The Nature of Ideas and Bits: Why Sharing that Nude Photo is a Bad Idea

While reading an interesting book called Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty and Happiness After the Digital Explosion (which I’ll write about soon) I came across a quote by Thomas Jefferson concerning the nature of ideas:

“If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it”

In other words an idea is entirely yours if you don’t share it but once you do it becomes almost impossible to keep it from others. Yet, at the same time, the idea does not diminish or become any less because it is shared. Economists would say ideas are “non-exclusive” and “non-rivalrous”.

The quote reminded me, too, of a recent Facebook post by Econet founder Dr Strive Masiiwa where he said ideas are the most valuable things in the world. He was right, but once shared, they cease being exclusive- and perhaps their value falls.

I found myself thinking how these two properties make ideas both very powerful and very dangerous. It is because of this that we make progress, but the same properties lead to genocides, pogroms and discrimination.

But I digress; the reason why the quote is mentioned in Blown to Bits is to highlight the nature of “bits”- the digital signals that are the backbone of modern communication- and the possible consequences of sharing them.

Once you share, say a photo on Facebook or anywhere on the web, your control of that photo (in reality the bits that give you the illusion of there being an image) virtually ceases. Interestingly you would still have 100% of that image but no way of controlling its distribution.

These are some of the consequences of the digital age, and that’s what Blown to Bits is about.

Think about this the next time you get a brilliant idea, or more likely, when you want to upload that half-nude picture taken when you got drunk at a Christmas party in the village.

Meeting Fahad Hassan

On Wednesday evening I attended an event where the speaker was Fahad Hassan, an American entrepreneur and founder of Always Prepped– an “online dashboard for teachers” that helps them identify and solve the problems and needs of every child.

He spoke about how he entered the world of startups, explaining that he “grew up on the internet” and was always and always would be a geek. More reasons, of course, why Africans must take Computing education seriously- if not for the skills then there’s always the money.

Fahad said the best way for one to be successful in startups they have to identify a problem in the target market and then solve it. Merely having an idea/product is not enough- people must be willing to pay for that idea/product. It is also important to hang out with like-minded people..

A business is when people are willing to pay for your product, not merely having the product. —

Fahad Hassan

When someone how he kept going despite many rejections from investors- Farad had his idea rejected like 50 times- he gave the coolest answer ever:

You learn with every “no”. Every no has a “because” and that gives you ideas for improvement. Therefore the next no should not be for the same business, but for an improved version.

— Fahad Hassan

It was enlightening and I learnt a lot froom Fahad, enough to make me a millionaire one day, lol.

Fahad is here for Startup Weekend Harare, the first Startup weekend done in Zimbabwe. I would have attended if not for the costs- $60 or $50 ($30 for students like me) is just too much in an economy like ours. But there’s always a next time.

Hello World!

It is traditional for programming beginners to start by writing a simple program that prints “Hello World!” or a variation thereof. Since this is a blog on Computer Science and obviously some programming, I figure I should have started with a program.

So here’s a simple program, written in the cleanest language out there, Python. In a future post I will write about why you should seriously consider learning Python as your first language- in fact I will begin by by why you should learn to program (there’s just so few programmers in Africa and particularly Zimbabwe)- but for now here’s a simple program

[code lang=”python”]

print "Hello World!" #This is a simple program that doesn’t do much (written in Python 2)



And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I can call myself a programmer!

Hi….and Welcome

Hi there, though I am almost sure no one will read this but anyway…there has to be that first post no one is ever going to read. So here’s to my imaginary readership, in their millions, who are at this moment staring at screens, great and small, and reading this drivel.

Forgive me, it’s my first post but welcome, welcome to my blog. I am Tawanda, I love learning, and developing mobile apps though I have no idea how that’s done.

Ah, hopefully the next posts will make more sense…I am sleepy, it’s 02: 21 Hours around these parts.