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Re: [dvd-discuss] The Touretsky and Shamos debate at CMU.

daw@mozart.cs.berkeley.edu wrote:
> Scott A Crosby  wrote:
> [...]
> >What Shamos claims is that it is wrong to distribute things with
> >functional aspects. Shamos says that instead, one should just make sure to
> >distribute it as something that DOESN"T have functional aspects.
> [...]
> In my declaration, I argue that oftentimes, code is a useful form of
> communication precisely because it is functional: it is useful because
> it is precise & unambiguous, and it is precise & unambiguous because of
> its functional nature.  (Computer tolerate no ambiguity, so writing in
> code is an effective way to avoid ambiguity.)

actually I believe it should be considered axiomatic that a fully
unambiguous statement of any algorithm is functional, even with the
simple lack of the implementation of an interpreter.  This claim is that
functionality is and intrinsic quality of a writing -- a measure of the
precision and executability of the writing.  Clearly there can be no
"spooky forces at a distance" that would (by some informational
equivalent of quantum entanglement) convert nonfunctional, pure speech
into functionality simply because an unrelated third party invents an
interpretor.  If the creation of an interpreter allows for the execute
of a writing, then that writing was already functional -- it did not

The fundamental problem becomes clear.  If the first amendment
protection of a writing depends solely on the presence or absence of
potential future writings of others -- how can one know legality, or
proper standard of scrutiny for a given writing by the initial author. 
One could certainly write a one-click script to compile and execute the
contents of a .zip file in a given format -- if the format is
unambiguous including a Makefile or other well formed set of build
instructions.  That script would move the .zip source for DeCSS into the
functionality column.  

The whole of the "functionality" vs. "nonfunctionality" is a false
dicotomy.  Determining the functional nature of a writing based on the
current existance of an interpreter or execution environment is like
arguing whether a person has a fertility disfunction based on the
presence of absence of a significant other -- as oppose to diagnosing
sperm count, ovulation or implantation issues.