Danger of Software Patents

Richard Matthew Stallman (RMS) was in İstanbul on February 26th, 2011 and he delivered an impressive speech on the danger of software patents in Yeditepe University. You can access the videos of this event via several web sources.

The event was an annual gathering for Turkish computer engineering students so there were hundreds of undergraduate computer engineering stundents in the conference hall. Since I had my bachelor's degree more than 10 years ago, breathing the same athmosphere with the young students was a refreshing experience for me. I liked that.

Most of the guys around me was not aware of who RMS is or what the free software movement is. However, this lack of general knowledge was not a major obstacle for them because it was a Wi-Fi enabled room and most students were having their computers with themselves. They just Googled RMS and had the brief information about him, in a couple of minutes. This is a notable sign of transformation of the education and culture, I think. In the era of high performance information access, what is the meaning of remembering things? Is it still valuable? Should we memorize the sonnets by Shakespeare for a good reputation as an intellectual being in the future?

I really did not think deep enough to find the answers but my quick response is that it won't be so important to know or memorize lots of things in the future. On the other hand, we should know about the metadata which provide us the knowledge about where the information needed resides. Furthermore, we should be smart enough to ask the right questions. Education must give our kids the ability to ask the powerful questions and to access the answers of those questions fast. As a result, availability of reliable and free information sources will be a vital issue for the system. It really is a deep topic to dig now...
My other exploration of the RMS's speech was about the questions and answers part of the session. As usual, lots of the questions to Stallman were out of the context :) Kids were asking about, so called, contradiction between free software and earning the money, software realiability, software security etc... They were prejudice about human nature and dynamics of the society. Therefore, they constructed their questions on fallacies most of the times. As a result, RMS responded them with sharp and short sentences. He frequently interrupted the students, who had just started their questions,  after listening their first few words:

Student A: Dear RMS, as we all agree, people are jealous....
RMS: Hey my friend. Please stop. People are not jealous....

I don't blame them. It might be natural to think like that for the guys whose ages are ranging from 17 to 20-21. However, the consequence of those empty questions is the boredom, which kills minority of the audience having much more stronger intellectual background than the ones, asking questions in an unstoppable fashion, have. If you are above the average of your society and cannot isolate yourself in an appropriate way, you will suffer. The excerpt below from the great book, Shibumi, by Trevanian tells much about that suffering:

(Otake-san gives advice to Nikko about average men)
"Your scorn for mediocrity blinds you to its vast primitive power. You stand in the glare of your own brilliance, unable to see into the dim comers of he room, to dilate your eyes  and see the potential dangers of the mass, the wad of humanity. Even as I tell you this, dear student, you cannot quite believe that lesser men, in whatever numbers, can really defeat you. But we are in the age of the mediocre man. He is dull, colorless, boring but inevitably victorious. The amoeba outlives the tiger because it divides and continues in its immortal monotony. The masses are the final tyrants. See how, in the arts, Kabuki wanes and Nowithers while popular novels of violence and mindless action swamp the mind of the mass reader. And even in that timid genre, no author dares to produce a genuinely superior man as his hero, for in his rage of shame the mass man will send his yojimbo, the critic, to defend him. The roar of the plodders is inarticulate, but deafening. They have no brain, but they have a thousand arms to grasp and clutch at you, drag you down.
Shibumi, page 64
by Trevanian

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