Subject: Re: Commercializing Open Source Software
From: Adam Di Carlo <>
Date: 05 Apr 1999 17:37:25 -0400

Ian Lance Taylor <> writes:

> The author makes a detour into evolutionary psychology to attempt to
> explain gift cultures.  Here he makes the usual mistake of thinking
> that all human behaviour can be explained with reference to
> reproduction.  This is implausible on the face of it, as can be seen
> by the existence of strict homosexuals and monasteries.  Humans,
> conscious thinking beings, have a much wider range of motivations than
> the simple desire to reproduce.

Indeed.  If that were the core motivation, how could you explain
voluntary vasectemies?

> But giving away time needs no special explanation.  Many people
> volunteer for charities, write letters to the editor or /., or just
> spend time on their on personal hobbies.  After all, you have to spend
> the day somehow; it would be absurd to analyze's everybody's hobbies
> in terms of their contribution to reproductive success.  Hackers are a
> very unusual case in that the time spent hacking produces an object
> with near-magical properties: it can be replicated an unbounded number
> of times, and it can bring a direct benefit to other people.
> There is no need to use evolutionary psychology to explain hackers.
> The key is to understand the unprecedented nature of the medium within
> which they work.

<rant type="philosophical">

I am personnally filled with disgust whenever I read a behaviorial
account which naturalizes the some current social behavior.  We are
capable of seizing radically different potentialities; there is no
determinism or reductionism about human behavior.  I read
'evolutionary psychology', 'sociobiology', and the like, as little
more than a weak attempt to revive phrenology, and a justifification
for intellectual laziness rather than real social/lingual/historical
or philosophical research.

This is not to deny that biological factors play a role.  Personally I
believe that social and biological factors feedback into very complex
ways, but to keep a long story short, we imbue meaning into our
bodies, other bodies, and the "socius" through very complex cognitive
mechanisms.  These do indeed admit of radical alterity (i.e., they can
be radically transformed), even if we have a hard time imagining it.
But that's the thing -- rarely is the revolution prophesized.  It
always catches us unawares.


.....Adam Di<URL:>