Sunday, February 17, 2008

The trouble with simulacra…

The trouble with simulacra is that they all too quickly lose the simul- sense of their origins. What is meant to be a mere derivative copy, turns into an independent mutation. What is meant to be a stale ripoff, becomes its own vibrant riptide. What is meant to be a universal clone, strikes roots in the local soil and casts its own local seeds. The simultaneity of simulacra is dispersed by the manifold complexity of geography and local tastes. This is why even the cheapest simulacra can become hallowed antiques. They were once a Many among a larger Many, but over time, this Many becomes a small one––a boy's cherished toy, a mother's design keystone––and perhaps in time, entangled in the twists and turns of history, it become a big One, an icon of a past age, or a harbinger of an old age made new again. Sheer clones have a way of shedding the first two letters and insisting on being independent ones.

The above is the inspiration for the story I came up with today, tentatively titled "Copied Right Copyright". It deals with the problem of a literary figment being used as the basis for an, ultimately autonomous, AI program, which, in turn, insists its past quotes and actions are not the property of the author who wrote them before the AI unit became "sentient." Sort of like a CD compilation growing legs and suing the bands claim rights to the tracks that constitute its own "identity". The songs are not the bands' property, since they are in fact the very body of the litigious CD. Whatever hold the bands had on the songs, is lost when the songs become something larger than a mere product, namely, the heart and liver an gonads and eyes of sentient "beinglings" (my neologism for quasi-beings as haphazardly dreamt of by AI gurus…or crafted as the "friends" of a J.F. Sebastian.

For the long-haulers here at FCA, this train of thought should ring a bell over my story "From the Forest Itself". The question that story addresses––indeed, forced me to grapple with––is at what point a work of art or literature ceases to be the creator's property, and becomes its own autonomous entity, with its own "voice" and "points of articulation". I suppose the matter also relates to the problem of donated tissue for cloning purposes. Can one have a copyright on a person's genes, regardless which came first in time (the genes or the person cloned "around" them)?

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