[Legal] Fwd: Re: [school-discuss] [IIEP] Battleground of ideas: FLOSS debate raises tempers at BytesForAll

Michael Shigorin mike на osdn.org.ua
Вт Окт 25 18:43:20 MSD 2005

----- Forwarded message from Sydney Weidman <weidmans/mts.net> -----

Date: Tue, 25 Oct 2005 09:31:10 -0500
From: Sydney Weidman <weidmans/mts.net>
To: schoolforge-discuss/schoolforge.net
Subject: Re: [school-discuss] [IIEP] Battleground of ideas: FLOSS debate raises tempers at BytesForAll

> Overall: seems like US "academia" is getting poisoned/bribed into
> flaming FLOSS too, after proxies like SCO have failed brilliantly?

Interesting. Underfunding universities has the same impact as
underfunding the police, another institution whose effectiveness depends
upon public trust. Desperation makes the institution more vulnerable to
being bought, and thus erodes our trust. To see how deep the distrust
goes, think about the requirement for "full disclosure" in presentations
of scientific data. Examining the scientific data itself should be
enough to allow peers or the public to discredit or confirm it; the
background of the author should be irrelevant. But we don't even trust
the scientific data anymore. If you can't get to the truth about an
hypothesis from the evidence, ad hominem attacks can't improve the
quality of the science. The problem with the requirement for full
disclosure is that it is important only to non-scientists.

The answer, I think, is to make sure scientific minds are free to
question anyone's results, to replicate any experiment, which requires
funding generous enough to remove market pressure from scientific
decisions. The truth is not cheap or easy. You can't explore the Unknown
on a fixed budget and deliver the results by Shipping Date; even
Microsoft Project won't help you map the end of the universe with a
Gantt chart. Nor will any amount of corporate planning and consultants'
reports ensure that you avoid blind alleys and dead ends in research.
The only certainty is that finding dead ends is an inherent part of the
nature of scientific exploration.

Stallman's comment at the very end of the post was the most germane --
the "Free" in Free software is ethical freedom, not market freedom. But
behind that statement hides another fact/value problem -- if the
information contained in software code were value neutral, software
freedom would be unimportant. If, on the other hand, software embeds
social values, cultural patterns, and power relations, which I believe
it does, then software freedom deserves to be supported even if the
(TCO, outcome) "facts" don't weigh in its favour. No one would consider
supporting slavery because it allowed NGOs to be more efficient, right?
But doesn't a slave have lower TCO than a paid employee? Aren't slaves
more dependable than mere volunteers who can leave whenever they please?

Of course, even in matters of fact, FOSS has at least one very clear
advantage which can never be matched by closed source software: the
ability to examine and experiment with its construction. You can never
get a more factual and authoritative understanding of software than by
being able to read its source code.


----- End forwarded message -----

 ---- WBR, Michael Shigorin <mike на altlinux.ru>
  ------ Linux.Kiev http://www.linux.kiev.ua/

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