Rhizomatic Bibliomancy #rhizo15

In many literate cultures there is a practice called bibliomancy, which consists in opening a book randomly and producing an oracle from the passage you get. In the old times people did this with the Bible (St. Francis is known to have done this in crucial times of his life). Some people did it with the texts of Homer or Virgil, or of other poets, or with other famous or important books.

Theoretically, considering the nature of synchronicity, you can do this with a phone book, with car plates on a street, or with basically anything, like tea leaves in a cup, birds flying in the sky, or whatever.

Cognitive scientists say that this is a result of apophenia, “the experience of perceiving patterns or connections in random or meaningless data” (Wikipedia definition).

Now my claim is that it doesn’t really matter which interpretation you believe. In the case of an intentional textual rhizome (here considering “text” in a wide sense, including any form of human communication), if you are in the right mindset, whatever part you randomly pick will be meaningful and can be connected to your present situation in meaningful ways. This is part of the nature of the rhizome.

(This last proposition has still to be demonstrated.)

Anyway, I do believe this has something to do with the way the human mind is constituted, despite the fact that multiple explanations or ontological interpretations of the phenomenon are possible.

As an experiment, I did the following bibliomantic enquiry:

Went to google (aka, “The Oracle”), typed “rhizome” and clicked on “feeling lucky”. As a result, I got to a page on the rhizome.org journal, which was about Theresa Duncan. It happened that the Rhizome is curating her CD-ROMs.

“Who the hell is Theresa Duncan?”, I thought. So I checked (on Wikipedia):

She was a computer game designer who is believed to have killed herself in 2007. Her husband reportedly killed himself too, by walking into the Atlantic Ocean a week later. According to Wikipedia, they were supposedly paranoid about being followed by Scientologists.

This is interesting in the light of an exchange that was happening in #rhizo15 at approximately the time of my enquiry. I refer to the following twitter conversation:

Sarah (@ NomadWarMachine): “Is fear of death natural? I’m not afraid of not being. Dying, maybe”

Autumm Caines (@ Autumm): “not only do I think it is natural I think it’s widely shared”

Jeffrey Keefer (@ JeffreyKeefer): “The postmodern in me hesitates claiming anything natural or normal”

Sarah (@ NomadWarMachine): “I also hesitate with generalisations”

Jeffrey Keefer (@ JeffreyKeefer): “Generalizations are so tasty, but like fast food, not lasting”

Autumm Caines (@ Autumm): “Sorry – I just see it as something that most people have”

Yep.

Further, from Theresa’s blog, I got two other messages which caught my attention and inspired me:

The Wit of the Staircase [which is the name of her blog]: From the French phrase ‘esprit d’escalier,’ literally, it means ‘the wit of the staircase’, and usually refers to the perfect witty response you think up after the conversation or argument is ended. “Esprit d’escalier,” she replied. “Esprit d’escalier. The answer you cannot make, the pattern you cannot complete till afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it is too late.”

Words of Wisdom: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” — 2 Corinthians (3:17)

Thanks Theresa.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged | 3 Comments

The Open Source Definition

Posted in Education, Intellectual Property | Tagged | Leave a comment

Silence on Metaphysical Problems (Hajime Nakamura)

From:

Nakamura, Hajime. 1975. Parallel Developments: A Comparative History of Ideas. Tokyo: Kodansha Ltd. (p. 225):

“The Buddha refused to give a definite answer on most metaphysical problems discussed in his day. Many ascetics were fond of asking questions concerning:

Whether the world is eternal or not,

Whether the world is infinite or not,

Whether the soul is the same as the body, or different from it,

Whether a saint exists in any way after death or not, and so on.

To all questions of this kind, the Buddha did not answer. Because he claimed it was not edifying nor connected with the essence of the norm (law), nor did it tend to the turning of the will, to the absence of passion, to cessation, to peace, to the higher faculties, to supreme wisdom, nor to nirvãna. [1]

The answering of all such questions, the Buddha held, would leave no time for finding the way to salvation or to liberation from suffering. He illustrated this by means of the following parable: A man is hit by a poisoned arrow. His friends hasten him to a doctor. The latter is about to draw the arrow from the wound. The wounded man, however, cries, ‘Stop! I will not have the arrow drawn out until I know who shot it, whether a warrior or a Brahmin, a common man (Vaiśya) or a slave (Śũdra), to which familiy he belonged, whether he was tall or short, or what kind the arrow was and its description’ [2], and so on. But the Buddha claimed that before all these questions were answered, the man would surely die. In the same way the disciple who wished for answers to all his questions about the beyond and such, would die before he knew the truth about suffering.”

[1] Majjhima-nikãya no. 63, pp. 431, 385. M. Winternitz, A History of Indian Literature, pp. 70-71. Rhys Davids, “Dialogues of the Buddha”, vol. I (Sacred Books of the Buddhists, vol. II, London, 1899), p. 186 f.

[2] H. Warren, Buddhism in Translations, pp. 117-128.

Posted in Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Naess’ concept of normative system

1. The word “system” has different meanings, but here it refers to a system of ideas which can be expressed in ordinary language – a philosophical system.

2. The word systéma (from the Greek σύστημα) “is a combination of syn, together, and a form of the Greek verb histémi, to set up. To systematise is to make something fit together as a whole.” (Naess & Rothenberg 1989, 72). Thus “system” literally means a combination or an assemblage of elements, that is, a whole composed of parts.

3. A philosophical system is an assemblage of statements structured in a coherent way to form a whole. It is a linguistic construction.

4. A normative system is a philosophical system which consists of two kinds of expressions: hypotheses and norms.

5. Hypotheses are statements that can be true or false. They state something about the world, or reality, or existence. They are thus ontological in nature. An example of an hypothesis would be: “The Earth is round.”

6. Norms are imperative sentences. They establish rules of behavior, stating how we should act, or not act. They are thus ethical in nature. An example of a norm would be: “Recycle the waste!” Norms are indicated by ending the sentence with an exclamation sign.

7. Norms can be fundamental (that is, non-derived), or they can be derived from other norms and hypotheses. There are in principle many possibilities of derivation of a given consistent set of norms and hypotheses from a less numerous set.

8. Both hypotheses and norms are tentative and reversible: there is no way of absolutely guaranteeing the truth of a hypothesis; there is no way of absolutely validating a norm. It is better to think of them as bets on certain outcomes. “A systematization is a methodological device made by certain persons for certain purposes. It has no independent authority.” (Naess 1977, 178)

9. The aim of normative thinking is the formulation of guidelines for decisions. Decisions “are absolutistic in the sense of being either carried out or sabotaged” (Naess, 168). On the basis of the outcomes of decisions, a normative system can be either supported or reformulated.

10. The sentences that compose a normative system need not convey the same meaning to every person (see: Arne Naess’ Empirical Semantics). “Certain approximations are all that can be expected” (Naess 1977, 168).

References

Næss, Arne. 1977. “The Methodology of Normative Systems”, in: Alan Drengson and Bill Devall (eds.), The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010): 167-180.

Næss, Arne; Rothenberg, David. 1989. Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Posted in Education, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Cartas: Microsoft & Villanueva

Collected from the blog Código Fuente:

Carta de Microsoft Perú al congresista Edgar Villanueva Nuñez

San Isidro, 21 de Marzo de 2002
Señor:
Edgar Villanueva Nuñez
Congresista de la República
Presente.-
Estimados señores:
Primeramente, queremos agradecerle la oportunidad que nos brindó de informarle cómo venimos trabajando en el País en beneficio del sector público, siempre buscando las mejores alternativas para lograr la implementación de programas que permitan consolidar las iniciativas de modernización y transparencia del Estado. Precisamente, fruto de nuestra reunión hoy Usted conoce de nuestros avances a nivel internacional en el diseño de nuevos servicios para el ciudadano, dentro del marco de un Estado modelo que respeta y protege los derechos de autor.

Este accionar, tal como conversamos, es parte de una iniciativa mundial y hoy en día existen diversas experiencias que han permitido colaborar con programas de apoyo al Estado y a la comunidad en la adopción de la tecnología como un elemento estratégico para impactar en la calidad de vida de los ciudadanos.

De otro lado, como quedamos en esta reunión, nosotros asistimos al Foro realizado en el Congreso de la República el 6 de marzo, a propósito del proyecto de ley que Usted lidera, en donde pudimos escuchar las diferentes presentaciones que hoy nos llevan a exponer nuestra posición a fin de que Usted tenga un panorama más amplio de la real situación.

El proyecto establece la obligatoriedad de que todo organismo público debe emplear exclusivamente software libre, es decir de código abierto, lo cual trasgrede los principios de la igualdad ante la ley, el de no discriminación y los derechos a la libre iniciativa privada, libertad de industria y contratación protegidos en la constitución.

El proyecto, al hacer obligatorio el uso de software de código abierto, establecería un tratamiento discriminatorio y no competitivo en la contratación y adquisición de los organismos públicos contraviniendo los principios de base de la Ley 26850 de Contrataciones y Adquisiciones del Estado.

Así, al obligar al Estado a favorecer un modelo de negocios que apoyaría exclusivamente el software de código abierto, el proyecto sólo estaría desalentando a las compañías fabricantes locales e internacionales que son las que verdaderamente realizan importantes inversiones, crean un significativo número de puestos de empleos directos e indirectos, además de contribuir al PBI vs. un modelo de software de código abierto que tiende a tener un impacto económico cada vez menor debido a que crea principalmente empleos en servicio.

El proyecto de ley impone el uso de software de código abierto sin considerar los peligros que esto pueda conllevar desde el punto de vista de seguridad, garantía y posible violación de los derechos de propiedad intelectual de terceros.

El proyecto maneja de manera errónea los conceptos de software de código abierto, que no necesariamente implica que sea software libre o de costo cero, llegando a realizar conclusiones equívocas sobre ahorros para el Estado, sin ningún sustento costo beneficio que valide la posición.

Es equivocado pensar que el Software de Código Abierto es gratuito. Investigaciones realizadas por Gartner Group (importante investigadora del mercado tecnológico reconocida a nivel mundial) han señalado que el costo de adquisición del software (sistema operativo y aplicaciones) se reduce a sólo 8% del total de costos que las empresas e instituciones deben asumir como consecuencia del uso racional y realmente provechoso de la tecnología. El otro 92% lo constituyen: costos de implantación, capacitación, soporte, mantenimiento, administración e inoperatividad.

Uno de los argumentos que sustentan el proyecto de ley es la supuesta gratuidad del software de código abierto, comparado con los costos del software comercial, sin tener en cuenta que existen modalidades de licenciamiento por volumen que pueden ser sumamente ventajosas para el Estado, tal como se ha logrado en otros países.

Adicionalmente, la alternativa adoptada por el proyecto (i) es claramente más costosa por los altos costos que supone una migración y (ii) pone en riesgo la compatibilidad y posibilidad de interoperabilidad de las plataformas informáticas dentro del Estado, y entre el Estado y el sector privado, dada la centena de versiones que existen de software de código abierto en el mercado.

El software de código abierto en su mayoría no ofrece los niveles de servicio adecuados ni la garantía de fabricantes reconocidos para lograr mayor productividad por parte de los usuarios, lo cual ha motivado que diferentes entidades públicas hayan retrocedido en su decisión de ir por una solución de software de código abierto y se encuentren utilizando software comercial en su lugar.

El proyecto desincentiva la creatividad de la industria peruana de software, que factura US$ 40 millones/año, exporta US$ 4 millones (10mo. en ranking productos de exportación no tradicional, más que artesanías) y es una fuente de empleo altamente calificado. Con una Ley que incentive el uso de software de código abierto, los programadores de software pierden sus derechos de propiedad intelectual y su principal fuente de retribución.

El software de código abierto, al poder ser distribuido gratuitamente, tampoco permite generar ingresos para sus desarrolladores por medio de la exportación. De esta forma, se debilita el efecto multiplicador de la venta de software a otros países y por lo tanto el crecimiento de esta industria, cuando contrariamente las normas de un Gobierno deben estimular la industria local.

En el Foro se discutió sobre la importancia del uso de software de código abierto en la educación, sin comentar el rotundo fracaso de esta iniciativa en un país como México, en donde precisamente los funcionarios del Estado que fundamentaron el proyecto, hoy expresan que el software de código abierto no permitió brindar una experiencia de aprendizaje a alumnos en la escuela, no se contó con los niveles de capacitación a nivel nacional para dar soporte adecuado a la plataforma, y el software no contó y no cuenta con los niveles de integración para la plataforma que existen en las escuelas.

Si el software de código abierto satisface todos lo requerimientos de las entidades del Estado ¿porque se requiere de una Ley para adoptarlo? ¿No debería ser el mercado el que decida libremente cuáles son los productos que le dan más beneficios o valor?

Agradezco de sobremanera la atención prestada a la presente, queremos reiterarle nuestro interés de reunirnos con usted para poder exponer con más detalle nuestros puntos de vista al proyecto presentado por usted, y ponernos a su plena disposición para compartir experiencias e información que estamos seguros podrán aportar para un mejor análisis e implementación de una iniciativa que tiene por objetivo la modernización y transparencia del Estado, en beneficio del ciudadano.

Atentamente
Juan Alberto González
Gerente General
Microsoft Perú


Respuesta del congresista Edgar Villanueva Nuñez a Microsoft Perú

Lima, 08 de Abril del 2002.

Señor

 JUAN ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ

Gerente General de Microsoft del Perú

Presente.-

Estimado Señor.

Ante todo, agradezco su carta del 25 de Marzo del 2002 donde manifiesta la posición oficial de Microsoft respecto al Proyecto de Ley Nº 1609, Software Libre en la Administración Pública, que sin duda se halla inspirada en el deseo de que el Perú logre situarse adecuadamente en el contexto tecnológico global. Animado de ese mismo espíritu y convencido de que a través del intercambio de ideas claras y abiertas hemos de encontrar las mejores soluciones, me permito contestar mediante la presente los comentarios incluidos en su carta.

Sin dejar de reconocer que opiniones como la suya constituyen un aporte significativo, me hubiese resultado aun mas valioso si, además de formular objeciones de índole general (que luego analizaremos en detalle) hubiera agregado argumentos sólidos sobre las ventajas que el software propietario puede reportar al Estado Peruano y a sus ciudadanos en general, pues ello habría permitido un intercambio a todas luces más esclarecedor respecto de cada una nuestras posiciones.

Con el objetivo de ordenar el debate, asumiremos que lo que Ud. llama “software de código abierto” es lo que el Proyecto define como “software libre”, puesto que existe software cuyo código es distribuido junto con los programas, pero no encaja en la definición establecida en el Proyecto; y lo que Ud. llama “software comercial” es lo que el Proyecto define como “propietario” o “no libre”, puesto que existe software libre que se comercializa en el mercado por un precio como cualquier otro bien o servicio.

También es preciso dejar en claro que el propósito del Proyecto al que nos referimos no está directamente relacionado con la cantidad de ahorro directo que pueda obtenerse por el empleo de software libre en las instituciones estatales. Este es en todo caso, un valor agregado marginal, pero de ninguna manera el foco del objetivo del Proyecto. Los principios elementales que animan al Proyecto se vinculan a las garantías básicas de un Estado democrático de derecho, como:

  • Libre acceso del ciudadano a la información pública.
  • Perennidad de los datos públicos.
  • Seguridad del Estado y de los ciudadanos.

Para garantizar el libre acceso de los ciudadanos a la información pública, resulta indispensable que la codificación de los datos no esté ligada a un único proveedor. El uso de formatos estándar y abiertos permite garantizar este libre acceso, logrando si fuera necesario la creación de software libre compatible.

Para garantizar la perennidad de los datos públicos, es indispensable que la utilización y el mantenimiento del software no dependan de la buena voluntad de los proveedores, ni de las condiciones monopólicas impuestas por éstos. Por ello el Estado necesita sistemas cuya evolución pueda ser garantizada gracias a la disponibilidad del código fuente.

Para garantizar la seguridad del Estado o seguridad nacional, resulta indispensable contar con sistemas desprovistos de elementos que permitan el control a distancia o la transmisión no deseada de información a terceros. Por lo tanto, se requieren sistemas cuyo código fuente sea libremente accesible al público para permitir su examen por el propio Estado, los ciudadanos, y un gran número de expertos independientes en el mundo. Nuestra propuesta aporta mayor seguridad, pues el conocimiento del código fuente eliminará el creciente número de programas con *código espía*.

Asimismo, nuestra propuesta refuerza la seguridad de los ciudadanos, tanto en su condición de titulares legítimos de la información manejada por el estado, cuanto en su condición de consumidores. En este ultimo caso, al permitir el surgimiento de una oferta extensa de software libre desprovisto de potencial *código espía* susceptible de poner en riesgo la vida privada y las libertades individuales.

En este sentido, el Proyecto de Ley se limita a establecer las condiciones en que los organismos estatales adquirirán software en el futuro, es decir, de un modo compatible con la garantía de esos principios básicos.

De la lectura del Proyecto quedará claro que una vez aprobada:

  • la ley no prohíbe la producción de software propietario
  • la ley no prohíbe el comercio de software propietario
  • la ley no dicta cuál software concreto usar
  • la ley no dicta a que proveedor se compra el software
  • la ley no limita los términos en que se puede licenciar un producto de software.

Lo que el proyecto expresa claramente es que, el software para ser aceptable para el Estado, no basta con que sea técnicamente suficiente para llevar a cabo una tarea, sino que además las condiciones de contratación deben satisfacer una serie de requisitos en materia de licencia, sin los cuales el Estado no puede garantizar al ciudadano el procesamiento adecuado de sus datos, velando por su integridad, confidencialidad y accesibilidad a lo largo del tiempo, porque son aspectos muy críticos para su normal desempeño.

Estamos de acuerdo Sr. González, en el hecho de que la tecnología de información y comunicaciones tiene un impacto en la calidad de vida de los ciudadanos significativo (sin que por ello sea siempre positivo o de efecto neutro). También coincidiremos seguramente, en que los valores básicos que he señalado arriba son fundamentales en una nación democrática como el Perú. Desde luego estamos muy interesados en conocer cualquier forma alternativa de garantizar estos principios, que no sea la de recurrir al empleo de software libre en los términos definidos en el Proyecto de Ley.

En cuanto a las observaciones que Ud. formula, pasaremos ahora a analizarlas en detalle:

En primer lugar, señala que: “1. El proyecto establece la obligatoriedad de que todo organismo público debe emplear exclusivamente software libre, es decir de código abierto, lo cual transgrede los principios de la igualdad ante la ley, el de no discriminación y los derechos a la libre iniciativa privada, libertad de industria y contratación protegidos en la constitución.”.

Esta apreciación constituye un error. De ningún modo el proyecto afecta los derechos que Ud. enumera; sólo se limita a establecer condiciones para el empleo del software por parte de las instituciones estatales, sin inmiscuirse en modo alguno en las transacciones del sector privado. Es un principio bien establecido que el Estado no tiene el amplio espectro de libertad contractual del sector privado, pues precisamente esta limitado en su accionar por el deber de transparencia de los actos públicos; y en ese sentido, la preservación del mejor interés común debe prevalecer cuando se legisla sobre la materia.

El Proyecto protege la igualdad ante la Ley, pues ninguna persona natural o jurídica esta excluida del derecho de ofrecer estos bienes al Estado en las condiciones fijadas en el Proyecto y sin más limitaciones que las establecidas en la Ley de Contrataciones y Adquisiciones del Estado (T.U.O. por Decreto Supremo No. 012-2001-PCM).

El Proyecto no introduce discriminación alguna, pues sólo establece *como* han de proveerse estos bienes (lo cual es una potestad estatal) y no *quien* ha de proveerlos (lo que en efecto resultaría discriminatorio si se impusieran restricciones basadas en origen nacional, raza, religión, ideología, preferencia sexual, etc.) Por el contrario, el Proyecto es decididamente antidiscriminatorio. Es así porque al determinar sin lugar a dudas las condiciones de provisión del software, impide a los organismos estatales el uso de programas cuyo licenciamiento incluya condiciones discriminatorias.

Resulta obvio por lo expuesto en los dos párrafos previos, que el Proyecto no atenta contra la libre iniciativa privada, pues esta puede elegir siempre bajo que condiciones producirá el software; algunas de estas serán aceptables para el Estado, y otras no lo serán porque contrarían la garantía de los principios básicos enumerados arriba. Esta libre iniciativa es desde luego, compatible con la libertad de industria y con la libertad de contratación (en los términos acotados en que el Estado puede ejercer esta última). Cualquier sujeto privado puede producir software en las condiciones que el Estado lo requiere, o puede abstenerse de hacerlo. Nadie esta forzado a adoptar un modelo de producción, pero si desea proveer software al Estado, deberá proporcionar los mecanismos que garantizan los principios básicos, y que son los manifestados en el Proyecto.

A manera de ejemplo: nada en el texto del Proyecto impediría a su empresa ofrecer a los organismos del Estado su “suite” de oficina, en las condiciones definidas en el Proyecto y fijando el precio que ustedes consideren conveniente. Si no lo hiciera, no se deberá a restricciones impuestas por la ley, sino a decisiones empresariales respecto al modo de comercializar sus productos, decisiones, en que el Estado no tiene participación.

A continuación señala Ud. que: “2. El proyecto, al hacer obligatorio el uso de software de código abierto, establecería un tratamiento discriminatorio y no competitivo en la contratación y adquisición de los organismos públicos…”

Esta afirmación no es sino una reiteración de la anterior, y por ende se encuentra contestada lineas arriba. Pero detengámonos un instante en su apreciación sobre el “tratamiento … no competitivo.”

Por cierto, al definir cualquier tipo de adquisición, el comprador fija condiciones que se relacionan con el uso propuesto del bien o servicio. Desde luego ello excluye a ciertos fabricantes de la posibilidad de competir, pero no los excluye “a priori”, sino en base a una serie de principios decididos por la voluntad autónoma del comprador, en tanto el proceso se lleve a cabo conforme a la ley. Y en el Proyecto se estable que *nadie* esta excluido de competir en tanto garantice el cumplimiento de los principios básicos.

Además el Proyecto *estimula* la competencia, pues alienta a generar oferta de software con mejores condiciones de usabilidad, y a optimizar trabajos ya establecidos, en un modelo de mejora constante.

De otro lado, el aspecto central de la competitividad es la oportunidad de proporcionar al consumidor mejores opciones. Ahora bien, es imposible desconocer que el marketing no juega un papel neutral a la hora de presentar la oferta al mercado (pues admitir lo contrario habilitaría a suponer que las inversiones que las empresas realizan en marketing carecen de sentido), y por consiguiente un gasto significativo en este rubro puede influir las decisiones del comprador. Esta influencia del marketing queda en buena medida mitigada por el proyecto que propulsamos, pues la elección dentro del marco propuesto recae en el *mérito técnico* del producto y no en el esfuerzo de comercialización del productor; en este sentido, la competitividad se acentúa, pues el más pequeño productor de software puede competir en un pie de igualdad con la más poderosa de las corporaciones.

Es necesario recalcar que no hay posición más anti-competitiva que la de los grandes productores de software propietario, que frecuentemente abusan de su posición dominante, porque en innumerables casos proponen como soluciones a problemas planteados por los usuarios: “actualice su software a la nueva versión” (con cargo para el usuario, por supuesto); además, son comunes las interrupciones arbitrarias de asistencia técnica para productos que al sólo juicio del proveedor, son “antiguos”; luego para recibir algún grado de asistencia técnica, el usuario se ve obligado a migrar (con costo no trivial, especialmente porque suele involucrar cambios de la plataforma de hardware) a nuevas versiones. Y como toda la infraestructura esta consolidada en formatos de datos propietarios, el usuario queda “atrapado” en la necesidad de continuar empleando los productos del mismo proveedor, o realizar el enorme esfuerzo de cambiar a otro ambiente (también probablemente propietario).

Agrega Ud.: “3. Así, al obligar al Estado a favorecer un modelo de negocios que apoyaría exclusivamente el software de código abierto, el proyecto sólo estaría desalentando a las compañías fabricantes locales e internacionales que son las que verdaderamente realizan importantes inversiones, crean un significativo número de puestos de empleos directos e indirectos, además de contribuir al PBI vs. Un modelo de software de código abierto que tiende a tener un impacto económico cada vez menor debido a que crea principalmente empleos en servicio.”

No estoy de acuerdo con lo que Ud. afirma. En parte por lo que Ud. mismo señala en el párrafo 6 de su carta, respecto del peso relativo de los servicios en el contexto del uso de software. Esta contradicción, de por sí, invalidaría su postura. El modelo de servicios, adoptado por gran número de corporaciones en la industria informática, es mucho más significativo, en términos económicos y con tendencia creciente, que el licenciamiento de programas.

Por otra parte, el sector privado de la economía tiene la más amplia libertad para elegir el modelo económico que mas convenga a sus intereses, aunque esta libertad de elección quede muchas veces oscurecida de manera subliminal por las desproporcionadas inversiones en marketing de los productores de software propietario.

Adicionalmente, de la lectura de su opinión se desprendería que el mercado Estatal es crucial e imprescindible para la industria del software propietario, a tal punto que la opción que el Estado establece en este proyecto, eliminaría completamente del mercado a estas empresas. Si es así, deducimos que el Estado estaría subsidiando a la industria del software propietario. En el supuesto negado que esto fuese cierto, entonces el Estado tendría el derecho en aplicar los subsidios al área que considere de mayor valor social; resultaría innegable, en esta improbable hipótesis, que si el Estado decide subsidiar software debería hacerlo escogiendo el libre por encima del propietario, atendiendo a su efecto social y al uso racional de los dineros de los contribuyentes.

Respecto de los puestos de trabajo generados por el software propietario en países como el nuestro, estos tratan mayoritariamente tareas técnicas de poco valor agregado; a nivel local, los técnicos que prestan soporte a software propietario producido por empresas transnacionales no están en condiciones de solucionar un bug, no necesariamente por falta capacidad técnica o talento, sino porque no disponen del código fuente a reparar. Con software libre se crea empleo técnicamente más calificado y se genera un marco de libre competencia donde el éxito esta sólo vinculado a la capacidad de brindar buen soporte técnico y calidad de servicio, se estimula el mercado y se incrementa el patrimonio común del conocimiento, abriendo alternativas para generar servicios de mayor valor agregado y mejor perfil de calidad beneficiando a todos los actores: productores, prestadores de servicios y consumidores.

Es un fenómeno común en los países en vías de desarrollo que las industrias locales de software obtienen la mayoría de sus ingresos en el área de servicios, o en la construcción de software “ad hoc”. Por lo tanto, cualquier impacto negativo que la aplicación del Proyecto pueda tener en este sector se verá compensado con creces por un aumento de la demanda de servicios (a condición de que estos sean prestados conforme a altos estándares de calidad). Desde luego, es probable que las empresas transnacionales de software si deciden no competir conforme a estas reglas de juego, sufran alguna disminución de ingresos en términos de facturación por licenciamiento; pero considerando, que estas empresas alegan sostenidamente que mucho del software empleado por el Estado fueron copiados ilegalmente, se verá que el impacto no ha de ser extremadamente serio. Ciertamente, en todo caso su fortuna estará determinada por leyes del mercado, cuyos cambios no es posible evitar; muchas empresas tradicionalmente asociadas con el software propietario ya han emprendido un camino firme (apoyado por cuantiosas inversiones) para prestar servicios asociados con el software libre, lo cual demuestra que los modelos no son mutuamente excluyentes.

Con este Proyecto el Estado está decidiendo que requiere preservar ciertos valores fundamentales. Y lo decide en base a sus potestades soberanas, sin afectar con ello ninguna de las garantías constitucionales. Si estos valores pueden ser garantizados sin tener que escoger un modelo económico dado, los efectos de la ley serían aun más beneficiosos. En todo caso debe quedar claro que el Estado no elige un modelo económico; si sucediera que existe un sólo modelo económico capaz de proveer software tal que satisfaga la garantía básicas de estos principios, se trataría de una circunstancia histórica y no de una decisión arbitraria en favor de un modelo dado.

Prosigue su carta: “4. El proyecto de ley impone el uso de software de código abierto sin considerar los peligros que esto pueda conllevar desde el punto de vista de seguridad, garantía y posible violación de los derechos de propiedad intelectual de terceros.”

Aludir de forma abstracta “los peligros que pueda conllevar”, sin especificar siquiera una sola instancia de esos supuestos peligros, denota cuando menos un desconocimiento del tema. Así, pues, permítame ilustrarlo sobre estos puntos.

Sobre seguridad:

En términos generales respecto la seguridad nacional, ya se mencionó inicialmente en los principios básicos del Proyecto. En términos más puntuales respecto de la seguridad del software en sí, es bien sabido que el software (propietario o libre) contiene errores de programación o “bugs” (en la jerga informática) en sus lineas de código. Pero también es público y notorio que los bugs en el software libre son menos, y se reparan mucho mas rápidamente, que en el software propietario. No en vano numerosas organismos públicos responsables por la seguridad informática de los sistemas estatales en países desarrollados prescriben el uso de software libre a iguales condiciones de seguridad y eficiencia.

Lo que resulta imposible probar es que el software propietario sea más seguro que el libre, salvo mediante el escrutinio publico y abierto de la comunidad científica y los usuarios en general. Esta demostración es imposible porque el propio modelo del software propietario impide este análisis, con lo que la garantía de seguridad se basa en la palabra bienintencionada (pero a todas luces parcial) del propio productor o sus contratistas.

Corresponde recordar que, en numerosos casos, las condiciones de licenciamiento incluyen cláusulas de Non-Disclosure que impiden a los usuarios revelar abiertamente las fallas de seguridad halladas en el producto propietario licenciado.

Respecto a garantía:

Como Ud. sabe perfectamente, o podrá determinar leyendo el “End User License Agreement” de los productos que licencia, en la amplísima mayoría de los casos, las garantías están limitadas a la reposición del medio de almacenamiento si este fuera defectuoso, pero en ningún caso se prevén compensaciones por daños directos o indirectos, lucro cesante, etc.. Si como consecuencia de un bug de seguridad en alguno de sus productos, no oportunamente reparado por Uds., un atacante comprometiera sistemas cruciales para el Estado: ¿que garantías, reparaciones y compensaciones proporcionaría su empresa de acuerdo con sus condiciones de licenciamiento? Las garantías del software propietario, en tanto los programas se entregan “AS IS”, es decir, en el estado en que se encuentran, sin ninguna responsabilidad adicional para el proveedor respecto a su funcionalidad, no difieren en modo alguno de las habituales en el software libre.

Sobre la propiedad intelectual:

Las cuestiones de propiedad intelectual están fuera del ámbito en este proyecto, pues se encuentran amparadas por otras leyes específicas. El modelo de software libre no implica en modo alguno desconocer estas leyes y de hecho, la amplísima mayoría del software libre está amparado por el copyright. En realidad, la sola inclusión de esta cuestión en sus observaciones demuestra su confusión respecto del marco legal en que se desenvuelve el software libre. La incorporación de propiedad intelectual ajena en obras que luego se atribuyen como propias no es una práctica de la que se tenga registro en la comunidad del software libre; si lo es, lamentablemente, en el terreno del software propietario. Valga a titulo de ejemplo la condena de la Corte Comercial de Nanterre, Francia, del pasado 27 de septiembre de 2001 a Microsoft Corp., por 3 millones de francos en concepto de daños e intereses, por violación de la propiedad intelectual (piratería, según el desafortunado término que su empresa suele usar en su publicidad).

Prosigue diciendo que: “5. El proyecto maneja de manera errónea los conceptos de software de código abierto, que no necesariamente implica que sea software libre o de costo cero, llegando a realizar conclusiones equívocas sobre ahorros para el Estado, sin ningún sustento costo beneficio que valide la posición.”

Esta observación no es así, en principio la gratuidad y la libertad son conceptos ortogonales: hay software propietario y oneroso (por ejemplo, MS Office), software propietario y gratuito (MS Internet Explorer), software libre y oneroso (distribuciones RedHat, SuSE, etc. del sistema GNU/Linux), software libre y gratuito (Apache, OpenOffice, Mozilla), y aun software que se licencia bajo diferentes modalidades (MySQL).

Ciertamente que el software libre no es necesariamente gratuito. Y tampoco se desprende del texto del Proyecto que deba serlo como bien habrá notado después de leer la norma propuesta. Las definiciones incluidas en el Proyecto determinan claramente *que* debe considerarse software libre, en ningún momento se refieren a la gratuidad. Si bien se mencionan las posibilidades de ahorro en términos de lo pagado por licencias de software propietario, los fundamentos del proyecto hacen clara mención a las garantías fundamentales que se pretende preservar y al estimulo del desarrollo tecnológico local. Puesto que un Estado democrático debe sostener estos principios, no le queda otra solución que emplear software cuyo código fuente está públicamente disponible e intercambiar información sólo en formatos standares.

Si el Estado no empleara software con esas características, estaría vulnerando principios republicanos básicos. Por fortuna, además, el software libre implica menores costos totales; pero aun en la hipótesis (fácilmente negada) de que costara más que el propietario, la sola existencia de una herramienta de software libre eficaz para una determinada función informática obligaría al Estado a usarla; no por imperio de este Proyecto de Ley, sino por los principios elementales que enumeramos al comienzo y que surgen de la esencia misma del Estado democrático de derecho.

Sigue Ud.: “6. Es equivocado pensar que el Software de Código Abierto es gratuito. Investigaciones realizadas por Gartner Group (importante investigadora del mercado tecnológico reconocida a nivel mundial) han señalado que el costo de adquisición del software (sistema operativo y aplicaciones) se reduce a sólo 8% del total de costos que las empresas e instituciones deben asumir como consecuencia del uso racional y realmente provechoso de la tecnología. El otro 92% lo constituyen: costos de implantación, capacitación, soporte, mantenimiento, administración e inoperatividad.”

Este argumento repite lo ya señalado en el párrafo 5 y en parte se contradice con el párrafo 3. Por lo tanto nos remitiremos a lo allí dicho en homenaje a la brevedad. No obstante, permítame señalarle que incurre en una conclusión falsa en el plano lógico: que el costo de software según Gartner Group sea sólo el 8% en promedio del costo total de utilización, no invalida en forma alguna la existencia de software gratuito, esto es, aquel cuyo costo de licenciamiento es cero.

Además en este párrafo Ud. indica acertadamente que los componentes de servicio y las pérdidas por indisponibilidad conforman la parte sustancial del costo total de utilización de software; lo que, advertirá, entra en contradicción con su afirmación del valor mínimo de los servicios sugerido en el párrafo 3. Ahora bien, el empleo de software libre contribuye significativamente a disminuir los restantes costos del ciclo de vida. Esta reducción del impacto económico de despliegue, soporte, etc. se registra en varios campos; por un lado, el modelo competitivo de servicios del software libre, cuyo soporte y mantenimiento es posible contratar libremente entre una oferta variada que compite en función de la calidad y el menor costo. Esto es válido para la implantación, la capacitación y el soporte, y en buena medida para el mantenimiento. En segundo lugar, por la característica reproductiva del modelo, hace que el mantenimiento que se realizó en una aplicación sea replicable muy fácilmente, sin incurrir en mayores costos (es decir, sin pagar más de una vez por lo mismo) pues las modificaciones, si así se desea, quedan incorporadas al patrimonio común del conocimiento. En tercero, porque el enorme costo causado por la inoperatividad (“pantallas azules de la muerte”, código malicioso como virus, worms y troyanos, excepciones, fallas generales de protección y otros tantos males conocidos) se reduce significativamente al emplear software mas estable; y es bien sabido que una de las virtudes mas destacables del software libre es su estabilidad.

Afirma luego que: “7. Uno de los argumentos que sustentan el proyecto de ley es la supuesta gratuidad del software de código abierto, comparado con los costos del software comercial, sin tener en cuenta que existen modalidades de licenciamiento por volumen que pueden ser sumamente ventajosas para el Estado, tal como se ha logrado en otros países.”

He puntualizado ya que lo que está en cuestión no es el costo del software, sino los principios de libertad de información, accesibilidad y seguridad. Estos argumentos se han tratado de manera extensa en párrafos anteriores, por lo que estimaré remitirse a ellos.

Por otra parte, ciertamente existen modalidades de licenciamiento por volumen (aunque infortunadamente, el software propietario no satisface los principios básicos). Pero, como Ud. acaba de señalarlo acertadamente en el párrafo inmediatamente anterior de su carta, sólo apuntan a reducir el impacto de un componente que importa no más del 8% del costo total.

Prosigue: “8. Adicionalmente, la alternativa adoptada por el proyecto (i) es claramente más costosa por los altos costos que supone una migración y (ii) pone en riesgo la compatibilidad y posibilidad de interoperabilidad de las plataformas informáticas dentro del Estado, y entre el Estado y el sector privado, dada la centena de versiones que existen de software de código abierto en

el mercado.”

Analicemos su afirmación en dos partes. Su primer argumento, el de que la migración supone altos costos es en realidad un argumento en favor del Proyecto. Porque cuanto más tiempo transcurra la migración a otra tecnología esta se tornará mas onerosa; y al mismo tiempo se irán incrementando los riesgos de seguridad asociados con el software propietario. De esta manera, el uso de sistemas y formatos propietarios va haciendo que el Estado se vuelva cada vez más dependiente de proveedores determinados. Por el contrario, una vez implantada la política de uso de software libre (implantación que, es cierto, implica un costo), la migración de un sistema a otro se hace muy sencilla, ya que todos los datos están almacenados en formatos abiertos. Por otra parte, la migración a un entorno de software abierto no implica más costos que la misma entre entornos distintos de software propietario, con lo que su argumento se invalida totalmente.

El segundo argumento refiere a “dificultades de interoperabilidad de las plataformas informáticas dentro del Estado, y entre el Estado y el sector privado”. Esta afirmación implica un cierto desconocimiento de los mecanismos de construcción de software libre, en el que no se maximiza la dependencia del usuario respecto de una plataforma determinada, como sucede habitualmente en el campo del software propietario. Aun cuando existen múltiples distribuciones de software libre, y numerosos programas susceptibles de ser empleados para una misma función, la interoperabilidad queda garantizada tanto por el empleo de formatos estándar, exigido en el proyecto, como por la posibilidad de construir software interoperable a partir de la disponibilidad del código fuente.

Dice luego que: “9. El software de código abierto en su mayoría no ofrece los niveles de servicio adecuados ni la garantía de fabricantes reconocidos para lograr mayor productividad por parte de los usuarios, lo cual ha motivado que diferentes entidades públicas hayan retrocedido en su decisión de ir por una solución de software de código abierto y se encuentren utilizando software comercial en su lugar.”

Esta observación es infundada. Respecto de la garantía su argumento ha sido rebatido respondiendo el párrafo 4. Respecto de los servicios de soporte, es posible usar software libre sin ellos (así como sucede también con el software propietario) pero quienes los requieran pueden adquirir soporte por separado, tanto de empresas locales cuanto de corporaciones internacionales, también como en el caso de software propietario.

Por otra parte, contribuiría en mucho a nuestro análisis que nos informase acerca de proyectos de software libre *implantados* en entidades públicas, que a la fecha hayan sido abandonados en favor del software propietario. Conocemos un buen número de casos en el sentido inverso, pero carecemos de información respecto de casos en el sentido que Ud. expone.

Continua observando que: “10. El proyecto desincentiva la creatividad de la industria peruana de software, que factura US$ 40 millones/año, exporta US$ 4 millones (10mo. en ranking productos de exportación no tradicional, más que artesanías) y es una fuente de empleo altamente calificado. Con una Ley que incentive el uso de software de código abierto, los programadores de software pierden sus derechos de propiedad intelectual y su principal fuente de retribución.”

Esta claro por demás que nadie esta obligado a comercializar su código como software libre. Tan sólo deberá tener en cuenta que, si no lo hace, no podrá venderle al sector público. Este, por otra parte, no constituye el principal mercado para la industria nacional de software. Lineas arriba hemos abordado algunas cuestiones referidas a la influencia del Proyecto en la generación de empleo técnico altamente calificado y en mejores condiciones de competitividad, por lo que parece innecesario insistir aquí en el punto.

Lo que sigue en su afirmación es erróneo. Por un lado, ningún autor de software libre pierde sus derechos de propiedad intelectual, a menos que por su expresa voluntad desee colocar su obra en el dominio público. El movimiento del software libre siempre ha sido extremadamente respetuoso de la propiedad intelectual, y ha generado reconocimiento público extenso a los autores. Nombres como el de Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Guido van Rossum, Larry Wall, Miguel de Icaza, Andrew Tridgell, Theo de Raadt, Andrea Arcangeli, Bruce Perens, Darren Reed, Alan Cox, Eric Raymond, y muchos otros, son mundialmente reconocidos por sus contribuciones en el desarrollo de software que hoy es utilizado por millones de personas en todo el mundo, en tanto los nombres de los autores materiales de excelentes piezas de software propietario, permanecen en el anonimato. Por otra parte, afirmar que las regalías por derechos de autor constituyen la principal fuente de retribución de los programadores Peruanos es en todo caso aventurado, en particular porque no se ha aportado ninguna prueba al efecto ni una demostración de como el empleo de software libre por el Estado influiría en esta retribuciones.

Prosigue Ud. diciendo que: “11. El software de código abierto, al poder ser distribuido gratuitamente, tampoco permite generar ingresos para sus desarrolladores por medio de la exportación. De esta forma, se debilita el efecto multiplicador de la venta de software a otros países y por lo tanto el crecimiento de esta industria, cuando contrariamente las normas de un Gobierno deben estimular la industria local.”

Esta afirmación demuestra nuevamente un desconocimiento total de los mecanismos y el mercado del software libre. Intenta aseverar que el mercado de cesión de derechos no exclusivos de uso a titulo oneroso (venta de licencias) es el único posible para la industria informática cuando, como Ud. mismo lo ha señalado párrafos arriba, ni siquiera es el más importante. El incentivo que el proyecto presenta al surgimiento de una oferta de profesionales más calificados, en conjunto con el incremento de experiencia que resultará para los técnicos nacionales el trabajar a gran escala con software libre en el Estado, los colocan en una posición altamente competitiva para brindar sus servicios al extranjero.

Señala luego que “12. En el Foro se discutió sobre la importancia del uso de software de código abierto en la educación, sin comentar el rotundo fracaso de esta iniciativa en un país como México, en donde precisamente los funcionarios del Estado que fundamentaron el proyecto, hoy expresan que el software de código abierto no permitió brindar una experiencia de aprendizaje a alumnos en la escuela, no se contó con los niveles de capacitación a nivel nacional para dar soporte adecuado a la plataforma, y el software no contó y no cuenta con los niveles de integración para la plataforma que existen en las escuelas.”

Efectivamente, en México se dio marcha atrás con el proyecto Red Escolar. Eso se debió, precisamente a que los impulsores del proyecto mexicano tuvieron al costo de las licencias como principal argumento, en vez de las otras razones estipuladas en nuestro proyecto y que son mucho más esenciales. Debido a este error conceptual, y como consecuencia de la falta de apoyo efectivo por parte de la SEP (Secretaria de Educación Publica) se asumió que para implementar software libre en las escuelas, bastaba con quitarle a éstas el presupuesto para software y en cambio enviarles un CD ROM con GNU/Linux. Por cierto, esto falló y no podía ser de otro modo, tal como fallan los laboratorios escolares en los que se usa software propietario si no hay presupuesto para implementación y mantenimiento. Es precisamente por eso que nuestro proyecto de ley no se limita a indicar la mandatoriedad del uso de software libre, sino que reconoce la necesidad y ordena la creación de un plan de migración viable, en el que el Estado encamine ordenadamente la transición técnica para lograr disfrutar de las ventajas del software libre.

Finaliza Ud. con una pregunta retórica: “13. Si el software de código abierto satisface todos lo requerimientos de las entidades del Estado ¿por que se requiere de una Ley para adoptarlo? ¿No debería ser el mercado el que decida libremente cuáles son los productos que le dan más beneficios o valor?”.

Estamos de acuerdo que en el sector privado de la economía, es el mercado quien debe decidir que productos usar y allí no sería admisible ninguna intromisión estatal. Pero en el caso del sector público, el razonamiento no es el mismo: Como ya establecimos el Estado almacena, manipula y transforma información que no le pertenece, sino que la ha sido confiada por los ciudadanos que, por imperio de la ley, no tienen más alternativa que hacerlo. Como contraparte a esa imposición legal, el Estado debe extremar las medidas para salvaguardar la integridad, confidencialidad y accesibilidad de esa informaciones. El empleo de software propietario arroja serias dudas sobre el cumplimiento de estos atributos, a falta de evidencia concluyente al respecto y por lo tanto no es apto para ser usado en el sector público.

La necesidad de una ley estriba, por un lado, en la materialización de los principios fundamentales antes enunciados en el campo específico del software. Por otro, en el hecho de que el Estado no es una entidad ideal homogénea, sino que esta compuesto de múltiples organismos con diversos grados de autonomía de decisiones. Dado que el software propietario es inapropiado para ser empleado, el hecho de establecer estas reglas en la ley impediría que la decisión discrecional de cualquier funcionario ponga en riesgo la información que pertenece a los ciudadanos. Y, sobre todo, porque constituye una reafirmación actualizada en relación con los medios de tratamiento y comunicación de información empleados hoy en día, sobre el principio republicano de publicidad.

Conforme a este principio universalmente aceptado, el ciudadano tiene derecho a conocer toda información en poder del Estado que no esté amparada en una declaración fundada de secreto conforme a la ley. Ahora bien, el software trata información y es en sí mismo información. Información en formato especial, susceptible de ser interpretada por una máquina para ejecutar acciones, pero sin duda información crucial porque el ciudadano tiene legítimo derecho a saber, por ejemplo, como se computa su voto o se calculan sus impuestos. Y para ello, debe poder acceder libremente al código fuente y probar a su satisfacción los programas que se utilizan para el cómputo electoral o para el cálculo de sus impuestos.

Saludo a Ud. con las expresiones de mi mayor consideración, reiterando que mi despacho siempre estará abierto a que expongan sus puntos de vista al detalle que Ud. crea conveniente.

Atentamente,

DR. EDGAR DAVID VILLANUEVA NUÑEZ

Congresista de la República del Perú.

Posted in Education, Intellectual Property, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Communication and interdisciplinarity

True communication is possible only between equals, because inferiors are more consistently rewarded for telling their superiors pleasant lies than for telling the truth.:” (from the The Jargon File version 4.4.8: SNAFU principle)

Communication is possible only between equals: that’s the first theorem of social cybernetics – and the whole basis of anarchism […].” (Hagbard Celine, in: R.A.W. & Bob Shea, Illuminatus!)

“But a man with a gun is told only that which people assume will not provoke him to pull the trigger. Since all authority and government are based on force, the master class, with its burden of omniscience, faces the servile class, with its burden of nescience, precisely as a highwayman faces his victim. Communication is possible only between equals. The master class never abstracts enough information from the servile class to know what is actually going on in the world where the actual productivity of society occurs. Furthermore, the logogram of any authoritarian society remains fairly inflexible as time passes, but everything else in the universe constantly changes. The result can only be progressive disorientation among the rulers. The end is debacle.

The schizophrenia of authoritarianism exists both in the individual and in the whole society.

I call this the Snafu Principle.” (Hagbard Celine, in: R.A.W. & Bob Shea, Illuminatus!)

There are two kinds of conversation in which I sometimes find myself frustrated and lost in words – for similar reasons in both cases. One is when talking with people about questions of collective and public interest that involve informed opinions and decision making. The other is when talking with specialists from different fields.

The most frustrating thing I find in such discussions is the fact that many times we don’t understand each other. Or rather, I don’t understand the others, and I find that they don’t understand me. Arguably this can be due to my poor communication skills. Another factor, of course, is my lack of knowledge in others’ fields – and vice-versa.

But I would argue that this is not only an effect of lack of individual ability, but also a feature of human communication in general. It is not an extraordinary thing. Mutual understanding is a process that doesn’t happen automatically. It has to be slowly built through sustained interaction and engagement with the interlocutor, even among people who share a common background.

Sometimes the lack of understanding comes from the fact that we don’t really listen to each other. In my case, when I don’t listen properly, I find this is because my ego thinks it already knows all the answers, or cannot stop criticizing the other for a moment, and my internal dialogue or monologue prevents me from listening. Being able to keep (internally and externally) silent and actually listen is a prerequisite for effective dialogue – that is, a dialogue that improves mutual understanding and facilitates better collective action.

But even if I am able to go beyond this stage and actually listen to the other person, I find another difficulty, which is related to the concepts employed. The listener does not necessarily interpret the words of an utterance in the same sense intended by the speaker. In fact, we can assume that the listener never does so, or at best does so only approximately.

This does not mean, however, that all communication is entirely compromised for lack of mutual understanding – although it is possibly always at least partially so. What this means is that we have to take this fact – the lack of mutual understanding – into consideration and base our utterances on its recognition, taking measures to improve communication.

Arne Naess’ philosophy of language seems to be a good starting point for better conversations in this sense. As he observed, “the rules for impartial debate require standpoints on questions of interpretation, definition and clarification” (Naess & Rothenberg, 1989, 73), and it is a good idea to set these standpoints beforehand. Thus, an awareness of the difficulties of mutual understanding can greatly improve a conversation.

In interdisciplinary discussions, a further difficulty is the lack of a shared vocabulary between participants and the different theoretical frameworks involved. This requires an additional effort of knowledge translation on the part of participants, which on its turn requires an understanding of the audience – its story, language needs, and communication abilities (cf. Bennet & Jessani, 2011, 189) – on the part of any speaker.

It is useful to look into knowledge translation methods and theory when devising a communication approach, but these models are mostly related to hierarchical organizations and contexts, or involve at least some kind of institutional entity (see, for example: Estabrooks et al., 2007; Harmswoorth & Turpin, 2000; Sudsawad, 2007). And knowledge translation in hierarchical contexts generates its own sets of problems, as noted by Michael Agar (see: “Whose Knowledge? What Transfer?”).

However, in a grassroots approach to knowledge, we are mainly interested in non-hierarchical interaction – sharing of knowledge among equals, independently of institutional constraints. This is a note to remember that an asymmetry of knowledge should not become a hierarchical structure in itself, although power relations emerge constantly with any discourse. True communication is possible only between equals.

In practice, in an interdisciplinary discussion, there are always multiple knowledge asymmetries in place. These generate multiple – more or less transitory – power relations, and participants have to be aware of them if they want to deconstruct hierarchical formations and by-pass and ultimately dissolve language barriers, constituting a shared vocabulary.

As noted by Ted Toadvine (“Six Myths of Interdisciplinarity“), this does not – and should not – imply a dissolution of disciplinary boundaries. On the contrary, in an interdisciplinary approach to a topic, different disciplines are needed to contribute distinctive methods and approaches to the shared discussion. The problem then is how to get people from different backgrounds to communicate effectively across the boundaries established by their specialized knowledge. As Toadvine observes, this requires a disposition, on the part of those involved, to effectively re-educate themselves and learn some things from other disciplines. This is what allows the emergence of hybrid and richer ideas and approaches.

In an interdisciplinary conversation, I think we can stipulate that the idea of knowledge translation applies multi-directionally, so that all participants simultaneously play multiple roles as teachers and apprentices. In other words, they are all knowledge translators and learners at the same time, both translating knowledge from their specialties to others and acquiring translated knowledge from other specialties while the interaction goes on.

As I noted in the beginning, and as also noted by Toadvine, this is a process that can only happen given some time and good will on the part of those involved. It’s not possible to simply gather some people and start doing stuff. They have to communicate first.

References

Agar, Michael. n.d. “Whose Knowledge? What Transfer?” (pre-publish). (PDF)

Bennett, Gavin; Jessani, Nasreen. 2011. The Knowledge Translation Toolkit: Bridging the Know-Do Gap: A Resource for Researchers. New Delhi, India; Thousand Oaks, Calif.; Ottawa, ON: Sage Publications; International Development Research Centre. (PDF)

Estabrooks, Carole A.; Thompson, David S.; Lovely, J. Jacque E.; Hofmeyer, Anne. 2006. “A Guide to Knowledge Translation Theory.” Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 26, no. 1: 25–36. (PDF)

Harmsworth, Sally; Turpin, Sarah. 2000. “Creating an Effective Dissemination Strategy.” TQEF National Co-Ordination Team, July 5 (2000). (PDF)

Næss, Arne; Rothenberg, David. 1989. Ecology, Community, and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Sudsawad, Pimjai. 2007. Knowledge Translation: Introduction to Models, Strategies, and Measures. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, National Center for the Dissemination of Disability Research. (PDF)

Toadvine, Ted. 2011. “Six Myths of Interdisciplinarity”, Thinking Nature 1. (PDF)

See also this.

Posted in Education, Philosophy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Open Letter from Edgar Villanueva to Microsoft

This is a historical document of open source philosophy found on the net. I grabbed it from Petter Reinholdtsen’s blog.

The letter was reportedly written by Edgar Villanueva, a congressman in Perú at the time, in response to Microsoft’s complaints about the adoption of free software in that country.

I haven’t personally verified it’s authenticity, but for me this is a secondary question, in so far as the content of the letter speaks for itself.

However, any further comments on its authenticity, or links documenting the story are greatly appreciated. Most links currently found on the net about this story are dead. The original letter from Villanueva and Microsoft’s letter which prompted the response (in Spanish) can both be found here.

Other links:

– A copy of the bill about the use of free software in public agencies in Peru.

– An interview with Villanueva in the Linux Journal (2002).

– An article in Wired (2002).

—————————————————————————————————————-

Lima, 8th of April, 2002

To: Señor JUAN ALBERTO GONZÁLEZ

General Manager of Microsoft Perú

Dear Sir:

First of all, I thank you for your letter of March 25, 2002 in which you state the official position of Microsoft relative to Bill Number 1609, Free Software in Public Administration, which is indubitably inspired by the desire for Peru to find a suitable place in the global technological context. In the same spirit, and convinced that we will find the best solutions through an exchange of clear and open ideas, I will take this opportunity to reply to the commentaries included in your letter.

While acknowledging that opinions such as yours constitute a significant contribution, it would have been even more worthwhile for me if, rather than formulating objections of a general nature (which we will analyze in detail later) you had gathered solid arguments for the advantages that proprietary software could bring to the Peruvian State, and to its citizens in general, since this would have allowed a more enlightening exchange in respect of each of our positions.

With the aim of creating an orderly debate, we will assume that what you call “open source software” is what the Bill defines as “free software”, since there exists software for which the source code is distributed together with the program, but which does not fall within the definition established by the Bill; and that what you call “commercial software” is what the Bill defines as “proprietary” or “unfree”, given that there exists free software which is sold in the market for a price like any other good or service.

It is also necessary to make it clear that the aim of the Bill we are discussing is not directly related to the amount of direct savings that can by made by using free software in state institutions. That is in any case a marginal aggregate value, but in no way is it the chief focus of the Bill. The basic principles which inspire the Bill are linked to the basic guarantees of a state of law, such as:

Free access to public information by the citizen.

Permanence of public data.

Security of the State and citizens.

To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indispensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.

To guarantee national security or the security of the State, it is indispensable to be able to rely on systems without elements which allow control from a distance or the undesired transmission of information to third parties. Systems with source code freely accessible to the public are required to allow their inspection by the State itself, by the citizens, and by a large number of independent experts throughout the world. Our proposal brings further security, since the knowledge of the source code will eliminate the growing number of programs with *spy code*.

In the same way, our proposal strengthens the security of the citizens, both in their role as legitimate owners of information managed by the state, and in their role as consumers. In this second case, by allowing the growth of a widespread availability of free software not containing *spy code* able to put at risk privacy and individual freedoms.

In this sense, the Bill is limited to establishing the conditions under which the state bodies will obtain software in the future, that is, in a way compatible with these basic principles.

From reading the Bill it will be clear that once passed:

the law does not forbid the production of proprietary software

the law does not forbid the sale of proprietary software

the law does not specify which concrete software to use

the law does not dictate the supplier from whom software will be bought

the law does not limit the terms under which a software product can be licensed.

What the Bill does express clearly, is that, for software to be acceptable for the state it is not enough that it is technically capable of fulfilling a task, but that further the contractual conditions must satisfy a series of requirements regarding the license, without which the State cannot guarantee the citizen adequate processing of his data, watching over its integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility throughout time, as these are very critical aspects for its normal functioning.

We agree, Mr. Gonzalez, that information and communication technology have a significant impact on the quality of life of the citizens (whether it be positive or negative). We surely also agree that the basic values I have pointed out above are fundamental in a democratic state like Peru. So we are very interested to know of any other way of guaranteeing these principles, other than through the use of free software in the terms defined by the Bill.

As for the observations you have made, we will now go on to analyze them in detail:

Firstly, you point out that: “1. The bill makes it compulsory for all public bodies to use only free software, that is to say open source software, which breaches the principles of equality before the law, that of non-discrimination and the right of free private enterprise, freedom of industry and of contract, protected by the constitution.”

This understanding is in error. The Bill in no way affects the rights you list; it limits itself entirely to establishing conditions for the use of software on the part of state institutions, without in any way meddling in private sector transactions. It is a well established principle that the State does not enjoy the wide spectrum of contractual freedom of the private sector, as it is limited in its actions precisely by the requirement for transparency of public acts; and in this sense, the preservation of the greater common interest must prevail when legislating on the matter.

The Bill protects equality under the law, since no natural or legal person is excluded from the right of offering these goods to the State under the conditions defined in the Bill and without more limitations than those established by the Law of State Contracts and Purchasing (T.U.O. by Supreme Decree No. 012-2001-PCM).

The Bill does not introduce any discrimination whatever, since it only establishes *how* the goods have to be provided (which is a state power) and not *who* has to provide them (which would effectively be discriminatory, if restrictions based on national origin, race religion, ideology, sexual preference etc. were imposed). On the contrary, the Bill is decidedly antidiscriminatory. This is so because by defining with no room for doubt the conditions for the provision of software, it prevents state bodies from using software which has a license including discriminatory conditions.

It should be obvious from the preceding two paragraphs that the Bill does not harm free private enterprise, since the latter can always choose under what conditions it will produce software; some of these will be acceptable to the State, and others will not be since they contradict the guarantee of the basic principles listed above. This free initiative is of course compatible with the freedom of industry and freedom of contract (in the limited form in which the State can exercise the latter). Any private subject can produce software under the conditions which the State requires, or can refrain from doing so. Nobody is forced to adopt a model of production, but if they wish to provide software to the State, they must provide the mechanisms which guarantee the basic principles, and which are those described in the Bill.

By way of an example: nothing in the text of the Bill would prevent your company offering the State bodies an office “suite”, under the conditions defined in the Bill and setting the price that you consider satisfactory. If you did not, it would not be due to restrictions imposed by the law, but to business decisions relative to the method of commercializing your products, decisions with which the State is not involved.

To continue; you note that:” 2. The bill, by making the use of open source software compulsory, would establish discriminatory and non competitive practices in the contracting and purchasing by public bodies…”

This statement is just a reiteration of the previous one, and so the response can be found above. However, let us concern ourselves for a moment with your comment regarding “non-competitive … practices.”

Of course, in defining any kind of purchase, the buyer sets conditions which relate to the proposed use of the good or service. From the start, this excludes certain manufacturers from the possibility of competing, but does not exclude them “a priori”, but rather based on a series of principles determined by the autonomous will of the purchaser, and so the process takes place in conformance with the law. And in the Bill it is established that *no one* is excluded from competing as far as he guarantees the fulfillment of the basic principles.

Furthermore, the Bill *stimulates* competition, since it tends to generate a supply of software with better conditions of usability, and to better existing work, in a model of continuous improvement.

On the other hand, the central aspect of competivity is the chance to provide better choices to the consumer. Now, it is impossible to ignore the fact that marketing does not play a neutral role when the product is offered on the market (since accepting the opposite would lead one to suppose that firms’ expenses in marketing lack any sense), and that therefore a significant expense under this heading can influence the decisions of the purchaser. This influence of marketing is in large measure reduced by the bill that we are backing, since the choice within the framework proposed is based on the *technical merits* of the product and not on the effort put into commercialization by the producer; in this sense, competitiveness is increased, since the smallest software producer can compete on equal terms with the most powerful corporations.

It is necessary to stress that there is no position more anti-competitive than that of the big software producers, which frequently abuse their dominant position, since in innumerable cases they propose as a solution to problems raised by users: “update your software to the new version” (at the user’s expense, naturally); furthermore, it is common to find arbitrary cessation of technical help for products, which, in the provider’s judgment alone, are “old”; and so, to receive any kind of technical assistance, the user finds himself forced to migrate to new versions (with non-trivial costs, especially as changes in hardware platform are often involved). And as the whole infrastructure is based on proprietary data formats, the user stays “trapped” in the need to continue using products from the same supplier, or to make the huge effort to change to another environment (probably also proprietary).

You add: “3. So, by compelling the State to favor a business model based entirely on open source, the bill would only discourage the local and international manufacturing companies, which are the ones which really undertake important expenditures, create a significant number of direct and indirect jobs, as well as contributing to the GNP, as opposed to a model of open source software which tends to have an ever weaker economic impact, since it mainly creates jobs in the service sector.”

I do not agree with your statement. Partly because of what you yourself point out in paragraph 6 of your letter, regarding the relative weight of services in the context of software use. This contradiction alone would invalidate your position. The service model, adopted by a large number of companies in the software industry, is much larger in economic terms, and with a tendency to increase, than the licensing of programs.

On the other hand, the private sector of the economy has the widest possible freedom to choose the economic model which best suits its interests, even if this freedom of choice is often obscured subliminally by the disproportionate expenditure on marketing by the producers of proprietary software.

In addition, a reading of your opinion would lead to the conclusion that the State market is crucial and essential for the proprietary software industry, to such a point that the choice made by the State in this bill would completely eliminate the market for these firms. If that is true, we can deduce that the State must be subsidizing the proprietary software industry. In the unlikely event that this were true, the State would have the right to apply the subsidies in the area it considered of greatest social value; it is undeniable, in this improbable hypothesis, that if the State decided to subsidize software, it would have to do so choosing the free over the proprietary, considering its social effect and the rational use of taxpayers money.

In respect of the jobs generated by proprietary software in countries like ours, these mainly concern technical tasks of little aggregate value; at the local level, the technicians who provide support for proprietary software produced by transnational companies do not have the possibility of fixing bugs, not necessarily for lack of technical capability or of talent, but because they do not have access to the source code to fix it. With free software one creates more technically qualified employment and a framework of free competence where success is only tied to the ability to offer good technical support and quality of service, one stimulates the market, and one increases the shared fund of knowledge, opening up alternatives to generate services of greater total value and a higher quality level, to the benefit of all involved: producers, service organizations, and consumers.

It is a common phenomenon in developing countries that local software industries obtain the majority of their takings in the service sector, or in the creation of “ad hoc” software. Therefore, any negative impact that the application of the Bill might have in this sector will be more than compensated by a growth in demand for services (as long as these are carried out to high quality standards). If the transnational software companies decide not to compete under these new rules of the game, it is likely that they will undergo some decrease in takings in terms of payment for licenses; however, considering that these firms continue to allege that much of the software used by the State has been illegally copied, one can see that the impact will not be very serious. Certainly, in any case their fortune will be determined by market laws, changes in which cannot be avoided; many firms traditionally associated with proprietary software have already set out on the road (supported by copious expense) of providing services associated with free software, which shows that the models are not mutually exclusive.

With this bill the State is deciding that it needs to preserve certain fundamental values. And it is deciding this based on its sovereign power, without affecting any of the constitutional guarantees. If these values could be guaranteed without having to choose a particular economic model, the effects of the law would be even more beneficial. In any case, it should be clear that the State does not choose an economic model; if it happens that there only exists one economic model capable of providing software which provides the basic guarantee of these principles, this is because of historical circumstances, not because of an arbitrary choice of a given model.

Your letter continues: “4. The bill imposes the use of open source software without considering the dangers that this can bring from the point of view of security, guarantee, and possible violation of the intellectual property rights of third parties.”

Alluding in an abstract way to “the dangers this can bring”, without specifically mentioning a single one of these supposed dangers, shows at the least some lack of knowledge of the topic. So, allow me to enlighten you on these points.

On security:

National security has already been mentioned in general terms in the initial discussion of the basic principles of the bill. In more specific terms, relative to the security of the software itself, it is well known that all software (whether proprietary or free) contains errors or “bugs” (in programmers’ slang). But it is also well known that the bugs in free software are fewer, and are fixed much more quickly, than in proprietary software. It is not in vain that numerous public bodies responsible for the IT security of state systems in developed countries require the use of free software for the same conditions of security and efficiency.

What is impossible to prove is that proprietary software is more secure than free, without the public and open inspection of the scientific community and users in general. This demonstration is impossible because the model of proprietary software itself prevents this analysis, so that any guarantee of security is based only on promises of good intentions (biased, by any reckoning) made by the producer itself, or its contractors.

It should be remembered that in many cases, the licensing conditions include Non-Disclosure clauses which prevent the user from publicly revealing security flaws found in the licensed proprietary product.

In respect of the guarantee:

As you know perfectly well, or could find out by reading the “End User License Agreement” of the products you license, in the great majority of cases the guarantees are limited to replacement of the storage medium in case of defects, but in no case is compensation given for direct or indirect damages, loss of profits, etc… If as a result of a security bug in one of your products, not fixed in time by yourselves, an attacker managed to compromise crucial State systems, what guarantees, reparations and compensation would your company make in accordance with your licensing conditions? The guarantees of proprietary software, inasmuch as programs are delivered “AS IS”, that is, in the state in which they are, with no additional responsibility of the provider in respect of function, in no way differ from those normal with free software.

On Intellectual Property:

Questions of intellectual property fall outside the scope of this bill, since they are covered by specific other laws. The model of free software in no way implies ignorance of these laws, and in fact the great majority of free software is covered by copyright. In reality, the inclusion of this question in your observations shows your confusion in respect of the legal framework in which free software is developed. The inclusion of the intellectual property of others in works claimed as one’s own is not a practice that has been noted in the free software community; whereas, unfortunately, it has been in the area of proprietary software. As an example, the condemnation by the Commercial Court of Nanterre, France, on 27th September 2001 of Microsoft Corp. to a penalty of 3 million francs in damages and interest, for violation of intellectual property (piracy, to use the unfortunate term that your firm commonly uses in its publicity).

You go on to say that: “The bill uses the concept of open source software incorrectly, since it does not necessarily imply that the software is free or of zero cost, and so arrives at mistaken conclusions regarding State savings, with no cost-benefit analysis to validate its position.”

This observation is wrong; in principle, freedom and lack of cost are orthogonal concepts: there is software which is proprietary and charged for (for example, MS Office), software which is proprietary and free of charge (MS Internet Explorer), software which is free and charged for (Red Hat, SuSE etc GNU/Linux distributions), software which is free and not charged for (Apache, Open Office, Mozilla), and even software which can be licensed in a range of combinations (MySQL).

Certainly free software is not necessarily free of charge. And the text of the bill does not state that it has to be so, as you will have noted after reading it. The definitions included in the Bill state clearly *what* should be considered free software, at no point referring to freedom from charges. Although the possibility of savings in payments for proprietary software licenses are mentioned, the foundations of the bill clearly refer to the fundamental guarantees to be preserved and to the stimulus to local technological development. Given that a democratic State must support these principles, it has no other choice than to use software with publicly available source code, and to exchange information only in standard formats.

If the State does not use software with these characteristics, it will be weakening basic republican principles. Luckily, free software also implies lower total costs; however, even given the hypothesis (easily disproved) that it was more expensive than proprietary software, the simple existence of an effective free software tool for a particular IT function would oblige the State to use it; not by command of this Bill, but because of the basic principles we enumerated at the start, and which arise from the very essence of the lawful democratic State.

You continue: “6. It is wrong to think that Open Source Software is free of charge. Research by the Gartner Group (an important investigator of the technological market recognized at world level) has shown that the cost of purchase of software (operating system and applications) is only 8% of the total cost which firms and institutions take on for a rational and truly beneficial use of the technology. The other 92% consists of: installation costs, enabling, support, maintenance, administration, and down-time.”

This argument repeats that already given in paragraph 5 and partly contradicts paragraph 3. For the sake of brevity we refer to the comments on those paragraphs. However, allow me to point out that your conclusion is logically false: even if according to Gartner Group the cost of software is on average only 8% of the total cost of use, this does not in any way deny the existence of software which is free of charge, that is, with a licensing cost of zero.

In addition, in this paragraph you correctly point out that the service components and losses due to down-time make up the largest part of the total cost of software use, which, as you will note, contradicts your statement regarding the small value of services suggested in paragraph 3. Now the use of free software contributes significantly to reduce the remaining life-cycle costs. This reduction in the costs of installation, support etc. can be noted in several areas: in the first place, the competitive service model of free software, support and maintenance for which can be freely contracted out to a range of suppliers competing on the grounds of quality and low cost. This is true for installation, enabling, and support, and in large part for maintenance. In the second place, due to the reproductive characteristics of the model, maintenance carried out for an application is easily replicable, without incurring large costs (that is, without paying more than once for the same thing) since modifications, if one wishes, can be incorporated in the common fund of knowledge. Thirdly, the huge costs caused by non-functioning software (“blue screens of death”, malicious code such as virus, worms, and trojans, exceptions, general protection faults and other well-known problems) are reduced considerably by using more stable software; and it is well known that one of the most notable virtues of free software is its stability.

You further state that: “7. One of the arguments behind the bill is the supposed freedom from costs of open-source software, compared with the costs of commercial software, without taking into account the fact that there exist types of volume licensing which can be highly advantageous for the State, as has happened in other countries.”

I have already pointed out that what is in question is not the cost of the software but the principles of freedom of information, accessibility, and security. These arguments have been covered extensively in the preceding paragraphs to which I would refer you.

On the other hand, there certainly exist types of volume licensing (although unfortunately proprietary software does not satisfy the basic principles). But as you correctly pointed out in the immediately preceding paragraph of your letter, they only manage to reduce the impact of a component which makes up no more than 8% of the total.

You continue: “8. In addition, the alternative adopted by the bill (I) is clearly more expensive, due to the high costs of software migration, and (II) puts at risk compatibility and interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector, given the hundreds of versions of open source software on the market.”

Let us analyze your statement in two parts. Your first argument, that migration implies high costs, is in reality an argument in favor of the Bill. Because the more time goes by, the more difficult migration to another technology will become; and at the same time, the security risks associated with proprietary software will continue to increase. In this way, the use of proprietary systems and formats will make the State ever more dependent on specific suppliers. Once a policy of using free software has been established (which certainly, does imply some cost) then on the contrary migration from one system to another becomes very simple, since all data is stored in open formats. On the other hand, migration to an open software context implies no more costs than migration between two different proprietary software contexts, which invalidates your argument completely.

The second argument refers to “problems in interoperability of the IT platforms within the State, and between the State and the private sector” This statement implies a certain lack of knowledge of the way in which free software is built, which does not maximize the dependence of the user on a particular platform, as normally happens in the realm of proprietary software. Even when there are multiple free software distributions, and numerous programs which can be used for the same function, interoperability is guaranteed as much by the use of standard formats, as required by the bill, as by the possibility of creating interoperable software given the availability of the source code.

You then say that: “9. The majority of open source code does not offer adequate levels of service nor the guarantee from recognized manufacturers of high productivity on the part of the users, which has led various public organizations to retract their decision to go with an open source software solution and to use commercial software in its place.”

This observation is without foundation. In respect of the guarantee, your argument was rebutted in the response to paragraph 4. In respect of support services, it is possible to use free software without them (just as also happens with proprietary software), but anyone who does need them can obtain support separately, whether from local firms or from international corporations, again just as in the case of proprietary software.

On the other hand, it would contribute greatly to our analysis if you could inform us about free software projects *established* in public bodies which have already been abandoned in favor of proprietary software. We know of a good number of cases where the opposite has taken place, but not know of any where what you describe has taken place.

You continue by observing that: “10. The bill discourages the creativity of the Peruvian software industry, which invoices 40 million US$/year, exports 4 million US$ (10th in ranking among non-traditional exports, more than handicrafts) and is a source of highly qualified employment. With a law that encourages the use of open source, software programmers lose their intellectual property rights and their main source of payment.”

It is clear enough that nobody is forced to commercialize their code as free software. The only thing to take into account is that if it is not free software, it cannot be sold to the public sector. This is not in any case the main market for the national software industry. We covered some questions referring to the influence of the Bill on the generation of employment which would be both highly technically qualified and in better conditions for competition above, so it seems unnecessary to insist on this point.

What follows in your statement is incorrect. On the one hand, no author of free software loses his intellectual property rights, unless he expressly wishes to place his work in the public domain. The free software movement has always been very respectful of intellectual property, and has generated widespread public recognition of its authors. Names like those of Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds, Guido van Rossum, Larry Wall, Miguel de Icaza, Andrew Tridgell, Theo de Raadt, Andrea Arcangeli, Bruce Perens, Darren Reed, Alan Cox, Eric Raymond, and many others, are recognized world-wide for their contributions to the development of software that is used today by millions of people throughout the world. On the other hand, to say that the rewards for authors rights make up the main source of payment of Peruvian programmers is in any case a guess, in particular since there is no proof to this effect, nor a demonstration of how the use of free software by the State would influence these payments.

You go on to say that: “11. Open source software, since it can be distributed without charge, does not allow the generation of income for its developers through exports. In this way, the multiplier effect of the sale of software to other countries is weakened, and so in turn is the growth of the industry, while Government rules ought on the contrary to stimulate local industry.”

This statement shows once again complete ignorance of the mechanisms of and market for free software. It tries to claim that the market of sale of non- exclusive rights for use (sale of licenses) is the only possible one for the software industry, when you yourself pointed out several paragraphs above that it is not even the most important one. The incentives that the bill offers for the growth of a supply of better qualified professionals, together with the increase in experience that working on a large scale with free software within the State will bring for Peruvian technicians, will place them in a highly competitive position to offer their services abroad.

You then state that: “12. In the Forum, the use of open source software in education was discussed, without mentioning the complete collapse of this initiative in a country like Mexico, where precisely the State employees who founded the project now state that open source software did not make it possible to offer a learning experience to pupils in the schools, did not take into account the capability at a national level to give adequate support to the platform, and that the software did not and does not allow for the levels of platform integration that now exist in schools.”

In fact Mexico has gone into reverse with the Red Escolar (Schools Network) project. This is due precisely to the fact that the driving forces behind the Mexican project used license costs as their main argument, instead of the other reasons specified in our project, which are far more essential. Because of this conceptual mistake, and as a result of the lack of effective support from the SEP (Secretary of State for Public Education), the assumption was made that to implant free software in schools it would be enough to drop their software budget and send them a CD ROM with Gnu/Linux instead. Of course this failed, and it couldn’t have been otherwise, just as school laboratories fail when they use proprietary software and have no budget for implementation and maintenance. That’s exactly why our bill is not limited to making the use of free software mandatory, but recognizes the need to create a viable migration plan, in which the State undertakes the technical transition in an orderly way in order to then enjoy the advantages of free software.

You end with a rhetorical question: “13. If open source software satisfies all the requirements of State bodies, why do you need a law to adopt it? Shouldn’t it be the market which decides freely which products give most benefits or value?”

We agree that in the private sector of the economy, it must be the market that decides which products to use, and no state interference is permissible there. However, in the case of the public sector, the reasoning is not the same: as we have already established, the state archives, handles, and transmits information which does not belong to it, but which is entrusted to it by citizens, who have no alternative under the rule of law. As a counterpart to this legal requirement, the State must take extreme measures to safeguard the integrity, confidentiality, and accessibility of this information. The use of proprietary software raises serious doubts as to whether these requirements can be fulfilled, lacks conclusive evidence in this respect, and so is not suitable for use in the public sector.

The need for a law is based, firstly, on the realization of the fundamental principles listed above in the specific area of software; secondly, on the fact that the State is not an ideal homogeneous entity, but made up of multiple bodies with varying degrees of autonomy in decision making. Given that it is inappropriate to use proprietary software, the fact of establishing these rules in law will prevent the personal discretion of any state employee from putting at risk the information which belongs to citizens. And above all, because it constitutes an up-to-date reaffirmation in relation to the means of management and communication of information used today, it is based on the republican principle of openness to the public.

In conformance with this universally accepted principle, the citizen has the right to know all information held by the State and not covered by well- founded declarations of secrecy based on law. Now, software deals with information and is itself information. Information in a special form, capable of being interpreted by a machine in order to execute actions, but crucial information all the same because the citizen has a legitimate right to know, for example, how his vote is computed or his taxes calculated. And for that he must have free access to the source code and be able to prove to his satisfaction the programs used for electoral computations or calculation of his taxes.

I wish you the greatest respect, and would like to repeat that my office will always be open for you to expound your point of view to whatever level of detail you consider suitable.

Cordially,

DR. EDGAR DAVID VILLANUEVA NUÑEZ

Congressman of the Republic of Perú.

Posted in Intellectual Property, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Arne Naess’ Empirical Semantics

My friend G. pointed out a problem that is very relevant in verbal communication between people of different backgrounds, and which needs to be addressed if we want to produce useful knowledge interdisciplinarily. In her words:

“Finally another aspect that made me reflect a lot is the problem of definition when communicating with someone that is not involved in an academic discourse. I had the feeling that it is really hard but necessary to ‘translate’ words when speaking with an interlocutor from another cultural background. The easy use of certain categories (community, movement, religion, rituals, spirituality) could put the interlocutor in a condition of insecurity or confusion and maybe take the conversation in a wrong direction. It feels like defining something that for them has no need to be defined in this way but in a simpler one. It is then of course necessary to translate and interpret it all again and now I understand how delicate this process could be.” (G., unpublished document)

This is an evident problem in communications between academics and non-academics, but is also something that happens in a general way in all verbal communication.

In academic and other institutionalized discourses, the problem can reach an extreme level which actually generates more confusion instead of improving clarity. As was remarked by Michael Agar, commenting on methodological innovation in the social sciences:

“My first problem with our topic was the usual academic pathology: When I lift the lid off core concepts in most any academic statement – or government or corporate report for that matter – I gaze down into the ninth circle of semantic hell.” (Agar, n.d., 3)

Arne Naess, the Norwegian philosopher mostly known as a founder of the deep ecology movement, proposed a way to deal with these difficulties in his philosophy of language. Actually, his eco-philosophy and the foundations of deep ecology were developed after his work in the philosophy of language, and are somewhat dependent on it.

He devised a theory of communication and interpretation to account for the way people actually use language to understand each other. His theory is also a tool to improve understanding and communication – much needed in the context of social and ecological movements, as well as in any field of human interaction.

His approach was called “empirical semantics”, and involved the simple practice of asking people what they understand by some word or expression. Actually it is wider than that, and involves asking people what are their world-views and beliefs, and what do they mean by them. He used a methodology of questionnaires to do that, and developed his semantic theory from these empirical studies, applying set theory to semantics. The platform of deep ecology and his own “Ecosophy T” were developed through the use of this technique.

This is a sketch of the idea, as I understood it so far:

When two people communicate, what happens is that the sender of the message has the intention to convey a meaning, and the receiver will interpret the message in his/her own way, depending on her background, previous experience, previous communications, etc.

There are many possible interpretations for any given term, or phrase, or statement. Given the set of all possible interpretations for a term, only a subset of this will correspond to the intended meaning of the sender.

Naess notes that there are many possible “levels” of interpretation for a term / phrase / statement. The lowest level is the most vague, and involves all possible interpretations. Subsequent levels are more “precise”, in that they exclude some of these, and make the meaning of a term more limited. A more precise interpretation thus corresponds to a smaller subset of possible interpretations in relation to a lower level of preciseness.

What is interesting about this view is that he reverses the usual idea that the most precise uses of language are always the most desirable. When you make a word more precise, you are actually excluding other possible interpretations. This is not always a good thing, because sometimes it is desirable to keep the possibilities of interpretation open.

According to Naess, options of interpretation should be “kept open as long as this is heuristically convenient” (Naess, 1977, 171). In fact, it is interesting to keep terms and sentences “purposely open to a variety of interpretations” and to use “vagueness and ambiguity to achieve multiple interpretability” (Naess, 1977, 170) .

While discussing with someone about an ecovillage, for example, a very high initial level of preciseness on the part of a speaker will only alienate the interlocutor, because the interlocutor may have in mind a more open interpretation of certain terms and sentences.

From common experience, we see that when speakers are mutually committed to understanding each other (beyond the individual interest they may have in convincing or persuading each other of the truth of their claims or of the need to act in a certain way), they can work together on forming a common vocabulary. This is a process that happens naturally through continued interaction in a group, when the group gradually forms a common language to account for its shared experience. It also happens naturally between friends, who through prolonged interaction understand each other better with time, developing shared meanings.

Another problem we face is that in a tight economy of attention this becomes increasingly difficult, as people don’t have the time to spend in deeper reading or deeper talking and deeper engagement with others. This is especially the case in the contemporary society of information, in which people’s attention is highly manipulated and under constant pressure from bio-political technologies that turn it into a commodity. But this is a different topic.

References:

Agar, Michael. n.d. “A Method to My Madness: What Counts as Innovation in Social Science?” (draft). (PDF)

Chapman, Siobhan. 2011. “Arne Naess and Empirical Semantics.” Inquiry 54 (1): 18–30.

Radler, Jan. 2011. “Arne Naess’ Meta-Philosophy: From ‘Empirical Semantics’ to ‘Deep Ecology.’” Baltic Journal of European Studies 1 (1): 125–38.

Naess, Arne. 1977. “The Methodology of Normative Systems”, in: Alan Drengson and Bill Devall (eds.), The Ecology of Wisdom: Writings by Arne Naess (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2010): 167-180.

Posted in Philosophy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Activism in the Netherlands

This is a list of links directly or indirectly related to activism in the Netherlands.

More suggestions are welcome.

Activist Netherlands magazines/sites:

http://www.doorbraak.eu/ Breakthrough, Left grassroots organization that fights for an ecologically sustainable world without exploitation, oppression and exclusion. Against capitalism, patriarchy, racism, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and militarism.

http://www.omslag.nl/ Workshop for Sustainable Development. Brings people together around the themes of environment, peace, work, culture, economy and solidarity. News, ads and jobs for people with ideals. Publishes the magazine ZOZ.

http://www.anarchisme.nl Anarchist site (in Dutch)

http://www.ravage-webzine.nl/ A socially critical, opinionated and activist webzine that focuses on progressive people and groups, in particular non-partisan action and pressure groups.

http://www.devrije.nl/ Anarchist webzine (in Dutch)

http://www.vrijebond.org/ Anarchist site which “serves as a platform to meet, share experiences, develop theory thinking, strategies, but also to set up activities together or support.”

http://www.konfrontatie.nl Left-wing magazine (in Dutch)

https://www.indymedia.nl/ Free Media Center Netherlands

Netherlands campaign / activist groups interested in social and economic justice

http://dare.uva.nl/document/446644 A thesis on shareholder activism in the Netherlands

http://kritischestudentenutrecht.wordpress.com/ Open student collective in Utrecht.

Active squats and cultural centers

http://valreep.org/ De Valreep is a social center in the making in Amsterdam East. It was established 24 July 2011 in a completely run-down but beautiful building – the former Pet Asylum.

http://www.joesgarage.nl/ Joe’s Garage is an independent socio-political center in a squat in Amsterdam East.

http://www.molli.nl/ De Molli is a squatted café in Amsterdam De Pijp.

http://speculanten.nl/ SPOK, speculative research collective

http://www.deslang.nl/ De Slang, Snake-house Collective, squatted since 1983

http://studentenkraakspreekuur.wordpress.com/english/ Student Squatting Information Center

http://admleeft.nl/ De Amsterdamsche Droogdok-Maatschappij, Amsterdam Drydock Company, squat community

http://www.ndsm.nl/en/ An artistic community.

www.ruigoord.nl Ruigoord, an artistic colony near Amsterdam, active since 1973.

http://binnenpr.home.xs4all.nl/ A complex of various political and cultural initiatives.

http://ot301.nl Cultural association E.H.B.K., better known as OT301.

http://occii.org/ Onafhankelijk Cultureel Centrum In It, Independent Cultural Center.

http://vrankrijk.org/ Vrankrijk.

http://planet.squat.net/ Squat!net, an international squat network. “Squat!net provides websites, email and mailing lists for squatters and related projects since 1997 ! We are a volunteer and non profit based group of people building an autonomous infrastructure.”

Netherlands environmentalist groups

http://www.milieudefensie.nl/ Dutch branch of Friends of the Earth International

http://aseed.net/en Action for Solidarity Environment Equality and Diversity

http://www.groenfront.nl/ Earth First – A “network of radical nature lovers and anarchist eco-saboteurs”.

http://www.dwars.org/ “Contrary”, the GreenLeft Youth Organisation, is the independent youth wing of GreenLeft, the Dutch Green political party.

http://www.degroenen.nl/ Dutch Green political party.

http://www.ce.nl/ CE Delft is a non-profit environmental consultancy based in Delft, the Netherlands.

http://www.natuurmonumenten.nl/ Vereniging tot Behoud van Natuurmonumenten in Nederland (Society for preservation of nature monuments in the Netherlands) is a Dutch organisation founded in 1905 by Jac. P. Thijsse, that buys, protects and manages nature reserves in the Netherlands.

http://transitiontowns.nl/ Transition Towns Netherlands, connected to https://www.transitionnetwork.org/

http://www.charity-charities.org/Environmental/Netherlands.html A list of environmental non-profits in the Netherlands.

http://eliadam.nl/ELIA, Ecologisch Leef Initiatief Amsterdam (Ecological Living Initiative Amsterdam). “ELIA Association was founded on June 3, 2013 , with the aim of contributing to the realization of socio – ecological living initiatives in and around the Amsterdam region. We do this by creating a network where interested people can work on the realization of such initiatives together.”

Alternative economy projects or groups in Netherlands – alternative currencies / sharing economy / co-operatives

http://www.vita.it/europe/guides/the-netherlands-a-third-sector-among-the-largest-in-the-world.html?cnt=95464 Article on cooperatives in the Netherlands (with more links).

http://www.oikocredit.nl/ Credit co-operative, member of http://coopseurope.coop/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAAM#Currency One alternative currency

http://sharenl.nl/ A platform for the Dutch share economy

http://www.noppes.nl/ “A local exchange and trading system (LETS) with its own digital market place, where members exchange goods and services using its own currency: the nop.”

http://www.kunstreservebank.nl/ Kunst Reserve Bank

http://timebank.cc/ “Timebank is a tool, accessible to everyone, to share skills and knowledge. Trade services with other Timebankers in exchange for time instead of conventional money.”

http://www.iamexpat.nl/read-and-discuss/expat-page/news/alternative-currencies-gaining-popularity-netherlands Recent article on alternative currencies in the Netherlands

Groups running campaigns targeting banks or the financial industry in Netherlands (like Banktrack etc)

http://www.eerlijkebankwijzer.nl/english/ Bank Wiser International, a honest bank comparison site. “The aim of the tool is to initiate a ‘race to the top’ between banks on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)”.

Any ethical banks based in Netherlands

http://www.triodos.nl/

http://www.asnbank.nl “opt for fair trade and sustainable energy, against child labor and weapons industry”

Cooperative banks:

https://www.rabobank.com

Posted in Education | Tagged | Leave a comment

Bios Technika Project

Copied from Bios Technika:

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Our commitment is anthropological, a combination of disciplined intellectual work and empirical inquiry. Our challenge is to produce knowledge in such a way that the work involved enhances us ethically, politically, and ontologically. The curve of Western philosophy has been to place more and more emphasis on deciding whether or not something is true while practices of spirituality have been delegated to religion. The challenge of a contemporary anthropology is to invent and experiment with new forms of relating truth and spirituality. Said more generally: What are the reflected modes and forms for conducting life: the bios technika – the arts and techniques of living? In short: what is a worthwhile philosophic and anthropological practice today?

ABOUT INQUIRY

John Dewey writes that “Inquiry begins in an indeterminate situation [and is] the set of operations by which the situation is resolved (settled or rendered determinate).” A succesful inquiry arises in, works thorugh, and seeks form for concrete contexts. There may be generalitites in the world or in knowledge, but it is improper to neglect the fact that they arose from a set of operations and observations that were partially determined by and partially determinative of a prior indeterminate situation. Inquiry is thus experimental in its form giving. Inquiry does not represent a pre-existing situation, nor construct an entirely new one. It consists in reiterated and controlled adjustment.

ABOUT CONCEPTS

Concepts are tools designed to be used on specified problems, cases, and inquiry, and calibrated to the production of pragmatic outcomes both analytic and ethical. Concept work involves archaeological, genealogical, and diagnostic dimensions. Archaeologically, concept work involves investigating and characterizing concepts as part of a prior repertoire or structured conceptual ensemble. Genealogically, concept work frees concepts from their field of emergence by showing the contingent history of their selection, formation, as well as their potential contemporary significance. Diagnostically, concept work involves a critical function: testing the adequacy and appropriateness of a given concept to new problems and purposes.

ABOUT DIAGNOSTICS

A diagnostic has two functions. The first is analytic. It facilitates the work of decomposition of complex wholes in order to test the logic on the basis of which composition has taken place. In diagnostics, the work of decomposition cannot be an end-in-itself. Rather, analysis must be followed by recomposition. This synthetic work is the second function of a diagnostic. A diagnostic is thus a device operating to distinguish and designate, as well as characterize and fashion categories and elements so as to give them an appropriate form (i. e. characterized by elective affinity, mutual consistency, coherence, and co-operability).

ABOUT PATHWAYS

Operating under a genealogical metric of veridiction, a pathway functions to orient inquiry. It moves across and connects elements in a heterogeneous and dynamic contemporary problem space. It consists of markers whose function is focus attention on significance, indeterminacy, and discordancy. Unlike a recursive series of categories in a diagnostic whose logic and form is analytic, a pathway genealogically reduces historical complexity to a series of nodes.

ABOUT CASES

Our use of cases follows in the tradition of casuistry in its various ramifications from ethics, to law, medicine, and other domains. We distinguish cases from examples. Whereas examples function to illustrate theory, cases are specific while also having ramifying analogical relations to other cases. The significance of a case turns neither on its singularity nor on its universality. Rather, it turns on a productive relation between the necessity of taking into account the particularity of a given case as well as the relevant metric that specified that case and directs inquiry to pursue a series of analogical cases.

ABOUT DETERMINATIONS

The process of inquiry involves staying in the midst of things of the world but of transforming them in specific ways so as to give them the kind of form that is determinate. Therefore, our work in this category consists in identifying and formulating such determinations in their empirical specificity, i. e. their determinations. Hence the interest of an experiment is its ability not to represent a pre-existing situation nor to construct an entirely new one but through reiterated and controlled adjustment to arrive at a determinate and concordant situation.

Posted in Philosophy, Spirituality | Tagged | 1 Comment