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Re: [DotGNU]Int'l Herald Trib on Software Patents in Europe

From: Eric Altendorf
Subject: Re: [DotGNU]Int'l Herald Trib on Software Patents in Europe
Date: Tue, 3 Feb 2004 13:05:14 -0800
User-agent: KMail/1.5.4

On Monday 02 February 2004 11:42, j_post wrote:
> On Monday 02 February 2004 10:14 am, Seth Johnson wrote:
> > Europe has a chance to take a leadership role by deciding that
> > software should be treated differently than other inventions,
> Herein lies the problem, IMHO. It is my opinion (although I realize
> some will disagree) that computer science and software engineering
> are applied mathematics. Mathematics is not *invented*, it's
> *discovered*. So of course software should be treated differently
> than inventions.

Please!  Nothing is that cut and dry!  Of course I'm against the 
patent madness going on right now, but the question of whether 
mathematics is "invented" or "discovered" is a very deep 
philosophical question which probably has no actual answer.

If we adopt such a superficial view then we might as well argue, if 
mathematics is "discovered," then so is physics, and thus so is 
engineering, and so is everything ever created by a person.  We might 
as well argue that all the great art in the world was just 
discovered, not created or invented.  (And maybe we could say that, 
but that only points out the semantics troubles we run into when we 
try to make these distinctions.)

Who's to say that the abstract plan for the proverbial "better 
mousetrap" did not exist a priori just as much as a plan for the 
existence of uncountably infinite quantities?  Writing a proof is a 
highly creative, personal process which, in my opinion, as a computer 
scientist and mathematician, is as close to "invention" or "creation" 
as anything you do as an engineer (or artist, for that matter).  

If anything, the difference between "discovery" and "invention" has 
more to do with the process used than with the nature of the 
underlying subject, and thus both physical and mathematical plans 
could be invented OR discovered.

I think the real question about software patents is probably more 
pragmatic than all this -- is it really good for innovation, is it 
just, is it good for society, etc.

Eric Altendorf    //

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