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Tag: disruption

The iPhone’s Missing Copy & Paste: The Dog that Didn’t Bark in the Night

The great american philosopher Steven Wright wrote this profound fragment about the Network and Identity, or maybe it was just a joke.

I woke up one morning and looked around the room. Something wasn’t right. I realized that someone had broken in the night before and replaced everything in my apartment with an exact replica. I couldn’t believe it…I got my roommate and showed him. I said, “Look at this–everything’s been replaced with an exact replica!” He said, “Do I know you?”                    — Steven Wright

You can look to Jameson or Baudrillard to learn about the simulacrum, but Wright really nails it. In the digital world the line between an original and a copy is blurred. That’s why it’s difficult to bind a unique digital identity to a person. And as Chris Anderson has noted, the cost, or lack thereof, of digital copies has disrupted the economics a number of industries.

This connects to a mystery about the iPhone. What’s the reason that copy and paste is missing? The underlying operating system is OSX, so it’s obviously supported. It’s a function has been supported from the very beginning of the computer. Perhaps it’s a signal of a new kind of limit being enforced on the digital world.

Imagine an abstraction layer up the stack from the digital. Imagine a new digital world where there are no originals and there are no copies. The iPhone only consumes pointers, names that point to a location. The location can be secured and access controlled, and a form of the old economics emerges. Sure, once you’ve downloaded a file, digital economics rule the day, but not on the iPhone. No copy and paste.

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