Subject: Re: Epistemology of FS
From: Ian Lance Taylor <ian@airs.com>
Date: 01 Feb 2005 15:50:35 -0500

DV Henkel-Wallace <gumby@henkel-wallace.org> writes:

> On 01 Feb 2005, at 12:19, Ian Lance Taylor wrote:
> 
> > Whether free software is improving the economy, through lower prices,
> > increased efficiency, etc., is an open question.  Free software is
> > changing the IT industry much as cheap data transfer is changing the
> > music and movie industries.  What the end result will be can not yet
> > be reliably predicted.
> 
> Yes, but.  My points were not that the final result is hard to tell
> but that (as you agree) 1> the current state is hard to tell and 2>
> there are good social reasons why various people have little interest
> in investigating point 1.

I think one issue is that the right sorts of people to investigate the
current state of free software are historians and sociologists.  By
and large, they are not yet interested, as far as I know.  While
economics as a discipline tries to explain everything, I don't
personally think economics has much insight into free software, at
least in its hobbyist and "scratch an itch" incarnations.  (Obviously
some economists may disagree.)

Since historians and sociologists tend to work at academic
institutions, they have considerable freedom to investigate, if they
are interested.

> Even for the ultimate impact, one part is relatively easy to foresee.
> Parts of the software world (err, "stack" as it is misused) have
> become commodities and since commodities always become cheap (in an
> absolute sense) the cost will drop and they will become widespread.
> The FS movement appears to be a huge enabler and driver of that.

I think this assumes that the underlying architecture remains open and
uncontrolled, which is likely but not guaranteed.  Certainly the
current music and video industries would like very much to change the
architecture.

Ian