The Wrongs of Rights.

I’m sure most will have seen the comments made my Jeremy Clarkson.

I will say he does have a right to say what he wants. I agree and as a blogger will even defend the right to free speech, regardless of its technical, historical or political accuracy and persuasion. It is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society to be able to speak ones mind, even if that means disagreeing with mainstream opinion.

That said however, with this “right” to free speech comes a responsibility – be it to speak the truth, the opinions of the silent majority of even be held accountable for your own actions and opinions – whilst a free press, and by token free speech, is lovely one only has to look at the scandalous fallout from the News of the World to demonstrate that sometimes people need to be held to account for taking their rights to an extreme – putting their right to free speech above acting in a legal and moral manner.

We value our rights – pirates defend their right to pirate games, music and DVDs. It’s illegal, but they say its their right to protest against the system, or that because they can’t afford it they have a right to it anyway as it generates good feedback. The companies making barriers, DRM and other security measures say it is their right to put such measures on their products, when it’s clear to anyone with half a brain that such measures are punishing the law abiding paying customer over the pirate anyway. Both sides will protest their rights, and that they are actually right.

When they’re actually both completely wrong.

We all have basic rights. There are basic and fundamental rights that everyone should have – the right to vote. The right to not be discriminated against for whatever reason due to their gender, race or appearance. The right to life – and by token, I must say, I also believe in the right for someone to choose to die with dignity here. I think that’s a basic we must respect, as none of us can imagine the pain of those scenarios.

But of course, the idea that broadband access is now a “human right” makes me smack my forehead in despair. That’s not a right. I agree the internet is an amazing tool and it will only become more dominant in the next twenty years – but a human right?! There are people who are out there in third world countries and our own, who by choice or because they live in poverty can simply not afford it. Their lives are no less rich without the internet – I sometimes wonder if we are too connected. With the amount of bandwidth needed in the next few years, it’s spend money we don’t have to make it better or, simply, learn to live with slower speeds. It’s not a right – it’s a cheap service that in the last decade we have taken advantage of, and now it’s going to bite us in the backside.

The problem is, we live in an era of extreme change. Economically, we must accept that nothing has worked – despite the efforts, global economic growth is slowing down. People need to think outside the box, or growth will stop – and then we will be in some trouble. Politically, the world is changing – as China becomes an ever-more dominant superpower in the world, others will have to respond to that. As the Euro faces collapse, so too will we need to prepare for the consequences of a single European currency failing – and the political and social unrest that would result from it. Technology is changing – with the Neutrino thing still in infancy, we could see brand new technologies emerging in the next few decades that could change our outlook on the world. The weather is changing, whether we like it or not or even believe if we are causing it or not, we need to accept that change is happening.

In an era of change, we cling to the past in fear of the future. We proclaim our rights to things, when in fact we’re just acting like children. “MINE! MINE! MINE!” That is what we’re really saying.

And those who cling to those also need to take responsibility for their actions. They cling to past mechanics and engines, design structures, materials, fiscal studies, political dialogue – in a world where change is inevitable, some have to take responsibility for slowing down that change. Governments, unions, studios, protesters, bloggers, the Press – all of us have to take a small part of the responsibility collectively.

This isn’t to say that some things need to change right now – that’s the sort of argument that pushes technology on to ever-more ridiculous pricing points in the pursuit of just doing something. And inevitably, it’s replaced shortly after with a better thing, which costs the same or more. Forcing change is expensive. Forcing change is also economically disastrous – see the spiraling costs of development for evidence of that. Why exactly do Microsoft want to unveil a next gen at E3? Because they can. Because people want it.

But the real question is – is it necessary? The answer, I feel, is no.

And so Microsoft too may need to take responsibility for this – quite likely by making losses on sales. If they aim for the new Unreal Engine kind of quality, you’re looking at 2013 release at $1800 per machine – let’s say, with “favours”, they can get this down to $1200.

Microsoft will need to price it into a market that is in economic upheaval and unrest. Any higher than $599.99 would see extremely slow sales. That would still mean a loss per machine of $600.01 – that’s their punishment for advancing the technology of the market.

And so too will people now have to accept that $599.99 will be a realistic pricing point – if not more. Will the people who march around the press and internet be prepared to pay, say, $799.99 for the new machine if it so released that way? That’s the punishment for wanting technology before it’s economically viable.

My point overall is for every right, every demand, every proclamation – there’s a consequence, there’s a responsibility, there’s a wrong. This is a an era where every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and nothing is straight-forward or indeed, set in stone.

Our rights may be tomorrows wrongs. And today’s wrongs may end up tomorrows rights.

We’re a fickle species. We’re a fickle world. Maybe it is time to cumulatively accept that individual responsibility is perhaps just as important as the rights of the individual…

Maybe then we can enjoy the past, present and future that we all so desperate crave.

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