Friday, October 04, 2013

EL LADINO GLOBAL VII



At that time Merodachbaladan, the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah: for he had heard that he had been sick, and was recovered.

And Hezekiah was glad of them, and shewed them the house of his precious things, the silver, and the gold, and the spices, and the precious ointment, and all the house of his armour, and all that was found in his treasures: there was nothing in his house, nor in all his dominion, that Hezekiah shewed them not.



Isaiah 39:1-2. (KJV)



"El diablo está en los detalles." Es el exclusivo "pipi's room" para profesores, el meeting point donde me vuelvo a topar con uno de los miembros de nuestro original grupo multidisciplinario del proyecto en proceso de terminación. "¡Quiúbole! ¿Cómo va el doctorado? -me suelta a modo de saludo. "Posdoctorado" -le recuerdo, just in case he's forgotten what the hell I am doing around. "Ya en el reporte final". "Ah, sí. Con fulano, ¿verdad? Ni modos, así es esto: 'En un momento estamos arriba y abajo en otro'". Lo dice con tal énfasis, que me deja dudando si su intención real haya sido tal vez citar al "Kama Sutra".


Más tarde he de averiguar que es así. Habiendo dejado satisfecha a una de las divas de la universidad (que de hecho es más suavecita, y hasta cierto punto más sincera que las demás), me suelta un valioso 'tip': "¿No te han avisado tus cuates que hubo cambios en el Olimpo del 'Centro'?". A la distancia, creo que un poco me aceleré. Anyway, bastó una llamada y compartir 'el lunch', para enterarme que, aquella que tres veces me rechazó, ha obtenido uno de los puestos por el que suspiraban más de una de 'las vacas sagradas' de nuestro círculo de iniciados. Después desvelarme de sus polacas conexiones, el pedigrí, entiendo -según esto- el motivo de su elección: "El valor no cuenta sin las influencias..."; alcanzando a expresar: "ya te dije una vez que a mí es al que menos conviene por ahora hablar, pero es ella en quien menos hubiera pensado para ocuparlo, 'Nadie sabe para quien trabaja', en verdad".


En territorio pérfido, un galo alguna vez me vaticinó: 'either you succeed because you are good enough or got the proper networking, mate', ¿recuerdan? Esto es precisamente lo que el fin de semana mi mujer experimentó. Sin embargo, "instead of trusting in the prophetic capacities of my heart, and relying exclusively in the deductions of my head", le adelanté: "ya que la otra está 'pastel', ya verás que su puesto te van a ofrecer". Por supuesto, en ese momento no me creyó. Unas horas después recibe una aparentemente inofensiva invitación, tiempo oportunísimo pa' recordarle: "among some of your friends, nothing is for free, I am afraid, my dear".Lo demás, ...historia es. So, how do we know the process of knowing, then? Oh!, that's an easy one: "En 1949 el psicólogo Donald Hebb de la Universidad Mc Gill de Montreal, Canadá, publicó un libro en el que sugirió que el cerebro puede comportarse de ambas maneras (de manera altamente especializada en funciones específicas; y como un todo a los estímulos): por regiones especializadas en las primeras etapas de la vida y de una forma holística principalmente en la edad adulta" (Las ciencias de la mente. ¿Cómo ves? No. 179). No es la habilidad de conocer la respuesta a cada pregunta aislada, compa -le digo a un atrabancado jovencito, sino de resolver los problemas más complejos (without oversimplified them) en ese justo momento sintetizando, con los elementos más importantes (aquí sí que es válido despreciar a los más débiles), la realidad (teoría de la que por cierto no poseo el copyright, los rojillos de a devis know that from long time ago). Dos hechos que prueban nuestro performance, más allá de la errada idea (según yo) de que nomás ando divagando por ahí, quedarán casi seguramente enlatados: la hipótesis de la transición climática en nuestro república, tal como lo podrán atestiguar los agricultores en el 'norti' de nuestro país; y el que sólo strong Niño phases have a significant positive impact in the Yucatan Peninsula rainfall, si no me creen, entonces corroborando con los registros lo podríamos fácilmente demostrar, lo otro es distorsionar deliberada y ladinamente la realidad. A veces, I might look like a stranger among you all, pero no soy yo el que se ha rendido y se esfumó (aunque ya saben, siempre low-profile, la oligofrenia no se nos da, esa búsquenla entre quienes enmascaran la falsa humildad). Más de uno debe haber tirado la toalla, después de haber visto vilipendiada nuestra brillante estrategia una vez más. Pero, si no tuviéramos como faro a un grupo históricamente excepcional (no sólo en México, sino en el mundo entero), no estaríamos seguros de que al final la razón ha de trinfar. Poco a poco, como la gota que desgasta la roca, hemos evidenciado la fragilidad de sus gurús. A cada obstáculo lo hemos confrontado con una evolución, y aunque en harapos nos quedemos, con ustedes vamos a caminar hasta nuestro glorioso destino alcanzar. In the meantime, cultivemos nuestro intelecto con lo mejor, bros.



Windows 98 in 1997

Is it wrong to ' borrow' ideas
"...The entertainment industry and the pharmaceutical industry... are exceptionally aggressive in promoting the strong protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), such as patents, copyrights and trademarks.
"Unfortunately, this handful of industries has been driving the whole international agenda on IPRs over the past two decades They led the campaign to introduce the so-called TRIPS (Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights) agreement in the World Trade Organisation. This agreement has widened the scope, extended the duration and hightened the degree of protection for IPRs to an unprecedented extent, making it much more difficult for developing countries to acquire the new knowledge they need for economic development."



'The fuel of interest to the fire of genius'

"During the debate surrounding the HIV/AIDS drugs, the pharmaceutical companies argued that, without patents, there will be no more new drugs - if anyone can 'steal' their inventions, they would have no reason to invest in inventing new drugs... those who are criticizing the patent system (and other IPRs) are threatening the future supply of new ideas (not just drugs), undermining the very productivity of the capital system.

"...Material incentives, while important are not only things that motivate people to invest in producing new ideas. At the height of the HIV/AIDS debate, 13 fellows of the Royal Society, the highest scientific society of the UK, put this point powerfully in an open letter to the 'Financial Times': 'Patents are only means for promoting discovery and invention. Scientific curiosity, coupled with the desire to benefit humanity, has been of far greater importance throughout history'. Countless researchers all over the world come up with new ideas all the time, even when they do not directly profit from them. Government research institutes or universities often explicitly to take out patents on their inventions. All these show that a lot of research is not motivated by the profit from patent monopoly.

"This is not a fringe phenomenon. A lot of research is conducted by non-profit-seeking organizations - even in the US. For example, in the year 2000, only 43% of US drugs research funding came from the pharmaceutical industry itself, 29% came from the US government and the remaining 28% from the private charities and universities.

"... In other industries, copying new technology is not easy, and innovation automatically gives the inventor a temporary technological monopoly, even in the absence of the patent law. The monopoly is due to the natural advantages accorded to the innovator such as limitation lag (due to the time it takes for other to absorb new knowledge); reputational advantage (of being the first and so best-known producer); and the head start in 'racing down learning curves' (i.e., the natural increase in productivity through experience). The resulting temporary monopoly profit is reward enough for the innovative activity in most industries.

"...patents, by definition, create monopolies, which impose costs on the rest of society...Monopoly also creates net social loss by allowing the producer to maximize its profit by producing at a less than socially desirable quantity, creating net social loss...

"The unstated presumption in the pro-patent argument is that such costs will be more than offset by the benefits that flow from increased innovation (that is, higher productivity), but this is not guaranteed. Indeed, in mid-19th-century Europe, the influential anti-patent movement, famously championed by the British free-market magazine, 'The Economist', objected to the patent system on the grounds that its costs would be higher than its benefits.

"... we advocate the protection of patents and other intellectual property rights, despite their potential to create inefficiency and waste, because we believe they will more than compensate for those costs in the long run by generating new ideas that raise productivity. But accepting the potential benefits of the patent system is different from saying that there is no cost involved.

"... Economic is all about absorbing advanced foreign technologies. Anything that makes it more difficult, be it the patent system or a ban on the export of advanced technologies, is not good for economic development. It is as simple as that. In the past, the Bad Samaritan rich countries themselves understood this clearly and did everything to prevent this from happening."




John Law and the first technological arms race

"...Those countries that are better at absorbing the knowledge inflow have been more successful in catching up with the more economically advanced nations... The techonological 'arms race', between backward countries trying to acquire advanced foreign knowledge and the advanced countries trying to prevent its outflow has always been at the heart of the game of economic development.

"...The leader in this new technological race was Britain... reluctant to part with its advanced technologies. It even set up legal barries to technology outflows. The other industralising countries in europe and the US had to violate those laws in order to acquire superior British technologies.

"This new technological arms race was started in full spate by John Law (1671-1729)... a moneymaker in more than one sense. He was an extremely successful financer, making huge killings on currency speculation, setting up and merging large banks and trading companies, getting royal monopolies for them and selling their shares at huge profits...was also known as a great gambler with an incredible ability to calculate the odds. As an economist, he advocated the use of paper money backed by a central bank. The idea that we can make wothless paper into money through government fiat was a radical notion then. At the time, most people believed that only things that have a value of their own, like gold and silver, could serve as money.

"John Law... understood the importance of technology in building a strong economy... he also recruited hundreds of skilled workers from Britain in an attempt to upgrade France's technology.

"...What workers know and can do matters greatly in determining a firm's productivity. In earlier times, though, their importance was even more pronounced, since they themselves embo5tdied a lot of technologies. Machines were still rather primitive, so productivity depended very much on how skilled the workers who operated them were. The scientific principles behind industrial operations were poorly understood, so technical instructions could not be written down easily in universal terms. Once again, the skilled worker had to be there to run the operation smoothly.

"Other countries intent on catching up with Britain knew that they had to get hold of these advanced technologies, whether the method used to do so was 'legal'or 'illegal'from the British point of view. The 'legal' means included apprenticeships and factory tours. The 'illegal'means involved the governments of continental Europe and the US luring skilled workers contrary to British law. These governments also routinely employed industrial spies.

"...But by the end of the century, the nature of the game had changed fundamentally with the increasing importance of 'disembodied' knowledge - that is, knowledge that can be separated from the workers and the machines that used to hold them. The development of science meant that a lot -although not all- knowledge could be written down in a (scientific) language that could be understood by anyone with appropiate training.

"Disembodied knowledge is more difficult to protect than knowledge embodied in skill workers or actual machines. Once an idea is written down in a general scientific and engineering language, it becomes much easier to copy it... As the importance of disembodied knowledge grew, it became more important to protect the ideas themselves than the workers or machines that embody them... In their place, the patent law became the key instruments in managing the flow of ideas.

"The first patent system is supposed to have been used by Venice in 1474, when it granted ten years' privileges to inventors of 'new arts and machines'... copyright law (first introduced in Britain in 1709) and trademark (first introduced in Britain in 1862) were adopted by most of today's rich countries in the second half of the 19th century."





The lawyers get involved


"...throughout much of the 19th century, the IPR regimes in today's rich countries were all very bad at protecting 'foreigners' intellectual property rights. This was partly the consequence of the general laxity of early patent laws in checking the originality of an invention. For example, in the US, before the 1836 overhaul of its patent law, patents were granted without any proof of originality; this encouraged racketeers to patent devices already in use ('phony patents') and then to demand money from their users under threat of suit for infringement. But the absence of protection for foreigners' intellectual property rights was often deliberate. In most countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, Austria, France and the US, patenting of 'imported invention' was explicitly allowed.


"...Counterfeiting was not invented in Modern Asia. When they were backward themselves in terms of knowledge, all of today's rich countries blithely violated other people's patents, trademarks and copyrights. The Swiss 'borrowed' German chemical inventions, while the Germans 'borrowed' English trademarks and the Americans 'borrowed'British copyrighted materials - all without paying what would today be considered 'just'compensation.




"Despite this history, the Bad Samaritan rich countries are now forcing developing countries to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights to a historically unprecedented degree through the TRIPS agreement and a raft of bilateral free-trade agreements. They argue that stronger protection of intellectual property will encourage the production of new knowledge and benefit everyone, including the developing countries. But is this true?"




Making Mickey Mouse live longer

"In 1998, the US copyright Term Extension Act extended the period of copyright protection... to 'life of the author plus 70 years, or 95 years of corporate authorship.

"...As should be immediately obvious to anyone, extending the term protection for existing work can never create new knowledge.

"...In the third quarter of the 19th century (1850-75), the average patent life in a sample of 60 countries was around 13 years. Between 1900 and 1975, this was extended to 16 or 17 years. But recently the US has played the leading role in accelerating and consolidating this upward trend. It has now made its 20-year term for patent protection a 'global standard' through enshrining in the World Trade Organisation's TRIPS agreement -the 60-country average stood at 19 years as of 2004. Anything that goes beyond TRIPS, such as the 'de facto'extension of drug patents, the US government has been spreading through bilateral free-trade agreements."








Sealed crustless sandwiches and turmeric

"One basic assumption behind IPR laws is that the new idea that is awarded protection is worth protecting. This is why all such laws demand the idea to be original (to possess 'novelty'and 'non-obviousness' in the technical jargon). This may sound incontrovertible in abstract terms, but it is more difficult to put in practice, not least because investors have an incentive to lobby for lowering the originality bar.

"...Before the TRIPS agreement, most developing countries did not give the pharmaceutical product patents. Most countries had never given them; others such as India and Brazil, had abolished the pharmaceutical product patents (process patents as well, in the case of Brazil) that they once had.

"...the general trend that 'the tests for novelty and non-obviousness, which are supposed to ensure that the patent monopoly is granted only to truly original ideas, have become largely non-operative'. The result of this has been what Jaffe and Lerner call a 'patent explosion'. They document how the number of patents granted in the US grew by 1% a year between 1930 and 1982, the year when the American patent system was loosened, but grew by 5.7% a year during 1982-2002, when patents were more liberally granted. This increase is definitely not due to some sudden explosion in American creativity!

"But why should the rest of the world care if the Americans are issuing silly patents? They should care because the new American system has encouraged the 'theft' of ideas that are well-known in other countries, especially developing countries, but are not legally protected precisely because they have been so well known for such a long time. This is known as the theft of 'traditional knowledge'. The best example in this regard is the patent granted in 1995 to two Indian researchers at the University of Mississippi for the medicinal use of turmeric, whose wound-healing properties have been known in India for thousands of years. The patent was only cancelled thanks to the challenge mounted in the American courts by the New Delhi-based Council for Agricultural Research. This patent might be still there if the wronged country had been some small and very poor developing country that lacked India's human and financial resources to fight such battles."







"...Ideas are the most important inputs in producing new ideas. But if other people own the ideas you need in order to develop your own new ideas, you cannot use them without paying for them. This can make producing new ideas expensive. Worse, you run the danger of being sued for patent infringement by your competitors, who may own patents closely related to yours. Such a lawsuit would not only waste your money but also keep you from further developing the technology in dispute. In this sense, patents can become an obstacle, rather than a spur, to technological development.

"...The days are over when technology can be advanced in laboratories by individual scientists alone. Now you need an army of lawyers to negotiate the hazardours terrain of interlocking patents, the patent system may actually become a major obstacle, rather than a spur, to technological progress."








Harsh rules and developing countries

"The recent changes in the system of intellectual property rights have magnified its costs, while reducing the benefits. Lowering the originality bar and the extension of patent (and other IPR) life have meant that we are, in effect, paying more for each patent, whose average quality, however, is lower than before. Changes in the attitudes of rich country governments and corporations have also made it more difficult to override the commercial interests of patent holders for the sake of the public interest, as we saw in the HIV/AIDS case. And making increasingly minute pieces of knowledge patentable has worsened the problem of interlocking patents, slowing down the technological progress.




"...the biggest problem is, to put it bluntly, that the new IPR system has made economic development more difficult. When 97% of all patents and the vast majority of copyrights and trademarks are held by rich countries, the strengthening of the rights of IPR-holders means that acquiring knowledge has become more expensive for developing countries.

"If the are to comply with the TRIPS agreement each developing country needs to spend a lot of money building up and implementing a new IPR system. The system does not run itself. Enforcement of copyright and trademarks requires an army of inspectors.

"...the foundation of economic development is the acquisition of more productive knowledge. The stronger the international protection of IPRs is, the more difficult it is for the follower countries to acquire new knowledge. This is why, historically countries did not protect foreigners' intellectual property very well (or at all) when they needed to import knowledge."









Getting the balance right

"...Protection of intellectual property rights is like this. Some minimum amount of it may be essential in creating incentives for knowledge creation. Some more of it may bring more benefits than costs. But too much of it may create more costs than benefits so that it ends up harming the economy.




"So the real question is not whether IPR protection is good or bad in abstract. It is how we get the balance right between the need to encourage people to produce knowledge and the need to ensure that the costs from the resulting monopoly do not exceed the benefits that the new knowledge brings about. In order to do that, we need to weaken the degree of IPR protection prevailing today - by shortening the period of protection by raising the originality bar, and by marking compulsory licensing and parallel imports easier.

"If a weaker protection leads to insufficient incentives for potential inventors, which may or may not be the case, the public sector can step in. This may involve the direct conduct of research by public bodies...

"...the international IPR system should be reformed in a way that helps developing countries become more productive by allowing them to acquire new technical knowledge at reasonable costs. Developing countries should be allowed to grant weaker IPRs -shorter patent life, lower licensing royalty rates (probably graduated according to their abilities to pay) or easier compulsory licensing and parallel imports.

"...we should not only make technology acquisition easier for developing countries but also help them develop "the capabilities to use and develop" more productive technologies. For this purpose, we could institute an international tax to patent royalties and use it to provide technological support for developing countries. The cause may also be promoted by a modification to the international copyright system, which makes access to academic books easier."*

* Access to academic books is crucial in enhancing the productives capabilities of developing countries, as my own experience with pirate-copied books, described in the Prologue, suggests. Rich countries publishers should be encouraged to allow cheap reproduction of academic books in developing countries -they are not going to lose much by this, because their books are too expensive for developing countries consumers anyway. We could also set up a special international fund to subsidize the purchase of academic books by developing countries libraries, academics and students. A similar argument can put the current hysteria in the rich countries about counterfeit products from developing countries into perspective. As I pointed out in the Prologue, it is not as if those people who buy counterfeit products in developing countries (including many tourists who buy them there) can afford the genuine articles. So, as long as they are not smuggled into the rich countries and sold as the genuine articles (which rarely happens), the original manufacturers lose little actual revenue from the counterfeit goods. One could even argue that the developing country consumers are, in effect, doing free advertising for the original manufacturers. Especially in high growth economies, today's counterfeit consumers are going to be tomorrow's consumers of the genuine articles. Many Koreans who used to buy fake luxury goods in the 1970s are now buying the real things.








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