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People tend to assume that human progress is a straight line going always up. Our European ancestors, however, spent a thousand years looking at the ruins of colliseums, cathedrals and aquaducts, scratching their heads and wondering how in the heck their ancestors built those things.
There are many theories as to how this happened—lead in the pipes drove everyone mad, moral decay, barbarian invasions—but I would like to put forward another: it was copyright law that destroyed Rome. I have no proof of this and have no knowledge of Roman copyright law but it just seems to make sense.
I can imagine a villager out repairing an aquaduct with a legion marching past. “You can't repair that aquaduct,” he might have said, “aquaduct repair is proprietary information. Call your local aquaduct repair center and someone will come within 3 to 47 days.” Within a generation or two, there was nobody left who knew how to repair an aquaduct and the empire fell. I don't have a shred of historical evidence to support it, but that's how I imagine Rome fell.
If big corporations have anything to say about it, a generation or two down the line, our descendants might be looking at huge tractors rotting away in fields and barns and wondering to themselves how in the heck we ever built them. Deere and GM are trying to get it codified into law that you never own your cars, you are just leasing the proprietary software that runs them.
You will no longer be able to buy an aftermarket W208PPB5 to fix your John Deere 110 Disc. You'll have to take it in to a John Deere dealer so they can do work that is proprietary and illegal for the layman to attempt.
That may seem far-fetched, but most farmers no longer own the seeds they plant. Those seeds are property of Monsanto and if you save some for next year's harvest, you're breaking the law. Within a generation or two, no farmers are even going to remember how to save seeds. That seems like an important skill set to lose. According to Monsanto's website, farmers are even turning each other in when one of their neighbors tries to save some seed.
Our food and how to grow it is an important part of our shared culture. We shouldn't put all of that trust into the hands of a few corporations. Or else future generations might be scavenging for food, looking up at all those old grain silos and wondering what in the heck those ancient ruins were ever used for.