2.5 Reading the book

We suggest that you read The Future of Ideas as indicated throughout the unit. Usually you will be directed to read a chapter, or part of a chapter, at the start of a section.

Chapter 1

Now, in order to introduce some basic concepts, to familiarise you with the tone of the book and to raise some questions, please read Chapter 1, linked below. Don't worry too much about understanding everything in depth. You should be prepared to read parts of the book more than once, but we provide reading guides that outline the important ideas.

Click ‘view document’ to open Chapter 1 of The Future of Ideas.

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Note: Experience has shown that many students have already had a go at reading the set book before getting to this point in the unit. If you have done so and found the book difficult, then you might like to listen to a simplified explanation of Lessig's ideas is before going any further.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: t182_1_001s.mp3
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Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


Chapter 1 summarises what The Future of Ideas is about. It is also quite dense with philosophies about markets and property. We're not concerned too much with the philosophy; the main points you need to note are:

  • copyright law is full of rules that ordinary people would think of as silly, e.g. stopping a film that included a scene containing a chair that resembled an artist's sketch;

  • the internet led to an information revolution – an explosion of innovation and creativity;

  • creators/innovators need resources to create things;

  • many of the resources used in internet innovation were free – but a lot of people do not realise this;

  • many people confuse the concepts of ‘property’ and ‘intellectual property’;

  • some large commercial interests felt threatened by the innovation and decided to mount a counter-revolution;

  • the counter-revolution is succeeding;

  • the important question about resources used to innovate is whether they should be free, not who should own them.

You might find this mindmap of Chapter 1 helpful:

Figure 1: mindmap of Chapter 1

Mindmaps and notes occur throughout the unit and relate to the individual chapters of The Future of Ideas. They are a series of keyword and key phrase pictures on the chapter.

You can use them in a number of ways:

  • to skim through to get an overview or preview of the chapter;

  • to review once you have read the chapter and made your own notes;

  • to get another person's perspective on the key issues.

If the automobile had followed the same development cycle as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year, killing everyone inside.

(Robert X. Cringely, InfoWorld magazine)

2.4.1 Why this book?

2.6 Two kinds of innovation