Subject: Re: Open letter to those who believe in a right to free software
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <turnbull@sk.tsukuba.ac.jp>
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 12:56:53 +0900 (JST)

>>>>> "Ben" == Ben Tilly <Ben_Tilly@trepp.com> writes:

    Ben> I saw active pressure in action against being a polyglot.

I have seen this in economics, although much more so since coming to
Japan.  This is very clearly due to the employment process here, which
works through connections among faculty members rather than an open
market.  But this process even impacts undergraduate education in this
way; it makes the future graduate students more dependent on the
faculty advisor, and more amenable to control from above as junior
faculty---thus more salable to one's colleagues who are looking to
employ juniors.  Yuck!

I doubt this works the same way in the U.S.; this is just an example
of how such social pressures can change the look of a field.  All the
gaijin scientists in Japan I know report a similar phenomenon in their
own fields, including math and especially computer science.

    Ben> My impression is that preventable social factors play a large
    Ben> part in why mathematics today looks like it does.  I could
    Ben> see the same thing happen to software, and I think it is a
    Ben> trap to be aware of and defend against.

I can't speak to mathematics's historical fact and social reality, but
I would certainly support examination of the social pressures, because
the effects are not good.  (In economics in general and in Japanese
science, anyway, and I think it would be very bad for software.  I
suspect it's very bad for math.)

I would modify Crispin's model to look like an onion.  It's easy to
burrow around in your own layer; the skin out at the outer surface is
tough; but digging back in to the origin is not necessarily costless.

-- 
University of Tsukuba                Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences       Tel/fax: +81 (298) 53-5091
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What are those two straight lines for?  "Free software rules."