Communicating Conspirators

Chip Morningstar
Tue, 23 Nov 1999 16:38:54 -0800 (PST)

Hal sez:
>Chip Morningstar, <>, writes:
>> You may be correct in saying I'm equating abilities and rights. In
>> our network model these are the same thing. There is obviously some
>> additional quality you attribute to rights (in contrast to abilities)
>> that you think is important, but I'm still unclear as to what it might
>> be. Could you expand on this?
>Jumping in here, I think Ralph meant that a "right" was an ability which
>was "legal" and intended to be exercised by the designers.  If I design
>a system which should give only Alice access to her files, but due to
>a loophole Bob gains access, then he has the ability but not the right
>to get at those files.
>In a perfectly designed system, rights and abilities would be the
>same, but in a system with security flaws, they might be different.
>(It could also happen that Alice has the right to access her files,
>but not the ability, because she forgot her password, for example.)

I think you have a point here, whether or not that it was the point that Ralph
intended. What you describe is indeed a valid and useful distinction and it
does make me realize another implicit, and very important, assumption that I
(and, I suspect, many of us besides me, but I'll let others speak for
themselves on this) had been making which warrants declaration. That assumption
is that the world the Net is taking is to is a world in which the "legal" sense
of a right, as you describe it, no longer has an enforceable hold on things and
so we are forced to make do with technology.  What we are trying to do is make
it possible for all of the evolved mechanisms of commerce and contract to
continue to be useful levers for productive cooperation in the world, in spite
of the disintermediating effects of technology on the world's legal systems.