[p2p-research] Building Alliances (invention vs. innovation)

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Sat Nov 7 01:49:46 CET 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> On Sat, Nov 7, 2009 at 3:04 AM, J. Andrew Rogers <reality.miner at gmail.com>wrote:
>> Even for innovative software (say, something based on some new
>> computer science), you are still looking at spending a few million
>> dollars to develop it into a useful innovation that someone can
>> actually use. And this assumes that you are leveraging open source
>> software everywhere you can.
> how much million dollars were needed by brin and his friend to develop the
> google algorythm? the Bittorrent software of Bram Cohen?
> I'm of course not denying that some innovation may require big prior
> investments, I'm only questioning your monological view. Again, I think a
> pluralist view of innovation, that recognizes the distinctive advantages of
> different types of funding, and the dangers to innovation and social
> progress of too highly concentrated wealth, should be heeded, Again as a
> reminder, growth rates for western countries where diminished by two-thirds
> since the 80s, real wages have been stagnating, etc...
> Take movies, according to your logic, only big star, moderately intelligent
> but very expensive movies would make it and be necessary and count as
> innovation, as opposed to the many fine movies that have been produced
> worldwide, often through public funding. Do we really want a world with only
> the Transformers, and without Fellini and the French New Wave.

I want to help reconcile these two viewpoints. Part of it hinges on 
different nuances of words like invention vs. innovation.

William C. Norris was an amazing innovator, taking many ideas and new 
inventions and putting them into practice. But, he surrounded himself by 
many others who were inventors (I'm not saying he was not inventive too). 
But it is for his taking compassionate and abundance producing ideas and 
translating them into practice in a big way that we remember him. His 
background running a family ranch in a hands-on way helped prepare him for that.

To invent something takes enough money to stare out of the window for years, 
which is a lot to an individual, but not much in the scheme of things.

To take an invention, and dominate the marketplace with it, calling it an 
innovation, that generally take a lot of capital. :-) And it seems to me, 
that is more what Andrew is talking about.

It's easy to confuse the two.

So, Google invented a search algorithm, maybe better than others at the 
time, but probably not something others would not have invented in a few 
years. But, then they partnered with people with money, and turned that into 
a big company that centralized control of the invention is an innovative thing.

But, one could imagine that the people who started Google had just published 
their idea, and further, that someway was found to adapt it, in a 
"Folding at Home" distributed computer way to use idle CPU cycles and a p2p 
meshwork. We might not need Google server farms at all to do fast searches. 
But, there is not much incentive for people to spend millions or billions 
developing that idea, even if it was better and more secure and more 
democratic, because, in a captilist society, where is the profit?

This is an example of how an ideology (central control for central profit 
making) gets built into an infrastructure (Google) without anyone even 
really noticing. Sort of like Langdon Winner or others might talk about.

Still, one difference now, with a growing p2p movement, is the idea that 
peers can take inventions (or even ideas that are "oldies but goldies" :-) 
and translate them into practice as a peer group. So, Debian GNU/Linux is an 
example of that. Apache is an example of that. Blender is an example of 
that. RepRap is an example of that. If you stretch the concept, Squeak, 
Wikipedia, and Java are all examples of that, where a commercial product was 
then opened up to a social network under an open license.

I hope we continue to see more and more examples of that.

Anyway, beyond disagreements about market ideology, I think this invention 
vs. innovation issue is a big issue.


In my case, I'm mostly an inventor. :-) So, just a backwater. :-) While it 
is nice to think about being a tough guy innovator as the next William C. 
Norris, I know that is never going to happen, so this is my fantasy as an 
inventor (not saying my inventions like the Pointrel system are good enough; 
it's just a fantasy. :-)
"Tom Waits as Dr. A. Heller. Dr. Heller is a scientist who designs weapons 
such as the "blame thrower" and the "shrinker." The Mystery Men almost 
dismiss him as a lunatic when he tells them that his weapons are strictly 
non-lethal, until he demonstrates a "canned tornado" on the Spleen. He 
frequents Champion City nursing homes, "for the ladies.""

But, I guess, for lack of a deserted amusement park nearby to develop 
physical artifacts, and for lack of even enough concentration to program 
much (hanging out with my kid), I've been morphing more into the Sphinx, who 
can cut stuff in half with his mind, because it is cheaper and requires less 
concentration than making physical or code stuff. :-)
"Wes Studi as The Sphinx. One of the world's most respected superheroes, the 
Sphinx is shrouded in myth, and has the power to cut guns in half with his 
mind. He offers the rest of the team advice, though most of it comes as 
predictable ("until you learn to master your rage, your rage will become 
your master") and often nonsensical ("when you learn to balance a tack 
hammer on your head, you will head off your foes with a balanced attack") 

Which pretty much sums up most of my internet posts these days. :-)

Predictable: "When you are powered by the sun, the sun is in your power".
   http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/treatment.shtml :-)

Nonsensical: "Only post-scarcity irony, deployed by compassionate 
communities, is strong enough to transcend scarcity-inspired nuclear 
weapons, engineered plagues, military robots, and Psycho-frakulators." :-)

But the Mystery Men is, in any case, an interesting film from a p2p 
perspective. :-) I'm sure everyone can find archetypal characters in it to 
identify with, in one way or another. And ultimately, the Mystery Men built 
an alliance of peers, and saved Champion City from those like the suits led 
by Big Tobacco, who would otherwise rule it for their own ends using terror 
launched from a psycho-frakulator. As said here:
"The point is The Sphinx is not really a Superhero; none of them are. (Bad 
Biker Mr. Furious doesn't even have a Harley, he has a Harley Compatible.) 
But together perhaps they'll be able to rise to greatness."

--Paul Fernhout

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