Subject: Re: Essay RFC delayed.
From: Ian Lance Taylor <>
Date: 30 Aug 1999 14:16:44 -0400

   Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 02:18:26 -0400
   From: "Eric S. Raymond" <>

   Richard Stallman <>:
   > You're making simplistic statements about human behavior,
   > which cannot possibly be true.

   Richard, you don't understand "human behavior" worth a damn. If you
   did, you would have done the job of persuading the non-hacker world
   competently fifteen years ago.

   Furthermore, you don't *want* to understand human behavior worth a
   damn.  You told me long ago that you thought the effort would take up
   too much of your think time and attention, and I see nothing in your
   behavior to suggest you've changed your mind since.

   So don't tell me I'm oversimplifying.  Not only don't you have the
   knowledge base from which to criticize, you made a conscious value
   choice not to acquire that knowledge.  You decided to concentrate
   exclusively on software wizardry instead.

I'm not going to comment on Richard's understanding of human behaviour
or lack thereof.

However, Eric, in the past, you have oversimplified.  Your
``Homesteading the Noosphere'' paper has several generalizations and
over-simplifications.  I'll just mention a couple.

``Human beings have an innate drive to compete for social status; it's
wired in by our evolutionary history.''

Arguably true, but a drastic simplification.  Human beings have many
innate drives at that level: for food, sex, love, children, shelter,
etc.  Moreover, human consciousness permits us to override our innate
drives, for better or for worse.  Hence there are hermits, masochists,
drug addicts, etc.

``For examined in this way, it is quite clear that the society of
open-source hackers is in fact a gift culture. Within it, there is no
serious shortage of the `survival necessities' -- disk space, network
bandwidth, computing power. Software is freely shared. This abundance
creates a situation in which the only available measure of competitive
success is reputation among one's peers.''

Again, arguably true, but I believe this is of marginal relevance for
many people.  I've given away plenty of software, but insofar as I
care about competitve success, it sure doesn't have anything to do
with what other hackers think of me.  It has a lot more to do with
what my family and friends think of me, and very few of them are
hackers or have more than a vague understanding of the meaning of free
software, or for that matter of software in general.

Somewhat related to this, you sometimes use the term ``hacker tribe.''
I don't know if such a thing actually exists in any meaningful sense;
if it does, I certainly don't consider myself to be a part of it.

``Property is an abstraction of animal territoriality, which evolved
as a way of reducing intra-species violence. By marking his bounds,
and respecting the bounds of others, a wolf diminishes his chances of
being in a fight which could weaken or kill him and make him less
reproductively successful. Similarly, the function of property in
human societies is to prevent inter-human conflict by setting bounds
that clearly separate peaceful behavior from aggression.''

Many non-human animals are not territorial.

Wolves in particular happen to hunt in packs, and what territoriality
they have is based on the pack, not the individual.

You later use a dog as an example of animal territoriality, but dogs
are a heavily domesticated species.  Some dogs are indeed guard dogs,
which have been bred to protect human property boundaries.  Others are
not, and do not.

Since many non-human animals are not territorial, considering wolves,
or other more clearly territorial animals such as shrimp, is not
obviously relevant.  Since you are making an argument based on
evolution, you should consider animals closely related to us, such as
chimpanzees.  My understanding is that chimpanzees appear to be
territorial at the level of a band composed to 50 to 100 individuals,
but I don't know of any evidence for territoriality within a band.  I
don't think there is much evidence for territoriality in gorillas.
This suggests that individual private property in the sense we mean
today does not follow strongly from our evolutionary history.

In general, I think you have a tendency to use the style of arguments
described as ``evolutionary psychology'' or ``sociobiology.''  These
arguments, while interesting and useful, tend to drastically simplify
the range of human behaviour and motivations.