Some time ago, a wild Macaque monkey snapped a few self-portraits after snatching a human’s camera. The name of the human in question is David Slater who, probably assuming the monkey would have no interest in licensing his work, took it upon himself to sell the rights to a news agency.
The episode sparked an online debate on whether monkeys can actually own copyrights. The debate was also fuelled by a take down request by the news agency claiming ownership of the photos. Clearly though, as anonymous coward’s post explains, monkeys cannot hold copyrights, so there really is no debate and we can all get on with our lives, right?
Well… there is something else really intriguing about this story: As I read through the various posts, comments and arguments, it seemed evident that many people not only think giving copyrights to monkeys is silly, but they go as far as stating that event if they had them, they would not be interested in, or would not know how, to exploit them. Monkeys just can’t do business… right? Hmm, not so sure about that. See, many of us think of doing business as a complex activity which only humans, with our highly developed mental capacity, can understand, let alone perform, but in its simplest form, doing business is nothing more than a basic exercise in cause and effect. Something that any economist understands as well as my 1 year old: “some behaviours cause me gains, while others cause me pains”. The trick, is to learn which are the ‘good’ behaviours and which are the ‘bad’ ones.
This is what we call incentives, powerful learning tools that determine the way we act throughout our lives. Most other business concepts beyond that (e.g., currency, ownership, derivatives, etc…) are just sophisticated tools that we use to manage incentives. The interesting thing about this is that the entire natural world works on the basis of incentives and we are definitely not the only species who experience them consciously, in fact, as the video below shows, we are not even the only species who can use sophisticated instruments like currency for the management of incentives. Just ask yourself: is there really a difference between using printed paper, pieces of metal, seeds or silver tokens to do business?