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Re: [dvd-discuss] Gedanken Experiment -Unix and Norton

On Mon, 14 Jul 2003, John Zulauf wrote:
> Is this were I insert "information wants to be anthropomorphized" retort
> to the "information wants to be free" argument.

That's a fair attack on a stupid way of saying something basically true.
That is to say, "information wants to be free" is true in one sense, but
the idea that information "wants" anything is really dumb.  It's  like
saying "water wants to flow downhill" or "electricity wants to have 0
potential" or something stupid like that.

> Information is one of the least carefully quantities throughout human
> history.

What's the missing word?

> Perhaps this is because of the inherent "uncontainability" of
> information -- to me that doesn't equate to "intrinsic freedom." Think
> how personal privacy trades off against "freedom".  "Freedom of
> information" cannot be treated as absolute, but as an element traded
> against other in a policy sense.

The uncontainability is EXACTLY the quality that makes information
intrinsically free.  Privacy is containable.  We can continue to reduce
the sphere of privacy to account for more personal freedom or enlarge it
to reduce personal freedom.  It's a trade off.  But information is totally
uncontainable.  You cannot stop someone from learning something to which
they are exposed.  And furthermore, you cannot stop that person from
taking that which they have learned and applying it elsewhere, consciously
or unconsciously.  You can punish the behavior when it's recognized (or
appears to be recognizable), but a person doesn't even know they're doing

> > I worked for years for a fiber optic carrier as a software engineer.  Our
> > "incentive" for publishing source code was the thousands of lines of code
> > we received from others.  We were enriching a pool from which we draw.
> At the same time you do realize that your companies is (1) in the
> minority and (2) able function in this way as the software technologies
> weren't a competitive advantage of differentiator.

1) That's because there is no functioning mechanism by which our social
system rewards non-commercial human progress.

2) The true differentiator was the engineering and maintenance of the
network itself (but at least the maintenance aspect was largely dependent
on our software) and, of course, the network's existence.

Information is only a "competitive differentiator" in a system that is
destructive to society.  Society is dependent on its members freely
exchanging information with one another.  A breakdown in trust and honesty
is the one sure-fire way to kill a civilization.

If a person has information that will make the world a better place and
they withhold that information for any reason, they are wilfully holding
back society.  If they do it commercially, they are holding back progress
of the civilization for they're exclusive personal gain.  That is the very
definition of destructive greed.  They could benefit along with everyone
else from the proliferation of the information, but instead they choose to
hide it and exploit the public's ignorance.

> > I understand that the current social model is merely a model of
> > economics and scarcity and has NO mechanisms for regulating
> > "externalities" and systems of abundance, but that is a good reason
> > for moving beyond the current model, not for reducing the abundance of
> > information into the artificial scarcity of patent.
> Except the result of non-patenting is the "artificial scarcity" of trade
> secrets.  You get all the disadvantage of patents (others cannot use the
> algorithms) with none of the advantages -- disclosure, potential
> availability through licensing or cross licensing, eventual lapse into
> the PD.

And this is where a better social model needs to be implemented where
ideas that are not disclosed are not accepted by the public, regardless of
expedience or perceived short-term benefits.  The destructive aspects of
the secret-keeping should always outweigh the possible benefits of using
the undisclosed information.

> > Me, I'd argue that they're both evil and our focus should be on bringing
> > down this supposed "broad coalition of commercial interests" and making
> > the world a truly better place.
> I truly don't know how to respond to this.  Aside from the "freedom of
> association" and "freedom of speech" issues is the the Who singing "Here
> comes the new boss, same as the old process" -- we did the 60's ("And
> their kids are hippie chicks, all hypocrites") and got more than our
> share of mid-life, yuppies, and burn-outs (the ones who never recovered
> from too much "peace, love, dope").  Yeah.  Been there, done that.

No, nobody's been there and nobody's done that.  (OK, maybe small pockets
in Spain in the early part of the last century or the Paris Commune.)

The hippies had no more sense of obligation and duty than the tyrants who
proposed the apparent opposite systems expected of people.

Personal responsibility and personal freedom go hand-in-hand.  Civic
responsibility and civil rights have the same relationship.

The "drop out" crowd of the 1960s rejected civic responsibility along with
their rejection of the existing regime.

People don't like to think of themselves as doing "bad"  or "part of the
problem".  They chose to "drop out" instead of standing up and creating
real change in the system because they recognized, quite rightly, they you
cannot participate in modern society without being "part of the problem"
on some level or other.  You can't hardly get around most of the country
without a private automobile.  You can't hardly eat well without paying
off Monsanto.  You can't hardly dress without enabling the exploitation of
overseas factory workers.  The list goes on and on.  And if you were to
put in the required time and energy to do all of those things (eat, dress,
move about) in a way that is NOT destructive for yourself, you wouldn't
have time left to help other folks along the path.  The solution was, as I
mentioned, to just disconnect from the system.

So those who did not totally disconnected rationalized their behaviors.
This is less bad than that.  Soon, that thinking became "this is actually
quite good, by comparison".  It wasn't GOOD of course, it was just lesser
evil.  The culmination to date of this mentality was the Bush/Gore race.
The only difference I saw between the two smiling faces in dark blue suits
was that one could form coherent sentences and the other had posable
joints.  ("I think your three cent titanium tax goes too far!"  "And I
think YOUR three cent titanium tax doesn't go too far enough!")

The real solution is to recognize that what you must do is evil and make
choices when you can, all the while pushing to eliminate those evils.
Shopping at Safeway is bad, but I don't have much of a choice.  I have to
eat and I don't have the money to buy real food from a real person nor the
time to do the appropriate research.  You just can't "vote with your
dollars".  The structure of society _IS_ entrenched business interests.
The economic system cannot be changed from within and stepping out is so
difficult that you MUST leave behind everyone still stuck inside.  THe
only way to fix the problem is to participate in the economic system
insofar as you must survive and work to strengthen the OTHER systems in
society outside the economic structure so that those systems can exert
pressure on the economic structure and change its shape.  This MUST be
done by non-economic means.  Money will not solve the money problem.

People generally turn to governmental systems for this pressure because
that is the only system in our society that is still functioning and
POTENTIALLY democratic (though that potential is nearly extinguished and
it's possible that the DMCA and the USA Patriot Act could be used to weave
the final nail in its coffin).  It's a shame that we must resort to
majority rule, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

> Frankly, we all vote with our dollars for many of these "commercial
> interests" everyday, and unless we all going to end up on some
> self-sufficient "intentional community" they aren't going away because
> we keep feeding them.

Hopefully every community is intentional.

All we really want is less destructive systems and economies that truly
reflect the abundance of the modern world and the enormously high worker
productivity we enjoy.

What we get is further exploitation of workers for greater profits,
secret-keeping as "industry" (though it's exactly the opposite), absolute
rape of the land and pollution of the sky and water, and a society of
people more and more disenfranchised from one another and disconnected
from the basic ideas that brought us all out of the wilds and into cities
in the first place.

> A good leash, yes.  A return to meaningful anti-trust enforcement, yes.
> "bringing down" -- come on.

I don't believe the system will take a leash.  I think meaningful
anti-trust enforcement and other methods of restoring the goal of human
progress as a whole to the structure of society would result in a total
"bringing down".

> > A patent restricts not only the use, but the recreation and distribution
> > of the patented invention.
> This assumes that every listing of the algorithm would be considered an
> infringing "making".  Clearly if the algorithm is used (compiled,
> interpreted, etc.) this is a "making".  As for listing the algorithm in
> an understandable and implementable form, clearly this is a requirement
> of the patent itself.

How could you enforce such a distinction?  If the "making" only comes at
execution time (and, indeed, with a properly constructed pseudo-code
interpreter, that's exactly when the description would turn into a working
device), then every instance of infringement would have to be caught

Recall Universal v. Corley.  The description and the device are one and
the same.  There is no way to tell them apart.

> > You would have to develop some new kind of patent that wasn't published by
> > the patent office.  And if it's not published by the patent office, what
> > is the trade with the public for the exclusive rights of the inventor?
> If you are saying that the patent application would itself infringe the
> patent... this is just silly. One cannot grant a "secret patent".  This
> is a mere straw man argument.  Rulemaking for these patents could
> certainly allow for "non-functional" (or potentially "non-functioning")
> distribution of the algorithm as described in the patent.

It's NOT a straw man.  The granted patent would have to be published and
that publication would be a violation of the patent as it would be a
distribution of the patented invention.

A patent does not just restrict the USE of the patented invention, but
also its construction.  Every copy of the patent would be the construction
of the algorithm.

Unlike a molecule or a threshing machine or a business process or anything
else that is patentable, an algorithm is nothing more than the words on
the page.  The thing that it DOES can be done with the same 1s and 0s that
describe it.  It's just a matter of using the correct interpreter.

Furthermore, how would you stop folks from using the patented algorithm in
closed-source software?

> > A patent on software would restrict the patent office itself from
> > redistributing or recreating the piece of code patented and restrict
> > members of the public from sharing the patent itself.
> I think this assumes facts not in evidence.

What is the assumption?  That the description is the invention?  I think
that's obvious.

> > I interpret this to mean that society has progressed beyond the point
> > where "for profit" entities are more beneficial than harmful.
> As opposed to when?  For profit entities continue to be a vital element
> in our civilization -- as the encourage risk taking and experimentation
> in ways non-profit orgs and academia do not.

Huh?!?  All of the greatest innovations of the past fifty years came
straight out of publicly funded research and academia.  Aerospace
developments, computers, and the internet are the best examples.

The Fortune 500 is just a laundry list of federal contractors and

> I make money at my job.  "I am a for-profit entity" (IAAFPE)

That's a different use of the term "profit" and you know it.

Profit is not merely benefit, nor is it simple remuneration.  Profit, in
the context of capitalism, is the difference between the market price and
the market-delivery cost of a set of goods or services.

Raw materials have some cost.  Then value is added by the workers who
manipulate the raw material into goods.  Then value is added by moving the
goods to accessible locations.  Perhaps value is added by showing people
where to find the goods.  You might even say that value can be added by
showing people who desirable the goods are.  This is the market-delivery
cost of the goods.  (An analogous structure exists for services.)  If all
of the people who add value are compensated appropriately for the value
they add to the raw materials, then there is no profit.

Profit, in business, is either the exploitation of labor (not paying the
workers for the value they add).

> > There are those who choose to exploit and encourage public ignorance
> > and profit from it (and that is ALL a commercial software company
> > does).
> Okay.  I hope this is hyperbole.  Commercial software companies are
> certainly not all "ignorance predators". Some are "innovation providers"
> (providing functionality not available from our by *anyone* else ) or
> "convenience providers" (providing useful functionality for those not
> incline or capable of reinvent the wheel or building "Linux from
> Scratch".

Your so-called "innovation providers" make their money by withholding the
innovation from those who do not pay.

I'm not sure what your "convenience providers" are or what they do... but
if you don't want to build Linux From Scratch (which isn't any more than
following some very explicit instructions), you can always just use

> > Those people are enemies of society and should not be granted special
> > protection for their practices.  Instead, their practices should be
> > disincentivized and perhaps even punished.
> You have now succeeded in scaring me.
> eek!

You don't think society should have the power to rebuke and even ostracize
those who work to undermine it?

I thought that was why we put murderers and thieves and liars in prison.

Personally, I don't like the idea of prison, but there are all kinds of
ways of disincentivizing antisocial behavior.
     Jeme A Brelin
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