The Original SSSCA

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy to show just how awful the idea of the SSSCA is. I’ve had to go back a way. A long way.

From: “Trei, Peter” To: “‘declan@well.com'” Subject: The original SSSCA. Date: Fri, 1 Mar 2002 14:51:19 -0500

Declan:

I’ve been watching the entertainment industry’s approach to computers with what I can only think of as Kafkaesque horror.

It’s simply unthinkable that preserving the business models of entertainers trumps the utterly central role of computers and the Internet in improviing our existance.

You say the politicians actually seemed *receptive* to this? I guess this just shows how money corrupts – the heavy donor’s interests outweigh those of the nation.

I’ve been trying to think of an analogy to show just how awful the idea of the SSSCA is. I’ve had to go back a way. A long way.

————————————– (start satire)

The Original SSSCA.

Statement of Yakval Enti, spokesman of the MPAA (Mnemonists, Praise-singers, and Anthemists Association) to His Highness Hammurabi, King of Sumeria:

Your Majesty: I wish to call you attention to a severe threat to the security of your kingdom, and the livelihoods of thousands of your subjects.

After Shamash sets and the people kick back after a long day of growing millet, they desire entertainment. Their favorite forms are stories, tales, and sagas, told by the members of the MPAA. Talented boys spend up to 12 years learning the tales by heart at the feet of the masters. Any evening MPAA members can be found in the taverns singing the old tales, praising the praiseworthy, and creating new tales from the old.

This system has worked well since the beginning of time – there were storytellers at your coronation, there were storytellers at your father’s coronation, and there were storytellers in the caves of our ancestors.

This natural arrangement is now threatened from an unexpected direction – the scribes and accountants. The geeks’ system of recording numbers and quantities has been perverted to freeze speech onto clay.

Understand the threat to our business model. At the moment, if someone wants to hear ‘The Tale of the Ox, the Ass and the Sumerian’, they find an MPAA member, pay him, and sit back to listen to the whole four hour saga. While anyone could recall and tell others the general outline, only MPAA members know every detail and can give the listener the whole story. If you want to hear it again, you pay again. Thousands of MPAA members rely on this fact for their livelihoods.

With the recent invention of “writing” the system is in danger of collapse. We’ve found that some scribes are actually “recording” entire sagas onto clay. Any scribe can “read” these out to people for free or for money, complete and word-for-word, without being a member of or paying the MPAA! A scribe who has obtained a set of tablets of an story can even read it an unlimited number of times, or (worst of all) make copies. This is starting to have an economic impact on our membership. Consider Rimat-Ninsun, whose masterwork “The Epic of Gilgamesh” took him three years to create, and who looked to it to put bread on his table into his old age, as he told it for money, or let others tell it under paid license after learning it from him. ‘Gilgamesh’ is now circulating on 12 clay tablets, and Rimat is starving. Who will bother to create new tales if they are just going to be written down?

“Writing” presents insidious dangers to your kingdom as well. It can be anonymous. Before writing, any message arrived with a person to speak it, who could be held accountable for their speech. With writing, it is impossible to tell what scribe “wrote” a message. Anonymous threats, kidnap notes, and untraceable sedition are now possible. Clearly “writing” carries with it far greater problems for our civilization than it does advantages.

However, scribes, accountants, and their skills are essential to business, contracts, laws, and the collection of taxes. We just need to make sure that they are controlled properly.

I therefore propose the Scribal Stylus Safety Control Act. (SSSCA). This requires every scribe to have an MPAA approved, “literate” slave with him at all times, peering over his shoulder. If a scribe is seen to be “writing’ something other then accounting information, for example a story (stories are the province of MPAA bards), or a message (which should have been given to a paid mnenomist for delivery), or anything seditious, then the slave will take away the scribe’s stylus and call the authorities. I ask you to have this Act “written” into your Code of Law.

Is this difficult? Yes. Is it expensive? Yes. However, it is clear that without strict controls, widespread “writing” will not only destroy the entertainment industry, it will threaten civilisation itself!

(end satire) —————-

The SSSCA threatens to return us to a Stone Age model of information use.

Disclaimer:

The above are strictly the personal opinions of myself, and I’d be astonished if my employer had any official position on the matter (so don’t pretend otherwise).

Feel free to copy this document in its entirety, with proper attribution.

Peter Trei

Author: Peter Trei

News Service: politechbot

URL: Politech SSSCA archive: http://www.politechbot.com/cgi-bin/politech.cgi?name=sssca