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Its the 'utilitarian' view | 217 comments | Create New Account
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Its the 'utilitarian' view
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, November 28 2012 @ 01:20 PM EST
Some of us, including notably RMS, came to the "software is
mathematics" view through analysis of the utilitarian arguments.

It was obvious, painfully obvious even to the most obtuse, that software patents
weren't working.

(But aren't there all sorts of people out there shouting about how patents
encourage innovation? .... Yes, there are. But there hasn't EVER been, and there
won't be till the heat death of the universe, ANYONE who's ever stood up and
said, "I had a problem I was trying to solve. I went down to the patent
office and found a patent that described the solution so that my hireling
programmers could implement it.")

So, as a means of promoting the useful arts by promulgating useful technics,
software patents rate an absolute zero. And will always do so. And no defender
of software patents has ever attempted to challenge that.

Now, we may ask, why is it that software patents are so utterly useless?

And there are various answers. One is that software patents can't be
"found". Another is that they cannot be "understood".
Another is that it is almost impossible to tell whether two patents cover the
same thing. Another is that most patents don't even describe the software, they
merely describe the intended purpose. Another is that the concept of building
software into a machine simply doesn't correspond to any reality.

And all of these answers are right.

Now, we should ask, what is it about software that causes all these things to
happen?

And that's the real "aha" moment, at least for people who have been
exposed to mathematics.

All of these problems are directly related to similar issues in the field of
mathematics. Math is _hard_. It's taken mathematicians millenia to figure out
how to explain mathematical ideas to each other (hint: patent claim construction
is not the answer they found!), and there still is no good way to search
mathematics--nor is there an easy way to determine if two mathematical concepts
are equivalent. And, finally, since mathematics is information, it simply
doesn't conform to physical laws: there are a completely different set of laws
that describe how information works. And finally, the relationship of
"information" to "information-processing machine" is not in
any way like the relationship of components in an integral machine.

Once you've had the "aha" moment, you realize that the list of
differences between mathematics/information/software and machinery is
infinite--and pointless to try to enumerate. You just say, "yes. it's math.
none of those machinery tricks will work", just like a pet trainer will say
"yes, that's a vegetable. none of my training techniques will work on it.
No, I haven't adapted positive reinforcement to it. But I'm still very very sure
it's not worth trying. What? No, I don't think measuring its response to
positive reinforcement is a good way of distinguishing between hollies and cats.
We've got a better way of doing even that."

[ Reply to This | Parent | # ]

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