0. Premise: free and open software will stay indefinitely. Full stop. You may argue eternally, but free software is the ultimate disruptive technology, moving up from the low ground, replacing complicated and ill-fitting proprietary alternatives at every turn, such as web-browsers, e-mail clients, video players, office software, etc., which at one point cost money, but now most people find that they can no longer justify spending money to buy an upgrade for more “Clippy the Happy Assistant”. Proprietary software will only be able to stay relevant by searching out ever more niche applications, or by massive expenditure on research in high-end applications for which it will take time for the ideas and algorithms to filter down to the greater community, and thus a brief window of profitability will remain. Software patents are nothing but a destructive force to retard innovation, and with more and more of the technology and legal communities realizing this basic fact, software patents are about to go away forever.
I think he’s being a bit optimistic about software patents, but no more so than Windows advocates claiming that open software is a flash in the pan.
Then he gets into the undeniable stuff, chief of which is:
1.1 History’s greatest playground for malicious software. With unpatched machines on the internet taking only minutes to become infested with viruses, or become a slave bot for massive illegal spamming operations, Windows is a blight on the Internet’s infrastructure.
And it keeps getting better. He says he wrote it just as a game, but it pretty much spells out why I don’t use Windows, plus why Windows is a menace to the Internet.
Schedulers can be objectively tested. There’s this thing called
"performance", that can generally be quantified on a load basis.
Yes, you can have crazy ideas in both schedulers and security. Yes, you
can simplify both for a particular load. Yes, you can make mistakes in
both. But the *discussion* on security seems to never get down to real
So the difference between them is simple: one is "hard science". The other
one is "people wanking around with their opinions".
Whatever Carl Woese writes, even in a speculative vein, needs to be
taken seriously. In his "New Biology" article, he is postulating a golden
age of pre-Darwinian life, when horizontal gene transfer was universal
and separate species did not yet exist. Life was then a community
of cells of various kinds, sharing their genetic information so that
clever chemical tricks and catalytic processes invented by one creature
could be inherited by all of them. Evolution was a communal affair,
the whole community advancing in metabolic and reproductive efficiency
as the genes of the most efficient cells were shared. Evolution could be
rapid, as new chemical devices could be evolved simultaneously by cells
of different kinds working in parallel and then reassembled in a single
cell by horizontal gene transfer.
But then, one evil day, a cell resembling a primitive bacterium happened
to find itself one jump ahead of its neighbors in efficiency. That cell,
anticipating Bill Gates by three billion years, separated itself from the
community and refused to share. Its offspring became the first species
of bacteria—and the first species of any kind—reserving their
intellectual property for their own private use. With their superior
efficiency, the bacteria continued to prosper and to evolve separately,
while the rest of the community continued its communal life. Some millions
of years later, another cell separated itself from the community and
became the ancestor of the archea. Some time after that, a third cell
separated itself and became the ancestor of the eukaryotes. And so it
went on, until nothing was left of the community and all life was divided
into species. The Darwinian interlude had begun.
Our Biotech Future,
By Freeman Dyson,
New York Review of Books,
Volume 54, Number 12 · July 19, 2007
Has he sold out for an admittedly very fetching simile?