There is No Such “Thing” as Software

Software is actually intelligence encoded hardware so software is an abstraction and not a real “thing”. “Software” is just a convenient label we apply to instructions that are intended to control the functioning of a computer-driven device. In order to exist, those instructions have to be recorded in some form of matter like ink on paper, transistor states, magnetic memories, etc. You can’t destroy software directly, you have to destroy its medium.

An Einsteinian key to comprehending our universe is: “Look deeply into nature, then you will understand everything better.” As a physicist, I find this to be a sure path, and that is exactly how I came to the realization that software is not a thing but an abstraction. Now, of course, there is software, but it is not something you can measure with a ruler, or cut with a saw. Of course, you can count lines of code, but when you do you have left the higher abstraction layer of “software”.

Like so much of our thinking and perception of our universe, software is an abstraction – a convenient tool for mental manipulation and understanding. But to understand at the most fundamental level, we must not forget that all abstractions are perceptions, ways of thinking, and ways of dealing with physical complexity. As such, they stand between us and the physical realities that are their antecedents. Those antecedents gave rise to the abstractions in the first place.

However, it is the physical complexity that reveals the actual nature, material, and organization of our universe. We see that without some kind of material, nothing exists.

This is Not Scientism

I am not saying that things like truth, love, spirits, and such don’t exist or that the scientific method is the only reliable tool for the discovery of truth. Love probably doesn’t consist of some kind of matter, but is an effect arising from certain mental and emotional processes. That I know spirits are real is the result of a remarkable visit from my deceased mother.

So What’s the Point?

Mascot Owl Facing Left

To understand natural rights, we have to recognize that a natural right is an abstract idea and we need to find its antecedent to fully comprehend what it is. That’s why I wrote “An Introduction of Temporal Rights“. All traditional sources of natural rights are stacks of abstractions upon abstractions. Temporal rights are only one logical step from physical reality and are thus tightly bonded to a physical object. Perception of a temporal right is simply a deep look into nature.

Temporal Rights are Superior

No other legal theory of human rights has the unassailable power evidenced by temporal rights. They have the most obvious intrinsic inalienability. They are also purely secular and thus a path to political unity among all political factions that claim to give top priority to human rights.

Temporal Rights are God-given Rights

If you believe in God, then the temporal rights paradigm is simply an explanation of how God endowed all creatures with rights. I wish I could claim that I discovered temporal rights, but the idea was given to me in a prayer asking for a secular basis for natural rights. That prayer was offered and instantly answered in 1976 as I wrote “On Human Rights“, the second article in the bicentennial feature series of “The Freeman” magazine. The answer came as a realization that rocks, trees, and beavers have inalienable rights: rights that cannot be infringed without severe damage to their owners.

Jackson Pemberton
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