Great books—books that change the way we see the world, books that spur us along our paths as people and cultures—are, in their way, patents. They are innovations made manifest. They are ideas that are claimed by an author on behalf of the rest of us. They are cultural products that concern themselves, when they are at their very best, with hammocks.
The artist and developer Sam Lavigne has taken these connections to a delightfully logical conclusion. Over at github, he posted a program that renders texts—literary, philosophical—as patent applications. "In short," Lavigne explains, "it reframes texts as inventions or machines."
So! Kafka's The Hunger Artist becomes "An apparatus and device for staring into vacancy." Heidegger's The Question Concerning Technology becomes "A device and system for belonging to bringing-forth." And—my personal favorite—The Communist Manifesto becomes "A method and device for comprehending theoretically the historical movement."
Said "method and device," its automated patent-ese informs us, "comprises a sentimental veil, a mere instrument, a whole surface, a modern working condition, an essential product, a poor stock-in-trade, heavy artillery, a present system, a feudal system, a great factory, a collective product, a last resort, a
transcendental robe, and a bribed tool."