I confess that I was, at first, skeptical toward holistic medicine. I was skeptical because I thought it was a new thing having roots in the spiritual rather than the scientific. But, like all good skeptics, I explored it anyway and discovered that predominant perceptions were, once again, off the mark.
Western medicine, as it has come to us via science, is a wondrous achievement. It is most effective at targeting very specific problems. A broken bone. A faulty heart valve. Or curing a specific disease or disorder. Unfortunately, when Western medicine cannot address a specific problem with a specific remedy, normally it will offer to “hide” the problem for you instead. This is good, because hiding symptoms can allow you to function when you might not otherwise. However, hiding symptoms can also be a very bad thing. If you aren’t feeling the pain, why look for a root cause? And if they symptoms are masked long enough, maybe the problem will just vanish on its own. Or, maybe the problem will get worse, while we happily numb only the symptoms.
Eliminating symptoms simply hides what is really wrong, and this can elicit a false sense of security. Holistic medicine takes a different approach. Truly holistic medicine happily embraces traditional Western medicine when Western medicine is the best choice. However, holistic medicine goes one step further, looking at the larger picture instead of a singular, specific cause or linear causal relationship. Holistic medicine looks at the whole organism and its relationship to its environment in an attempt to leave no stone unturned when a symptom manifests. Personally, I appreciate this approach. It has helped me on more than one occasion where the traditional approach would have just provided a quick fix for a symptom, while completely ignoring the root cause.
We seem to like these quick, superficial fixes, though. For example, a company called DataTreasury recently won a lawsuit enforcing its patent claims against several large banking institutions. Since DataTreasury prevailed, the banking industry, which has been using these patented technological methods for some time, finds itself financial liable to DataTreasury for truly whopping amounts of cash.
This annoys the banking industry, who have successfully ignored DataTreasury for years, implementing the patented technologies anyway. So now the banking industry runs to Congress, teary-eyed at how unjust DataTreasury is and how badly the industry will be hurt if they are forced to comply with our nation’s intellectual property laws. And Congress hears them. And Congress sympathizes. And Congress decides that it might be a good thing to exempt the banking industry from our intellectual property laws. Why, you ask, should this industry be exempted from our intellectual property laws? Well, the 9/11 attack, of course. Too bad we can’t have cars that get as much mileage. Here is a quote from Senator Jeff Sessions, according to the Washington Post:
“[the provision] is designed to protect banking institutions complying with post-9/11 security requirements from the abusive practices of patent trolling trial lawyers seeking personal enrichment, which ultimately will be paid for by checking account customers across America.”
Not only does Sessions (and the Senate Judiciary Committee) want to immunize the banking industry against patent law, it also wants to take $1 billion in taxpayer money and give it to DataTreasury as a “compensation” for Congress immunizing banks against DataTreasury’s intellectual property. So, once again, Congress gives away vast sums of our money to benefit large corporations. No surprise there. But there is a more subtle issue in this.
We people who work with information technologies are quite familiar with intellectual property claims like this. Only money-minded or dim-witted people like the concept intellectual property. Unfortunately, that covers a lot of people. We have seen time and again companies use intellectual property claims to frighten, intimidate and stifle both developers and customers. Patent law when applied to a concept of “intellectual property” does not, in any way, foster innovation. The only thing the concept of intellectual property accomplishes is the empowerment of companies or individuals who have enough money to hire lawyer armies.
There is a fundamental difference between traditional patents for mechanical devices and the newer patenting of “ideas”. There are many ideas in existence, and there are many more to come (hopefully). But if you are to create something, with intellectual property ruling, you must first do exhaustive research to determine if anyone is blocking you from that idea, or perhaps even blocking your path toward fulfilling that idea. If they are, then you must find another way to accomplish what you need to, or pay them, even if you intend making your creation free for the world to use.
There are intellectual patents about how you can move a mouse. There are patents about what can and cannot be clicked on, or what can happen when you do click on something. In the intellectual world, there can be patents about practically anything imaginable that you can write down and pay lots of money to claim as your own, no matter how simple and basic that idea is. There are literally thousands of intellectual patents that companies hold right now that are kept, quietly, as an arsenal to deter others or to unleash as an offensive of either monetary gain, financial ruin, or even simple terror to drive away customers.
The problems inherent within the concept of intellectual property are not limited to the information industry, either. One of the saddest to me is the molecular and genetic research fields, which are practically hog-tied and immobile as a result of intellectual property law. And that industry happily hog-tied themselves, because you have to. If you do not, you will fail. But if you do, you will have a very hard time succeeding. Obviously something is very broken in the way we handle intellectual property law.
And this is what Congress should be looking at. Congress needs to closely examine the root cause of the problem the banking industry has brought them. Congress should not just mask the symptoms of an illness that runs deep into the heart of our laws. They must look beyond, at the totality of the intellectual property legal framework and address the issues revealed.
We cannot pick and choose who is subject to the law. If there is a problem with the law, fix the law. I cannot help but wonder, how have reached our numbness toward corruption that allows such flagrant disregard for law on one hand, and yet, on the other hand, can cause law to fall with such devastating force upon the innocent.
I am not at all fond of what DataTreasury is doing. But DataTreasury is playing the game, how it is handed to us. DataTreasury won that game. The banking industry must pay — not the American people. Or, since it’s obviously a badly broken game, why not instead just toss the whole game out?
Addendum: The End Software Patents project just created a new website. It looks to be a great source of information — I’ve already learned some things I hadn’t considered before. There is also an article on Linux.com describing more details of the project.