Graham Seaman’s “The Two Economies”

Last week, I met Graham Seaman while in London and we talked about Oekonux, Hipatia, and lots of ideas about extending principles of Free Software beyond the IP sphere. I finally got around to reading the transcript of Graham Seaman’s talk from last year’s Oekonux conference — of which I’d heard a lot of hype.

The talk covers a lot of ground but, in large part, it is a response to a number of the conversations within Oekonux about the production of material goods under models of free software in major society-changing sort of way. My personal interest (of course) is in the production of non-software knowledge based products but I still find the question interesting.

Like a lot of work in Oekonux, Graham’s piece looks into the future — way into the future. It not only looks at Free Software’s effect on the economics of a particular industry — say, the recording industry — but at major changes to the way that our world’s economic system works. These sorts of questions are intriguing — and certainly fun to think about — but I think they tend to focus so much on some much on the major points that they ignore some of the steps along the way that will shape the way that the everything works.

Personally, I tend to prefer focusing on the more immediate questions like "how do we go from the current situation of highly proprietized production of, say, fiction to free production of fiction." That said, I think this talk is of the best treatments and I think Graham’s analysis goes into depth about the way that Free Software actually works. I think it includes observation, analysis, and critique in a way that — if nothing else — can teach us a good deal about the nature of Free Software production.

So Graham’s talk is all about how the world could be reshaped by the principles of sharing and cooperation that are in a germ form in Free Software. HE first goes through two proposed alternatives (I assume from the Oekonux list before I joined it) and talks about what he thinks can work, what he likes and why. He covers:

  • The idea of using "fabbers" or all purpose production machines.
  • The idea that material goods will become so cheap and easy to produce that nobody really cares about them and all the important issues in society will be about producing immaterial goods.

Graham thought that the idea of fabbers was more science fiction than anything else — and I tend to agree. I’ve read a couple papers that are all about the philosophical and economic consequences of a world when fabbers and nanotechnology turn material goods into information and I, like Graham, just find it implausible. I think Graham does a pretty good job of deflating this idea.

In terms of the second proposal, Graham found the idea believable in a very long-term (hundreds of years) sort of way but still found it unpleasant. He ties that sort of change to mass-poverty, migration and worse and doesn’t feel comfortable going down this path.

Graham’s talk is about a third social solution based on some serious observation of Free Software practice and some deep thinking about the way that the economy of the future will look. Graham says:

It’s becoming increasingly hard for the old system to produce software products. There are many products – especially ones that require cooperation of some kind, that require some kind of sharing, even commercially, that simply can’t be produced under commercial constraints.

Basically, Graham describes a system where Free Software is created and fostered by a system that will undose itself. I’m not totally convinced of his conclusions but I definitely think there is something there.

Even if you have no interest in his conclusions or discussion of the way that Free Software can or will reshape the world. As just one example, Graham talks a connection he saw between Free Software and the business cycle:

Free software is not totally independent of the business cycle. I thought it might be. I went to Freshmeat and got all the stats for Freshmeat of the projects that were added over the life of Freshmeat, to see whether it reflected the current downturn in the economy and in IT and commercial IT in particular, hoping that it would show a line like that. But it didn’t … Now this is very odd for me, because the FLOSS survey said unemployment plays no part in free software. Basically, people in free software don’t get out of work; and my guess, especially for people I’ve noticed, is that people who are out of work treat it as temporary. And the first thing they do is to put more time into writing free software anyway. But it appears that that’s not the case, that free software is still, somehow, dependent on the business cycle.

It’s not totally clear to me — or to Graham — whether or not his data is representative. I think the issue deserves a good hard look.

There’s a lot of good stuff in the article. It’s definitely worth checking out in the Oekonux archives:

I went ahead and registered both and

The email addresses have been going like hotcakes. I gave my friend Alan Toner My friend J has As for me, I’m a little less fortunately named; I’m just

On the more palindromic side of things:

I’m happy to give these email addresses out so please feel free to suggest the domain to folks; if you think they would enjoy an email address, be sure to keep me in the loop — just CC

Eating Out in London

Eating out in London is expensive. It’s a lot like being very hungry and then getting mugged in a way that leave you no longer hungry.

Scandinavian Blue

At University, I was involved in a volunteer project to redecorate one of the student areas on campus. We wanted to use vibrant colors and wanted to paint one wall purple. The school put its foot down: No Purple.

We managed to find a color called Scandinavian Blue that was, unambiguously, purple. We presented them with purple colored sample chip with Scandinavian blue written on it and they happily.

I like the idea of a paint company that sells many colors under the names of many other colors. A red could be deep sunset violet. A yellow could be sunshine red, a green could be forest orange.

Why the *%?#! did you do that?

I do a lot of things that other people have a hard time understanding the motivation behind. For the record, I think there are three major reasons that motivate me to do things that are otherwise confusing or not apparent to people:

  • I had never done the action in question before.
  • I wanted to be able to be able to (honestly) say that I’d done the action in question.
  • I thought it might get me into a local newspapers’ "I Saw You" classified ads sections.

Vowel Poetry

I like my friend’s Louai’s name a lot. It dawned on me that perhaps this had something to do with the high concentration of vowels in his name. To test the theory, I set out to write poetry with lots of vowels.

Processing an English word list is relatively easy although picking the most appropriate processing strategy proved more challenging.

At first I set out to get words with a high concentration ratio of vowels to consonants. Unfortunately, this tends to privilege shorter words with less letters overall where it is easier to score a high ratio—words like “a” or “are.”. Out of curiosity, I also experimented with words with a high “number of consonants subtracted from number of values” number which gave me a other nice vowel-heavy words—how about a poem set in Ouagadougou?

I don’t claim the words I received were the best words possible but I thought the poetry was quite nice sounding with the high emphasis on vowels (for the sake of simplicity, I included ‘y’ as a vowel).

My first poem was a political poem:

courageously initiate equality: audacious idea
evacuate Europeanization
uneasy euphoria


reinitialize, reevaluate
zealously enjoy your opiate

Because too much seriously is just unhealthy, I wrote a rather raunchy sex poem to balance things out:

eyeful: your beauteous aureole, buoyancy
cautiously auto in your avenue
aerosolize joyous mayonnaise
oily opaque ooze
epilogue: goates inadequate

You can download the perl scripts I used to get the words here:

Use the code as you wish but please send me patches or improvements.

First Post!

Under pressure from a number of people and this crazy “planet” craze that seem so important to my Canonical Non-Nomical employeer and co-workers, I’ve decided to break down and create a web log.

I’ll keep this under wraps for some time to see if it’s something I can stick to. I’ll write about my interests. I suspect that this will center mostly around issues of Free Software, books, art, internationalization, and issues of intellectual property and copyright.

Terrorize Your Friends Drinking Game

Here’s my idea for a drinking game:

Everyone takes a (highly alcoholic) drink of their choice or lines up shots and finds a TV with cable news. Pick a US News Channel (FOX News is particularly good). Now every time one of the talking heads mentions “terror,” “terrorist,” “terrorize” or “terrorism,” everyone takes a drink. Adding a qualifier like “potential” or “suspected” as in “suspected terrorist activity” is a 2x magnifier. Inventing new types of terrorism like “information terrorism” or “commercial terrorism” to terror-ize concepts that have previously never been thought of us “terrorism” is a 3x magnifier.

I’m confident it’s not a unique idea. Suggestions and modifications are welcome.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

C-x C-s C-x C-c

Perhaps it’s just the novelty of the situation but it’s becoming undeniable.

When my girlfriend asks me questions about Microsoft Word (even to a lesser extent), I get slightly annoyed.

When my girlfriend asks me questions about GNU Emacs, I get slightly turned on.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

What Could Be Better?

I was hungry for Chinese and I told my girlfriend that I couldn’t think of anything better than going to get humbow with my her.

She couldn’t think of anything either, except maybe going to get humbow with someone else’s more charming, more attractive girlfriend. True enough.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

Blueberry Salmon

I once had salmon that tasted exactly like blueberries. It wasn’t served in a blueberry sauce, or any sauce at all for that matter, and the two other orders of the same dish at the table tasted normal. It was as if this particular salmon had eaten huge numbers of blueberries and the meat itself had soaked up the blueberry taste. Everyone at the table verified the phenomena.

Now I like blueberries, and blueberry salmon isn’t bad tasting per se, but it’s so unusual that it detracts from and devalues the normal salmon eating experience.

We told the waitress at the restaurant restaurant but she didn’t believe us.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

Soaking Beans

Today I left dehydrated black beans in my mouth for an entire evening in an attempt to find out if it were possible for the saliva my mouth to reconstitute dried beans.

It seems that it’s possible.

It’s certainly not the most effective way to rehydrate beans but it’s a process that, in one evening, taught me more about the been reconstitution process, and about bean structure in general, than I thought I would ever know.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

Diamonds Aren’t My Girl’s Best Friend

I’m not a big fan of diamond jewelry. The stories of artificial scarcity, the stories of horrible working conditions in the mines, the stories of massive rich manipulative organizations at the helm of the industry: all checks against the stones.

Additionally, I’m really not a fan of engagement rings. They seem to be both a sign of conspicuous consumption and a sign of ownership co-dependencey and control: a more expensive sophisticated hickey or high school letter jacket.

And sure, I understand that for most people, the ring is about a sign of love: “He loves me enough to spend lots of money on this ring.” However, I find this lack of critical perspective to be an extremely unattractive, even incompatible trait in a girl.

If I proposed to a woman and she asked for a ring, not only would not go out and buy her a ring, I think I would retract the engagement on the spot. I just can’t imagine happily spending the rest of my life with someone who could want a diamond engagement ring.

Talk about a request backfiring.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.

Extending the Baseball Metaphor

In America, people use a baseball metaphor to describe sexual experiences. If you have sex, it’s a home run and prerequisite sexual steps are merely base hits, doubles or triples.

However, the metaphor is limiting because there are only four bases. We should extend the metaphor by describing other important steps in the sexual process as visits to other parts of the baseball stadium like the bleachers, bullpen, pitchers mound, locker-room, dugout, other team’s dugout, and hot-dog stand.

Originally posted as a diary entry on Kuro5hin. Although Kuro5hin is now defunct, an archived copy of the post includes a series of comments from the Kuro5hin community.