will get good enough that reading a novel on an electronic book reader will make sense. But there's a part of me that hopes he's right and I'm wrong about this.
The American lifestyle frankly sucks. The media is generally shit. The food stinks. We spend too much time in traffic and too much time taking care of a badly built McHouse that has the ergonomics of a coach seat on a discount airline. Add to that the lack of health care (just listened to a Stanford lecture about the American Couple that cited a study that determined that the single biggest predictor of long-term marital happiness is whether both partners have health care), the enormous wealth-gap between the rich and poor, blisteringly expensive tertiary education, an infant mortality rate that's straight out of Victorian England, and a national security apparat that shoves its fist up my asshole every time I get on an airplane, and I don't think that this country is much of a paragon of quality living.

America has lots going for it—innovation, the Bill of Rights, a willingness to let its language mutate in exciting and interesting ways, but the standard of living is not America's signal virtue.

Move over, James Howard Kunstler!

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