[Fwd: IP: Fact Sheet on Export Controls on High Performance Computers]

Bob Drzyzgula bob at drzyzgula.org
Thu Jan 11 17:45:28 PST 2001


I think that you're right in that it is a valid point
for discussion, but IMHO, it is likely to be a very brief
discussion -- your idea has "conflict of interest" written
all over it.

How on Earth could such a control board ever be constituted
in any manner such that the end result would be what you
seek?  The politics of this just boggle the mind. Do you
imagine an IETF kind of come-one-come-all technocracy? A
(Lord help us) ICANN-style elected body? A Jon Postel-era
IANA type thing (and who would ever have that kind of
moral authority in the topic at hand?)

And at what point, on the continuum between the first
inkling of an idea and the routine circulation of usable
code would the product be regulated? Take PGP, under
the undoubtedly invalid assumption that you see it as a
potential threat to national security -- do you stop in
the mid-1970s, when Whit Diffie and Marty Hellman worked
out the idea of public-key crypto? That was pure theory,
published in an IEEE journal -- there is simply no way to
obtain organized self-restraint there, it would kill the
entire idea of academic freedom. How about in the early
1990s, when Phil Zimmerman was coding the early versions
of that program? Zimmerman was quite deliberate about
what he was doing. Can you possibly see any way to have
convinced him that he should simply back off, that he was
making things dangerous for other open-source coders?

And what about Beowulf -- many on this list of course
recall the dark days when Don's pages went offline.
Certainly the US Government at some point had seriously
considered the question of whether the distribution of
the Beowulf code should be restricted (the absurdity
of even trying is besides the point). If open source
coders are to exercise restraint in this sort of
thing, where should the restraint start? Stallman's
Emacs and GCC? PVM? Glibc? Torvald's Kernel?  Don's NIC
drivers? Channel bonding? The posting of "how we did it"
notes about the first clusters? The formation of the
conspiracy that is this very mailing list?

I don't mean to ridicule you here, but, taking human
nature into account, I simply cannot imagine how to
do what you suggest. How can real progress continue in
that sort of climate, wherein your peers are looking over
your shoulder, waiting for you to step over the line and
release something that will finally get the government so
pissed at open source developers that they'll attempt to
regulate this sort of research? How do you keep charlatans
from attempting to stop the distribution of works that
that simply challenge their worldview? How do you keep the
Microsofts and the RSAs of the world from manipulating this
"self-regulatory" mechanism to stomp out competition? How
can you be sure that the people on the "control board"
or whatever it is aren't planted or bought by government
or political operatives seeking to put a stop what they
consider risky developments (bad triller novel anyone)?

I don't even have to have an opinion as to whether I
think it would be a good idea to do what you suggest --
I do: I don't -- to see endless sources of difficulty
in any possible implementation. This is, after all, one
of the reasons that people form governments (at least,
more or less democratic governments such as in US) in the
first place -- as a way to reach a broad consensus as to
what sorts of activities should be allowed in a society
and which shouldn't.

Unless one sits fairly far out on the end of the
libertarian scale, one should expect that some form of
regulation is going to exist in a society.  At least until
an activity is regulated (and almost always after as well)
one should expect that people will engage in that activity
as long as it is useful and/or rewarding in one way or
another. Personally, I make a really lousy libertarian,
so I don't mind saying that I was reasonably happy to
see the US Government attempt to rein Microsoft in a bit.
But Microsoft didn't particularly like it at all. In any
regulatory action you can expect that some people will be
happy about it and others will not be. It's always a drag
to be on the disappointed side of these things.

But this doesn't mean that regulation is so heinous a
punishment that one should behave as if one is *already*
regulated simply to avoid the possibility of having the
regulation become fact! If you ran a small pawn shop, would
you walk down to the city jail and ask to be locked up
simply because you heard that the council was talking about
passing an ordinance which would make pawn shops illegal?

I'm sorry, but I just can't see it.

--Bob Drzyzgula
bob at drzyzgula.org

On Thu, Jan 11, 2001 at 06:29:08PM -0500, Joseph A Del corso wrote:
> Thank you for the laugh Kragen.  Again, I'd suggest
> just reading my comments for what they are --  request 
> for information, or commentary on a subject, 
> from the community creating the next supercomputers, 
> and supercomputer software.
> I'm not talking about supression of thought here, I'm 
> talking about at least having the guts to stand up
> and regulate the software you put out -- BEFORE it's 
> regulated from an outside source for you. 
> again just a thought...
> ~~joe

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