October 29, 2004

An Accidental Anthropological Predictor

Category: Anthropology — Biella @ 9:06 pm


Folks always ask me predictive type questions about the future of software, open source, and hackers and I usually shy away from those questions and say something like ‘Anthropology is purely interprestive/descriptive with little eye to the future’ which is more or less true (though we shed that stance in our grants). But then there are instances of reverse prediction which are quite ironic like… In my dissertation I claim that we can study free software to study liberalism’s conceptual points of tensions, its imaginative reformulations, and its heightened states of contradiction. That is while free software draws on discourses of liberal freedom it challenges some other classically liberal arguments and I used the example of Richard Epstein as a liberal who might not agree with the model of free software.

And in fact he proved me correct in an article, “Why open source is unsustainable.” But while he proved me correct, his article is otherwise filled with a number of simple factual errors. notably:

“Second, once someone incorporates open source software in his own programs, then any license that he issues cannot charge others for it…” I guess he has no idea of Red Hat and countless other firms that sell free software…

Anyway, every once in a while, it is fun to predict, even if entirely by accident.

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