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    Where Did Software Go Wrong? philosophy practices blog.jse.li
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    This is a very long winded article and yet in a way it stopped too short. The thesis is that software didn’t go wrong but that software exists in an environment motivated by capital. The intuition that the problem isn’t software but the context that software lives in is a good one. But the author shouldn’t have stopped at Capital. The problem is that Capital exists in a context as well. At it’s crux the issue is human nature. Human nature has a number of failure modes. Those failure modes manifest in the use and accumulation of Capital as well in the development of code and in fact in any alternative attempt to replace Capital as a motivation.

    Solving the failure modes of software requires solving the failure modes of human beings.

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      There is a reflex in anglophone online discussion to jump straight to attributing the state of capitalism in the US to fundamental forces of the universe, as if the sad state of healthcare provision, public transport, employment law, infrastructure etc etc are just inevitable because Human Nature. And also it has to be this way because the alternative is communism.

      It seems to wilfully ignore most of the rest of the developed world. You can make useful inroads into this problem with boring, un-pontificatey, un-weary-old-sage stuff like policy and government and compromise and all the other things that are deeply unfashionable to the point of being broken at the moment. It does work if you let it. The state of the examples I gave above are the result of active choices made by Americans, knowingly or otherwise. I am not saying for a second e.g. north west Europe is perfect, that is impossible because it is impossible to solve the failure modes of human beings. They have merely made a different choice to Americans about how they want their society to be (e.g. the things I mentioned above are a higher priority).

      At the present time, the USA is one of the easiest places in the world to become a billionaire, unhindered (relatively) by constraints societal, regulatory and moral that exist in other places (the recent tax cuts, the wealth gospel, marking up insulin 1000% would all be seen as Martian to a Dane, for example). Americans voted for this. The only other similarly fertile time for rapidly-accumulated billions in recent history was the oligarch class that formed in the vacuum of the collapsed USSR. Though in that case the absence of effective government and regulation wasn’t as a result of an active choice by the citizens.

      Choosing to remove many of the constraints against rapid capital accumulation is now really starting to eat into the things that gave america its strengths in the first place, such as good research and the ability to spin that research into productive industries. R&D labs are expensive and don’t survive CFO-orchestrated mergers. You can’t innovate in your Valley garage anymore because you can’t afford to buy the house with the garage from the Instagram employee who is selling it. I shouldn’t even use the valley in my example as a shorthand for an innovative place. It used to be an engine of technological innovation, now it only is if you squint really hard to try and see selling adverts as a branch of computer science. Instagram replaced Intel. Good on the VCs for taking the valley and shaping it in the way that maximises the rate at which they accumulate capital, they are winning the game whose rules were written by the American electorate.

      The sentiment ‘We won’t get anywhere until we solve human nature’ is a false dichotomy [the choice being between the status quo or some singular revolution in human behaviour] and quite seductive to people like us who like grand, clever, sexy [a troublesome used deliberately here] new advances to cleanly solve existing problems. (c.f. the grim and now-parodied heydays of TED where people queued up to pronounce things like ‘Technology Will Fix Education’).

      Your messiah won’t come and fix it. You, I, we all need to take the basics seriously and make careful choices in our everyday lives. It’s much less convenient for me at the moment to buy an oven glove online from a local kitchenware place than from amazon, but I do because it’s important. I spent $30 instead of $5 to get my hobby PCBs made in this country rather than in China because it’s important. I walked in the cold rain when I was tempted to stay inside to canvas for a local political cause because it’s important. None of these are big revolutionary things, they’re just trying to be a better cog in the machinery of my society (and all of us exist within and shape our societies, even if we don’t want to) because that’s important. The basics are important. Regulators musn’t turn a blind eye to the accumulating shortcuts of their industries. The law must apply to everyone. Lobbying is bribery by any other name but is much more tightly regulated in other countries. The money in politics must be transparent.

      All of these basics are difficult and boring and tiresome and essential and effective.

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        I think it’s very helpful to view capitalism as an inevitable force of nature. Just like many other forces of nature, we want to mitigate, redirect and transform some of its effects. Wind is fine, storms and hurricanes require defensive action. Rivers are useful and even nice, but we need to guard against flooding and sometimes want/need to canalize a part.

        Capitalism may be human nature, but that implies nothing about the acceptable/desirable consequences. If someone thinks otherwise, they are simply committing the naturalistic fallacy.

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          This is an important point that too often gets left behind. Capitalism isn’t some option off a menu you choose when setting up your government. It exists now, it will exist in the future, it will always exist. The study of economics isn’t something we do because we control it, it’s something that already happens that we seek to more fully understand.v You can take the most oppressive regime in history, perhaps with every bit of money controlled by the state, and there was still capitalism. The “capital” just switched over to political influence, reputation, and so forth. The same principles apply.

          History show us that the only thing you can really control about capitalism is how much of it you want to be overt versus covert.

          These discussion are really sad to read. We start off with everything being about money: who has money, who doesn’t have money, who has too little, who has too much, and so forth. Then we venture on this long and winding journey around whatever problem we’re trying to analyze only to end back up where we started. Turns out? The problem was all about money! That’s the problem!

          If I can take your premise and know how your analysis is going to conclude, you’re not doing much in the way of analysis. At best you’re simply regurgitating ideas you’ve consumed elsewhere and mangling them together. That might make for well-written and great prose, by the way. It could easily make for a piece of text worth reading and sharing with others. It’s just not going anywhere that we haven’t already gone a thousand times before.

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            It exists now, it will exist in the future, it will always exist.

            Capitalism is an economic system that was created by people, and put into effect by force. There is nothing inevitable about it and it’s heavily reliant on the societal ideals and values, and seeks to manipulate them through media, and the very language that we use to talk about things, to ensure that it continues.

            The idea that we cannot build a different economic system, that might or might not involve money, ignores the fact that the dynamics of capitalism are fundamentally just societal agreements and social normals. And that societies have had, and current have, very different variations along that concept. It buys in to the idea that capitalism was a natural development, when it is anything but.

            In addition, your analysis that the person you are responding to is regurgitating ideas is entirely ignorant of the fact that that is all you are doing. You’re not stating anything new, you’re not even stating factual or historically correct information. You’re regurgitating half-thought ideas that have been passed along to you by your culture that you and others haven’t properly analysed, nor have you clearly read any analyses or critiques of those ideas. The fact that you’re using this to shame someone else is amazing, quite frankly.

            Please go and read The Origins of Capitalism by Meiksins-Wood. It’s an academic work but it’s very, very good. I’d also recommend Anthony Kenny’s History of Philosophy, purely because you don’t seem to believe that culture as a whole, and the zeitgeist specifically has changed massively over time, and not just through scientific evidence. For example, before JS Mills, morality was thought to be based on an inherent good or bad quality of the act. It was an impossible and clearly wrong idea that it could depend on the context in which an act takes place to determine whether it is a good act or a bad act. If morality itself depends on your societal context, just think about how deeply complex systems depend on specific circumstances and beliefs, and how much they could differ if those beliefs and circumstnaces were changed.

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              I will consider this. Thank you.

              I am afraid, however, that I already know where this is going before it even begins. This is going to be about the classic definition of capitalism while I was talking more about something that academically might be called “free trade”

              I tried to make that clear by my examples. Apologies if I failed. I felt it was important to bring the conversation down to the vernacular and not get too far into semantics, history, and economic theory. But your point is a good one. I’m just not sure it’s relevant given the examples I provided.

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          This should be posted somewhere on a website of writing to be better preserved than a comment on a story posted Lobsters (not that there’s anything wrong with Lobsters comments …).

          What you write sinks to the core of my being and the life I’ve carved out for myself in the United States. My friends think I’m crazy for moving to a small town and making due with the (largely) older population that still resides here. Where’s the nightlife? Where’s the easy entertainment?

          We buy less. We consume less. We build more. My kids are being raised knowing that when you hatch chicks, that one with a deformed leg will die, and it wont be anyone’s fault. But they see the miracle of two dozen other chicks grow into livestock that provides us with eggs. We then turn around and sell the eggs to make a small profit compared to the input of grain. In this way we participate in our own version of capitalism, but we’re not trying to convert two dozen eggs a day into 10,000. I don’t need cancerous growth to show my kids how to live a high quality life.

          Choosing the slow growth is hard. Choosing to go without is hard. But the choices are there. Everyday we’re making choices that inform the world we live in.

          Thank you for giving me a train of thought to meditate on.

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            I 100% agree, The key here is to recognize that people make particular choices and those choices have consequences and if you don’t address our tendency to make bad choices when misinformed or tempted in certain ways then no system you create to address the bad effects of those choices will succeed. Capitalism done wrong will have certain effects. Communism done wrong will have certain effects. Socialism done wrong will have certain effects.

            The defenders of those systems will all say “Well, that’s because they didn’t do it right.” To which I respond yes, and until you fix their tendency to do them wrong they will continue to do them wrong.

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            That’s a great point. At the moment, capital is our primary representative of desire/human nature. And of course, this is the great bait-and-switch of capital, which convinces us that it is the real thing we desire; before capital, this “stand-in for desire” was earth itself, and then the body of the despot.

            It felt more productive to discuss software-under-capitalism than software-under-human-nature, not least because the article is long-winded and heady enough as it is. It’s also easier to take action against something more concrete, even if that concreteness is a trick. Just because things are human constructions or illusions doesn’t make their consequences any less real!

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              Human beings existed in non-capitalist forms for the vast majority of the time we’ve been on this planet. Non-capitalist cultures are rare and dying these days. But this is due to forms of globalization, notably the history of colonization. It’s not human nature but domination, often violent, that has produced the current state of affairs where capitalism as a cultural form is seen as somehow being due to “human nature”, as if it weren’t in fact a historical production.

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                What do you mean by non-capitalist, in this context? I suppose one of the features of modern capitalism – the idea that the pie can grow – is a relatively new one, as is the idea that competition is good for consumers. But usually, people who reject capitalism don’t seem to reject those parts.

                However, exchange on a relatively free market, which is the most important part of capitalism, has existed for probably the bulk of human history, and in the cases where it was disallowed, it still stuck around in the form of a black market.

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                  Various forms of exchange have existed for a really long time, but the best way to delineate ‘capitalism’ and ‘not-capitalism’ is to look at the general mode of production prevalent in society. In 900 AD, most people worked under personal obligations, i.e. their labour was not sold on the free market, and the point of producing goods wasn’t to satisfy a profit motive, rather to satisfy need and a mesh of social obligations. Only in capitalism is most work organized and most goods produced under this generalized framework of selling them, only there is labour treated as a commodity.

                  This is a simple, factual difference in how the economy works. You need a name for it, and ‘capitalism’ has always been that name. You can say that ‘capitalism’ actually means ‘exchange, in whatever form, is present’, but most people don’t mean that when they think of capitalism.

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                    I’ve seen different people use capitalism very differently, which is why I asked. I find that it’s usually worth stripping the -isms before starting a discussion. It both clarifies the terms, and reduces the emotional attachment to them.

                    As far as human nature goes – I don’t buy that free trade is human nature, but I do think that wanting to move past a subsistence mode of living is. Then, once there’s largely enough stuff to survive, people start wanting to have different stuff from other people, which caters to their different tastes, and markets are an effective way to achieve that.

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                    there are arguments that the root of capitalism is in the neolithic revolution, but again, most of the time humans existed out of this structures and some still do. There are concepts like gift economy, collective property and so on that escape what you’re describing. It’s true that in some contexts people reverted to black markets, but as a reaction to existing economic structures that made it valuable. This is not a universal truth but specific to a (indeed quite broad) subset of economic systems.

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                    This is true but doesn’t invalidate the point. Those cultures also had failure modes some of them the same as the current failure modes.

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                    Those failure modes manifest in the use and accumulation of Capita

                    Considering among capital are medicine and other things meant to improve our lives, I have a hard time seeing this as a failure. Rather it turns out most people don’t want to excersize their minds, and would rather spend their days watching cat videos. So that’s what we got.

                    The failure of humanity seems to be the desire for idleness.

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                      Considering among capital are medicine and other things meant to improve our lives, I have a hard time seeing this as a failure.

                      How, exactly, is medicine about capital? If you remove a capitalist system we don’t suddenly lose the ability to treat people, or develop new medicines. In fact, the current ways of doing both of those things are grossly inefficient, where people who cannot afford to get treatment run the risk of debilitating illness or death, and where research companies do not publish data simply because they invested capital in developing a drug that is, at best, no better than placebo.

                      Rather it turns out most people don’t want to excersize their minds, and would rather spend their days watching cat videos. So that’s what we got.

                      That’s not really the case though. The capitalist system itself causes stress on people, especially low-income people (which make up the majority). Not only could most of the work at the moment be done by less people (See: In Praise of Idleness by Bertrand Russell, and Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber), but removing stress from people’s lives allows them the opportunity to grow and focus. The idea that people who aren’t working are inherently a) of less value to society, and b) utterly unproductive, is a fallacy and a product of Religious Dogma (“Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop”). Stress kills creativity, if people didn’t have to struggle to survive (See: literally any UBI study), they not only tend to be more productive, or take valued roles in society that are scarce because they don’t have to work for the means to survive, but also they tend to be more creative. In fact, Eric S. Raymond (For however many his flaws are, and the fact that he is on the opposing side of my argument because of decades of cultural McCarthyism), in one of the essays in The Cathedral and the Bazaar, himself goes over the fact that, once the basic means are sorted, higher wages are not correlated with productivity, the basic measure that the capitalist system has for an individual’s productivity is inherently broken.

                      Capitalism was a system created and enforced on people by force (As Meiksins-Wood shows in The Origins of Capitalism), it is not a natural system, and has nothing to do with human nature. In fact, it hampers it. Things that people used to do, like giving gifts, being productive, collaboration, etc. are suddenly viewed only through the lens of capitalist exchange, which twists those actions to be solely about capital. Even idleness itself is under the force of capital, people who are throwing up because they are stressed, have even more stress because they feel they are failing themselves for not being able to work! The very act of idleness is now about exchanging economic activity, and about driving the economy. If you look at say, leasure activities in the early 20th century compared to the late 20th century, it goes from “Going to the local club for a round of badminton” to something much, much more focused on consumption, you can see this shift happening in around the 1960s to the 1980s.

                      Capitalism made it so that, suddenly, the only worth of a human being is for them to produce capital, almost always for other people. Human beings don’t just suddenly stop functioning and become mindless machines because they are outside of capitalism, that in itself is propaganda that has been shown to be false.

                      We are worth more, we can do more.

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                        Things that people used to do, like giving gifts, being productive, collaboration, etc. are suddenly viewed only through the lens of capitalist exchange, which twists those actions to be solely about capital.

                        They used to do other things before the invention of Capital too, like subjugating others, taking from others by force, killing others. The point I was trying to make is that Capital in and of itself doesn’t cause those failure modes anymore than anything else. It’s just part of who we are. We have failures modes like any other system and attempting to solve problems by blaming them on a tool is failing to recognize the root cause: Human Nature.

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                          I mean, that doesn’t really track with the facts. There have been people who were good leaders that led people to believe things that caused them to murder, and kill, and subjugate, but those aren’t necessarily inherent to human nature. Most of those things are believed to be an necessity by the people involved (Zionism, for example was seen as colonialism by the people who created it, but it was justified as an existential necessity, and they wrote entire books outlining their reasons. The cold war was seen as an existential destruction on both sides. Naziism was seen and justified as making the world a better place, free of ‘lesser’ people – My Nan grew up under Nazi Germany, in a reasonably middle class family, he was seen in a positive light because he got rid of unemployment. He also lowered education standards to an abominable level for the women, the amount of things my nan was just completely uneducated on at 87 years of age was astonishing, she didn’t even understand “what held up the planets”), or just fact of the world (look at slavery, justified as being inherently and genetically lesser, and as soon as white folks came across science we invested a lot of money and time into backing that up ideologically).

                          While there are a handful of killers that kill without motive, most mass killers kill because they believe it will make the world a better place, because of their worldview. The fact that people create intricate justifications for the things that they do – which is well proven through the records we can find going back literally thousands of years, show very clearly, humans aren’t inherently hostile, except when they believe they’re in no other position, or a leader becomes greedy and convinces people that there is no other choice (Or when they don’t have to be convinced, when they’re in a societal position that ensures they will follow the commands).

                          On the large, modern studies show that humans are naturally cooperative, and not inherently selfish, and there’s around several centuries of anarchist literature where people give more evidence towards that fact, and everything else I’ve outlined above.

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                            Zionism, for example was seen as colonialism by the people who created it, but it was justified as an existential necessity, and they wrote entire books outlining their reasons.

                            It makes me incredibly uncomfortable to see this crop up in an argument about oppressive economic systems. Zionism is a deeply complicated topic that seems to so often collapse into “Jews bad”.

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                              I can understand why you feel it’s uncomfortable, I feel the same. However, my point was correct, while Zionism is a complex topic, the founders of the movement explicitly called it colonialism multiple times, see this twitter thread with excerpts from their writing (Which you can stick into Google to pull sources for them, if you don’t believe them):

                              Jabotinsky, Herzl, Nordau, Ussishkin, and other founders of Zionism clearly stating it’s colonialism

                              You are right we must not mistake and conflate critique of Zionism, which is a specific political ideology, with hate towards Jewish people, who follow a religious belief and have massively different political tendencies within that belief system, and you are right that there is a lot of overlap between people who critique Zionism, and people who have hatred for Jewish people, which is wildly unfortunate, as they stand in the way of actual critiques of Zionism.

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                                the founders of the movement explicitly called it colonialism multiple times, see this twitter thread with excerpts from their writing (Which you can stick into Google to pull sources for them, if you don’t believe them):

                                First, I looked up the source of your linked “quote”. The only places it appears is on antisemitic and anti-Zionist websites. More digging eventually got me to the essay they claim to quote, The Iron Wall, which doesn’t have the quote. Everybody said “it’s in the source!” but nobody actually read the source.

                                (It does have deeply troubling anti-Arab statements, which I don’t deny, but the gulf between what it’s saying and what people are saying it’s saying is vast.)

                                Second, that’s a bait and switch. You’re conflating colonization as we understand it as an oppressive system with how they used “colonization”, which is literally just “moving to a new land.” You can’t call them the modern interpretation of colonialism because it appears in a text, translated from Russian, from a hundred years ago.

                                Third, Zionism isn’t a specific political ideology. It’s a set of similar concepts that form a mishmash of different political ideologies, just like “leftism” doesn’t mean “Leninist.”

                                Fourth, there is a lot of conflation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism by intention of anti-Zionists. Look up the history of “Zionology” and the Soviet effort to get Zionism declared a form of racism.

                                I’m pretty mad about this because I’ve been challenged on this everybody in “progressive circles”. People have asked me at conferences “what do you think about the Israel-Palestine conflict?” I’ve had to otherwise totally progressive people that no, Israel is not an “apartheid state”, yes, Arabs are allowed to vote, no, Israel didn’t start the Six-Day War. Antisemitism is socially acceptable in leftist circles and saying “I understand why you feel uncomfortable” doesn’t absolve anyone of anything.

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                                  Did you actually do the research? You’re right that the quotes appear on anti-Semitic websites, but this includes the ones where the quotes come from primary sources (Such as diaries written by the quoted leaders, or books written by them), so that doesn’t mean anything whatsoever.

                                  I referred to the full thread, so let’s go through them and dig up the citations in sequence, as you will see, many of them come from the horses’ mouth:

                                  1) The second numbered tweet (but the first one with an image and citation) comes from page 7 of “The Case for Palestine: An International Law Perspective”, this in turn, cites the following works for the text highlighted in the twitter post:

                                  “38. Abdallah Schleifer, The Fall of Jerusalem”, p 23

                                  Which is a book written by Abdallah Schleifer, born to a secular Jewish family, a “prominent Middle East expert”, and a former member of the US foreign policy research institute.

                                  “39. Raphael Patai (ed.) The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl (1960). p 1194”

                                  Which is a collection of Theodor Herzl’s diary written by Patai, a Jewish-Hungarian Ethnographer.

                                  Are you trying to tell me that Patai and Schleifer are Anti-semitic? If that’s the fact, then state it, make your case.

                                  2) You’re right the second tweet (the one I linked to) comes from The Iron Wall by Jabotinsky. A seemingly trustworthy source I can find here is from en.jabotinsky.org, and it says:

                                  There can be no voluntary agreement between ourselves and the Palestine Arabs. Not now, nor in the prospective future. I say this with such conviction, not because I want to hurt the moderate Zionists. I do not believe that they will be hurt. Except for those who were born blind, they realised long ago that it is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting “Palestine” from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.

                                  My readers have a general idea of the history of colonisation in other countries. I suggest that they consider all the precedents with which they are acquainted, and see whether there is one solitary instance of any colonisation being carried on with the consent of the native population. There is no such precedent. The native populations, civilised or uncivilised, have always stubbornly resisted the colonists, irrespective of whether they were civilised or savage. And it made no difference whatever whether the colonists behaved decently or not. The companions of Cortez and Pizzaro or (as some people will remind us) our own ancestors under Joshua Ben Nun, behaved like brigands; but the Pilgrim Fathers, the first real pioneers of North America, were people of the highest morality, who did not want to do harm to anyone, least of all to the Red Indians, and they honestly believed that there was room enough in the prairies both for the Paleface and the Redskin. Yet the native population fought with the same ferocity against the good colonists as against the bad. Every native population, civilised or not, regards its lands as its national home, of which it is the sole master, and it wants to retain that mastery always; it will refuse to admit not only new masters but, even new partners or collaborators.

                                  He very clearly likens it to colonialism, through a direct analogy, and from then on I think the variance is one caused by the translation chosen. Whether this one is more true or less true to the words he wrote is something a native reader will have to determine.

                                  3) The next citation (the 4th twitter post) can be traced to “Zionism and Anti-Semitism”, a book that was written by Nordau and Gottheil, it is a primary source.

                                  4) The 5th twitter post was by Ussishkin. Ussishkin’s writings are, according to the Jewish Virtual Library recorded in two volumes, neither of which I can find online (I have found previous works via libgen, for example). They are presumably in hebrew, so I wouldn’t be able to read it anyway unfortunately.

                                  This citation comes from “Expulsion Of The Palestinians” by Masalha, who is a (Palestinian (? Is that the right way to phrase that?)) academic. The book lists in the Bibliography (Sorry if I mistype anything, because I can’t copy and paste this): “See the minutes of his meeting on 24 September 1941. CAB 65/23. His pro-Zionist Secretary for India, Leopold Amery, endorsed the idea; see his letter to Churchill dated 4 October 1941, cited in Nathaniel Katzburg, Mendinlyut Bemavoch: Mendinlyut Britania Beeretz -Yisrael [The British Policy in the Land of Israel 1940-1945] (Jerusalem: 1977), p. 18.”. I will leave it to you to find those.

                                  5) His sixth tweet makes reference to The Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (wiki), the Jewish Colonial Trust (jewish virtual library), and the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department (American Jewish Archives).

                                  Afterword: One must, indeed, wonder if Zionism isn’t Colonialism, why do multiple Zionist leaders proclaim it to be Colonialism, and why do the names of many pro-Zionist organizations explicit contain references to Colonialism?! I don’t see any other explanation other than the Zionists themselves, believed it to be Colonialism.

                                  That’s a bait and switch. You’re conflating colonization as we understand it as an oppressive system with how they used “colonization”, which is literally just “moving to a new land.” You can’t call them the modern interpretation of colonialism because it appears in a text, translated from Russian, from a hundred years ago.

                                  But doesn’t Jabotinsky, in the quote above, refer to fighting off existing people? What else is colonialism if not removing people who are already existing in a land, so you can settle there yourself? Also, I think I have a fair grasp of how people from the 1800s in Russia use the word colonialism, I’ve read Trotsky, Lenin, and Marx. All of whom make reference to those terms and use it in the same way we do today. The usage back then was not any different to the one we use now.

                                  the Soviet effort to get Zionism declared a form of racism.

                                  Both Lenin and Stalin were loudly outspoken against Anti-Semitism. The Bolsheviks and Mensheviks had a significant proportion of Jewish members, and the monarchy had treated Jewish people abominably. Shorly before the Russian Revolution, fascists (for want of a better term) locked a village full of Jewish people in a church and set it alight, just one of the many horrific incidents to happen. Before the Russian Revolution Jewish people were – quite literally – under attack. One of the few remaining recordings of Lenin is one of him giving a speech against anti-Semitism. There’s a good quote on Wikipedia from Stalin in 1931. And during the war he relocated Jews in areas that were at risk of coming under Nazi control.

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                                    Oh! Hey! What’s this? A Jewish anti-Zionist song??

                                    And a pro-Soviet anti-Fascist Jewish folk song?

                                    Maybe it turns out Jewish people are real people and have views all across the Political Spectrum? Hmmm 🤔🤔

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                                    How can I upvote this 1000 times.

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                                      I’d like to point out that the Polish government believed Madagascar was a good option because 1) it removed a population from the countryside, and 2) it extended polish influence as Colonialism. So certain strains of Zionism were in fact colonialist in justification.

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                              …himself goes over the fact that, once the basic means are sorted, higher wages are not correlated with productivity, the basic measure that the capitalist system has for an individual’s productivity is inherently broken.

                              I’d like to read what economists think about this but this sentence is subtly wrong in my opinion.

                              I think we should start to say that for a lot of positions, an individual’s productivity is awfully hard to measure, and in some cases it’s even hard to define (cf. all the art of counting lines of code). This is always true, for both Marxism, capitalism and whatsoever, right?

                              Then, in a capitalist system, wages are a statement of the natural outcome of supply and demand, which means that they can vary a lot between companies, positions and locations. In my opinion this is - by design - not a reliable measure of productivity across positions and locations. And for the same position at the same location within the same company it doesn’t work at all if productivity is hard to measure for the position.

                              In fact I see capitalism as a system where wages are naturally not correlated with productivity. I also think that money can’t really buy happiness so in overall, I don’t care a lot about it.

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                                Right - ‘Productivity’ is not an objective measure, because it’s easy to produce things nobody wants.

                                Once upon a time, Capitalism solved that by moving decision-making power closer to the information - but wealth concentration has diluted that advantage to homeopathic levels.

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                                  That’s a fair point! And I’m very likely wrong on that front, given more consideration! The rest of it still stands :)

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                                    I don’t have any arguments against the rest of it, but:

                                    I also think that money can’t really buy happiness so in overall, I don’t care a lot about it.

                                    Fundamentally, for anything sub- 30-50k/mo, more money means significant quality of life improvements. Preliminary tests of UBI have shown massive health improvements in low wage populations. Money is the gatekeeper for medical care, for access to basic necessities, and recreational activity. It’s also the gatekeeper for changing jobs, changing your environment, and removing yourself from hostile and abusive scenarios that are damaging to your mental health.

                                    I think this idea of downplaying that “money can’t buy happiness” is foolish. Nobody has claimed that money is a direct line to happiness, however it’s the main, sometimes only, gatekeeper between us and the solutions to almost all of the material problems that plague pretty much everyone who isn’t earning around or above the aforementioned wage line.

                                    I know and have heard en-masse of people who have lost their entire lives to work, simply trying to get their children into a better financial situation, so they do not have to know that pain too. I know people in the south of the USA, describe how working constantly and not having time has become so ingrained into their culture that “not having time to see your kids” is an expression of love.

                                    I know people who have been forced to work for abusive managers, or been forced to live in abusive households, because the cost of moving themselves out of that scenario was ridiculously, ludicrously high, and because they are completely unable to obtain that money, because of their impacted mental health.

                                    I know people who have died from mental health and physical health problems because they were unable to afford treatment, or who end up living with lifelong injury because they do not have the time to see the doctor, or pay for better ones. And, just to contextualise that, I live in a country where healthcare is free – ideally there shouldn’t be a cost to that, but all of the best doctors

                                    I know extremely intelligent and smart people who can’t find the time to work on projects that would improve, in a small way, people’s lives, because they wouldn’t be able to make a living off it.

                                  2. 1

                                    Do you actually believe that stuff?

                                    1. 2

                                      I don’t need to believe it. Read the literature, it’s been very clearly shown.

                                      1. 0

                                        The question to be answered is: what is to be done with one’s labor. Capitalism answers that with “it’s to remain with the laborer.” There is no other answer that can be moral, not if one takes as True that people may possess.

                                        Quite clearly shown is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

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                                          Capitalism’s answer is that labor should typically be rented out to the employer under employment contracts enforced by the state. That’s not exactly the same as “remaining with the laborer.” David Ellerman makes this point quite forcefully.

                                          1. 1

                                            It remains with the laborer because they get to see the results of their labor in the form of a paycheck which can be redeemed for others’ labor. Unlike other systems where your needs are taken care of regardless of your value.

                                            1. 3

                                              It’s just that the employment contract specifies that everything produced and consumed by the work is the responsibility of the employer, not the employee—so as a coder, everything you make is appropriated by the company.

                                              If you sold your whole future labor under such conditions it would rightly be considered a version of slavery. But in capitalism we rent labor, we don’t buy it.

                                          2. 5

                                            The question to be answered is: what is to be done with one’s labor. Capitalism answers that with “it’s to remain with the laborer.”

                                            and the laborer has no other choice than giving it away for the least amount of compensation the market allows? like a casino, the market always favours the capital. there may be some irregularity across the different occupations (tech jobs currently have it better than most), but as a whole, those who have the capital decide how much compensation you will get for your work force. and that will always (by definition of the market) the least amount possible to keep the system running.

                                            1. 1

                                              and the laborer has no other choice than giving it away for the least amount of compensation the market allows?

                                              The option always exists to assert the market would pay more, in which case additional compensation is granted, or to work in a different field, or to not work at all, so long as you yourself didn’t steal others’ labor. The capitalist system creates value out of thin air, because one thing the Marxists get right is the value added by a person is far more than their compensation.

                                              1. 3

                                                The option always exists to assert the market would pay more, in which case additional compensation is granted

                                                i think that in certain sectors the “prices” for labour are being fixed by the capital at the lowest point possible, most commonly in sectors which don’t require much education. unions are at a point where they are more or less corrupt and are being bought. capitalism is excellent in defending itself :)

                                                or to work in a different field, or to not work at all, so long as you yourself didn’t steal others’ labor.

                                                i don’t really know what to reply to this? work as something which requires a medium amount of education (x years). so i can choose between not being payed enough for my job or saying “fuck it” and have a severely reduced income in the next y years while being retrained? that’s not really an option, just like “don’t work at all”.

                                                1. 1

                                                  They are always options, and depending on the individual’s circumstances, they may be the right or wrong options. That’s all.

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                                                    They are always options, and depending on the individual’s circumstances, they may be the right or wrong options. That’s all.

                                                    i don’t see much of an option in the sense of “things one can choose between”. shitty payment or unemployment is most of the time a straight route to poverty which in turn leads to social and health problems leading to making it difficult being employed again. that some people can pull themselves out of this by their bootstraps doesn’t validate the “you only have to try hard enough” meme.

                                                    what is lost by making sure people are paid well? bezos n-th billion? what is gained? the possibility of having a non-cutthroat society where it’s members can focus on being social (note the similarity of “social” and “society”) instead of thinking of the best way to get the most money.

                                                2. 2

                                                  or to work in a different field, or to not work at all

                                                  That isn’t really the case. Many people on low-income jobs, many skilled people forced to work such jobs, are unable to do that.

                                      2. 4

                                        I wasn’t implying that using and accumulating capital were instrinsically failure modes. My point was that many of our failure modes manifest in the process of using and accumulating capital. Similarly to the way that they manifest when writing software.

                                        1. 1

                                          The failure of humanity seems to be the desire for idleness.

                                          If anything, I’d put it completely the other way. It is the impossibility of being content, of merely sitting in an empty room doing anything but being with our thoughts (going as far as giving ourselves electric shocks instead of being idle), that pushes ourselves to do anything (be it watching kitten videos, or accumulate useless capital) to push the burden of sentience away.

                                          1. 1

                                            the impossibility of being content

                                            This is how people grow though. We poke and prod and learn. Doing nothing doesn’t necessarily require being content, but it does require that your time be useless to yourself and others. Some people really want to do nothing.

                                        2. 1

                                          At it’s crux the issue is human nature. Human nature has a number of failure modes. Those failure modes manifest in the use and accumulation of Capital

                                          Accumulation of capital is not a failure mode. It is life serving its purpose, which is replication of genes. You are in a better position to do that the more stuff you have.

                                          If you have financial independence, many people are just going to play video games. They are not gonna become a pianist or a painter. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say. Softwares just empower people to do what they want to do better. And what they want is to be forever distracted.

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                                            You’re going in a decent direction but miss the larger point: evolution optimizes for the population to survive, not individuals. That individuals get rich in this system is almost entirely due to how the economic, financial, and legal systems are constructed. The system also makes unhealthy, imprisons, and/or kills large numbers of people for both random and non-object reasons. That usually works against evolutionary goals.

                                            There’s other systems where the population as a whole has their needs met, are healthier, get good education, and sometime more time off work for leisurely activities. In well-run socialism, these benefits of their system mean that both the average individual and the population as a whole are more likely to survive and pass on their genes.

                                            Note: One might also look at the infant mortality rate of each country for this assessment. That’s a bit, too dark a subject for me this early in my morning. Probably others, too. I’ll pass on it for now.

                                            1. 1

                                              Well-run socialism is an oxymoron, did you maybe mean to say “social democracy” instead of “socialism”? The former is a way to organise society which has been adopted in some way by most western democracies, including the US - Medicare and Medicaid are examples of social programs which have been voted into being through a democratic process. Socialism is the precursor to communism and has never been shown to lead to anything but societal decline and poverty, often in combination with a stratified society where those who do not support the state in all it does - for better or for worse - are denied basic rights.

                                              Social democracy is not the same as socialism. The DDR and the Soviet Union were socialist states. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland (and many more) are social democracies.

                                              1. 1

                                                The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland (and many more) are social democracies.

                                                Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about. Three of those were even examples I was ready to give. They just call those socialist where I’m from. The ones you call socialist they call communist. Although I have memory problems, I’d probably still not be sure what term to use given the varying usages of socialist, left, right, etc in my country and outside it.

                                                So, looking it up on Wikipedia, it starts with “Social democracy is a political, social and economic philosophy within socialism… “ The linked article on Socialism itself includes my usage of the term. Is Wikipedia inaccurate where the social democracies aren’t in socialism or socialism not having multiple forms which include above countries? If so, it might be worth editing those articles to include the source for that, too.

                                                1. 2

                                                  Well, there is ‘wrong’ and ‘wrong’. Social democracy is an amalgamation of some of the tenets of socialism and those of a democratic society with a market economy. It is an end stage in and of itself - social democracies do not strive after abolishing the market economy - where socialism is a precursor to communism, the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ with a socialist party in control of the state. Venezuela is the most recent example of such a state that I know of.

                                                  Marx and Engels thought the workers would eventually revolt to get a more fair share of the value created by their labour. This is not what happened though, working conditions and rewards were improved in such a way that workers did not rise up in revolt. They voted ‘their’ candidates into power, organised in labour unions and got some of their demands met in this way. Some revolutionary socialists - Lenin being the best-known example - thought this was not enough and, disappointed by the refusal of the workers to revolt stated that the proletariat needed to be guided into the classless communist society through the dictatorship of the proletariat, i.e. a leading class of revolutionary socialists would take power by non-democratic means. It is at this point where socialism and social democracy parted ways around 100 years ago.

                                              2. 0

                                                In well-run socialism,

                                                In a well-run utopia, everything is perfect.

                                                1. 3

                                                  Now, you’re just trolling. A number of existing countries have the benefits I describe that increase evolutionary survivability. No need to theorize or bring in utopias.

                                                  Even in theory, one should expect capitalism and free market might work against evolution because they work against individuals’ health. Companies and workers are always expected to do more for less overtime. That inevitably leads to more stress, less healthy ingredients in food, more toxins in environment, more dying from lack of healthcare, etc.

                                                  It’s by design. Good news is you can let evolution do its thing and capitalism do its thing. You can be a fan of both. They are seperate for now unless you mean it protects the survival of rich kids’ genes. That might be true but with who knows what consequences.

                                                  1. 3

                                                    well, the usa took care that the non dictatorial socialist experiments would fail :)

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                                              Is the world even a little bit better because of startups like Instagram, Uber, and Peloton?

                                              I don’t know about Instagram and Peloton, but Uber has definitely made life better for me and some of my friends. As a blind friend of mine put it:

                                              I cannot drive. I take Uber to and from work every day using a Uber pass. If my alternative were public transit, a bus to a train to another bus or train depending, it would take me 1.5 hours per trip, for a total of 3 hours a day. I would not work in the corporate world if this were the case. […] For blind people, these often-derided services are the difference between a full life where we can participate, and being marginalized outcasts who are constantly late, smelling like the bus, and totally inconvenienced when compared with the guy who can just hop in his car.

                                              Sure, the taxis that Uber supplanted should have filled this role, but in practice, they didn’t. So score one for startups.

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                                                A big part of the reason the public transit system in most of the US is such a disaster is exactly the same forces that led to the rise of Uber. It doesn’t have to be that way.

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                                                  Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. But right now, it is that way. So in the world as it actually is, Uber has done some good. That’s why it bothered me that the OP seemed dismissive about it.

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                                                    The world is not the US. In the rest of the world Uber is just a way to escape regulations and not get taxed. They don’t provide a better service than taxis, they are just slightly cheaper because they don’t play by the rules.

                                                    1. 5

                                                      I live in the rest of the world, and they do definitely provide a better service than taxis.

                                                      Being unable to find the taxi because it arrived around the corner is no longer an issue.

                                                      Being able to communicate with the driver despite not sharing a common language is no longer an issue.

                                                      Not arriving at the correct destination is no longer an issue.

                                                      The potential for the driver to defraud the customer by “taking the scenic route” is no longer an issue.

                                                      1. 4

                                                        Well, but these are not improvements brought by Uber, but by using an App to plan the ride. This is done by taxi companies too. Clearly in many places this kind of digitalization is lagging behind. Clearly I’m not saying that the rest of the world has better taxi companies and public transportation than the US but believing that these things are intrinsic to the product and not dependent on the context is the problem. Context that in other places might be even worse than the US.

                                                        1. 6

                                                          These are not improvements brought by Uber, but by using an App to plan the ride.

                                                          Uber pioneered this. I think separating the good things that Uber did — creating an app-based transportation service — from Uber-the-company and then leaving only their failures, isn’t particularly useful. Anything can be torn down that way: of course if you strip out the good parts, only the bad parts remain.

                                                          1. 4

                                                            Uber pioneered this

                                                            In the US maybe. In Europe we have different apps that work with existing taxi networks and regulations and they existed way before Uber spread to Europe or in places were Uber is illegal. Hailo, myTaxi, Clever Taxi were all founded when Uber wasn’t even available to the public and almost two years before it came to Europe. Just to name a few that were succesful.

                                                            I mean, once smarphones became available to a larger population, these kinds of apps were quite obvious as much as those to interact with public transportation without tickets or paper. Uber became ginormous not because they were offering anything that dozens of other companies weren’t offering, but like every unicorn they grew exponentially because they were better at attracting investors and avoiding regulations.

                                                            1. 3

                                                              Uber was founded years before Clever Taxi or Hailo. And myTaxi was nothing like Uber — they didn’t even process payments — until they pivoted in 2012, long after Uber had proven the model.

                                                              Uber became ginormous not because they were offering anything that dozens of other companies weren’t offering, but like every unicorn they grew exponentially because they were better at attracting investors and avoiding regulations.

                                                              Uber succeeded because they offered a better product. Hailo and Uber eventually went head to head in NYC, and Hailo failed because they offered a significantly worse experience and couldn’t get enough taxi drivers to sign up for it to be worth using.

                                                              https://fortune.com/2014/10/14/hailo-taxi-app-funding-failure/

                                                          2. 2

                                                            Sure. I’m not defending or praising Uber specifically, but I doubt ride planning apps would have materialised without competition from Uber and similar.

                                                            In all the places I travel to in the world currently, the choices are either to call a local taxi company and suffer all the issues I listed, or just use the local Uber-like and suffer none of them.

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                                                              This is flatly false. I have friends at taxi companies that were approached by development shops to make an app years before Uber was around. The main difference is Uber had global ambitions and wanted to own the drivers. Claiming that there would be no apps like this without Uber is like saying we needed DoorDash for food delivery. It’s simply ahistorical.

                                                              1. 2

                                                                How is it false? Ok, there was an approach. What was the outcome? And even if that one taxi company decided to invest in that technology, how can you extrapolate that to the rest of the global market? Most taxi companies still don’t have anything like this!

                                                                And your analogy is quite bad. It’s not like saying we needed DoorDash to have food delivery. That would be analogous to me saying we needed Uber to have taxis, which I didn’t say.

                                                                1. 1

                                                                  Let me pull back a bit. I don’t think a ride taxi app is Uber’s innovation. I think it is striving to be a global taxi app. Something that I think no previous company seems to even have aspired to be. You said ride sharing apps wouldn’t have emerged without Uber and that’s flatly false. I saw pitches and used several years before Uber appeared.

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                                                                    Is there a meaningful difference to me as a consumer between ride hailing apps existing only in a few locations that I will never visit and ride hailing apps not existing at all?

                                                                    That’s the point I am trying to make.

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                                                                      The only meaningful difference is if you live in those places. There are regional taxi apps that pay their drivers better and are made by local programmers. If you want to say that Uber is one of the first that got global reach we have no disagreements but that’s not what I took you to mean.

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                                                    I’m happy that your friend has found a greater quality of life by using Uber. I’d just like to mention another model.

                                                    In Sweden (at least in Stockholms län), a disabled or blind person can apply for Färdtjänst - transport help. Basically,

                                                    • access to public transport is free
                                                    • one can get a cab ride anywhere in the greater Stockholm area at cost. Usually the cab ride is shared with other people.

                                                    All of this is of course financed by taxes ;)

                                                    Caveats:

                                                    • just like with Uber, peak traffic times makes it hard to get a fast ride
                                                    • the authorities negotiate with cab companies and pay a fixed price, so that it’s not always in a cab drivers best interest to accept this ride. My wife has told me of surly or impatient drivers
                                                    1. 2

                                                      Replying to my own comment, as I cannot edit the previous one any longer.

                                                      I have been informed that this kind of system also exists in the USA, in Pennsylvania: https://myaccessride.com/

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                                                      Here in Berlin there’s a service called Berlkönig (a wordplay combining Berlin with Erlkönig) which is run by the main public transport organization, and it runs shared rides which tend to be far cheaper than Uber. Uber will pick you up a few minutes faster but may cost at least twice as much. I tend to take Berlkönig once per month when I end up at a friend’s house late on a weekday night when the public transit is running less frequently.

                                                      When I lived in NYC, I was frequently struck by how it felt like kind of an island of blind-friendliness in a country where public transit was so actively destroyed by the auto lobbies etc… When I return to NYC I am struck by a bit of a feeling that the public transit has gotten worse (I experienced it just before hurricane sandy and the nice years afterward when my subway line had had much of its equipment replaced). But I’m not sure if that’s true or just my reaction now that I’m used to a different system. Uber cost about 10-20x the public transit rate to get me home, and often took twice as long, but it was relaxing. I worked at a place that would reimburse Uber trips home so I would take it when I felt exhausted, maybe once every two weeks.

                                                      Other systems exist and work well.

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                                                        Uber also provides shared rides in the US that are dramatically cheaper. If they don’t offer them in Germany… Maybe local regulation prohibits that? Not sure. The shared rides are also more profitable for Uber: they only have to pay one driver, for many more people.

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                                                      The article does a great job highlighting how capitalism negatively impacts software development steering it primarily towards producing trade value for the capital owners resulting in creation of incredibly harmful software platforms like Facebook.

                                                      I am very encouraged by open source and federated platforms starting to become viable alternatives. Mastodon, PeerTube, and Pixelfed are all great examples of non-commercially driven platforms that bring us back to the way the internet was meant to operate in the first place. These platforms are developed by the users for the users, there are no ulterior motives such as monetizing the users by mining their data and activities or creating ad revenue by putting garbage on the page that’s directly at odds with providing good user experience.

                                                      One huge advantage ActivityPub federation has is that there is no incentive to create walled gardens and jealously guard the users from others. The federation flips the user economy model on its head from the way commercial social media operates. Ability to interoperate between the services benefits all the services in this model, and new services leverage the existing user base of the entire federation instead of having to create the user base from scratch.

                                                      Censorship is another area where federation fares much better than centralized platforms. Since there is no central databse or a single company that governs the entire network it’s much harder to censor content on the platform. It’s also possible to create private networks by spinning up your own server and limiting access.

                                                      I really think that the future lies with open source and federated services that communicate using open protocols like ActivityPub with nodes operated by many users in different countries around the world.

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                                                        Great article! It touched on a lot of things that I’ve been thinking about recently. Some of my quick thoughts:

                                                        I think that part of the issue here is the concept of abstraction. Abstractions are our bread and butter as computer folk, allowing us to build ever higher on the stack of turtles. And as we know, abstractions hide the reality of their underlying implementations. Software moves exponentially faster as more abstractions are built and as developers can think less and less about the complexity of the underlying implementation. The problem that you get at in this post is that at the bottom of the stack of turtles, under all the abstractions that enable “efficiency” and increases in productivity, are people. No other technology has so radically changed society in such a brief period of time as computing. It’s a feedback loop, every advance allowing us to create the next one even faster. But as the people are buried ever deeper in the stack of abstractions, it becomes easier and easier to harm them with our progress. Computing is here to stay at this point. I wonder, however, if there will ever be a way to stop the abstraction machine and really think about the impact of the things that we build. It’s easier than ever before to create software. And yet it is not as easy to tell what its impact will be. (Case in point, the script for getting grocery deliver slots. Easy to fix the “problem”, but also easy for the developer to overlook the harm that this could have on others)

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                                                          I expect a technical article about the fate of superior choices, and I was disappointed to find the usual bull.

                                                          The likes of AmigaOS and BeOS advanced the state of the art. Inferior solutions such as Windows, MacOS and later OSX were the ones most adopted.

                                                          Now we have seL4, but it’s the same story; Technical superiority means squat. That’s the problem with software. Dumb people with decision power. Otherwise-smart people putting up with them. And we have a lot of that. It’s a wonder progress is ever made despite this fact.

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                                                            Maybe we have to look to economic and political factors to understand why Windows and Mac won. We shouldn’t retreat into our techie bubble and pretend those things don’t matter.

                                                            1. 4

                                                              Pretending they do matter is at the heart of the problem.

                                                              Imagine if, rather than going with the flow, we used our brains and did what was right, put effort where it matters.

                                                              There’s nothing sadder than seeing otherwise capable individuals wasting their lives by pursuing the wrong endeavors, just because they are popular.

                                                              If anything, what is severely lacking in society is the ability to take a step back and think, as opposed as following the flow. The few people capable are often the ones that end up making a difference.

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                                                                There’s nothing sadder than seeing otherwise capable individuals wasting their lives by pursuing the wrong endeavors, just because they are popular.

                                                                I suppose you would consider me guilty of that. I work at Microsoft, on the Windows accessibility team. The work I do benefits not only Microsoft’s bottom line (somewhat), but potentially millions of people. Would it be better if I implemented a screen reader for AROS, or Haiku, or some OS based on SEL4? I could design a beautiful new accessibility architecture, possibly technically superior to anything currently out there. (Then again, I’m probably not actually that brilliant.) But who would it help? That, to me, would be a waste of my time.

                                                                Of course, this is all ignoring the fact that I probably couldn’t get paid to work on one of those obscure OS’s anyway. It would have to be a volunteer side project, and some problems are just too big to solve on nights and weekends.

                                                                1. 5

                                                                  The work I do benefits not only Microsoft’s bottom line (somewhat), but potentially millions of people.

                                                                  Microsoft customers, perhaps. Windows is unfortunately not open source as per OSI. It doesn’t count as work for humanity.

                                                                  Those who can do paid work on actually worthy projects are few and far between.

                                                                  I am myself an AWS drone. I do whatever I want on my free time, and I do get paid well, accelerating me towards not having to work at all (so called FIRE), which will free me to do whatever I want, full time.

                                                                  or some OS based on seL4?

                                                                  By all means. You’d be proudly at the forefront of computing, advancing the state of the art.

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                                                                    Windows is unfortunately not open source as per OSI. It doesn’t count as work for humanity.

                                                                    Open source is fantastic but I wouldn’t ignore closed source software like that.

                                                                    1. 2

                                                                      I do not ignore it. I recognize it, but due to its closed nature (source or license), it is prevented from benefiting mankind as a whole.

                                                                      1. 5

                                                                        The problem with that statement is that it isn’t, in any way, true. In fact, it’s downright hard to do any kind of creative thing without benefiting mankind as a whole.

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          Please define what you mean by ‘benefiting mankind’.

                                                                          1. 1

                                                                            In this context, it was qualified “as a whole” and meant nothing more than not being restricted to Microsoft clients.

                                                                            Of course, give it enough time and if an idea has worth, it will be replicated.

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              Of course, give it enough time and if an idea has worth, it will be replicated.

                                                                              Are you sure of this? I’m not.

                                                                              Since this statement is conditioned on “give it enough time”, as it stands, it is untestable.

                                                                      2. 1

                                                                        Those who can do paid work on actually worthy projects are few and far between.

                                                                        By your definition of ‘worthy’ or theirs?

                                                                        Do you have a philosophical stance on https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism ?

                                                                        1. 1

                                                                          By your definition of ‘worthy’ or theirs?

                                                                          By theirs. Only a few fortunate people feel their job is worth doing, money aside. This impression is based on the views my network of acquaintances have on their jobs, and restricted to computer science graduates.

                                                                          Do you have a philosophical stance on https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_relativism ?

                                                                          This is a dangerous topic I’ll respectfully decline to comment on.

                                                                          1. 3

                                                                            By theirs. Only a few fortunate people feel their job is worth doing, money aside. This impression is based on the views my network of acquaintances have on their jobs, and restricted to computer science graduates.

                                                                            Then it may surprise you to learn that I do believe my job is worth doing, money aside, even though I’m working for Microsoft on Windows. It’s true that my work on Windows accessibility is only available to Microsoft customers and their end-users (e.g. employees or students). But that’s still a lot of people that my work benefits.

                                                                            1. 1

                                                                              What can I say, but congrats for working on a job you feel worth doing.

                                                                            2. 2

                                                                              I think don’t I get how you or they are defining worth. Can you explain more deeply?

                                                                              Some example guesses based on people I know:

                                                                              • If someone meant they wouldn’t do their job if they weren’t paid for it, that would hardly be a surprise. :)

                                                                              • Or perhaps ‘worth’ is meant as a catch-all for job satisfaction?

                                                                              • If someone said their job is to make system X be more efficient, but finds this to ‘lack worth’, perhaps they would like to see more direct results?

                                                                              • If someone says their job is not ‘worth’ doing, perhaps they mean they hoped for better for themselves?

                                                                              • Perhaps someone prioritized pay or experience in the near term as a means to an end, meaning some broader notion of ‘worth’ was not factored in.

                                                                              • Impact aside, some jobs feel draining, demotivating, or worse.

                                                                              • Some jobs feel like backwaters that still exist for historical reasons but add little value to the organization or customers.

                                                                              1. 2

                                                                                If someone meant they wouldn’t do their job if they weren’t paid for it, that would hardly be a surprise. :)

                                                                                That one. And yes, I am not joking.

                                                                                I otherwise see working as a losing proposition, as no amount of pay is actually worth not doing whatever you want with your time, which is limited.

                                                                                1. 1

                                                                                  I otherwise see working as a losing proposition, as no amount of pay is actually worth not doing whatever you want with your time, which is limited.

                                                                                  I’m not sure how to parse the sentence above. With regards to “otherwise” in particular: Do you mean that work (without money) “is a losing proposition”? And/or do you mean “generally, across the board”… you should simply do what you want with your time? And/or something else?

                                                                                  How do you respond to the following claim?… To the extent work helps you earn money to provide for your basic human needs and wants, it serves a purpose. This purpose gives it worth.

                                                                                  I’m trying to dig in and understand if there is a deeper philosophy at work here that explains your point of view.

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                                                                        I agree that it kind of sucks, but it will always be humans using and developing software, and we cannot expect humans to be rational. We are social beings and we have feelings, and things like popularity matter, whether we like it or not.

                                                                        You’re right that blindly following the flow is what got us into this mess. But as technologists we need to understand the humans and politics behind these decisions so that we can create our own flows for the technically superior solutions.

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                                                                          In context (e.g. day-to-day work, especially in systems regarding human safety), we do want to build better technical solutions because we want them to be more reliable, which means they fail less often and do less damage to people.

                                                                          Some of us also want better technical solutions because it makes these systems more flexible to adapting contexts, which (hopefully) means less money and time is spent rebuilding half-baked systems that is, let’s face it, not the kind of work that many of us are hoping for.

                                                                          Now, for a broader claim: narrowly ‘technically-superior’ solutions in the service of immoral aims are not something we should be striving for.

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                                                                      I really doubt it’s just “dumb people with decision power”. It’s mostly the users.

                                                                      There is a concept called “bike shedding” with an example: if you discuss, with a group of people, plans about building a nuclear power plant and plans for building a bike shed - people will discuss the bike shed a lot more. Because that is what everyone understands. This same concept applies to most everything. Take books. Most popular books are really “dumb”. Everyone can read understand those and they become popular.

                                                                      I think same concept transfers to the software world. We have what we have, because this is what won the “so dumb, everyone can use it” race.

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                                                                        I think same concept transfers to the software world. We have what we have, because this is what won the “so dumb, everyone can use it” race.

                                                                        And it’s still based on misconceptions, unfortunately.

                                                                        For instance, it’s pretty well accepted that concepts of modularity make programming easier, not harder. Concepts such as abstraction (as in the abstraction of the implementation behind an interface), or isolation (user processes run sandboxed with the help of mechanisms such as pagetables).

                                                                        However, when it comes to microkernel, multiserver operating systems, people have trouble with the idea that they are actually more tractable, rather than less. They’ll defend monoliths, even when they’re Linux-tier clusterfucks with little in terms of internal structure.

                                                                        At times, it seems hopeless.

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                                                                          Not every abstraction turns out to be helpful. Sometimes they just make it impossible to figure out what’s going on.

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                                                                            Absolutely.

                                                                            But it’s hard to argue no structure (chaos) is better than structure.

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                                                                              I’ll take code that only uses simple, known-good abstractions (eg structured control, lack of global state) but is otherwise chaotic (eg code duplication with small modifications etc) over code that applies the wrong abstractions any day.

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                                                                                For chaotic, try and trace function calls within the Linux kernel.

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                                                                                  That’s exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about - messy, but tractable with static analysis tooling. It’s a hard slog, but you can clearly see how much of a slog there is within a couple of hours investigation.

                                                                                  Compare that to my daily driver - large rails apps. Not only are static analysis tools unable to follow the control graph, but the use of templated strings to find method names means you can’t even use grep to identify a given symbol.

                                                                                  Sometimes there’s no quicker way to figure out what, if anything, uses a given method than to read 100k lines of ruby source. There’s frequently no quicker way to figure out where a method call goes than running it in a debugger.

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                                                                                    As the kernel runs in supervisor mode, I’d really prefer if it was very clearly structured and the execution flows going through it were obvious and didn’t require running it on a debugger.

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                                                                        I met the developers of seL4. It’s a tool intended for a very specific set of use cases, mostly embedded systems and military tech. It’s not intended to be a replacement for Windows/Mac/Linux and is not at all the “same story”.

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                                                                          That’s not what they originally advertized, though. Originally, it was one of many L4-centric projects that would be used as foundation for desktop, mobile, and embedded applications. Nizza, Perseus, Genode, OKL4A, INTEGRITY-178B, LynxSecure, VxWorks MIKS, etc are all examples which did desktops by putting a Linux VM on top of the kernel. The seL4 kernel had x86 happening to support that but with initial efforts focused on ARM.

                                                                          I guess they realized the difficulty, both technical and marketing, of doing a secure workstation for x86. Most verification funding was also going toward embedded, IoT, and military. A military company bought OK Labs. It looks like they pivoted for now to totally focus on those areas building their component architecture. They even changed their website to only talk about these things. The NICTA website talked about things in this comment.

                                                                          It’s probably good move given the software requirements are simpler. They’ll be more likely to succeed.

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                                                                            Gernot has said that that verification of the multicore kernel is very costly and no individual client is willing to foot the bill. They lost governmental funding and (AFAICT) their primary funding sources are from defense. So yeah, they would like to expand beyond embedded controllers for the military (high assurance VMM for Amazon or something) but no one cares about security enough.

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                                                                              I didn’t know that. I wonder if it means funding authorities dont care about security or dont care to fund that project. The seL4 kernel is a simplified kernel verified using ultra-slow, ultra-costly techniques.

                                                                              They might want to fund methods with higher productivity and/or applicibility to existing systems. Most of the market still won’t buy whatever it is, though. A combo of developer, market, and defense apathy is why I’m doing far less research than before in security.

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                                                                            This is what it is, currently. Doing whatever necessary to get embedded applications running is absolutely a much simpler scenario than a workstation one, and currently very realistic; They do have the examples to point to.

                                                                            But there’s nothing stopping it from going further. Genode’s sculpt manages to demonstrate this really well.

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                                                                            Emotionally, I think I know where you are coming from.

                                                                            However, there isn’t a strong argument here. Some problems I see:

                                                                            • There is not just one problem with software.
                                                                            • You don’t explain what you mean by ‘dumb’ — it comes across as an amorphous insult
                                                                            • There are many kinds of intelligence
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                                                                              Dumb was an unfortunate choice of words. Technically illiterate would have perhaps worked, but there’s a component of closed-mindedness or unwillingness to consider alternatives.

                                                                              The background of the post is having seen people who are otherwise intelligent and capable put up with terrible decisions from above and derived unhappiness. It is often better to stand for your beliefs (as in, if actually sure), and oppose these decisions. Doing so allows for “I told you.”. Should the company’s climate doesn’t allow this much, I’d suggest finding another job.

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                                                                              The likes of AmigaOS and BeOS advanced the state of the art. Inferior solutions such as Windows, MacOS and later OSX were the ones most adopted.

                                                                              Technical superiority has nothing to do with the success of a platform. User experience is the ultimate arbiter in this case. MacOS has better UX than most operating systems. Windows has better UX than Linux or seL4 for a p50 user (example: my mother). People are not dumb to choose Windows or MacOS over Linux / seL4, they simply go for the better UX. If you want to create a superior platform, it has to start with superior UX, everything else is secondary.

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                                                                                Windows was always in the bottom league when it came to UX, it became a winner because it had guaranteed backwards compatibility with an even worse system: MS-DOS.

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                                                                                  And monopoly tactics. Similar story for IBM vs better-designed mainframes such as B5000.

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                                                                                  Technical superiority has nothing to do with the success of a platform.

                                                                                  Do you mean ‘is less important’ rather ‘has nothing to do with’?

                                                                                  If you really mean ‘has nothing to do with’ you have the burden of proving a negative.

                                                                                  A negative claim is a colloquialism for an affirmative claim that asserts the non-existence or exclusion of something.[10] The difference with a positive claim is that it takes only a single example to demonstrate such a positive assertion (“there is a chair in this room,” requires pointing to a single chair), while the inability to give examples demonstrates that the speaker has not yet found or noticed examples rather than demonstrates that no examples exist - Wikipedia: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burden_of_proof_(philosophy)#Proving_a_negative

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                                                                                    Ok I bite.

                                                                                    • VMS technically superior to Unix -> Unix won
                                                                                    • OS2 technically superior to DOS -> DOS won

                                                                                    It appears to me that technical superiority does not have anything to do with how successful a platform is. You can prove me otherwise.

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                                                                                      I’d argue compatibility is the primary driver of success.

                                                                                      I can run windows 95 games on windows 10; I can open an excel document from 1995 today. Getting PHP or java code from 20 years ago to run is typically no big deal, and that’s a large part of their dominance in their respective niches.

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                                                                                        The way you are making the claim is oversimplified.

                                                                                        You’ve also shifted your language from ‘success of a platform’ to a notion of ‘winning’. But it raises the question ‘over what timeframe’? These platforms are not static, either.

                                                                                        For example, a big reason that Windows has remained a force (relative to competitors) is that it has improved its underpinnings over time.

                                                                                        Proving a negative is often waste of time unless you are working with precise definitions and deductive reasoning.

                                                                                        Let me suggest your time would be better spent by clarifying what you mean rather than making absolute statements.

                                                                                        Or maybe you want to write a thesis showing every software platform and demonstrating that in every case, technical aspects played no role in their evolution and success across various time scales? If so, go for it. :P (Be careful not to cherry pick the time scale to suit your argument. Or leave out examples that don’t fit.)

                                                                                        I’m trying to explain why oversimplified forms of argument are not very useful to me. My goal is to understand how these factors relate not only in the past but also in the future.

                                                                                        Your version of your argument in your head may be useful to you in some sense, but the way you’re stating it is way too blunt. I think by adding some nuance, your mental model of the situation will improve. I intend this to be taken in the spirit of constructive criticism.

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                                                                                  Very fitting that the AI playing Atari video gives an error: “Audio renderer error. Please restart your computer”.

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                                                                                    Thanks, interesting article. I read some paragraphs 4 times to really get the point about what is being said.

                                                                                    And while it is full of leftist posturing (I mean - it quotes Marx, of all things) I agree with majority of ideas expressed there. But I think there is one weakness - while each individual idea is quite strong, the connection between them, in my opinion, is missing. I still am somewhat puzzled how they all connect and have a feeling not everything presented there was necessary to make the point. In particular I don’t see the connection between “software has a legacy of many people behind it” and anything else in the article.

                                                                                    The thing that immediately presents itself after reading the post is that software is indeed held back by the “previous way of doing things”. I am not sure if we should call this “capitalism”, but the idea that we cannot freely share, say, a movie with every other person on earth, even thou we have a costless way of doing that, without each individual person having to pay for it, as if it was a scarce resource, has to end one day.

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                                                                                      And while it is full of leftist posturing (I mean - it quotes Marx, of all things)

                                                                                      That you think that quoting Marx is ‘leftist posturing’ is actually really funny. If you quoted most of Marx or explained any of what it says to almost anyone, without saying it’s Marx, they’d agree with you. But you’ve been brought up and conditioned to associate the name with extreme left-wing whatever.

                                                                                      All Marx said is that history is the result of material conditions rather than the idealism of strong men.

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                                                                                      I know I’ve already left a couple of top-level comments here. But as I think about this more, I believe this article paints a caricature of software that makes things look much worse than they generally are. For a counterpoint, specifically about how software is helping us get through the current pandemic, check out this unusually positive post by Uncle Bob Martin.

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                                                                                        That was great. He even mentioned my industry that most overlook. I can tell you first-hand that most people I interact with aren’t social distancing, they stay clustering, and so on. It would be absolutely terrifying had I not gotten back with the Lord.

                                                                                        I’d possibly have quit instead of sacrificed just due to the sheer apathy I see in most people. Many workers in my area feel like the enormous risks we take will be wasted by reckless and/or apathetic clusters of people who will spread it anyway. Many workers in service sector aren’t even social distancing for that reason.

                                                                                        It’s great that we have all these services and this tech to keep the majority at home. It would’ve been a nightmare-ish scenario otherwise.

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                                                                                        This is a beautiful essay. It lovingly demonstrates how much humanity is in our software and how the flaws are less in the software than in us and our society. I only wish the essay stressed that software itself can’t fix the problems since they emerge from society itself. Software can only help you automate and scale out a solution once you have it posed at least manually.

                                                                                        If the problem is bad incentives, software can only optimise around those incentives you need living breathing people to question and change incentives.

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                                                                                          There’s a section of the article that drops into a constantly changing stream of nonsense text, obviously generated by something like a Markov chain or GPT-2. I’m not sure what the point of that section is, but it’s really confusing when reading the article with a screen reader.

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                                                                                            Everything the human race has worked for – all of our technology, all of our civilization, all the hopes we invested in our future – might be accidentally handed over to some kind of unfathomable blind idiot alien god that discards all of them, and consciousness itself, in order to participate in some weird fundamental-level mass-energy economy that leads to it disassembling Earth and everything on it for its component atoms.

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                                                                                              Software didn’t go wrong. Everyone realized that I care about a product that enables new functionality so much that I will put up with some bugs for that.

                                                                                              Buggy software > non-existent software for most of the space of bugs and software

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                                                                                                There’s very little about software in this anti-capitalism rant.

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                                                                                                  Where did it all go wrong?

                                                                                                  At the point when people want shiny things. Much more (on average) than creative freedom or good application of one’s mind.

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                                                                                                    I find the author looking in the wrong place. There are a lot of different types of software, but three types form a large majority: control (and data acquisition) systems; simulations; systems featuring the recording of transactions for commercial or legal reasons.

                                                                                                    In common are that they are all about modeling some system, real or imagined, in computer code. These include those systems that manage your money, taxes, insurances, health, utilities, environment, purchasing, supply, services, education and reservations. They include the systems that operate your elevator, reticulation system, production line, or automated warehouse.

                                                                                                    What’s wrong with software is that programmers have not been able to adopt and teach a predictable and repeatable way to model into code. As Hertz learned recently with its failed systems by Accenture, the undertaking of high cost complex systems is a dangerous and uncertain undertaking. What progress have we made?

                                                                                                    Capital in this context is about the *ownership” of resources that might include a decision to automate some process that could be performed instead given enough human resources and means of communication. Capital and the production of speculative undertakings featuring software are not where software “went wrong”. Instead software might be a mere detail in the relationship between capital and a speculative endeavor of any kind?

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                                                                                                      Would you please define what you mean by ‘model’?

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                                                                                                        There are many definitions of model. The closest one I can think of that matches your usage is:

                                                                                                        ‘A schematic description or representation of something, especially a system or phenomenon, that accounts for its properties and is used to study its characteristics.’ (Source: Wordnik)

                                                                                                        While this definition is consistent with portions of the three types of software you describe: (‘control (and data acquisition) systems; simulations; systems featuring the recording of transactions for commercial or legal reasons.’), it does cover all aspects of them.

                                                                                                        For parts of software systems that interact with humans, there is more than just modeling in the above sense. Of course, there are decisions about what to model. Even more broadly, there is design about the human-computer-interaction: e.g. what is shown to the human (and when), what mechanisms exist for human input.

                                                                                                        I would suggest that most/all software systems (ultimately) are to some degree coupled with humans, and thus have designs (implicit or explicit) about their context, which may touch on any or all aspects of human existence.

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                                                                                                          You make a good point that modeling is a hard problem in software.

                                                                                                          However, when you write ‘What’s wrong with software is [one thing]’, you commit the ‘fallacy of the single cause.’

                                                                                                          The fallacy of the single cause, also known as complex cause, causal oversimplification, causal reductionism, and reduction fallacy, is a fallacy of questionable cause that occurs when it is assumed that there is a single, simple cause of an outcome when in reality it may have been caused by a number of only jointly sufficient causes. -Wikipedia

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                                                                                                            Instead software might be a mere detail in the relationship between capital and a speculative endeavor of any kind?

                                                                                                            Many economics technology (generally) in this kind of way. See https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technical_progress_(economics)

                                                                                                            Saying ‘mere’ implies a value judgement, however. Is software worth understanding in detail? It depends on where you stand.

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                                                                                                              Correction: ‘many economists view technology in this kind of way’

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                                                                                                              What progress have we made?

                                                                                                              Is this a rhetorical question?

                                                                                                              If you are interested in how much modeling in software has progressed, please dig in and share what you find.

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                                                                                                              The magic disappeared and our optimism has since faded. Our websites are slow and insecure; our startups are creepy and unprofitable; our president Tweets hate speech; we don’t trust our social media apps, webcams, or voting machines.

                                                                                                              Stopped reading at this point. This tells me that everything in this article characterizing what the problems with software in general are, is going to be filtered from the perspective of someone who is upset that social media was one of several factors that allowed a politician they strongly dislike to have won a close election for US President in 2016. You might as well read an essay called “Where did the Printing Press go wrong?” written by a devout Catholic in the late 16th century who is not happy about the consequences of that heretic Martin Luther’s published books.

                                                                                                              (I scrolled to the end, the stated conclusion was that software “went wrong” because it serves the needs of capital in a Marxist sense. Which means this is a political essay about capitalism that has little to do with software qua software.)

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                                                                                                                I’m sorry you feel that way. For what it’s worth, the rest of the political essay is justification for why it’s silly to study “software qua software”

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                                                                                                                My president does not know what internet is.