Stallman, Gates, Hackers and Scientific Ingenuity

Michael Cohen mike at
Fri Oct 23 09:05:58 PDT 1998

Louis raised an interesting point about the Hacker ethic which is far more general. His point was that the creators of the best in modern software were in general far more egalitarian than Gates. In fact Gates own product DOS and Windows is quite mediocre, Microsoft's talent is not in original software development.

I am looking at a essay by B. Moore recently published done about 8 to ten years ago on "The Moral Bases of Economic development". Moore tries to argue that for the most part the inventors of modern machinery like the mechanized loom, the steam engine etc. where tinkerers not profit maximizers a la Marx and Engles. Either they were reactionary, i.e. they wanted the profits from the use of their invented machinery in perpetuity or were egalitarian, i.e. had no trouble giving the profits and inventions away.

I haven't got very far but I suspect the class basis for the support for

bourgeoise morality probably came from the petty borgeoisie, beaurocrats and liberal intellectuals in early industrial societies for whom glory and intellectual achievement were not an option, only wealth, small achievement, and plunder was. Entrepaneurial man and economic man on this account were mostly a myth. On this theory, the finance part of Capitalism whose worth was significantly vestigal from the start needed a grand ideological reasons to justify its existence. At the moment, I am far from competent in evaluating the historical record on this score. Nevertheless this hypothesis seems very plausible to me.

To the extent I or any of my colleagues have ever discovered anything, we all are "middle class", and our immediate entrichment is usually far from our minds. Glory is another story. The most greedy of the scientists generally end up running institutions, and end up for the most part with second rate scientific careers even though they may be better "known" in the press and the world than the true producers.

--mike -- Michael Cohen mike at Work: 677 Beacon, Street, Rm313 Boston, Mass 02115 Home: 25 Stearns Rd, #3 Brookline, Mass 02146 Tel-Work: 617-353-9484 Tel-Home:617-734-8828 Tel-FAX:617-353-7755

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