"Wealth is a tool of freedom. But the pursuit of wealth is a way to slavery." -- Herbert Frank: God Emperor of Dune (p.238)
"If your strength is only the other's weakness, you live in fear." -- U.K. LeGuin: Tehanu.
Companies should live out in the freedom of creative innovation, not behind the shielding of patents. The first approach allows expansion of knowledge and innovation, while the second approach promotes monopoly and mediocrity.
No conspiracy theory, eh? Of course not, if you bundle conspiracy-related concepts into "business as usual."
Whoever read "The Man Who Sold the Moon" by Robert Heinlein, this shrewd financial practice (of packaging the problems of the industry -both technological and financial- into home-sized bites and feeding them to the gullible populace), should not be much of a surprise.
Now, this approach has two aspects: the greedy and the needy.
I have nothing against supporting a needy project, like the one Heinlein described in the aforementioned book, namely financing the colonization of the Moon and the rest of the Solar System, with all the terraforming and transportation logistics involved.
What I am against is the greedy project, where software developers keep piling ultra-specialized features into commonly-used applications in order to finance their glorious salaries while skipping over the creative steps (of figuring out new applications, or addressing the actual needs of the end users.)
But then, who listens to me? :p
In our world, people who have money are respected. Unfair. Money can be given 'for free', it is gathered constantly by governments, can be inherited, and is not available where it's needed mostly: in research. Also, money has that peculiar self-adhesion: it tends to pool around in large sums; the more one has, the more one can make. Unfortunately most times this happens at other people's expense.
Moreover, the emphasis on money which permeates many cultures tends to make people consciously (and even worse, unconsciously), desire it. It creates a self-induced positive feedback. No wonder there are people ready to do wonderful, terrible and/or woeful things - for the right price. No wonder that material jealousy is rampant, increasing the levels of stress of people who should otherwise be happy. Another characteristic of money, which I consider negative is that it becomes the sole marker of value. This conditions people to unconsciously degrade charity, and to interpret FREE things as cheap (of low quality). Imagine the indirect effect on the concept of freedom, unconscious effect, but visible throughout our society: most everyone is ready to sell their soul for money; 'everyone has their price', as it is so often repeated on all the entertainment channels. People totally forget that money is just a medium of exchange, with theoretically no intrinsic value.
I guess that in an utopic world in which people would cooperate more and thwart each other less, credit would be the true monetary unit. Whenever someone uses a product, they give credit to the maker of that product. And put basic subsistence in the 'public domain'.
Especially with virtual products, like software or the output of the entertainment industry (movies, TV, radio, music, shows), this should be implemented. Why pay a truckload of money on a product you'll never use? On the other side, any hacker can tell that there is no way to make impregnable software. Shareware seems to be the right solution, in a society evolved past the childish notions like "if I have it, who cares about who made it" and "if I can't have it (or control it), nobody should". When the word hacker was coined, it meant people grown up intellectually who could do marvels with their intelect; unfortunately, too many bright kids stuck in the pre-conventional stage of moral development, with too much time on their hands (because they take for granted what they have and don't care about the sources or are not aware of the competition for survival between constructive "research and practice," and natural change - decay), misused freely available knowledge and corrupted the meaning of hacker to the malicious form it has now.
In fact, the free market (as free as it gets nowadays), does tend to push software prices in that direction. General purpose software tends to be cheaper, while specialized software which targets a very specific niche (especially rich niches, as the music, film and publication industries as well as accounting, library databases, targeted knowledge bases, etc.), tend to be very expensive.
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