Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: Richard Stallman <rms@gnu.org>
Date: Tue, 9 Nov 1999 10:57:58 -0700 (MST)

	SJT> (Note that Richard is wrong about his small subpopulation
	SJT> hypothesis; it is quite possible for the behavior of small
	SJT> subpopulations to affect the whole in economic models.

What I said is that you cannot measure the small subpopulation through
a statistical survey of behavior.  When you were asked how you would
determine people's preferences, you said "Just measure them."  As if
to imply that that is trivial.

You can measure a statistical aggregate of people's preferences, and
that is good enough to answer some kinds of questions.  But realistic
feasible statistical surveys of prefernces in 1983 would not have
enabled you to tell whether a free operating system would be developed
within ten years.  The difference between the actual world where this
happened, and an alternate world where it would not have happened, was
just a few people, too few to show up in a survey.

Despite that, the model may shed some light on some aspects of trains
of events.  I agree that such a model can have some rational interest
as a simulation, for those who understand that it is just an
approximate simulation of some aspects of reality and does not capture
all of it.

My main concern is that discussion of such models tends to lead people
to accept the models' premises as more than just approximately true.