Art Tech L@w
Evildoers, or Doing Good?

It’s been said before, and it will be said again - There is good and evil in the world, and the difference lies in who takes action, and what they do.

The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. -Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, Einstein, world is a dangerous place to live, people who are evil, people who don't do anything about it, ArtTechLaw, good evil

Lets look at this statistically - the Pareto principle states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So, 20% of people produce 80% of the movement, outcome, utility, harm, etc. (Also tend to hold 80% of the wealth.)

Business management theory has elaborated, a la the diffusion of innovations or adoption curve, that with any idea, there is only a small percentage of the population that innovate or adopt things early on. Then comes the majority, followed by the laggards. This is somewhat overly simplistic - it excludes the certain percentage that actively fight the adoption of a new cultural movement, or new technology.

(continued below…) diffusion of ideas, adoption curve This can be seen through the lens of technology - there are early innovators, and most people end up using mainstream technologies (computers, telephones, televisions, email, the Internet, etc.) eventually. But there are also people who become Luddites, or decide a certain technology is bad. There are also lots of technologies that received a lot of resistance and then just peter out.

Similar things could be said for cultural movements. There are the movements that gain traction until everyone pretty much agree with it - say, women’s suffrage, or civil rights. These are the movements that were, at the start, fairly radical, but those times have past.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.- Edmund Burke (probably)

Edmund Burke, triumph of evil, good men do nothing, Kennedy, ArtTechLaw

There are still people out there violently opposed to even widely-accepted cultural movements. 

These people could be laggards, or they could be the “active resistors.” If they’re resisting integration, race equality, or women voting, this is an uncool position for them to take - even a downright “evil” position, and good people shouldn’t allow this viewpoint to gain traction in an egalitarian society.

But what is they’re resisting something evil? Think - the people during or before the Civil War that would help runaway slaves and forge papers for them, even though that was illegal. Or Bradley Manning & Edward Snowden, fighting against government abuses (now that Big Brother really is watching us, and covering it up).

(continued below…) 

What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right.~ Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, Einstein, right popular, what is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right, ArtTechLaw, Rocky

My point being - many things that turn out to be good, or turn out to have been evil, started with just a few people and gained widespread acceptance. There are generally some vocal dissenters, and the majority position they’re fighting may end up validated by history, or villified by it.

The difference between good and evil may just be the ability of a society to tolerate dissenting voices, integrate various viewpoints, and come out with a truly moderate solution. This involves tolerance for freedom of speech and freedom of expression - but it also involves transparency, admitting to mistakes, and robust whistleblower protections.

It involves each of us making a habit of questioning the dominant narrative, and doing what needs doing, whether or not anyone agrees with us at all.

The world is a dangerous place to live because of the people who are evil AND because of the people who don’t do anything about it.

Flag Burning & Free Speech


Happy 4th of July! On this day of patriotism, fire-works, and the celebration of freedom, I figured we can take a look at some of the things that make this country great, as well as sort of scary - the balance we have to strike between protecting our rights, and protecting ourselves.

Freedom of speech has something of a spotted history. Established part in parcel with the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights in 1791. It was eroded somewhat by the Espionage Act of 1917, established after the US entry into WWI, and again by the the Patriot Act (especially the updated versions) after 9-11.

The free speech associated with flag burning, in particular, has seen a lot of judicial back-and-forth. In many ways, it spans the boundaries between art, political commentary & protest, and sedition.

The flag is seen as sacrosanct, a symbol of America and of our respect for our nation. People view it with pride. Yet other people use it as a medium of expression, for protest, or to make a point.

In Dread Scott’s art piece, a flag was placed on the floor to make people question their viewpoints and achieve a renewed awareness of our own patriotism. 

This is particularly sacrilegious as it is commonly taught that a properly taken care of American flag should never touch the ground - boy scouts practice this, as do those in the military.


Aubin v. City of Chicago (unpublished opinion)

In February 1989, Dread Scott, then known as Scott Tyler and a student at the Chicago Institute of Art, displayed his work What is the Proper Way to Display a Flag? as part of a student exhibition at the Institute. The work included an American flag laid out on the floor. Mounted on the wall directly above the flag were a photograph of various images of American flags and a shelf holding a book in which visitors were invited to record their thoughts about the display. In order to do so, however, they had to step on the flag. The work immediately provoked daily protests outside the Institute and Chicago’s City Council soon passed a local ordinance banning flag desecration. In September, the ACLU wrote city officials on behalf of ten artists, including Tyler, asserting the ordinance was unconstitutional and asking if the city intended to enforce it. In response to the letter, the City filed a lawsuit in Circuit County Court against the artists, asking that the ordinance be declared constitutional. In November, Judge Kenneth L. Gillis ruled that the ordinance could not be used to prosecute artists who incorporate American flags in their works because “when the flag is displayed in a way to convey ideas, such display is protected by the First Amendment.” Judge Gillis went on to state, “[f]or every artist who paints our flag into a corner, there are others who can paint it flying high.” Art on Trial: What is the Proper Way to Display a Flag?

Protesters in the United States or out may burn it to protest the United States’ political or military actions.

Should this be a legal form of expression? Is it really speech?

Some say that the burning of a flag should be forbidden, as it isn’t a protected form of expression but an incitement to violence. (Certain forms of expression, such as “fighting words”, obscenities, or incitement (such as shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theatre) are NOT legally protected forms of speech.) Others claim it’s protected, end of story.

Still others claim it should not be protected, because the act, and expression, rely upon the taboo-nature of the act to give it power - BECAUSE it’s illegal, it has impact, and through that impact the statement is made.

What do you think?

flag burning, flag burning legal?, art law, protest law, US flag burning

Word of the Week - Consciousness

robot contemplating silver brain

We are conscious and other life is not. Machines can never be truly conscious because they don’t possess bodies and souls. True or false?

To determine this, we have to take a hard look at what consciousness IS. Are all people you know truly conscious?

One could protest machines can never truly feel, or want, or have all of the elements that we feel make us conscious, self-aware individuals. In our brains, our hearts, and our flesh lie the building blocks of humanity, but together they combine to something more, and a computer will never have that.

This is exactly the viewpoint espoused by the proponents of embodied cognition, who believe that who we are is greater than the sum of our parts. So, too bad for robots, they never will understand, because they can’t. (Anyways, they’re going to have to define “intelligence”, “consciousness”, and “thought” a lot better before this sort of claim can gain traction.)

Building a Conscious Mind

It’s going to be interesting to see how they go about making a mind, and at what point it will finally be seen as a truly “intelligent” machine. Singularity aside, machines “think” so much differently than humans that we may not notice it waking up as its thought patterns and reasoning skills would be so different than ours. “There are other aspects of the human mind besides intelligence that are relevant to the concept of strong AI which play a major role in science fiction and the ethics of artificial intelligence:
  • consciousness: To have subjective experience and thought.
  • self-awareness: To be aware of oneself as a separate individual, especially to be aware of one’s own thoughts.
  • sentience: The ability to “feel” perceptions or emotions subjectively.
  • sapience: The capacity for wisdom.
These traits have a moral dimension, because a machine with this form of strong AI may have legal rights, analogous to the rights of animals. Also, Bill Joy, among others, argues a machine with these traits may be a threat to human life or dignity. It remains to be shown whether any of these traits are necessary for strong AI. The role of consciousness is not clear, and currently there is no agreed test for its presence. If a machine is built with a device that simulates the neural correlates of consciousness, would it automatically have self-awareness? It is also possible that some of these properties, such as sentience, naturally emerge from a fully intelligent machine, or that it becomes natural to ascribe these properties to machines once they begin to act in a way that is clearly intelligent. For example, intelligent action may be sufficient for sentience, rather than the other way around.”(From Wikipedia, “Strong AI”) 
For More Reading:



The Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday that human genes cannot be patented.

But in something of a compromise decision, all nine justices said while the naturally occurring isolated biological material itself is not patentable, a synthetic version of the gene material may be patented.

“Genes and the information they encode are not patent-eligible under [federal law] simply because they have been isolated from the surrounding genetic material,” said Justice Clarence Thomas for the 9-0 court decision.

The case involves Utah-based company Myriad Genetics, which was sued over its claim of patents relating to two types of biological material that it identified — BRCA1 and BRCA2, whose mutations are linked to increased hereditary risk for breast and ovarian cancer.

Since Myriad owns the patent on breast cancer genes, it is the only company that can perform tests for potential abnormalities.

Investors in Myriad were pleased with the ruling with the stock soaring as much as 9% before settling back. It was up more than 3% in midday trading.

Myraid had no initial reaction to the decision.

At issue is whether “products of nature” can be treated the same as “human-made” inventions, allowing them to be held as the exclusive intellectual property of individuals and companies.

The issue has deeply divided the scientific and business communities.

On one side, scientists and companies argue patents encourage medical innovation and investment that saves lives.

On the other, patient rights groups and civil libertarians counter the patent holders are “holding hostage” the diagnostic care and access of information available to high-risk patients.

Outside the court during oral arguments in April, several protesters held signs, such as “Your corporate greed is killing my friends” and “My genes are not property.”

The issue gained greater public attention when actress Angelina Jolie announced last month she had undergone a double mastectomy after taking the BRCA tests from Myriad.

Court backs Obama administration position

The high court has long allowed patent protection for the creation of a new process or use for natural products. Whether “isolating” or “extracting” genes themselves qualifies for such protection became the issue.

The justices took the position offered by the Obama administration — DNA itself is not patentable but so-called “cDNA” can be. Complementary DNA is artificially synthesized from the genetic template, and engineered to produce gene clones.

Use of this protein-isolating procedure, known as “tagging,” is especially important in mapping and cataloguing the vast human genome.

The federal government had suggested Congress could create exceptions in the genetic or bio-tech testing arena, over so-called “use” patents for specific procedures.

But the justices decided that was not the case in the current dispute.

“Myriad did not create anything,” said Thomas. “To be sure, it found an important and useful gene, but separating that gene from its surrounding genetic material is not an act of invention.”

But Thomas said, “cDNA does not present the same obstacles to patentability as naturally occurring, isolated DNA segments.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision represents a major shift in patent law and overturns established policy.

“Today, the court struck down a major barrier to patient care and medical innovation,” said Sandra Park, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project.

“Myriad did not invent the BRCA genes and should not control them. Because of this ruling, patients will have greater access to genetic testing and scientists can engage in research on these genes without fear of being sued.”

V important informations


Cute Lawyers #28: The New York Catacombs
Wow, have I really not updated in a month? Anyway, here’s a comic about document review—the job that Hayley and Kate will get if they don’t get the job they came to interview for.


Cute Lawyers #28: The New York Catacombs

Wow, have I really not updated in a month? Anyway, here’s a comic about document review—the job that Hayley and Kate will get if they don’t get the job they came to interview for.

Lao Tzu - Love, Strength, and Courage

"Lao Tzu (Chinese: 老子) was a philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching. His association with the Tào Té Chīng has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of philosophical Taoism (pronounced as "Daoism"). He is also revered as a deity in most religious forms of Taoist philosophy, which often refers to Laozi as Taishang Laojun, or "One of the Three Pure Ones"." (From Wikipedia Laozi.)

Lao Tzu, Lao Tzu quotes, love, strength, courage, ArtTechLaw, Taoism, Zen

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BioArt - Painting with Life

Developments in biotechnology have enabled artists to experiment with living tissue, bacteria, and life processes in ways that can be either beautiful or creepy-cool in a Frankenstein kind of way. Bioart engages scientists in close collaboration with artists to create artworks that raise thought-provoking questions about life, culture, and the ethical implications of using living material for social or aesthetic exploration. Pure “BioArt” tends to involve more direct interference with living organisms, such as utilizing genetic engineering to create living works of “transgenic art.” A wide range of works fall under the category “BioArt,” which was coined by artist/scientist Eduardo Kac, the creator of the glowing GFP Bunny. It ranges from beautiful artworks involving softly glowing fluorescent bacteria, to grotesque masses of engineered tissue. For an interesting example check out “bulletproof skin” made out of silk and human skin cells, a collaboration between Dutch Artist Jalila Essaidi and researcher Randy Lewis. Using living forms as art is not a new phenomenon, yet it has traditionally taken more “natural” forms such as the delicate, mutilated bonsai tree, or occasionally extreme practices of animal or plant breeders who wish achieve certain aesthetic ideals. Digital technology has enabled artists to use living forms to a variety of ends. See Phonofolium for a beautiful exploration of life, music, and electrical energy flow. The aesthetic possibilities of bioart expanded when Roger Tsien’s team of scientists painted an island sunset with bacteria infused with fluorescent proteins, which evidenced the versatility of the medium as well as the limited art skillz of biochemists. Fluorescence occurs when a substance absorbs light of one wavelength then emits it in a different wavelength. It’s the same principle fluorescent lights are based upon, though in this case the fluorescence was first isolated from a jellyfish (Aequorea victoria). Tsien was awarded a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2008 for his discovery of the green fluorescent protein (GFP). The whole spectrum of colors is now available, making this medium more similar to traditional paint pigments than to some more monstrous BioArt creations. In addition, there are a number of fluorescing transgenic pets available. In addition to the standard transgenic mice (dubbed NeonMice), an individual can purchase green-fluorescent pets such rabbits, pigs, fish. More recently, fluorescing cats were engineered to be resistant to FIV and possibly advance AIDS research. The brainbow currently ranks as my favorite example of bioart. Created by scientists at Harvard University to allow them to visualize neural circuitry, the brainbow is not only colorful (which gains it points in my eyes) but also involves brains (Halloween candy for zombies). Scientists splice in genes that code for flourescent proteins. These manifest in a rainbow of different colors, allowing individual neurons to be distinguished from their near neighbors. The transgenic brainbow mice thus altered enable scientists to construct maps of neural circuitry and the relationships between different brain regions. The advancement of bioengineering technology has led to the creation of fields which have revolutionized science. For example, optogenetics - in which light-sensitive neurons in genetically engineered animals can be turned off and on using fiber optics - was chosen as the Method of the Year in 2010 by Nature Methods and allow neuroscientists unparalleled access into the inner workings of the mind. Yet some may still say that painting with life is a task more suitable to deity than man.

Transforming Creation: The Fair Use of Machines
This is a sticky, complicated issue. But what can you expect from a legal system that can’t even figure out how to categorize software art?

Novel AI programs utilizing machine learning algorithms to generate novel creative works and innovative solutions to unsolved problems are fun things to research, but you might as well be tossed into a briar patch than attempt to litigate it (fun for lawyers, nothing but pain and confusion for anyone else).
Rocky Acosta Explore the Boundaries of the Edge

Transforming Creation: The Fair Use of Machines

This is a sticky, complicated issue. But what can you expect from a legal system that can’t even figure out how to categorize software art?

Novel AI programs utilizing machine learning algorithms to generate novel creative works and innovative solutions to unsolved problems are fun things to research, but you might as well be tossed into a briar patch than attempt to litigate it (fun for lawyers, nothing but pain and confusion for anyone else).

Rocky Acosta Explore the Boundaries of the Edge



Last month, researchers created an electronic link between the brains of two rats separated by thousands of miles. This was just another reminder that technology will one day make us telepaths. But how far will this transformation go? And how long will it take before humans evolve into a fully-fledged hive mind? We spoke to the experts to find out.



World’s Most Beautiful Abandoned Places

Italian product manager and web designer Francesco Mugnai recently added a collection of images to his blog touting some of the most beautiful images of abandoned spots and modern ruins that he’d ever seen. The images Mugnai has captured come from empty castles, shuttered power plants, and dilapidated churches around the world. From a sunken yacht in Antarctica to a forever-closed amusement park in Japan, these images all make up a sort of anti-phoenix; rather than rising as new from the ashes, these husks remain preserved in decomposition, forcing viewers to confront the strange beauty of ruination.