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My schedule as a panelist:
FRI 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Marquis 2:
Virtual Reality: Making an Unreal Life Occulus Rift, etc, challenges, personalizing VR, ethics and morality of VR
Panelists: Keith Henson, Trina Phillips, Gene Turnbow, Willard (Phil) Osborn
My comments prior to the con
In a way, this is recent history with the Repeat button jammed down. The MUDDs and VRs such as Second Life demonstrated well before bitcoins that the "Virtual" is as real as the "REAL," and VR property has and will draw what the market supports.
Unfortunately, we have not done a very good job in dealing with our extensions of reality to date. Prior to the discovery of the cause and nature of communicable disease, we could not treat it as a property crime - or in some cases, such as failure to disclose +HIV, for example, an assault. When that aspect of reality was a mystery - punishment from God or bad air - we could not formulate the rules for proper boundaries - e.g., washing one's hands after use of the toilet and before handling food. And now our privacy is subject to the lensing of the drones our neighbors or local copshop can afford.
We fail to practice basic hygiene in public areas, spreading colds, flus, and other infections in vast numbers, then we play our stereos with the 2000W subwoofers, solely as a cheap demonstration of chimpanzee-style power, and we ignore the people attempting to use their cell-phones as we shout our conversations. Many teenagers and other people who do not have moral experience or, as with sociopaths, are seriously committed to an amoral path, habitually violate the rights of others with impunity, whether via matters of hygiene or playing loud music where other people are attempting to communicate, or carrying on commentary during movies, or employing, or televising their neighbors' sex lives, or actual violence. Our concepts and the technology of property, as well as morals, are simply not adequate.
VR opens up new opportunities for extreme rudeness verging on assault by the morally impaired. The latest work on ultrasonic heterodyne haptics, for example, points to a near-term hazard that will come as that technology matures. At present, there appear to be serous limits in range and power transmission. See: http://ultrahaptics.com/ However, those limits will likely be extended by an order of magnitude or more, very soon, meaning that while today one could discernibly touch another person lightly from a few feet away using thin air and ultrasonic transducer arrays, it won't be long before you can throw a serious punch from across a room.* This obviously has MAJOR implications for gaming, but, since no receiver hardware is necessary, the uses go well beyond. Imagine that you could project your car-with-a-boom subwoofer pulse into the cab space of a neighboring car. What a surprise for someone of a different gang or ethnicity! Suppose you hack someone's ultrasonic haptic gaming rig and start punching out anything breakable at full force.
*Note: this is speculation so far. The thin air objects from Ultrahaptics are certainly "real." In fact, I predicted this technology a LONG time ago. However, LONG before I predicted it, there allegedly was a German scientist who worked for the NAZIs trying to develop a phased array ultrasonic death ray for battlefield use. The result was, again allegedly - from a friend who worked with this guy (or so he says), that the results were really paltry and useless as a directed energy weapon. The major problem is that the ultrasonic primary waves are very poor at penetrating solid objects. However, consider Ultrasound, as used in medical diagnostics, which is able to penetrate the human body quite well.
So, this German scientist was allegedly smuggled out of Germany by what he called the American Gestapo after being given a choice of either going to trial on various matters at Nuremberg or working for the U.S. on secret projects (this happened a lot). What if he lied? Would DARPA, or whoever, announce such a death ray? Why would he have even told my friend what he did at all, unless to help throw a disinformation smoke screen over the whole field. If you know something is possible, then you can get support and funding. Imagine if people - IS? - had a cheap death ray that could not easily be traced to the source...
In any case, the cat is out of the bag. Ultrahaptics work demonstrates the principle, which many people have doubtless conceived of. Even if the usage is restricted to standing pressure waves that are just solid enough to feel with your fingers as though there was a very soft shape there, there will be second level and beyond developments. This is early Alpha phase.
There are more possibilities - in fact, virtually endless. This has the potential to be drones all over again, cheaply granting the lone individual relatively anonymous super powers. In fact, a person could plant a backpack or portable computer sized carrier on a table and, via a HMD or Glass controller, wreak havoc and sudden death all over a substantial room, punching INSIDE the body cavity of selected individuals - or perhaps only gently slapping their faces or tapping on their shoulders to get attention.
Or, since we can NOW project a standing pressure wave, then what will stop use from a rail-gun style accelerator for that crystal shot glass on the table? If you can move it, you can accelerate it.
And what about Newton? For every action, etc. Could you project an object that could be sensed on all sides or ends... Imagine a virtual pole that pushes back and displaces in response to pushing on it with your hand. Imagine that it's a sword... A LightSabre? BTW, the Orange County Science Fiction Club says that they are doing a LightSabre demo tonight (11/25). Check it out on Meetup.
Suppose you create a virtual object that exists only in VR, meaning as a construct that is only viewable and interactable as a standalone experience. Someone hacks your system, or you simply make the object publically viewable (maybe with the fine print stating somewhere in the maze of permissions that you may restrict access sometime in the future, but with copyright being implied under modern law, that's probably irrelevant - and the first-to-file patent law is worse.) and then, when you have enuf followers to sustain a brand, you attach a charge per view. And it's something that you simply MUST have - like all the stuff that requires a fb or Google account to use or access - or the withdrawal of human support from the Federal Income Tax service, which is leaving a great many people paying inflated fees for tax assistance, which has become a seller's market.
I.e., VR property is as real and unreal as any other kind of property. (See my JoeUser article on property.) I've read that roughly two-thirds of wealth today is intellectual and that percentage is rising exponentially. Most readers here will also have heard of the drug crisis with the pharmas that have decided that since they had the patent, and there was no real replacement for their product, that they would charge $800 per dose, instead of the $20 they had been charging. There's nothing to prevent a company such as Microsoft from doing the same with software patents, once they have a few products that are irreplaceable.
Piling on, if you develop a killer APP, or a basic VR procedure that can't easily or at all be replaced, expect to be contacted by an attorney from one of the big players, claiming, probably correctly, that you violated ten of their patents. These would be abstract procedures that everyone has always used without dreaming that they were someone's property under first-to-file, but now you're going to be made one of those offers you can't refuse and you won't be able to talk about it, either. Unless you're willing, like the guy who did Siri, to virtually bankrupt yourself winning court battles against the patent trolls. But, you probably won't win, because the corporate attorneys already did their homework. So, you will sell out or lose anyway. And that applies right down to the individual customer level.
Imagine a world in which simply emailing someone via, for example, a gesture-based augmented reality overlay, requires a long tail of ten million permissions, many with micro-credit charges, and, if your account is not up to date - maybe someone or some group allegedly out to SAVE YOUR SOUL did a denial of service style barrage disguised as a PayPal request, and now your credit rating is in the toilet, which makes everything more expensive, and you end up like the rabbit in "Rainbows End" - "help." Your avatar becomes a bare box and 99% of your everyday personal overlays and filters are on hold, pending your reaffirmation of solvency, which costs more money.
The objects that exist in VR are still real objects, supported ultimately by a physical instrumentality, but that link becomes more and more tenuous as you build virtual objects with virtual tools, augmenting other virtual objects that are implemented and personalized on a moment-by-moment basis. Even writing about this level of abstraction gives me a headache. One thing that seems clear, however, is that we may be in for a rough decade or so as various players with concentrated interests game an antiquated, poorly thought out system of intellectual property. Don't expect a Zuckerberg to hand you $2.1 billion for your brilliant innovation. Expect the trolls. Knock, knock...
The solution? Either a basic change in intellectual property law, or a near-universal implementation of a social contract, which would do the same thing, but on a private basis. Some of the big players, such as Sony and Samsung, have already gone the social contract route, agreeing as best I recall, to limit licensing fees and open APPs for competition under the same terms. Imagine this as a universal system. I.e., feel free to patent whatever, but in return you have to allow anyone else to use your design or derivatives for a reasonable licensing fee.
There are distinct advantages to property, especially proprietary responsibility. A drug company whose patent has expired no longer has the same impetus to market and to sustain quality checks, particularly with the generic fly-by-night artists who jump in and undercut the original manufacturer, sometimes by using shoddy procedures or outright fraud. Thus, many perfectly good drugs disappear with the end of the patent life.
So, I'm an advocate of intellectual property, just not unlimited monopolization of it. Let patents run forever, just ensure that any serious competitor will be able to license and profit from their own improved manufacturing or packaging, etc.
Finally, those who have followed this field know that the cell-phone consortium patent agreement failed in practice, and I believe that the complex of issues and claims boiled down to an issue of what was fair compensation for the royalties. So, there's the sticking point. By what objective basis do you decide what royalties to demand? If you base them on R & D costs, you end up subsidizing inefficiency. Right?
I've played around with the idea of using an ideas futures market to estimate royalties, and, presumably one would want it to be something that a disinterested party could objectively verify. So, why not a disinterested party that purchases futures in the technology, based not on the details but the results. Suggestions anyone?
FRI 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm, Saint Louis:
What's New in Science Panel discussion of recent science advances.
Panelists: E.E. King, James Glass, Kevin Grazier, Willard (Phil) Osborn
One thing that appears to be new is the access to break-thru technology by anyone who can get on line and Google. Or, there are sites that display and promote scientific / engineering progress. Another thing is the apparent increase in scientific fraud, as shills post peer reviews in virtual publications to market spurious claims for the purpose of getting funding.
On a more positive note, there are signs that various locked-in paradigms are being challenged. Recognizing that evolution is primarily via groups, not individuals, for example, has opened the door to many fruitful studies that never would have been funded so long as the model was incorrect. Also, work in areas such as photonic particles would have been and was defunded so long as interaction between photons was ruled out.
FRI 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm, Marquis 2: Galactic Hyperspace Planning: The legality of the Vogon land title What exactly is the actual basis in Common Law for the claim to the Earth vs. other potential contenders for a legal concept of property. Is this related to modern circumstances such as: does MoonShop really have a claim to the moon (and Mars, etc.), and why not?
Panelists: Anastasia Hunter, Martin Young, Willard (Phil) Osborn
See my article on Property on Joe User
There are two main contenders for a general theory of property:
The original claims theory justifies the concept of property as an extension of the right to life. Original claims arise through "mixing ones labor with the soil," an idea attributed to John Locke. Once an original claim results in a property title - which may be implied - then the property owner may dispense with his property as he chooses, limited only by the impact of other people's property. A fundamental weakness of this theory is that there is no previously unclaimed land, a weakness that Locke addressed, but which is commonly ignored, especially by those doing the claiming.
The Commons property model treats individual or group or collective property, whether land or ideas or whatever, as on a spectrum, and as a contract between an individual or sub-group and the general society. The underlying theory starts by observing that almost all value is derivative, resting on prior effort over eons, so that for one individual to monopolize property on a basis of basic fairness is silly. Rather, recognizing that most of what we value was created by others, privatization or removal from the Commons is NOT a right as such, but rather a privilege that should result in compensation to the Commons at least equivalent to any expenses created by the privitization.
SAT 11:30 am - 1:00 pm, Boston: Why are there No Aliens? The Fermi Question estimates a high probability of extraterrestrial life, and yet we have yet to encounter any aliens. What are we doing wrong? Or is life even more rare than we thought? Jimmy Diggs, James Glass, Willard (Phil) Osborn, Geoffrey Mark, Kenn Bates
The Not Worth the Candle arguments: What if we are an experiment in trying to find something better? As in Vinge’s “A Deepness in the Sky.” What if there are natural limits that have no exceptions?
SUN 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm, Boston: SCIENCE AND THE PRESIDENT Ignore personalities, ignore political party. (We do NOT want a political argument/bloodbath) If you could design the perfect science platform for a Presidential administration what would be in it? A manned mission to Mars? More money for cancer research? Increased emphasis on renewable energy sources? A return to nuclear power? Bring your ideas, who knows, we may change the course of the next administration! James Glass, Martin Young, Brad Lyau, Willard (Phil) Osborn
KEYWORDS: Wealth & property – mostly intellectual. Theories of property and how they are used to promote and justify wholesale theft. Copyright & Patent Law. International conspiracy to steal ALL the wealth. How to fix it: permanent patents with sliding scale for usage by the public. Liability issues - e.g., haptic objects as weapons. Ideas with liabilities attached. Niven / Pournelle in "FootFalll"