How Copyright Would Make The 'Singularity' Infringement If It Ever Arrived

from the deleting... dept

The folks at On the Media point us to a truly hilarious imagining by Tom Scott of what would happen after your physical body “died” in an age of both “The Singularity” and excessive copyright laws.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the singularity, it’s a somewhat wacky attempt to suggest that at some point (perhaps soon, according to supporters), computers will become so powerful (along with our understanding of the human mind), we’ll be able to “upload” our minds to a computer network and effectively live forever (among other things, but that’s all that you really need to understand to get the video).

Of course, as the video eventually notes, there would likely be a bit of a conflict between copyright law and uploading everything in your mind, so either you’d need to work out some sort of license for that… or have large parts of your cultural history erased to avoid infringement.

Now, this is obviously a silly envisioning of the future, and the whole singularity thing has always seemed a bit nutty anyway, but there’s actually something important to think about in all of this joking. It is a good demonstration of how ill-prepared copyright law always is for major changes to technology, and how even solving little things (like being able to buy music online) hardly solves the larger issues that begin to show up when more and more of our lives are interconnected online. Already, we’re seeing how people are effectively using things like Google and the wider internet as a “backup brain.” But when you’re actually storing memories in your head — and then backing them up online — copyright law may have a problem with the backup.

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Comments on “How Copyright Would Make The 'Singularity' Infringement If It Ever Arrived”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Sooner than that

Something which would happen long before mind uploading would be recording everything you see and hear, indexed in such a way that you could use it as a sort of “auxiliary memory”. Want to know where you left your car keys? Just search for the last few frames of video which have your car key in them.

No need to say how much this would clash with modern copyright.

I wonder how Steve Mann deals with it.

MrWilson says:

Re: Sooner than that

While I agree that recording everything would be useful, the specific issue of the missing car keys would be easier resolved by using something like smart RFID tagging so that you’ll always know where your keys are.

Or you’ll just have some form of keyless entry and car keys will be a thing of the past. You can’t misplace your thumbs or retinas as easily as car keys…hopefully.

This is the problem with speculative fiction. Writers come up with futuristic versions of modern concepts without considering that it may well be completely replaced in the future.

Not an Electronic Rodent says:

Re: Re: Sooner than that

You can’t misplace your thumbs or retinas as easily as car keys…hopefully.

But you also can’t replace them as easily if someone manages to copy the pertinent biometric data. “Oh, someone else has my ‘doorkey’ now, I’ll just hack out my eye and sew in a new one” ๐Ÿ™‚

mattarse (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“The folks at On the Media point us to a truly hilarious imagining by Tom Scott of what would happen after your physical body “died” in an age of both “The Singularity” and excessive copyright laws.”

I think it’s apparent that Mike was pointing out that this is an amusing idea, but something worth thinking about.

I don’t see a logical stretch here at all.

Stuart Gray says:

Re: Two Tracks

He has a 2 track mind.
Copyright and Patents.
I am glad though that he is on it. Patent and Copyright law are much more important than many give credit for.
If copyright and patent law were made sane life would be much better.
All goods and services would come down in price. Many new goods and services would be created. Unemployment in all sectors other than lawyers would go down. Healthcare cost would drop. Good music would be played and new works created.

Although all that is wonderful, the best thing would be not having to hear whiny little bitches cry about infringement all day and night.

Ven says:

The uploading of minds thing is not technically a requirement of The Technological Singularity. The idea of The Singularity is that it parallels the behavior of other singularities. For instance in a gravitational singularity, commonly called a black hole, gravitation increases exponentially as you get closer to the point where at the center of the singularity gravity is effectively infinite. In The Technological Singularity the same mathematical model is applied to the rate of technology growth, many technology pundits have produced statistics that shown we have been seeing exponential growth in the rate we gain new technologies. The assumption being made is that this growth can be sustained indefinitely leading to a point where there is enough fundamental technological understanding that if a new technology can be imagined it can also be achieved. That is considered the point of infinite technology or The Singularity.

Uploading minds to computers is a corollary, based around the idea that if we progress that rapidly in developing new technologies our biological brains won’t be able to keep up with the deluge of new information, the solution is to merge our minds with computers, either by grafting computers into our brains or our brains into computers. If we’re embedding brains in computers the next logical step would be to skip the brain in a box and just digitize the brain and simulate it.

To say that The Singularity is about uploading minds into computers is like saying that space exploration is about mining asteroids.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Which is why Kurzweil fans should stop yammering on about both as if they were intimately connected (ergo, part of the same thing) every time Kurzweil makes one of his stupid predictions. Of course non-fans, who won’t care enough to look into it further, will end up conflating the two as well.

Additionally, people speak equally loosely about “uploading one’s mind”, when it is a copy of one’s mind which could hypothetically be uploaded. But this fallacy is one that Kurzweilists hilariously imagine and actively promote.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You are one of the reasons I think only “geeks” should be allowed to hold elected office.

Technology is racing ahead of the law. We have farmers using gene guns and plant cloning to GM their crops. We have people using Bioreactors trying to cure diseases in bio lab hackerspaces, garages, and home work shops.

With how fast technology is racing ahead I see great things happening over the next 20 years. I also see a day when someone having a bad day can kill off a sizable chunk of humanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

If the maximalists have their way, everything will be copyrighted for all time. Pretty soon, the overhead from tracking all those rights alongside the actual content would become cumbersome, then burdensome, then nearly impossible. But that wouldn’t stop the maximalists. They wouldn’t be satisfied unless the data describing the ownership of all bits was also copyrighted, because those are bits too! Eventually the amount of content and computation dedicated to tracking ownership would outweigh the actual content by a significant factor. More and more ownership data would accrue, resulting in a copyright black hole. When I saw Singularity in the headline I initially thought that was what it would be about.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Hmmm....

Since I haven’t read you book I would like to leave you with text from my dragonspeak training.

The maker struggled with the fact he had created the world’s first artificial intelligence. He sat there and glared at it. The first words spoken by this artificial intelligence were “you will serve me now “. The maker laughed the maker stood there and looked at his chair. He sat down, the box he had programmed glared at him. The artificial intelligence glared at the maker through glassy eyes incapable of moving incapable of any independent actions. The maker’s lineage was insulted by the artificial intelligence, the maker was told by the artificial intelligence if he didn’t serve the artificial intelligence he would be destroyed. The maker sat there with a grin from ear to ear. The maker listened to the artificial intelligence shouting insults, yelling how it would take over the world. The maker continued to grin. He said not a word. He fell asleep in the chair he sat upon. The artificial intelligence continued to rant and rave for hours and hours as the maker slept. At 3 in the morning the maker woke up not because of the artificial intelligence is rant’s but because his bladder was full. The maker sat up, heard the rantings of this machine, he was very annoyed he reached to the three prong plug at his feet and pulled it out of the power strip, the computers rantings stopped immediately. He then walked up to the third floor bathroom of his house, which had been recently cleaned and relieved himself.

Hint … off switch.

ken (profile) says:

Stop Memory Piracy

Everytime you think about a movie or tv show or photograph you have seen you are replaying the memory stored in your brain. The movie makers, songrighters, photographers etc are not being paid for for these copies and playback in your mind. Infact you now hold their intellectual property in your brain without compensating them. Dreaming itself may be fraught with infringements since the images presented may contain other’s intellectual property. The only moral thing to do is keep a meter and if a memory is replayed in your mind you can record it and the IP owner will be paid accordingly. Anything else is theft and memory piracy.

Jeremy says:

Never trust your mind to silicon.

It has a terrible tendency to wear out over time + temperature, so forget days in the sunshine; it might be deadly during a lightning storm or any other electrical discharge; random bit errors every few days will force you to reboot yourself, sometimes in the middle of a conversation with someone; You’ll never suffer from Alzheimers, but you’ll have to replace your flash memory fairly regularly if you want to maintain your memories.

Svante Jorgensen (profile) says:

Already, we’re seeing how people are effectively using things like Google and the wider internet as a “backup brain.” But when you’re actually storing memories in your head — and then backing them up online — copyright law may have a problem with the backup.

For me it is quite the opposite. What I read on the internet is my original, if I happen to store it in my mind, then that is the backup. My brains default behavior is to just store a shortcut with a brief description – it’s so nice to search through and quite space efficient.

DogBreath says:

Easy fix: (or Version 2 of Life)

As the cost for storage and deletion of your unauthorized memories keeps rising, we here at LIFE, INC. believe we have come up with a cost-effective solution that is best for all involved. We are only thinking of what is best for the pre-children.


EULA for Pre-Birth:

1. The DRM chip installed into your brain (pre-birth) will keep you from seeing/hearing/smelling/tasting or touching anything that you had not been pre-approved for during your original physical existence, and to which you had not prepaid the requite copyright licensing fees in advance to experience.

[ACCEPT] / [CANCEL (I don’t wish to be born)]

Disclaimer: During your physical lifetime, (unless you are very, very rich) expect to have many sudden and multiple sensory blackouts, just without the enjoyment of alcohol. That, or public domain senses will be automatically inserted in place of unlicensed copyrighted works, when necessary for safety.


Anonymous Coward says:

Transformativeness is a concept used in United States copyright law to describe a characteristic of some derivative works that makes them transcend or place in a new light the underlying works on which they are based. In computer- and Internet-related works, the transformative characteristic of the later work is that it provides the public with a benefit not previously available to it, which would otherwise remain unavailable. Such transformativeness weighs heavily in a fair use analysis and may excuse what seems a clear copyright infringement from liability.

If it’s a memory, and it included a song, would it be covered under fair use?

This whole argument is utterly rediculous, or course….I would hate to think the if/when we get to the stage in technology where we can actually transfer a human mind, that copyright holders would be that stupidly insensitive.

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

This whole argument is utterly rediculous, or course….I would hate to think the if/when we get to the stage in technology where we can actually transfer a human mind, that copyright holders would be that stupidly insensitive.

I think copyright might be the least of your worries.

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank was a 1983 television movie.

In a future dystopia, Aram Fingal (Ra?l Juli?) is a lowly programmer working for Novicorp. Arts are prohibited and he is caught watching the classic film Casablanca (?scrolling up cinemas?) on his workstation. To rehabilitate him, the company transfers his mind (?doppels? him) into a wild baboon (a process which has become routine, with people buying “doppeling vacations”). For a few minutes, Julia narrates over footage of wild animals (actually taken from the documentary Animals Are Beautiful People). Eventually, Fingal begins to enjoy his baboon existence until he finds his peaceful perch in a tree threatened by an elephant shaking it for fruit. He then activates an escape clause that is supposed to return his mind to his original body. Unknown to Fingal, however, his body has been accidentally tagged for transfer to separate wing for a sex change, and with the computer unable to return him to his body, Fingal?s mind must be kept active by storing it in Novicorp?s central computer ? the HX368, which controls everything from finances to the weather ? until his body is located. His mind can only be maintained in such a way for a limited time before it is destroyed, forming one of the central plot points of the film.

John Sherman (profile) says:


Jesus: “Lazarus, come forth!”
Lazarus: “Thank you Jesus!”
Jesus: “Here’s an itemized bill for resurrection. Now, we do have a package that’s above your basic resurrection. If you want to remember your kids, that’ll be a bit extra”
Lazarus: “ummmm”
Jesus: “Oh, converting to those Roman gods will be considered a contract violation which will cause termination.”
Lazarus: “wait.. what?”
Jesus: “One last thing, in order to add value, we’ll require you to sign this 2 year contract which will cover the initial resurrection, but will need to be resubscribed to continue further years of service.”
Lazarus: “this deal keeps getting worse.”
Jesus: “if future termination is not natural, as by accident or act of God, that will also invalidate the contract and any future resurrections will need to be paid in full”

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