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I think there are legitimate concerns about relying completely on online servers for everything. If a company like Spotify goes down and you don't have hard-copies of your music collection stored locally then you effectively lose everything. Suddenly your lovingly assembled playlists disappear. With CDs, hard-discs and iPods, short of a fire or burglary, they remain intact. This concern applies to cloud-computing generally where information is stored online as opposed to on the personal media in your room. It is a risk certainly but I suspect it is a risk people will become more at ease with. The Cloud will become pretty much as secure as anything else is. Money in the bank is not 100% safe as recent times testify but it is still preferred to a stash under the bed. The same goes for online storage and file streaming. It will become a commonplace feature.

Those who fixate on ownership for its own sake will find this transformation more difficult to adopt. Although I understand their concerns I have less sympathy with them. I think ownership is given too much importance generally. It boils down to issues of violation and having a right to recourse should possessions be stolen. If somebody takes my stuff I would like always to have a right to process and have the crime redressed. Beyond that right to process I've always been mystified why anyone needs to own anything. All you really need is legitimate access to what you need as you need it. Whatever systems that can be implemented to allow that to happen is for me sufficient.

That being so I think that favouring access over ownership is a big ethical leap. Ownership is something of a primal instinct. It underlines acquisitiveness. Access requires trust and some faith that agreements made will be honoured. If I pay Spotify a monthly prescription then I expect them to uphold their commitment just as I would a bank for keeping promise. Trust is an aspiration. It is something that should be encouraged and taken seriously. Its breach takes a heavy toll. The contemporary financial meltdown has left much cynicism in its wake and damages the spiritual fabric that binds a society's relationships. It may be something of a stretch to uncover such issues from a deliberation on whether to embrace Spotify and music streaming. But for me it opens up an interesting philosophical divide. I am on the side of the more evolved ideas that are bound up in access. I would prefer a world where ownership is diminished in favour of trust. Access versus ownership exposes a deeper divide between those who are comfortable with higher levels of trust and those who want to covet possessions.

I think such a divide is one of temperament. Those big on ownership are likely to be more hardline in their dealings. Those who are happy with access are more inclined to sharing. The internet has a huge capacity for sharing and it would be hopeful to think that such capacity is ripe for exploration in the years to come and can make a pivotal contribution to how humans interact. I say think about these matters and think about whether you are a sharer or coveter. Ask yourself which side are you on. It is a big issue, a big issue with an opportunity attached.

written 2009 just after Spotify was launched



music • 29.08.09