Intellectual property rights – and trout

Intellectual property rights are protected in the animal world. But humans gain by sharing knowledge.

T. Rob Brown/The Joplin Globe/AP/File
In this photo taken July 21, a trout gets pulled out of the pond at Camp Quality, located in rural Newton County, Mo., by a young cancer patient. Intellectual property rights are preserved in the animal world because not much knowledge gets passed around.

On this thread, someone said that “If we fail to recognize intellectual property, we permanently relegate ourselves to the prehuman branch of the animal kingdom – capable of dealing only with the concrete with no capacity for abstraction.”

I was just thinking about this. Animals are largely incapable of using non-scarce goods like information, knowledge, images, and text to build civilization and make progress — these are tendencies that requiring learning from each other, cumulating information instead of keeping it bound up in one being’s experience and restricting its impact to one generation.

This is why trout today are pretty much like trout in the ancient world, and why one generation of cats is pretty much like every other generation of cats. Animals don’t really discover new methods of doing things, and then put them on display to be copied by others of their species. I can teach my dog how to sit but he is not likely to go out and teach other dogs how to sit. This failure to learn and then pass on learning to others is a persistent trait among animals.

And why? It has something to do with the power of reason. Only humans with reasoning power seem able to gather information from all sources and use that information in the development of civilization, prosperity, and the like.

In other words, it is precisely the impulse to restrict information to one discreet living thing that represents the animal instinct. Only reasoning human beings have the capacity to learn from the experiences and knowledge of others and make something of their lives across many people, many times, many generations. The rough analogy here is the same as with capitalism, drawing on the capital investments and achievements of the past to build a future.

In fact, we might say that animals have the best IP regime ever, with each entity in perfect possession of its intellectual property, never having to worry about having it taken by any other animal. Given this, why would anyone use the state in an attempt to make us more like animals, living one experience at a time, never passing on experience and knowledge, starting from scratch with every day and every generation?

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