Well, this is fun.
Fun, but annoying as hell.
So superficially, the argument that filesharing is killing music is similar to the doomed claim made by the British Phonographic Institute in the 1980’s that “home taping is killing music”.
But really, it’s nothing like it.
Home taping still required an original somewhere. Someone had to know someone fairly nearby who’d bought a copy. Swapping happened physically – you had to be nearby to get hold of a tape. And degredation across generations of taped copies would just be too bad to deal with after a while.
Now, a digital copy is a perfect copy. You can copy an mp3 a million times and it won’t download. You can do it from anywhere.
So I’d say the anti-filesharing lobby has an awful lot more to worry about this time around. As demonstrated amply by the fact that sales of recorded music are falling off a cliff.
I almost look forward to the time when bandwidth improvements allow this to start happening with films and games as well – with a commensurate drop in investment and quality.
Then maybe people will start to take the problem of endless, lossless copying of copyrighted material seriously.
So Google is on the way to replacing our general knowledge.
Prompting the question, do we really need to know stuff?
Well, maybe not just to remember facts. That’s just about dumb information retrieval, which might well be better performed by some kind of giant searchable hard drive – wherever it is. It might offend those who believe that intelligence means knowing stuff – like dates of kings and queens – but in the real world, if we can always find the answer within seconds, why waste valuable cerebral real estate with stuff like that?
Creativity comes from colliding facts together. Remembering something you’ve seen which is “relevant”, and recombining it with that thing you’ve just noticed.
In fact the idea of “relevance” is fuzzy, messy and not at all within the grasp of search engines. And what they certainly can’t do (yet) is experimentally collide concepts and fuse something new.
So if we want to remain creative we have to know stuff. Really know it. Internalise it, so it’s available to our subconscious brain (which is where all the thinking happens.)
As opposed to merely being able to access it when we need to know it.
Maybe all those duffers worrying about Google have a point.