Intellectual Property : The Innovation Killer

One of my themes here (or at least tags) is “Are We There Yet” Technology – ie: technology that we’re always hearing news about, but which never seems to fucking arrive.

You know what I’m talking about.

Solar Power
Matchbox-sized video projectors
Personal Robots that actually do anything useful
The Biotech revolution

And so on. I’m not talking about flying cars or laser cannons or trans-galactic space flights or those stupid see-through screens… not sci-fi stuff that everyone wants because they’ve seen it in a movie, I’m talking about the stuff that fill blogs.

Now I think the energy crisis is going to dissolve in the next 20 years. Maybe even the next 10. I think that a mixture of solar and gen-tech algae are going to cover it. The solar side of things is going to meet the-web-of-things half-way, and conspire to make everything very efficient… so there is no need for a house that sits in the sun all day to be on-grid for lighting (duh)… because we’ve stopped using lightbulbs that run on 240v. There’s no need for a house that sits in the sun all day to rely on a power-station 400 miles away to heat water.

Sure we might need something else – like micro nukes (still a bad idea) if we want to carry on making 18 trillion beer-cans a year… but for the stuff we actually need… for the basic civilisational hierarchy of needs, I think the problem is going to dissolve. New tech is going to cover it.

So where the fuck is it?

This turned up the other day:

The LanzaTech Process from VirtuMedia on Vimeo.

It’s a way of converting CO (and other) exhausts into ethanol. Now this isn’t some TED-oid bit of standing-ovation-fishing vapourware… they’re actually doing it. Their demo-plant in NZ is producing 5 million gallons of ethanol a year – and they’ve just sold the tech to a Korean company… which (if I’ve got this right) produces 33.7M tonnes of steel a year… which means about 50M tonnes of greenhouse-gases. Now this system won’t capture all of those gases… but to put that in perspective, the other day the pro-nuke shills were bewailing the idea that Germany getting rid of nukes was going to add 40M tonnes a year in Co2. For a couple of years.

This process will make a healthy dent in that, from one factory alone.

Read the website though. Christ on a bike, they simply cannot get over themselves re: “ownership” of the organism. Forgetting for the moment that this was partly tax-payer funded, you can’t fucking “own” life. Fuck what the law says, the law is wrong. At a basic logical level, patenting life is a software patent. We’re dealing in software here. Programming it in different ways, sure but it’s still software.

The legal frameworks constricting biotech are being put in place to fuck it before it’s even started – if this had happened with computers, we wouldn’t have an internet. We probably wouldn’t even have fucking computers.

Big talk on the insanity of IP Law from a lawyer who actually thinks we need it here:

“‪7 Ways To Ruin A Technological Revolution‬‏” – and looking at this, I’d say it’s not entirely off the cards that America simply doesn’t survive it’s own IP laws. If you’re starting a tech business, you’d be much better off doing it in a place like Brazil… or Iceland… or some place where you can simply tell corporate lawyers to fuck off.

For example around 1/2 an hour into that video… someone has attempted to patent the gene-sequences “OR, AND, IF-THEN, IF-NOT”. That’s fucking software. Can you imagine where computers would be if that level of ring-fencing went on back in the day?. We should physically fucking destroy these people.

I think a similar B2B before B2C thing is happening with solar – Konarka have been able to do $1 a watt for… ooh, at least a year – and every couple of months I keep visiting their site to see if you can actually buy the stuff… and apart from fucking solar backpacks, it seems to be industry-only. I might be wrong about that, but that’s the impression I get.

So what’s happening here is that the first markets to be catered to are the ones with million dollar budgets. Well, wouldn’t you? And maybe that’s where the maximum benefit is. And maybe it’s not.

Meantime, from the cheap seats…


The Makerbot of biotech – – where you (yes you) can buy a DNA sequencing machine for $512. Now this isn’t quite the same thing as Craig Venter’s DNA synthesiser… but it’s a start.

Trouble is, “the alphabet” that makes up this technology is being ring-fenced by corporate IP. This revolution is at about the same stage (we are repeatedly told) that computers were in the early 80s. Unless we radically cut back IP – and personally, I’d kill it completely, we won’t have an internet. We probably won’t even have a computer.

And on that note, here’s a computer for doing protein-folding calculations made out of lego



Probably illegal in some way… or more accurately, if you tried to sell it, you’ll probably be sued… and there’s nothing you can do about it, because you can’t afford it. IP Law is not an encouragement to innovate, it’s a threat and a tax hanging over innovation… so severe that you probably need VC money (aka: be owned by someone rich) to start anything.

Outsource everything to the Favela. It’s the only way of being safe.

I don’t know if any of that’s true actually, it is the way it’s starting to feel though.

1 Comment » for Intellectual Property : The Innovation Killer
  1. “…TED-oid bit of standing-ovation-fishing vapourware” Man, ain’t that the truth! can’t stand them any more. So f’ing earnest.

    Hoping the the Long Tail of solar-powered computer owners can circumvent the need for idiotic corporation involvement all together. One day.