Subject: Re: Examples needed against Soft Patents
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Mon, 27 Dec 2004 01:13:24 -0500

Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

>>>>>>"Taran" == Taran Rampersad <> writes:
>    Taran> Doctors presently use statistics for everything - an
>    Taran> example being an aspirin a day reduces the risk of heart
>    Taran> attack.
>    Taran>  And yet, the Human Genome Project has shown that this only
>    Taran> works on every 1 out of 300.
>That's impossible.  That statement assumes we know how the human body
>works, which simply ain't true.  If that statement has any meaning, it
>must be something like "according to the HGP only one human of 300 has
>one of the genes believed to be linked to a negative relationship
>between aspirin consumption and heart attack risk."
Err. OK. If I must spell it out, that's what I would have said. But I
didn't think I needed to. Mea culpa.

>    Taran> We're not living in a world where statistics are as
>    Taran> worthwhile anymore.
>Nonsense.  They become all the more important.  Even your alleged
>counterexample is phrased in statistical form.  Simple averages, maybe
>not, and I'll admit that the typical medical researcher up to the
>mid-1980s didn't even know the meaning of "standard error".  However,
>biostatistics today is extremely sophisticated and the sophisticated
>variety is actually being used at the practitioner level (to some
>extent)---but don't believe me, ask Karsten, who's worked in that
Nonsense, perhaps. Your point is well taken, but maybe what I should
have said is that statistics are taken to a higher level of abstraction.
Can you agree to that?

>    Taran> And in the medical community, I see potential for 'Open
>    Taran> Medicine' in that doctors around the world can study the
>    Taran> latest things that have worked - and have not.
>No, they can't.  "Too many latest things, too little time."  Doctors
>in the rich countries have been dependent on "portals" (aka large
>pharmaceutical firms) since I was born (before JFK was elected).
>"Around the world", the latest things typically do not matter, period.
>Doctors in Africa need antimalarials before they need anti-AIDS drugs,
>even, but nobody's working on that---the latest knowledge there has
>been available for decades as far as I know (that's a mid-1990s or so
>UN World Development Project report).  Even when you get to anti-AIDS
>drugs, they don't need the latest cocktails that are wonderful for San
>Francisco lawyers who are otherwise in good health; they need
>something that ameliorates the condition of Nigerian truck drivers who
>are already showing symptoms of opportunistic infections and have
>three other active STD infections besides.
>Taran, you of all the active posters to this list should understand
I think you trivialize some things, Stephen, and I think that if you
respect me enough to say 'you of all people', then perhaps you shouldn't
use that phrase. Please read below.

>    Taran> Steve McConnell has a good point as well - but that same
>    Taran> point works *for* Open Medicine instead of against
>    Taran> it. Until it's legal to impersonate a doctor, that point
>    Taran> stays.
>I don't understand this statement.  I understand you're equating
>doctors to the level of expertise of the internal reviewers that
>McConnell contrasts with the "many eyes", but I don't see where the
>argument goes from there.
Well, first off - it's not an argument. I'd rather people didn't
approach discussion like that, even under the guise of 'scientific
scrutiny'. It's a thought. Let's discuss the thought.

A doctor gets information. This information presently comes in the form
of journals and so on. I used to be a Hospital Corpsman, and I used to
read the same stuff (and got help from Docs). This content, to me, was
Open because I had access through the USN, and I had Doctors around to
help me. In the field, I was *it* until we got wounded/sick people to
the Doctors. So this training benefited me - and yet, I operated under
the license of the Medical Officer. And that Medical Officer was a
licensed practitioner - somewhere. And that licensed practitioner had
access to the same information I had access to, and more - and because
of the license, was held accountable.

In much the same way, a Doctor in the developing world operates under a
license. The Doctor gives orders to nurses and other medical staff to
get things done. And if said Doctor screws up, they are penalized - and
can even loose the license.

It's peer review, in a sense. But in a more accurate sense, it's
evaluating information and using it practically. Frankly, Doctors do
this already. It just makes it easier - and notably cheaper - for
Doctors to do this, simply by sharing costs. The New England Journal of
Medicine costs money for a subscription. Why? Because a paper publisher
has to make a profit, and that's fair. But we've got more technology

Frankly, I think everyone needs to understand that Peer Review isn't
some isolated part of a process. It is supposed to be a part of the
process at all times, throughout the lifetime of a piece of software or
an article, and that peer review includes anyone who is interested. Why?
The same reason that most Justice systems go to great lengths to assure
that only criminals are punished. One good idea equates to one innocent

Now we can flip this back and forth and compliment/insult each other
until the cows come home, but the fact of the matter is that there is
hardly a basis for argument against anything. But play this scenario:

Go ahead and patent a surgical procedure. Wait. Why hasn't someone done
that? They patent the equipment, but not the surgical process. Go figure.

Taran Rampersad

"The wave of the future is not the conquest of the world by a single dogmatic creed
but the liberation of the diverse energies of free nations and free men."  John F.