Law in the Internet Society

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MartaPanellaFirstEssay 4 - 10 Jan 2022 - Main.MartaPanella
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The pursuit of knowledge

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The pursuit of knowledge

 By MartaPanella - 9 January 2022
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Introduction

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Introduction

 "You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge". In Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia, these words are attributed to Ulysses, one of the first men to travel across the Pillars of Hercules, stepping into the unknown. Dante believed that the pursuit of knowledge is the very reason of human's existence, reaffirming the theory already expressed by Aristotle, that humans naturally aspire to knowledge.

In this paper, I will try to expand on this idea that there is an Úlan in all human beings towards the amelioration of ourselves and the world surrounding us, analysing its impact on the theory that innovation is driven, mainly, by the desire for profit.

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Knowledge and profit

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Knowledge and profit

 Over the centuries, knowledge - and its more evanescent declination as "culture" - has often been a privilege of Úlite classes and of people who benefited from the hospitality or protection of rich patrons, particularly until authors, artists and scientists started to get paid for their work.
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 Nowadays, the push towards innovation is often associated to the pursuit of profit more than knowledge itself; however, it is interesting to observe the results of recent studies, which have found that users' generated content is becoming increasingly relevant in many sectors as a force driving innovation (E. Von Hippel, "People don’t need a profit motive to innovate", Harvard Business Review, 2011). Individuals have showed increasing creativity within their own areas of interest: their push towards innovation is not driven by the promise of future profits, but it mainly responds to their interests and utilities. They often acquire the knowledge necessary simply because they are passioned about the subject area, with results that might be beneficial for society as a whole.
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The quality of knowledge: the acquisition costs

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The quality of knowledge: the acquisition costs

 Given the relevance of specialized abilities' role in today's production mechanisms, an analysis of the costs necessary to acquire these tools is essential to assess whether people actually have the practical opportunity (and not only a natural tendency) to innovate.

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 Therefore, we might argue that even assuming that there is an inside push towards innovation in human beings, the possibility to invent still depends on the quality and cost of accurate information on the specific sector taken into consideration.
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Conclusion

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Conclusion

 The digital revolution constitutes one of the biggest equalitarian tools that were ever available to humankind. However, the knowledge people could have access through it is often affected by lack of privileges in terms of internet access, verification mechanisms and awareness of options granting users' privacy (or access to them).
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Studies have noted that human innate thirst for knowledge and amelioration is already independent from the aspiration to profit in certain sectors. Psychologists call it need for cognition and epistemic curiosity, traits characterizing human beings and defining their personalities, inner attributes that often don't need external motivators.
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Studies have noted that human innate thirst for knowledge and amelioration is already independent from the aspiration to profit in certain sectors. Psychologists call it need for cognition and epistemic curiosity, traits characterizing human beings and defining their personalities, inner attributes that often don't need external motivators.
 If this tendency were allowed to scale, by reducing the costs of information gathering not only on practical questions but also with regard to "theoretical" knowledge, we might be able to fully benefit from a collective effort.

MartaPanellaFirstEssay 3 - 09 Jan 2022 - Main.MartaPanella
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The pursuit of knowledge

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By MartaPanella - 22 Oct 2021
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By MartaPanella - 9 January 2022
 

Introduction

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“You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge” . In Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, these words are attributed to Ulysses, one of the first men to travel across the Pillars of Hercules, to step outside into the unknown by crossing what we now refer to as the Strait of Gibraltar. I have always been fascinated by this idea, the conviction that the human mind is predisposed for greatness, that there is an Úlan in all of us towards the amelioration of ourselves and of the world surrounding us. If this axiomatic principle defining the very nature of human beings were correct, then any notion that innovation is driven by profit would lose ground and could be put into question.
>
>
"You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge". In Dante Alighieri's Divina Commedia, these words are attributed to Ulysses, one of the first men to travel across the Pillars of Hercules, stepping into the unknown. Dante believed that the pursuit of knowledge is the very reason of human's existence, reaffirming the theory already expressed by Aristotle, that humans naturally aspire to knowledge.

In this paper, I will try to expand on this idea that there is an Úlan in all human beings towards the amelioration of ourselves and the world surrounding us, analysing its impact on the theory that innovation is driven, mainly, by the desire for profit.

Knowledge and profit

Over the centuries, knowledge - and its more evanescent declination as "culture" - has often been a privilege of Úlite classes and of people who benefited from the hospitality or protection of rich patrons, particularly until authors, artists and scientists started to get paid for their work.

The development of technological instruments facilitating the reproduction of other people's work brought governments to pass copyright laws, at the very beginning aimed at surveilling ideas rather than protecting them. Nowadays, the main argument in favor of copyright is that it drives innovation, protects ideas from exploitation and the rightsholders' capacity to maintain control of their work. Regulators all over the world are preoccupied not only with the protection of authors or performers, but they are afraid of creating frameworks that could potentially inhibit innovation.

However, the risk of inhibiting human willingness to create is probably significantly lower than we generally recognize.

The idea that the pursuit of knowledge is essential to human consciousness, a trait inherent to human minds, has been embraced by multiple scholars across history, from Cicero up to Keynes. Tolstoy wrote that "The totality of causes of phenomena is inaccessible to human understanding, but the necessity of finding causes is innate in the human soul". In these terms, the need to investigate the reasons behind phenomena and events is inherent to human consciousness, it is what sets us apart from other species, it is the driving force behind most discoveries, behind science and progress, or even religion.

 
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Regulations and the risks for technological development

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Nowadays, the push towards innovation is often associated to the pursuit of profit more than knowledge itself; however, it is interesting to observe the results of recent studies, which have found that users' generated content is becoming increasingly relevant in many sectors as a force driving innovation (E. Von Hippel, "People don’t need a profit motive to innovate", Harvard Business Review, 2011). Individuals have showed increasing creativity within their own areas of interest: their push towards innovation is not driven by the promise of future profits, but it mainly responds to their interests and utilities. They often acquire the knowledge necessary simply because they are passioned about the subject area, with results that might be beneficial for society as a whole.
 
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The main argument in favor of copyright in our society is that it protects ideas from exploitation and the rightsholders’ capacity to maintain control of their work. Regulators all over the world are preoccupied not only with the protection of authors or performers, but they are afraid of creating frameworks that would potentially inhibit innovation. This line of thought clearly emerges from the European Union’s directive on copyright of 2019, which states: “Rapid technological developments continue to transform the way works and other subject matter are created, produced, distributed and exploited. New business models and new actors continue to emerge. Relevant legislation needs to be future-proof so as not to restrict technological development” . The intent of the regulator is very clear and is in line with a constant trend that has seen almost every law passed in this subject area during the past decades focusing on the possible restraints it would have on technological innovation and development. However, if we broaden the microscope and we look at the world around us, we could be surprised to find out that the risk of inhibiting human willingness to create is significantly lower than we generally recognize.
 
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The quality of knowledge

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The quality of knowledge: the acquisition costs

 
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The need to investigate the reasons behind phenomena and events is inherent in human consciousness, it is what sets us apart from other species, it is the driving force behind most discoveries, behind science and progress, or even religion. When people do not know something, they will look for it.
>
>
Given the relevance of specialized abilities' role in today's production mechanisms, an analysis of the costs necessary to acquire these tools is essential to assess whether people actually have the practical opportunity (and not only a natural tendency) to innovate.
 
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However, the advent of the digital area created an illusion of generalized knowledge: highly specialized information on almost any subject was readily available just with a rapid search on Google, and a lot of people became arrogant and an easy victim for those who wanted to spread misinformation and disharmony within society. The perceived social value of being an “expert” in a certain area decreased substantially because of the readily available opinion of another “expert” you could find online that would support your idea that – for instance – vaccination is bad for you.
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The advent of the digital era created an illusion of generalized knowledge: highly specialized information on almost any subject was readily available with a rapid search on internet, and the social value of being an "expert" in a certain area appears substantially reduced.
 
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So, if the quantity of knowledge available increased substantially, it cannot be said the same for the quality of such knowledge. Nowadays, people tend to feel entitled to an opinion on almost any subject, often because they scrolled down a two-minutes reading time article, often written by someone who had looked the content up on Google on the same day. If we consider the possible causes of this phenomenon, we could argue that probably older people are not educated to question their sources, being used to rely on books that had been proofread and researched multiple times (and this is probably why fake news are usually more popular amongst the so-called “boomers”), while younger people only get exposed to content which some algorithm believes they might like, so it’s probably already in line with their own or their friends and family’s pre-existing view on that specific matter, in a sort of self-fulling prophecies mechanism.
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However, while the amount of information available increased exponentially, the quality of the knowledge acquirable is not always equally valid. Firstly, data profiling and algorithms changed our approach to knowledge and information, exposing us only to content which reflected our supposed interests and opinions. Secondly, the information we obtain is not always reliable nor readily verifiable, and even when it is, we might not have the tools we need to ascertain it.
 
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The only way to solve similar issues is to educate people to question and verify the information we are exposed to on a daily basis, to teach children to be more curious than arrogant and to limit outside influences on human thoughts, thus making everyone able to make his or her own choices, and to be held accountable for them. The digital revolution brought into our hands one of the biggest equalitarian tools ever produced and we might soon need to exploit its full potential against the challenges that lie ahead for humankind as a whole (such as the finiteness of resources or climate change). If there ever was an “all hands on deck” moment in human history, we are probably living it right now, and it might soon come a time when the driving force behind innovation will have to be survival rather than profit, when we might need every brain on earth to be able to reach its full potential.
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It is probably possible then to draw a line, distinguishing from practical knowledge and theoretical knowledge. On one hand, the acquisition costs of the technical knowledge necessary to develop new ideas or improve existing products are lower than they have ever been before: the main price paid for acquiring it is our time and, often, our data. On the other hand, purely theoretical knowledge, lacking an immediate application in real life - and thus the accreditation of a rapid efficiency test - remains more difficult to acquire through the low-cost processes granted by the internet.

Therefore, we might argue that even assuming that there is an inside push towards innovation in human beings, the possibility to invent still depends on the quality and cost of accurate information on the specific sector taken into consideration.

 

Conclusion

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As of now, it might be considered juvenile to believe that the human Úlan for greatness is more powerful than the risk of inhibiting innovation by decreasing potential profits within the industry. But maybe we should confide more in human ability to transform and adapt in order to survive, in the innate thirst for knowledge and amelioration. Seven hundred years ago, Dante Alighieri believed that the curiosity to discover and ability to learn is the first and foremost trait characterizing human beings. I have faith this is still true today. As the cover of Francis Bacon’s Instauratio Magna put it in respect of the same Pillars of Hercules: multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia, many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater.
>
>
The digital revolution constitutes one of the biggest equalitarian tools that were ever available to humankind. However, the knowledge people could have access through it is often affected by lack of privileges in terms of internet access, verification mechanisms and awareness of options granting users' privacy (or access to them).
 
Changed:
<
<
>
>
Studies have noted that human innate thirst for knowledge and amelioration is already independent from the aspiration to profit in certain sectors. Psychologists call it need for cognition and epistemic curiosity, traits characterizing human beings and defining their personalities, inner attributes that often don't need external motivators.

If this tendency were allowed to scale, by reducing the costs of information gathering not only on practical questions but also with regard to "theoretical" knowledge, we might be able to fully benefit from a collective effort.

 
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Was Dante writing for profit?
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Given the challenges that lie ahead for the future (from the finiteness of resources to global warming), we might soon need every brain on Earth to be able to reach its full potential, when the driving force behind innovation will be survival rather than profit.

This way, going back to the mentioned Pillars of Hercules, we can all hope that, as the cover of Francis Bacon's Instauratio Magna put it, multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia, many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater.

 
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I think the best route to improvement is for the next draft to put itself in touch with some of the writings by some of the people who have thought about this problem between the late thirteenth century and you. Contact with others' thinking will help you refine your own, I believe.
 
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You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:
 

MartaPanellaFirstEssay 2 - 05 Dec 2021 - Main.EbenMoglen
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"
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Was Dante writing for profit?

I think the best route to improvement is for the next draft to put itself in touch with some of the writings by some of the people who have thought about this problem between the late thirteenth century and you. Contact with others' thinking will help you refine your own, I believe.

 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable.

MartaPanellaFirstEssay 1 - 22 Oct 2021 - Main.MartaPanella
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META TOPICPARENT name="FirstEssay"

The pursuit of knowledge

By MartaPanella - 22 Oct 2021

Introduction

“You were not made to live like brutes, but to pursue virtue and knowledge” . In Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, these words are attributed to Ulysses, one of the first men to travel across the Pillars of Hercules, to step outside into the unknown by crossing what we now refer to as the Strait of Gibraltar. I have always been fascinated by this idea, the conviction that the human mind is predisposed for greatness, that there is an Úlan in all of us towards the amelioration of ourselves and of the world surrounding us. If this axiomatic principle defining the very nature of human beings were correct, then any notion that innovation is driven by profit would lose ground and could be put into question.

Regulations and the risks for technological development

The main argument in favor of copyright in our society is that it protects ideas from exploitation and the rightsholders’ capacity to maintain control of their work. Regulators all over the world are preoccupied not only with the protection of authors or performers, but they are afraid of creating frameworks that would potentially inhibit innovation. This line of thought clearly emerges from the European Union’s directive on copyright of 2019, which states: “Rapid technological developments continue to transform the way works and other subject matter are created, produced, distributed and exploited. New business models and new actors continue to emerge. Relevant legislation needs to be future-proof so as not to restrict technological development” . The intent of the regulator is very clear and is in line with a constant trend that has seen almost every law passed in this subject area during the past decades focusing on the possible restraints it would have on technological innovation and development. However, if we broaden the microscope and we look at the world around us, we could be surprised to find out that the risk of inhibiting human willingness to create is significantly lower than we generally recognize.

The quality of knowledge

The need to investigate the reasons behind phenomena and events is inherent in human consciousness, it is what sets us apart from other species, it is the driving force behind most discoveries, behind science and progress, or even religion. When people do not know something, they will look for it.

However, the advent of the digital area created an illusion of generalized knowledge: highly specialized information on almost any subject was readily available just with a rapid search on Google, and a lot of people became arrogant and an easy victim for those who wanted to spread misinformation and disharmony within society. The perceived social value of being an “expert” in a certain area decreased substantially because of the readily available opinion of another “expert” you could find online that would support your idea that – for instance – vaccination is bad for you.

So, if the quantity of knowledge available increased substantially, it cannot be said the same for the quality of such knowledge. Nowadays, people tend to feel entitled to an opinion on almost any subject, often because they scrolled down a two-minutes reading time article, often written by someone who had looked the content up on Google on the same day. If we consider the possible causes of this phenomenon, we could argue that probably older people are not educated to question their sources, being used to rely on books that had been proofread and researched multiple times (and this is probably why fake news are usually more popular amongst the so-called “boomers”), while younger people only get exposed to content which some algorithm believes they might like, so it’s probably already in line with their own or their friends and family’s pre-existing view on that specific matter, in a sort of self-fulling prophecies mechanism.

The only way to solve similar issues is to educate people to question and verify the information we are exposed to on a daily basis, to teach children to be more curious than arrogant and to limit outside influences on human thoughts, thus making everyone able to make his or her own choices, and to be held accountable for them. The digital revolution brought into our hands one of the biggest equalitarian tools ever produced and we might soon need to exploit its full potential against the challenges that lie ahead for humankind as a whole (such as the finiteness of resources or climate change). If there ever was an “all hands on deck” moment in human history, we are probably living it right now, and it might soon come a time when the driving force behind innovation will have to be survival rather than profit, when we might need every brain on earth to be able to reach its full potential.

Conclusion

As of now, it might be considered juvenile to believe that the human Úlan for greatness is more powerful than the risk of inhibiting innovation by decreasing potential profits within the industry. But maybe we should confide more in human ability to transform and adapt in order to survive, in the innate thirst for knowledge and amelioration. Seven hundred years ago, Dante Alighieri believed that the curiosity to discover and ability to learn is the first and foremost trait characterizing human beings. I have faith this is still true today. As the cover of Francis Bacon’s Instauratio Magna put it in respect of the same Pillars of Hercules: multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia, many will pass through and knowledge will be the greater.


You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

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Revision 3r3 - 09 Jan 2022 - 16:16:38 - MartaPanella
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Revision 1r1 - 22 Oct 2021 - 21:02:41 - MartaPanella
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