Subject: Re: Supreme Court declines Eldred.
From: "Stephen J. Turnbull" <stephen@xemacs.org>
Date: Fri, 17 Jan 2003 23:41:27 +0900

>>>>> "robin" == robin  <robin@roblimo.com> writes:

    robin> Those of you who looked closely at any of the screens of
    robin> "captured Al-Queda computers" [...] might
    robin> have noticed that Windows was the terrorists' favorite
    robin> OS. Not that you or I would ever be rude enough to mention
    robin> this in public, I hope -- or that it matters, since it's
    robin> silly to hold ANY piece of computer software responsible
    robin> for what humans do with it.

I disagree.  Not about holding software responsible, of course.  But
there are two important points that make it deserve mentioning.

The first is the hypocrisy of the terrorists, who advocate extreme
punishment for those found in possession of Western "polluting"
paraphernalia, while becoming deeply involved with Western ideas and
technology themselves.  We need to disabuse both their Islamic
supporters and their Western targets and opponents of the idea that
terror and Islam are in any way connected, except by a group that
worships violence and destruction while taking Allah's name in vain.
This is one talking point.

The second is the preference of "down-trodden peoples" for Microsoft.
I was fortunate to attend a talk by Larry Lessig in Tokyo a few weeks
ago.  For the first time I ran into tech-y people from "emerging
markets" (or with a deep interest in them) who were interested not so
much in open source per se, but in intellectual property issues.  One
man from Pakistan challenged Larry, "Why do you advocate open source
for our countries?  Why shouldn't we get the most advanced technology,
too?"  He got scattered but determined applause, mostly from people
who I would guess from complexion (and the distribution of people I've
met here) to be south Asian, Middle Eastern, or African.

I know this is an old story in technologically advanced regions, but
it looks like we're going to have to fight that battle all over again
as technology spreads and deepens throughout the world.[1]  I've asked a
couple of the students here, and they tend to agree.  "Second hand
computers, free [beer] software---why are you giving us obsolete
junk!?"  Of course there are very sophisticated technologists.  Not
just in Bangalore but I've met Sri Lankans who want their country to
develop their own Bangalores (and get personally rich, and not
entirely incidentally, give the Indians "one in the eye" in the
process).  But they're rare, and they don't have an educational
consciousness yet.  The ones I've met in Japan see free software
primarily as a business strategy suitable to countries without the
clout to face down U.S. companies in WIPO[2], and don't really
evangelize on the external benefits to society.

Heck, I've got an undergraduate surveying Japanese practices with
respect to open source.  He's not very deep, so I expect he's missed a
lot, but his basic result so far is "outside of the hobbyist magazines
there is no consciousness of free software in Japan."  I know better,
but clearly it's mostly underground/in the foreign business community
as yet.  And Japan is supposed to be one of the most advanced
countries in IT!


Footnotes: 
[1]  Notwithstanding progressive Peruvian Congressmen.

[2]  So obviously they do "get it", they're not just interested in the
free beer aspects.

-- 
Institute of Policy and Planning Sciences     http://turnbull.sk.tsukuba.ac.jp
University of Tsukuba                    Tennodai 1-1-1 Tsukuba 305-8573 JAPAN
               Ask not how you can "do" free software business;
              ask what your business can "do for" free software.