Free Knowledge is Priceless

I do not believe in software computer code patenting or copyright in terms of restricting the use, distribution, or making of software. Patents and copyrights can give credit to those who make such technology. That is a useful purpose. What I oppose is punishing someone or an entity for sharing ideas unrelated to specific national defense concerns. When I see the news that $4.5 billion was spent trying to preserve the ability to use, distribute, or make software, I cannot help but think of how else those funds could have been used.

The amount of money spent was significant. It showed how important the technology was to those involved. People of a certain perspective who advocate for reason, scientific and technical advancement, and the merit of production stood in earnest for their view. I read in the Ars Technica article, Rockstar litigation, a high-water mark in patent wastefulness, is over, that companies got together and allowed some of the patents to be offered without restriction. It is an imperfect example, but one that is certainly closer to the open source approach.

Certain technological outputs are covered under trade secret provisions in terms of commercial activity. That is valid and useful concerning those things that are of a unique, never before disclosed configuration actively in use. Particularly those components of technology and process retained behind computer networks. They may emit only data output and publicly observable process to destination machines not owned by the emitting entity. Parsing that at a fine level of distinction will remain a challenge.

Regardless, when I see $4.5 billion spent I see a case of immense exaggeration. The technology in question is worth a lot. It is priceless. The exaggeration is in anyone’s assumed entitlement to such things. As I read the book, From Mathematics to Generic Programming, I am reminded of the timeless nature of those things that contributes to the foundation of the science, reason, and technology that exists today. One of the main authors of this book, Alexander A. Stepanov, himself came out of a sociopolitical environment with some interesting reported contrasts to many of the thinkers he details. I cannot really speak to that, only the past sentiment. In that context, his description of some of history’s greatest thinkers successful champions of broader thought and understanding of the world is all the more compelling.

I see how great thinkers such as Plato, Socrates, Euclid and others set into motion a culture of thought that was the prerequisite for what exists today. They shared their knowledge, wrote it books, put it in some of the first libraries, or passed it down orally. Sometimes this knowledge was cultivated in secret as a way to avoid public rejection for being and thinking different. Their hope was that eventually all would come to understand these things. Their motives for free knowledge is as valid today as it was thousands of years ago.


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