Frankston on DRM, markets, and why intelligent design isn’t

Bob Frankston has had several recent posts illuminating the long-term
strategic blindness of competitors pursuing doomed approaches to
Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). The short and sweet version:

DRM vs the Bathroom.
For those who found my recent DRM post too complicated I’ll put it more
simply. There are those who believe that I must not zap commercials
while watching their content. It’s not very different from saying I’m
not allowed to go to the bathroom during commercials — I must use a
DRM compliant toilet in order to implement such policies.

If they can require that all my wires and devices be DRM complaint why
not the other distractions that reduce the value of their content? [SATN]

In a much longer post,
well worth your attention, Frankston draws some very provocative
connections between DRM approaches to competition and the fundamental
emptiness of intelligent design as a way to not think about how
evolutionary processes truly work. Several key grafs:

Too bad evolution is taught in biology class because it makes it hard to see the larger issues. Dynamic systems are evolutionary systems and if you
try to limit their dynamics they fail. If you believe in intelligent
design you can assume that systems can be guided. Marketplaces are just
complex systems. If you give the incumbents the role of the intelligent
designer the systems will fail because you don’t allow for new ideas.
….

This is why I keep emphasizing that teaching evolution in biology classes
leaves us without understanding that evolution is a characteristic of
all systems not just “special” ones. Without such understanding it is
difficult to see how and why the Internet works. Even more to the point
why it works despite and not because of governance. Why complexity is
an emergent property of the lack of understanding. We don’t “solve”
complexity by layering on top of it. When we design systems we have to
go underneath the system expose the simplicity.

It’s not at all fair to accuse those who thwart marketplace processes as being “anti-evolutionists”. Even though I think it is obvious the onus is
still on me to demonstrate that the mechanisms are the same. I still
claim that there is a basic philosophical alignment akin to the one
that George Lakoff posits in Moral Politics.
It is hard to trust the marketplace because at any point in time it’s too easy to see the “right” answer. It’s even more difficult to see the
importance of these dynamic processes when cling to the present for
safety.[SATN]

Hierarchical organizations are typically not very comfortable
with real market dynamics. Most strategy work is about finding ways to
avoid or interfere with the smooth workings of competitive markets
without going to jail. At root, what Frankston is arguing is that in
the long run, markets will always win.

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