Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘Lawrence Lessig

Wednesday Night

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The true gloomsters are scientists who look at climate through the lens of “dynamical systems,” a mathematics that describes things that tend to change suddenly and are difficult to predict. It is the mathematics of the tipping point—the moment at which a “system” that has been changing slowly and predictably will suddenly “flip.” The colloquial example is the straw that breaks that camel’s back. Or you can also think of it as a ship that is stable until it tips too far in one direction and then capsizes. In this view, Earth’s climate is, or could soon be, ready to capsize, causing sudden, perhaps catastrophic, changes. And once it capsizes, it could be next to impossible to right it again.

* But there’s an easy solution to all this! North Carolina considers outlawing accurate predictions of sea level rise. More from Raleigh’s Scott Huler at Scientific American.

* Like any game, the woman game stops being fun when you start playing to win, especially if you’ve got no choice: Win or be ridiculed, win or become invisible, dismissed — disturbed.

* Lessig: “There is no one in the criminal justice system who believes that system works well. There is no one in housing law who believes this is what law was meant to be. In contracts, you read about disputes involving tens, maybe a hundred dollars. The disputes of ordinary people. These disputes are not for the courts any more. Or if they are, they are for courts that are an embarrassment to the ideals of justice from our tradition. The law of real people doesn’t work, even if the law of corporations does.”

People with autism appear less likely to believe in God.

FDA rules corn syrup can’t change its name.

* And Ze goes ahead and drops some knowledge.

Tuesday Night Links

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* Community is back March 15, but NBC still hates you; they’re putting Parks & Rec on hiatus instead.

46 Things to Read and See for David Foster Wallace’s 50th Birthday. Via MeFi.

* Weirdest Unsolved Mysteries of World War II. I feel certain Indiana Jones was involved in each of these.

* “How New York Pay Phones Became Guerrilla Libraries.”

* A literary history of erasure.

* When Jon Hamm met Miss Piggy.

* Cory Doctorow reviews Lawrence Lessig’s Constitutional-conventionalist One Way Forward.

* ‘I exist wholly for you. I will never reject you. You cannot disappoint me.’ A brief history of the money shot.

* Canadians: They’re Just as Bad as Us!

* And of course you had me at 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue. Via Kottke.

FLOGGING CULLY. A debilitated lecher, commonly an old one.

COLD PIG. To give cold pig is a punishment inflicted on sluggards who lie too long in bed: it consists in pulling off all the bed clothes from them, and throwing cold water upon them.

TWIDDLE-DIDDLES. Testicles.

TWIDDLE POOP. An effeminate looking fellow.

Occupy Lessig

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Written by gerrycanavan

November 17, 2011 at 10:15 am

Lessig v. ‘The Social Network’

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Lawrence Lessig has a good review of The Social Network that makes a point most reviewers have missed:

Two lawsuits provide the frame for The Social Network. One was brought by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twins at Harvard who thought they had hired Zuckerberg to build for them what Facebook would become. The other was brought by Eduardo Saverin, Zuckerberg’s “one friend” and partner, and Facebook’s initial CFO, who was eventually pushed out of the company by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. These cases function as a kind of Greek chorus, setting the standards of right, throughout the film. It is against the high ideals they represent that everything else gets judged. And indeed, the lawyers are the only truly respectable or honorable characters in the film. When they’re ridiculed or insulted by Zuckerberg, their responses are more mature, and better, than Zuckerberg’s. (If you remember the scene in “The Wire” where Omar uses his wit to cut the lawyer to bits, that’s not this film.) The lawyers here rise above the pokes, regardless of the brilliance in Zuckerberg’s charge. This is kindergarten. They are the teachers. We’re all meant to share a knowing wink, or smirk, as we watch the silliness of children at play.

In Sorkin’s world—which is to say Hollywood, where lawyers attempt to control every last scrap of culture—this framing makes sense. But as I watched this film, as a law professor, and someone who has tried as best I can to understand the new world now living in Silicon Valley, the only people that I felt embarrassed for were the lawyers. The total and absolute absurdity of the world where the engines of a federal lawsuit get cranked up to adjudicate the hurt feelings (because “our idea was stolen!”) of entitled Harvard undergraduates is completely missed by Sorkin. We can’t know enough from the film to know whether there was actually any substantial legal claim here. Sorkin has been upfront about the fact that there are fabrications aplenty lacing the story. But from the story as told, we certainly know enough to know that any legal system that would allow these kids to extort $65 million from the most successful business this century should be ashamed of itself. Did Zuckerberg breach his contract? Maybe, for which the damages are more like $650, not $65 million. Did he steal a trade secret? Absolutely not. Did he steal any other “property”? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the “idea” of a social network is not a patent. It wasn’t justice that gave the twins $65 million; it was the fear of a random and inefficient system of law. That system is a tax on innovation and creativity. That tax is the real villain here, not the innovator it burdened.

The case for Zuckerberg’s former partner is stronger, and more sensible and sad. But here again, the villains are not even named. Sorkin makes the autodidact Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster, the evil one. (No copyright-industry bad blood there.) I know Parker. This is not him. The nastiest people in this story (at least if Sorkin tells this part accurately) were the Facebook lawyers who show up in poorly fitting suits and let Saverin believe that they were in this, as in everything else they had done, representing Saverin as well. If that’s what actually happened, it was plainly unethical. No doubt, Saverin was stupid to trust them, but the absurdity here is a world where it is stupid to trust members of an elite and regulated profession. Again, an absurdity one could well miss in this film between all the cocaine and practically naked twentysomethings.

There’s some good stuff, too, on net neutrality:

The tragedy—small in the scale of things, no doubt—of this film is that practically everyone watching it will miss this point. Practically everyone walking out will think they understand genius on the Internet. But almost none will have seen the real genius here. And that is tragedy because just at the moment when we celebrate the product of these two wonders—Zuckerberg and the Internet—working together, policymakers are conspiring ferociously with old world powers to remove the conditions for this success. As “network neutrality” gets bargained away—to add insult to injury, by an administration that was elected with the promise to defend it—the opportunities for the Zuckerbergs of tomorrow will shrink. And as they do, we will return more to the world where success depends upon permission. And privilege. And insiders. And where fewer turn their souls to inventing the next great idea.

Via @jayrosen_nyu.

Written by gerrycanavan

October 2, 2010 at 12:45 pm

Quick Links

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Thursday Night Linkage

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* A majority of people want the filibuster abolished. There’s talk of actually doing something about it. But Harry Reid has declared the filibuster must live forever. America!

* /Film speculates exactly as to how Roland Emmerich will ruin Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

* From Lawrence Lessig, via MyDD, here’s how the Democrats are planning to tackle Citizens United v. FEC. Like Lessig, at first glance I’m not certain this reaction is quite up to the challenge.

* Attention: Global Warming Isn’t the Opposite of Snow.

* And New Jersey voters get what they asked for.

Code Zero Zero Zero. Destruct. Zero.

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Via Boing Boing I see that Lawrence Lessig has set up a site calling for a Constitutional convention to deal with Citizens United v. FEC. As I think I’ve written here before at some point I’m somewhat bearish on the Constitutional convention route, mostly because I’ve read that it could be difficult or impossible to delimit the scope of a convention once it was called; in other words, no matter what the purpose of the Convention had been when you called it, you could wind up with extremist anti-tax or pro-life amendments coming out, or even (potentially) an entirely new Constitution altogether. (I actually want an entirely new Constitution altogether, but on a properly thought-out and well-considered basis, not as the ad-hoc consequence of a Tea-Party-hijacked amendment convention.)

While this avenue for amendment is expressly laid out in the Constitution, it’s never actually been tried, and no one seems quite sure what the procedure would look like in practice; that makes it pretty risky.

Still, however bearish I am on Constitutional conventions, I’m positively apocalyptic about Citizens United, and if Congress won’t or can’t act we don’t have very many other options. I’m hopeful some of the various legislative fixes that have been discussed here recently can do the job.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 5, 2010 at 2:32 am

The Last of the Great Primary Linkdumps

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With March 4 looking more and more like it could be the definite win for Obama—he’s now leading in Texas, per SurveyUSA, and a Rasmussen Ohio poll shows the race there tightening—it looks like a good time for the last of the great primary linkdumps for 2008.

* First up, naturally, is Frank Rich’s “The Audacity of Hopelessness,” perhaps the definitive pre-post-mortem of What Went Wrong for the once-inevitable candidate. From “Shame on you, Barack Obama” to outright mockery to this nonsense, all indications are that the so-called “moment” from last week’s speech did not indicate Clinton’s willingness to go out on a high note. Today the New York Times reports an internecine “‘kitchen sink’ fusillade” against the Democrats’ presumptive nominee. I can’t wait.

* Matt Yglesias says it never occurred to him that Obama could be assassinated until other people (I’m guilty) started talking about it. I like Matt Yglesias, but to me this indicates a shocking and almost incomprehensible lack of historical memory about the conditions that shaped the country into which we were both born. When I see a story about the Secret Service relaxing security at Obama events, a chill goes down my spine.

* Also via Matt Y., John B. Judis has a good and much-linked piece connecting Obama to a long tradition of American politicians promising us that we can start over.

* 20 minutes or so on why I am 4Barack, from Internet icon and Stanford prof Lawrence Lessig. I’ve gotten this in my email a few times and I wanted to put it up before it no longer mattered.

* And yes, I mean that, I think it’s over next week, barring a fumble on Obama’s part of Giuliani (Clintonesque?) proportions. Of course I said it was all over but the shouting after Super Tuesday, a prediction that I think has mostly been borne out. Chris Dodd has seen the writing on the wall. Even Marc Ambinder, who has been shilling for Clinton without any sense of self-respect for the last few months, has come around. Watch the debate tonight—I’ll be liveblogging as usual, if only to see which version of Clinton shows up tonight—but I think Obama closes the gap in both Texas (which I think he’ll win) and Ohio (not sure if he’ll win, but it’ll be close enough that he might as well have), which means he wins it next Tuesday.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 26, 2008 at 3:59 pm

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