Disqussion question:

When you speak or write, do you own the words that you have created? What about the thoughts that preceded those words?

These questions get to the very heart of referencing and citation requirements in academic work. In the Western academic world, the presumption is that you do, in some sense, own your words and thoughts; at the very least, you have privileges pertaining to them. The main privilege is to be credited, or cited, for your effort and scholarship.

These notions of authorship and ownership, however, are based in cultural expectations. Even in the western world, these expectations have changed over time. Other cultures have historically placed emphasis on communal knowledge and showing respect through imitation (Bowden, 1996).

What is the norm in your culture? Describe any cultural presumptions about knowledge and ownership, both traditionally and in an academic context. How have modern trends such as the globalization and democratization of information affected these presumptions? In your response, also describe a plan for gaining or honing the citation and referencing skills you will need as you participate in this degree program. Be sure to visit the “Harvard Referencing System” link found under Module Information in this online classroom for more information on these requirements.

My answer was:

In my oppinion the answer is not a simple yes or no. Of course, the words themself cannot be owned. They are just tools what everybody use to communicate. Words are just used to form sentences and biger units of text. The first question is that the series of words can be owned or not? I think simply the sentences, the series of words also cannot be owned. Absoluteastronomy.com (http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Infinite_monkey_theorem, n.d)writes about Infinite monkey theorem: “The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare”  Even IETF has an RFC (No. 2795) which is about the infinite monkey theorem. Infinite money theorem is an example for the Borel–Cantelli lemma. It can be easily seen, that the words themselves worth nothing. Any series of words can be produced by a big enough number of random choices.

Then we have a question to answer. What has the value? What do you own if not the words you say or write? Jorge J. E. Gracia wrote according to the same article on Absoluteastronomy.com “An author is defined both as “the person who originates or gives existence to anything” and that authorship determines responsibility for what is created. …

 If a monkey is capable of typing Hamlet, despite having no intention of meaning and therefore disqualifying itself as an author, then it appears that texts do not require authors. Possible solutions include saying that whoever finds the text and identifies it as Hamlet is the author; or that Shakespeare is the author, the monkey his agent, and the finder merely a user of the text. These solutions have their own difficulties, in that the text appears to have a meaning separate from the other agents: what if the monkey operates before Shakespeare is born, or if Shakespeare is never born, or if no one ever finds the monkey’s typescript?” He thinks that the key is the intention, the intention of creating the produced output. Not looking into the legal aspects, my oppinion is very close to his opinion. Not the words matter, but the thought behind them. The unique property of the man, the ability to create new things.

Maybe it’s the most intresting thing in the mankind’s future? Will we create machines with the ability to create original things? Yes or no, I cannot know, yet. But one thing is sure. If we will, that rises a question even more difficult to answer: do you own the words your robot – or intelligent software – produced?

Reference list:

Absoluteastronomy.com (n.d) Infinite monkey theorem [Online]. Available from: http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Infinite_monkey_theorem (Accessed: 04. October 2009.)

S. Christey (2000) The Infinite Monkey Protocol Suite (IMPS) [Online] Available from: http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2795.txt (Accessed: 04. October 2009.)