Being Led Astray

6 April 2008

On e-Books and Eugenics

Shock, by Meredith_Farmer, with Creative Commons licence The Internet is a bit like the sea here in the Pearl River Delta: sometimes it washes up curios, little gems of information, but at others it vomits grotesquries upon us. Clicking through the Clustr map in the sidebar on the right today to check visitor locations I noticed an advertisement for a free online book. Having spent time this week watching someone grow increasingly frustrated with actually trying to use Google Adwords, and given my previously mentioned interest in e-books and copyright-free sharing, I decided to take a look.

The link led to the dedicated website for a pamphlet by a retired professor of Russian literature, John Glad. Not entirely interesting you might think. A quick search of Amazon will produce a list of volumes edited and translated by the good professor. He apparently gained a little notoriety in the 1980s by predicting the collapse of the Soviet Union. But his is hardly a household name. Wikipedia has a posted a notice on his biography stating that it “may not meet the general notability guideline” for such entries.

figurines, creator unknown, dowloaded from whatwemaybe.orgSo what’s the fuss? Glad’s pamphlet is entitled “Future Human Evolution: Eugenics in the Twenty-First Century” and the site’s only graphic is a play on the famous monkey to man illustration that often accompanies latter day editions of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Except this is of what appears to be South Americans in a line, the last sitting on a Donkey. Mexicans waiting in a US immigration queue?

Maybe not, but it’s suggestive and pulled me away from what I was already writing about. Eugenics, put mildly, is the selective breeding of humans. Like cattle. The elimination of the weakest genetic strains, to be a little more precise. It might be possible to do that humanely, but who decides? And what ethical right does anyone have to make the choice? Eugenics reached its ‘scientific’ zenith during the First World War and its horrific climax with the Nazis in the Second World War.

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Who Knows?

19 March 2008

Copyright, Creative Commons and the Limits of Knowledge

Maybe I am Crazy, by I’m Your Pusher, with Creative Commons licenceShare and share alike we’re told as kids, and it’s a pity we don’t always do so as adults. One of the more dubious, and most challenging, features of the Cyber Age is the promotion of intellectual property rights to the commercial extreme. Knowledge has become a commodity, and were it not for projects like Wikipedia and – let’s face it – rampant piracy, few would share the bounty of the times. But we can change that in our own small ways.

Yesterday I licensed the content of this blog under the auspices of the Creative Commons project. The details are at the bottom of the sidebar if you’re interested, and I hope you are.

Creative Commons Licence NotificationI’ve included the notification button here again – just click on it to see the exact conditions of my Attribution Share-Alike licence. Horrible name, I know, but it means that you can use what I write any way you like as long as you state that I created it in the first place. And I’m also asking you to offer the results of any changes under the same licence.

I’m not expecting a general sigh of relief and a rush to quote my material – Heaven forbid! What I’m doing is lending my modest support to a worthy cause.

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