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OCR for page 121
PROPERTY R1GlITS IN INFORMATION 121 Comments JORDAN J. BARUCH Jordan Baruch Associates What a joy it is for an engineer to have the last word after a lawyer! In this case, however, that joy is tempered by awe at Anne Branscomb~s thorough and scholarly treatment of the 10 fundamental rights she associates with information. Hesitantly, I would like to add an eleventh right that also merits our concern even if it is not clearly a property right. I shall call it the right to aggregate and act upon information. When John Mayo talked about the growing number of elements on a chip, he neglected to mention that the power of a chip is not linearly related to the number of those elements. That is an important characteristic of information as well. In information, when we have one piece of information it may be worth but little. A second piece that adds to the picture makes the total value greater, and the third piece, even greater. Indeed, the last keystone bit of information often increases the value enormously. In other words, if we were to plot the value of an information collection against the number of pieces of information in the collection we would often find a curve that grew more than linearly. In information collection, the whole is truly greater than the simple sum of the parts. Information becomes more powerful as we aggregate it, and the authors of these papers recognize that power of aggregation. Certainly Melvin Kranzberg spoke about the aggregation of knowledge in connection with the formation of Gutenberg's printing press. I would like to point out that since the value of information is nonlinear, many of the things being discussed here get rather fuzzy and much more complicated. For example, bits and pieces of information about a commercial company may have little value taken independently; but when they are aggregated by somebody smart enough to put them together they become very important and very valuable. How do we protect the property value in the aggregate of a collection where the individual elements may each belong to others and have little value in themselves? If, in fact, we watch a smart friend use his computer in this process, what do we see? First of all, he gets his information from a large number of places through a little digital window. He knows tools to put those pieces together and draw conclusions. He builds models, examines those models, and tries to predict the near-term future. Information aggregation, model, and prediction all fuse to become a new piece of information. Its primary protection, because it is likely to be evanescent, rests with the subsequent action that it triggers. If our smart friend works well, he will prosper by acting and by protecting the value in the model whereby he acts on information aggregates. Mel Kranzberg took the liberty of giving us Kranzberg's First Law. I would like to suggest two other laws that have a bearing on the information era because of the nonlinearity of information. First, power in a society will reside

OCR for page 121
122 AlVIVP WED B~SCOMB with those capable of imparting to a body of information the largest coefficient of nonlinearitythose who can take 3 things and get 12 or 17 or 93. These peoplethe manipulators and concluders rather than the owners will have enormous influence. The second law, related to the first, may make Harlan Cleveland unhappy. In the first law I tried to state what would determine power in our society, namely, the ability to produce a large coefficient of nonlinearity. The second law simply says that whatever detainee power in our society will be found to be nonuniformly distributed and therefore unfair. Some people in our society are simply going to be better at aggregating information and at drawing conclusions from it than others, and they will be considered to be taking unfair advantage of the new society just as those who were strong unfairly took advantage of neolithic society and those who had early access unfairly took advantage of colonial society. Whatever determines power will be nonuniformly distributed, and the haves will be looked at as unfair by the have-nots; I am afraid that will be as much a state of the information society as it was of the neolithic.