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Comment Re:It's a balance (Score 1) 634

Your guess seems exactly the wrong way round to me! Scheme *removes* all the barriers that most other languages place in the way of learning and doing. Take a look at some of the testimonials here if you don't believe me: http://home.adelphi.edu/sbloch/class/hs/testimonials/

I think TFA goes even further in getting things backwards - especially where it implies that Scheme is somehow /necessarily/ all about approaching programming with academic rigour (it isn't) and that it fails to facilitate a more pedagogically suitable exploratory approach (exactly the opposite is true).

Comment Re:Backward patent logic (Score 1) 252

The "it's all maths / it's not all maths" arguments are indeed bogus - but so are the "it's truly inventive, it deserves a patent" arguments. Credit should be given and easily can be without also entailing powerful monopoly exclusion rights; your ability to commercialise some invention is not dependent on its being patentable and is not something which can be guaranteed by patents anyway; furthermore, third party patents can and often do work in exactly the opposite direction!; the patent offices never have attempted to distinguish at examination time between the truly inventive and the run-of-the-mill and for obvious reasons cannot be expected to ever be able to do so (at least not reliably, fairly and at reasonable cost); the moralistic "it deserves a patent" sort of argument falls apart when independent (re-)invention is taken into account;...

...To cut a long story short, the only arguments that really stand up in the end are the economic arguments. The fundamental economic question is this: Does granting patents in some field or industry significantly promote progress, innovation and overall economic and social welfare? If not, that field or industry certainly shouldn't be burdened with the considerable weight of negative effects that are an inevitable consequence of patent eligibility. As Fritz Machlup wrote in his 1958 Economic Review of the Patent System:

If one does not know whether a system "as a whole" (in contrast to certain features of it) is good or bad, the safest "policy conclusion" is to "muddle through - either with it, if one has long lived with it, or without it, if one has lived without it. If we did not have a patent system, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge of its economic consequences, to recommend instituting one. But since we have had a patent system for a long time, it would be irresponsible, on the basis of our present knowledge, to recommend abolishing it. This last statement refers to a country such as the United States of America-not to a small country and not a predominantly nonindustrial country, where a different weight of argument might well suggest another conclusion.
      While the student of the economics of the patent system must, provisionally, disqualify himself on the question of the effects of the system as a whole on a large industrial economy, he need not disqualify himself as a judge of proposed changes in the existing system. While economic analysis does not yet provide a basis for choosing between "all or nothing," it does provide a sufficiently firm basis for decisions about "a little more or a little less" of various ingredients of the patent system. Factual data of various kinds may be needed even before some of these decisions can be made with confidence. But a team of well-trained economic researchers and analysts should be able to obtain enough information to reach competent conclusions on questions of patent reform.

Here is some of that research and analysis: http://researchoninnovation.org/

Comment Re:RMS == bonkers!? (Score 1) 1008

Considering that the current legal environment is making it more and more difficult to use tech patents as a weapon against competing products

It isn't. I'm not sure what you think has changed (Bilski etc.?) but the software patent pollution level is still at saturation point and there are good reasons why patent disputes very rarely result in obvious and visible effects (e.g. litigation) anyway.

If the technology exists with no visible drawbacks, why not use it?

Sure. But this one does have visible drawbacks.

Ironically, given the enormous landscape of opportunities they've had (and still have), I'm very disappointed at the way (some) major FOSS projects have chosen mimicry and cloning over innovation in recent years and I'm sorely tempted to hope that the patent situation gets worse!

Comment Re:RMS == bonkers!? (Score 4, Informative) 1008

What an idiotic statement by RMS! Why should it be a danger? If there are any software patent issues, they are certainly not on C# which is an open standard

But Microsoft (and our co-sponsors, Intel and Hewlett-Packard) went
further and have agreed that our patents essential to implementing C#
and CLI will be available on a "royalty-free and otherwise RAND" basis
for this purpose.

http://web.archive.org/web/20030424174805/http://mailserver.di.unipi.it/pipermail/dotnet-sscli/msg00218.html

RMS == bonkers!?

No - just well-informed and cautious. Some people seem to trust that patent holders won't in future want to leverage patents covering tech. that could, invitingly, become deeply embedded in competing products. Others are more cynical / have read the patent strategy manuals and think that that sort of trust is naïvely optimistic. :)

RMS is actually harming many F/OSS projects with these stupid comments. What a letdown.

Quite the reverse.

Comment NW is better than W but it still ain't true N. (Score 1) 88

One day maybe they'll get it right and appoint someone with a working compass but it seems to me (from reading the article you linked) that Kappos' thinking is just as devoid of the empirically informed economic theory necessary to navigate patent system issues rationally and ethically as any of his predecessors'. Ironically, Dudas was probably slightly better placed background-wise to grasp why it's so extremely dubious that software should be patent eligible subject matter at all. A further irony is that IBM once (in the 1960s) at least seemed to understand patent system economics well enough to have made it their policy "...to be sure that nobody bottled up software and algorithms by getting patents on them.": http://web.archive.org/web/20060426151241/http://www.siam.org/siamnews/mtc/mtc593.htm

Comment Re:I call shenanigans! (Score 1) 332

...automatically updating any program while its running without any interruption (which would be quite a feat if accomplished...

Depends on the program I suppose, but there would be nothing remarkable about accomplishing such feats in running Lisp programs. There's an amusing example of what is possible in this general area here:

http://www.flownet.com/gat/jpl-lisp.html

Comment Respect needs to be earned... (Score 1, Troll) 133

...and far from earning respect, Microsoft's thieving, scattergun approach to acquiring patents deserves only disgust and contempt. I know it's really the patent system's fault that Microsoft and others are both motivated and enabled to steal by patenting the trivial, the broad, the already invented etc. in the first place, but if theft and extortion were made legal it wouldn't make calls for respect from professional thieves and racketeers any more palatable, would it?

Comment Re:Time to rethink patent laws (Score 2, Informative) 282

Economists have always worried about whether the patent system actually works as intended or not. For evidence that it probably does not work for e.g. software, start here: http://researchoninnovation.org/ Before reading the recent literature, however, I'd recommend reading Machlup's famous review: http://www.mises.org/etexts/patentsystem.pdf in which it is made clear that fairness is an outdated way of thinking about patents and a weak justification for them at best: the disclosure benefit is dubious, to say the least, and the patent privilege is something which needs to be justified as beneficial despite its potential for *unfairness* (and its various other negative effects).

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