This Is Not Inevitable

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
-  From the song Imagine by John Lennon


Can you imagine a different world? Truly different?

I'm not talking about replacing the current people in charge with a different pack of apes. I'm talking about things being really different. I'm not talking about a changing of the guard; I'm talking about systemic change.

You might say: Why ask such a question? Has the author of this blog decided to save the world with a new prescription for happiness? No, no, nothing like that. I'm suggesting we examine how we (you, me, almost everybody) accept certain things — memetic things, that is — without realizing that they're human constructs that just happened to evolve into place, and are by no means the inevitable product of sentience.

Okay, so let's think about a really different world. Get ready. Get set. Imagine!


What if copyright, trademark and patent protection didn't exist? What if the sole treasure a company could hold was the satisfaction of its customers? It seems obvious that without copyright we wouldn't have the big film, music, and book companies that currently exist. And proponents of such companies will tell you that in such a world there would be no movies, no music, no books. We need those giant corporations (or so they'd claim).

Is that true? Of course not. Without copyright protection media would still be produced, though in much smaller numbers and for much more compelling reasons. Some such works might even speak the truth.


Without patent protection, a company would have to compete based on its low cost of production, or by making a better (but more expensive) product. In other words, the same old market forces would prevail. The main difference would be that new companies would start with the same box of toys that established companies have. Proponents of such companies will tell you: Innovation will suffer!

Is that true? Why, yes, it is! Certain kinds of innovation would suffer and these advances would have to be supported in some other fashion. On the flip side, certain kinds of innovation would hugely benefit, as artificial barriers to product development would disappear. (Have you ever reviewed some of the crazy patents people have taken out on dead-obvious concepts? This is particularly noticeable when it comes to software patents.)


I don't know how we could get rid of trademarks, which seem to serve some useful functions. I suppose we'd need an alternative path for verifying the provenance of a particular product.

We pretty much have to do that anyway, since a grey market producer can easily slap a trademarked logo onto an inferior product. In recent news we've heard that some scoundrels are selling a fake version of a useful anti-cancer drug named Avastin™ . Since this is being used on my cancer, I made sure to ask if the hospital is being diligent about their sources. It seems that, at least in this case, a trademark doesn't help nearly as much as people paying careful attention to sources.

Similar issues have arisen with spare parts for aircraft. Lives have been lost because sub-standard parts were represented as the real thing. So trademarks do not automatically confer protection. Their existence is not an inevitable result of sentience.


Heck, while we're tossing things out the window, let's also get rid of ownership. It makes no objective sense to say somebody owns anything. All that means is that people are exercising an agreed-upon degree of control upon something. That's what ownership actually is. And you know what? It isn't inherently nasty, as long as it's understood to be an understanding. Alas, people who own things end up treating ownership like an alteration in reality itself. Let's keep the understanding and ditch the illusion.

A similar mistake occurs with money, which is not intrinsically nasty. Money is a neutral tracker that doesn't care if it accounts for the fortunes of a worthy charity or the dollar bill in a selfish miser's vault. It's not the tool that's at fault; it's the way it's used. 


Okay, you can breathe, now. The crazy man is finished ranting.

It seems that in just a few short paragraphs I've undermined all of Western Civilization. Does that make me insane? Dangerous? Should I be re-educated to free me of these nutty notions? 

Some would argue thus. They cannot imagine the world evolving another system, or if they can imagine it they fantasize that it would inevitably be far worse than at present. They have far too much invested (monetarily or emotionally) in the current way of things to entertain alternatives. 

I am not saying that we must change the way things currently operate. Well, yes, I do happen to think that, but that's neither here nor there. I'm just some idiot with a blog. I don't have a plan to re-make the world. 

The actual point I'm attempting to make is that there are many institutions of modern civilization that we take to be inevitable. But they're not. If we can see our tendency to tacitly accept or even believe in that inevitability, we can gain some insight into our tendency to believe in imaginary realities in general. 

It's easy to see that  (for example) another person's religion is constructed and subjective rather than pre-existing and objective. But what about the humdrum, mundane stuff of our daily lives? How much of that is mere construct?


Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
-  From the song Imagine by John Lennon

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