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Interview: Vernor Vinge

Dec 22, 2008, 13:31 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Bruce Byfield)

"More specifically, he sees free software as the natural and more logical extension of the insight that had produced the shareware culture a few years before the start of the GNU Project and the FSF. With the emergence of the personal computer, entrepreneurs were finding that "the barriers to entry were so low that you didn't need a lot of the overhead that was involved in commercial stuff, and you might just be able to get away with trusting people to pay you. There was much blind feeling around the concept of producing stuff in some sort of context that was different from cars."

"According to Vinge, what the GPL and the software and institutions that have grown up around it have produced is "a platform for experimenting with social invention. In the 20th and 19th century, if you wanted to experiment with a new infrastructure for people to interact in, in most cases, like with the railroads, you needed enormous effort. And now -- we can actually do social experiments -- cooperative experiments -- much more cheaply, and you can design ways for people to interact based on just the software guiding what the interactions are like."

"Vinge acknowledges that the consequences have not always been beneficial. "One thing the last ten years have proved is that we seem to be very bad at thinking how stuff can be abused," he says, no doubt thinking of such phenomenon as crackers and online predators. "Any time you can make something a hundred or a thousand times cheaper than it was before, there are probably side-effects. But there's a tendency when something works really, really well to push it hard and deliberately avoid thinking about side-effects.""

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