Memeright Theory
Memeright Theory

Memeright Theory posits a groundbreaking approach to intellectual property, rooted in the understanding of human evolutionary psychology and the dynamics of cultural evolution. It acknowledges that intellectual creations (and their constituent memes) serve not just as mere expressions of creativity but as integral components of social and reproductive success in human societies. The memetic footprints of males are social antlers which play a crucial role in individual recognition, status acquisition, and ultimately, reproductive opportunities. Therefore, Memeright Theory advocates for the legal, regulatory, and ethical recognition and protection of original ideas and arguments as a natural extension of intellectual property, drawing its justification from the evolutionary imperatives that drive human behavior and social structures.

Memeright Theory is a visionary approach that seeks to realign the principles of intellectual property with the evolutionary realities of human social behavior. By advocating for the protection of original ideas and arguments, it not only aims to safeguard individual creators’ rights but also to foster a more vibrant and equitable intellectual landscape. Memeright Theory opens up new avenues for understanding and valuing the intangible assets that drive innovation and cultural progress in our society.

The Evolutionary Basis of Rules

A rule is an enforced principle or instruction for conduct. In turn, rules are enforced by a legitimate authority. What makes authority legitimate is the worldview or moral system that justifies that authority. It can be a religion where a god serves as the moral foundation or it can be a secular religion (an ideology) where morality is derived from an explicitly stated moral foundation. As such, the internal standard for a “good” rule, in any moral system, is that which defends or promotes the moral foundation. In fact, that is the very basis of legitimacy; authority exists in defense of that moral foundation. For example, the position, powers, and electoral system of the POTUS are legitimized by a moral foundation called freedom.

As a social antler, ideology exists to promote the genetic interests of its creator by way of sexual access. By virtue of the fact that rules are derived from ideology, rules are themselves an extension of the social antler. How do rules promote the genetic interests of their creator(s)?

The practical consequence of rules is coalitional behavior (positive ethnocentrism). The more positively ethnocentric a group is, the greater its ability to organize, cooperate, and direct its resources to the advantage of the group. For example, property law protects the evolutionary interest of the group from parasitism and public works like roads facilitate commerce.

The more powerful a group, so is its elite and this power provides the elite with the capability to further advance its genetic interests (perhaps with more rules). As such, an evolutionary feedback mechanism exists between power and rules, so long as the evolutionary cost of a rule is outweighed by its evolutionary payoff to the group. In other words, rules grounded in evolutionary science entail that they result in an increase in long-term genetic replication (LTGR) not only to the elite, but also to a majority of the group. In fact, LTGR is the only universal standard by which we judge a “good” or “bad” rule, whereas all other standards, such as congruence with constitutional law and societal effect, are merely case-specific isolates of that universal standard. This standard is applicable in any social organization, be it a government or a family (see the Evolution of Parenting).

Here, we come to understand the existence of anti-social behavior among the underclass. Social hierarchy is a function of genetic distance relative to the elite (i.e. culture creators, rather than simply the wealthy). Thus, commoners are understood as the downwardly mobile, more genetically distant relatives of the elite. As we descend the hierarchy, we observe an increase in genetic diversity. By virtue of the fact that the underclass has the least in common with the elite genetically, the social antler of the elite has the least benefit to its LTGR. In other words, the pro-social behavior of the underclass results in little to no evolutionary payoff. For reference, see the Genes & Mating Systems Simulator.

The pro-social behavior of the underclass neither grants it sexual access, nor does it result in more copies of their genes through their elite relatives since they are so genetically distant. This effect is particularly pronounced with high population size. As such, there is effectively no evolutionary basis for the underclass to engage in pro-social behavior in a large population. This explains why the underclass comprises the bulk of the prison population. Moreover, the historical use of the death penalty can be understood as a hard limit on genetic diversity – a systematic selection against mutation.

The Evolutionary Argument for Memerights

In order for a social antler to result in greater sexual access, it must be attributed to its originator. Thus, misattribution results in a loss of mating opportunities to the creator and a gain in sexual access by the intellectual thief. Left unchecked, misattribution results in the creation of more intellectual thieves in the next generation and fewer culture creators, thereby harming the entirety of the group by undermining the culture that binds the group together towards pro-social ends (resulting in a group-wide loss in LTGR). Hence, an evolutionary incentive exists to protect the elite and the group itself from misattribution. Such is the evolutionary origin of intellectual property laws.

If the purpose of A is to protect B but the true purpose of B is really C, then the intent of A would be most accomplished by protecting C. This chain of purpose or intent justifies that the ultimate goal of a protective measure (A) should align with the fundamental purpose or true intent (C) of what it’s indirectly meant to protect (B). This reasoning resonates with various philosophical, legal, and ethical principles that emphasize the importance of understanding and addressing root causes, ultimate purposes, or fundamental values to effectively achieve intended outcomes. Here are a few concepts and precedents that reflect this logic:

  • Philosophy: Teleological ethics or consequentialism argues that the morality of an action is determined by its overall outcome or consequence. If the ultimate purpose (C) is considered the most morally significant, then actions (A) should be directly aimed at achieving or protecting (C) rather than merely focusing on intermediate steps or entities (B).
  • Jurisprudence: Purposivism is an approach to statutory and constitutional interpretation that seeks to understand the law’s purpose or the legislature’s intent behind enacting it. If a law (A) is designed to protect a certain right or interest (B), but the underlying intent was to further a broader societal or moral goal (C), purposivists would argue that interpretations of the law should prioritize achieving (C).
  • Public Policy: Addressing the root cause of an issue (C) rather than its symptoms (B) is a common approach to design more effective and sustainable solutions. If a policy (A) is implemented to address a social issue (B), but the underlying cause (C) is not addressed, the policy may not achieve its intended impact. The logic is that protecting or addressing (C) directly would most effectively fulfill the intent of (A).
  • Systems: Systems thinking encourages looking beyond immediate or apparent issues (B) to understand the underlying systems or structures (C) that cause them. In this context, an intervention (A) is most effective when it addresses the root causes or fundamental structures (C) rather than just treating symptoms or surface-level problems (B). The most salient examples of such thinking are in medicine and engineering.

While the stated objective of intellectual property laws (A) are to protect intellectual property rights (B), the ultimate purpose of those rights is to protect social antlers (C). Therefore, intellectual property laws would most accomplish their true purpose if they extended their protection to the entirety of a social antler.

As those laws currently stand, only written works (copyrights), inventions (patents), and brands (trademarks) are protected, but not original ideas and arguments. Thus, they do not fully accomplish their true objective. If protection were to be extended to original ideas and arguments (memerights), intellectual property laws would thus fulfill their ultimate purpose.

The Legalistic Argument for Memerights

The legalistic premise of MemeRight Theory is a self-evident axiom known as the Hierarchical Inclusivity Principle (HIP): by default, principles which apply to one subset also apply to the parent set, except for those subsets which justify their exception. HIP is a general formulation of several established concepts in many fields. Here are some examples of its application:

  • Jurisprudence: The principle of stare decisis (to stand by things decided) embodies this logic. Legal decisions (especially those by higher courts) are applied broadly across similar cases unless a significant difference justifies a departure.
  • Ethics: The principle of universalizability proposed by Immanuel Kant suggests that an action is morally right if it can be universally applied. It echoes the idea that principles applicable in specific instances should apply universally unless exceptions are warranted.
  • Science: In theory formation, Occam’s Razor suggests that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. While not directly analogous, it supports a preference for broader applicability of principles unless more complexity (exceptions) is justified.
  • Economics: Pareto efficiency involves resource allocation in a way that it’s impossible to make any one individual better off without making someone else worse off. It implies a broad application of welfare principles, except in cases where changes harm others.
  • Design: There is a principle of inclusive design or universal design which suggests designing products to be usable by the widest range of people without need for adaptation or specialized design. Exceptions are made for specific accessibility needs, which echoes the logic of HIP.

Here, we extend HIP to set theory:

  1. B is a subset of A.
  2. C exists to protect B.
  3. Therefore, the intent of C would be accomplished most if it protects all subsets of A where an exception is not justified.

In the context of intellectual property, we arrive at the following formulation:

  1. Written works, inventions, and brands are creations of the mind.
  2. Intellectual property rights (copyrights, patents, and trademarks) exist to protect those creations.
  3. Therefore, the intent of intellectual property would be most accomplished if it protected all creations of the mind where an exception is not justified.

Finally, we derive our legalistic argument for Memeright Theory. Original ideas and arguments are creations of the mind and there is no justification for exempting them from intellectual property protection.

Memerights in Practise

Written works, inventions, and trademarks are tangible creations. Tangibility makes creations costly and that cost limits the supply of such creations which makes it practical to enforce their ownership via a registration mechanism. For practical reasons related to enforcement ability, intellectual property laws currently assume that the creator owns tangible creations and that they have the right to license their use as they see fit.

As intangible creations, that assumption is inapplicable to original ideas and arguments. Thus, a different assumption is required. Unlike tangible creations, people come up with new ideas all the time and most new ideas are of little to no value in the long run, making them unworthy of protection. Moreover, the lack of tangibility fails to limit the supply of original ideas and, thus, a registration mechanism is an impractical way to protect their ownership.

However, there is a historical precedent for protecting assets with an abundant supply. Here, we look to the colonial era and how the abundant land of the New World was claimed (initially without a registry). European colonial powers often operated under the principle of terra nullius (nobody’s land) when they encountered territories not inhabited by Christians. The early settlers claimed land through discovery and physical occupation (protective barriers), assuming that lands were vacant if they were not used in a manner that European legal systems recognized as ownership.

In the case of abundant unclaimed land, we have the same problems found with original ideas. In that historical era, only specific areas of New World land were worth occupying in the long run, whereas most of them were either indefensible or of insufficient value to occupy in the long term. This abundant supply of low value land presented the same problem of original ideas. A registry mechanism was thus an impractical way to protect ownership (during early settlement). As such, they resorted to protective barriers and physical defense.

Therefore, the same method can be applied to protect the ownership of original ideas. When a creator is encountered with an idea not previously claimed, they can operate under the principle of idea nullius (nobody’s idea). Then, the creator can claim the idea and place a protective barrier around it in a manner similar to how open-source software is released with a permissive license.

This protective barrier consists of publishing the original idea in a written form which includes the timestamp, ownership, and with a permissive license for original ideas. This evidence can then be used to prove and enforce that ownership in a court of law, a regulatory body, or an ethics organization.

Currently, only one permissive license exists for original ideas and arguments, known as the Conceptual Open-Source License (COSL, pronounced “co-S-L”). An example of its use can be found at the very bottom of this essay. Memeright Theory is published under COSL, as are the theories of genopolemology.

Criticisms of Memerights

Here, we examine the criticisms of memerights and why they are nonsensical.

Tangibility Requirement

Criticism: Intellectual property laws generally require a tangible expression of an idea for it to be protected. This means that the idea must be manifested in some form of expression that is fixed in a tangible medium of expression, such as a written document, a software code, or a physical invention. Ideas and arguments, in their abstract form, are considered too ephemeral and universal to be owned by an individual or entity.

Why It’s Nonsense: The ephemerality and universality of New World land did not prevent the early settlers from claiming and enforcing their ownership by different means. It was applied successfully then and it can be applied successfully to original ideas in the manner described in the previous section.

Fear of Over-Monopolization

Criticism: Allowing ownership rights over original ideas and arguments could lead to over-monopolization, where the building blocks of further innovation and creativity are restricted. Intellectual property law aims to balance the rights of creators to protect and benefit from their creations with the public’s interest in the free flow of ideas and information. Protecting ideas and arguments in their abstract form could hinder this balance, potentially stifling innovation and creative expression.

Why It’s Nonsense: Memerights promotes innovation and creativity by incentivizing it in the same manner that patents do for inventions. Moreover, inventions are scarce and are thus far more susceptible to monopolization compared to original ideas which are highly abundant. If patents do not warrant a fear of over-monopolization, then that fear is even less justified in the case of memerights.

Difficulty in Defining and Enforcing

Criticism: Ideas and arguments are inherently difficult to define with the precision required by law. Unlike tangible works, ideas can be interpreted in various ways and can evolve over time. This makes it challenging to determine ownership, scope of protection, and infringement. Enforcing protection over ideas and arguments would require a subjective assessment of similarity and originality, leading to legal uncertainty and a potential increase in litigation.

Why It’s Nonsense: Ideas and arguments can be very carefully defined in a written work. The fact that they can be interpreted differently or that they can evolve over time does not preclude them from protection as they were written. Lastly, similarity and originality are objective measurable qualities which require no subjective assessment whatsoever. Just as written works can be compared, so can original ideas. In fact, the same mechanism used by software systems which identify plagiarism can be repurposed to identify idea theft. If the similarity and originality of written works do not lead to uncertainty or increase in litigation, why should it be the case for original ideas?

Public Domain and Freedom of Thought

Criticism: Ideas and arguments are considered part of the public domain and the realm of free thought. Intellectual property laws are designed to encourage the sharing and development of ideas, not to limit them. Protecting ideas and arguments could infringe on freedom of speech and thought, as it would restrict the ability to discuss, critique, and build upon existing ideas.

Why It’s Nonsense: Media and citations suffer from the same constraints. Yet, they can be used under “Fair Use” and the same applies to original ideas. So long as you’re not passing off someone else’s ideas as your own and that you are using them as part of a broader discussion (i.e. a derivative work), there is no infringement on the ability to discuss, critique, or build upon existing ideas.

Conclusion

The law is an extended phenotype. It makes absolutely no sense to study and develop jurisprudence (or any behavioral field like economics) without any basis in evolutionary science. Memerights are a completely legitimate form of intellectual property right and there is no valid justification for its exemption from ownership protection.

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Conceptual Open-Source License (COSL)

The original ideas and arguments presented herein are published under the COSL license.