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Adventures in Retailing Part III: Manhattan Bookstores, by Ross Miller
Kim Zussman responds:
At the risk of revealing one's autodidactilleteracy (don't look that up), internet has personally reduced need for bookstores. That's right, Al Gore's internet - so much available; all of it true, vetted, and factual just like at the bookstore. And for singles, the old ploy of meeting intelligent soul-mates at the corner bookstore has, to some degree, been supplanted by scanning for web-based green-card aspirants. It is such a better world with all human knowledge at one's fingertips. At the office, many consultations with 20-50 questions based on patient's educated consumer web-based research. Noticed chain-reaction type growth when one answer leads to three new questions. Now instead of charging by procedure fees are on a per-question basis.
Pamela Van Giessen offers:
Kim Zussman said "Needless to say the internet has changed morality."
Um, this is kind of like saying "guns kill." Obviously guns don't kill, people do. The internet has not changed morality, people have made an intentional decision to behave immorally, and without regard for others, and/or they are too lazy or ignorant to teach their children moral behavior that is key to the success of capitalism, without which they wouldn't have that cool Mac, ipod, or get quick and effective treatment for whatever ails them, etc.
The good news is that internet theft, unlike Xerox copy theft of old, is more easily discovered, and usually shut down (most countries will force service providers to shut down sites with stolen goods, even China) so in that sense it's enforceable in the same way that the police are more easily able to catch kiddie pornographers online than in their old offline world. While it's nearly impossible to prosecute online freeloaders and their customers, they can and are stopped (til they set up shop elsewhere and round we go).
I just find it depressing that specs, of all people, would not only engage in freeloading but admit to it! I am hopeful that other specs will avoid unilibrary and other bootlegging sites lest they become like the denizens of the town who filled the vat with water instead of wine. Coincidentally enough, one Rabbi Glickman used this reference in a sermon on the evils of Napster. To the point of speculation, every tear in the fabric of the social contract weakens the markets and limits opportunities for speculation. Specs, especially, have a very vested interest in maintaining healthy markets. Bring down enough enterprises due to theft or fraud or whatever, and you bring down the capital markets too. See every country that doesn't have strong capital markets, and thus limited opportunities for all.
Gibbons Burke says:
In order to clear a minor traffic violation from my driving record I
enrolled in a driver's education class. The free market provided
several alternative school choices, the most popular being "Comedy
Driving School" where the class was taught by aspiring stand-up comics
honing their craft before a captive audience.
On the first night of class the instructor/comic asked us to complete a
questionnaire about ourselves and one of the questions was "What would
you do if you had the power to become invisible for 24 hours?" The
questionnaire's were handed in and the teacher read the answers aloud
to the class - fodder for his act.
I was somewhat taken aback to learn that, not only would the vast majority of my fellow students, granted the power of invisibility, commit acts of grand larceny, violent revenge upon their enemies, and voyeurism, but I was completely dumbstruck by how freely they would admit to otherwise suppressed urgings. I realized then how thin a veneer is civilization on top of the base, sinful nature of mankind. This occurred just as Mosaic was released by NCSA, giving birth to the popular use of the Internet through the World Wide Web. Here, then, was a place where people could operate in the world with the cloak of invisibility and anonymity, and so comes as no surprise for me that it has become a massive petri dish in which the malignant nature of mankind can be observed to thrive on a rich broth of possibilities and opportunities without the normal consequences attendant to the physical world.
But, then again, the Internet has also allowed us to see man operating at his very best - coming to the aide of unknown persons suffering on the other side of the globe in near real time. It has brought to bear efficiencies in the distribution of goods and vital information that will allow mankind to support itself with less labor expended and more profits earned, which should translate into the betterment of the condition of mankind at both the upper and lower reaches of the spectrum of wealth distribution.
So, no, I don't agree that the Internet has changed man's basic morality; however it has provided men a cloak of no-accountability and reduced the risks of getting caught, even as it increases the abilities of others to observe the act. It has raised a magnifying glass to our species' many warts. The difference between a moral man and an honorable man is that the latter always regrets a discreditable act, even when it has succeeded and he has not been caught.
Conscience - The inner voice which warns us that someone may be looking. [H.L. Mencken]
Kim Zussman rejoins:
The contention is that morality, like other manifestations of the
intracranial conflicts between emotion and reason, is the result of a
two-stage process: Intention and execution. First is an urge or
impluse, which is approved or vetoed by cognitive filters such as
societal norms and religious doctrine. Every Sunday millions are
warned not to indulge their desires lest they burn in hell (or a
molten iron-nickel core, whichever comes first). Should we doubt that
boys might wish to be invisible in the girl's locker room, or that
nuns and priests like celebacy?
The internet changes morality not because the nature of secret desires has evolved but because the filters have.