Nous embrassons un capitalisme du gigantisme digital. Souvent aveuglément, toujours avec embarras.
Les mots et expressions que nous employons en disent long sur la violence de notre relation à la prospérité numérique : « destruction créatrice », « disruption », « darwinisme digital », « uberisation », « big data », « monétisation », « the winner takes all »...
C’est finalement une bien étrange métallurgie que celle qui, à l’or des mots, préfère l’airain des néologismes bricolés à la hâte.
Et si nous méditions sagement notre rapport au monde digitalisé ?
La libre et instructive promenade que guide Éric Briys nous invite à flâner avec un historien, à faire l’école buissonnière, canif en poche, à reprendre le chemin de la bibliothèque, à apprendre à éplucher une banane, à franchir le Cap de Bonne-Espérance, à écrire de la twittérature, à converser avec les robots, à prendre le pouls de la classe moyenne.... et à ne plus confondre l’or et l’airain pour, enfin, agir.
It is a striking fact that finance academics are not very interested in history and that history academics seem to have a fairly restrictive view of finance.
This is sad: The two fields have much to learn from each other. My co-author, Didier Joos de ter Beerst, and myself have been fascinated by a contract that was signed in 1298 in Genoa between Benedetto Zaccaria, a powerful merchant and admiral, and two Genoese financiers, Enrico Suppa and Baliano Grillo.
To the point that we have conducted an in-depth research about this contract (Didier was able to get a copy of the original version). This contract is a masterpiece of strategy and financial engineering and a great source of inspiration for economists, finance and history scholars.
After months of reading, struggling with the contract, going into intense discussions, we wrote a paper that has already been presented in several conferences. Lastly, Didier presented the paper at the XIVth International Economic History Congress in Helsinki.
If finance, options, derivative and structured products are your pet topics, if you have an interest in insurance and banking; if you are keen on history, especially medieval history, we think you will enjoy this paper.
The current English version (IEHCPAPERBRIYSJOOS.pdf) is fairly long (worth it ;-) but still at the rough draft stage (with typos, sorry!)) We include a shorter (IEHC.ppt). A French version will be published soon.
The Paris Book Fair opens next friday. This year is somehow The Year. Indeed, they have set up a digital village. So far media has been concentrating on music, movies, TV and the digital challenges they are facing. As if books were less sexy! Well, we think they are sexy and we are grateful to our growing community of users who thinks the same way!
I am currently reading (yes, I confess Gutenberg format, hat tip Mr Gutenberg!) Larry Lessig's The Future of Ideas, a book that could be Cyberlibris's bible. I like the way Lessig looks at the law and the lawyers:
"The law, through "property", can be used by the kings of yesterday to protect themselves against the kings of tomorrow, and we - especially we lawyers - should be defending tomorrow against yesterday."
Indeed, more often than not lawyers get huge fees to make sure that the present vetoes the future. As always the confusion comes from that, as a common saying as it, the future is already there, it is just that it is not evenly distributed yet.
In earlier posts on this blog I have tried to share our love for the future, especially the future of books. Our intention has never been to defeat Mr Gutenberg. We have too much respect for an invention that has contributed so much to the progress of mankind. On the contrary all our inspiration comes from Gutenberg, bookstores, libraries and above all readers. We mix all this with technology, economics, law, intuition and a lot of listening and hard work of course.
We'll be at the Paris Book Fair of course, preaching the gospel: Yes, books are sexy! Yes, they do have a shining digital future. We are proud to be part of those who are believing in it and sticking their necks out!
The copyright landscape is far from being peaceful these days. In earlier posts on this blog I have tried to shed some light on copyright in the digital age. Here is more by Knowledge@Wharton: Will Online Publishing Flap Rewrite Copyright Law?
The point the Wharton experts are making is that neither side (namely publishers and Google) gets it right. Publishers are right in that Google has indeed violated current copyright rules. However the end result of the pending court case may be a thorough revision of the copyright notion to make it more suited to the digital age and to needs of end users (us for that matter).
But the train may not stop here. I like the perspective taken by Wharton School Professor Daniel Raff: "What's at stake for book publishers could be the economics underpinning the industry for the last 150 years". Indeed, the copyright debate is only the tip of the iceberg.
Worse, the iceberg is melting at a fast pace: It does not resist this radical business climate change. So the question is: Shall we struggle against digital warming (which is what the forthcoming court cases are all about) or shall we get our acts together and listen to what people really want (and not what publishers or Google want)? If you are a reader of this blog, you know my answer!
A friend of mine (and incidentally a co-author of mine) Didier Joos de ter Beerst has drawn my attention to a paper by Tufts University Karen Eggleston, University of Chicago Law School Eric A. Posner and Harvard University Richard Zeckhauser entitled "Simplicity and Complexity in Contracts". Put simply this paper is a gem and a must read! (DownloadHere)
No equation, no scary symbols, just plain English. The main theme of the paper is the following: Why is that literature in the law and economics of contracts advocate "highly complex and fine-tuned contracts" while in practice many contracts are simple? What are the advantages and disadvantages of complexity over simplicity?
This paper is a genuine "tour de force". If you were not yet convinced that simplicity is what comes after you have gone through the ins and outs of complexity, what follows should convert you. Great lesson too for academic researchers who more often than not tend to propose "mechanistic" views of the world.
Following my earlier post on Eliot Spitzer, James E. Tierney, lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School and former Attorney General of Maine, draws my attention to the fact that, although he is rather famous and often in the media, Eliot Spitzer (Attorney General of New York) "is'nt the only AG in America". James's point is indeed well-taken as it begs the question of whether, on this side of the ocean, we do know what AGs are and what they are paid for. Frankly, I must admit my ignorance and James's reading advices are very useful if you want to know more about these important people of the American legal landscape. For instance, you can go to this page of James's website.
And, obviously, James blogs too! Here is his blog.