So then I go check out Eric Raymond’s reply to Jaron Lanier, and his critique of Lanier focuses on two aspects that I wanted to use as follow-up posts. The first is Liebowitz and Margolis’s “Fable of the Keys” argument:
The essay continues with a vulgar error about technology lock-in effects. I yield to few in my detestation of Microsoft and all its works, but S.J. Leibowitz and Stephen E. Margolis exploded the lock-in myth quite definitively in “The Fable Of The Keys” and their followup book Winners, Losers, and Microsoft. Vendor “lock-in” cannot survive the end-stage of lock-in success in which the monopolist, having achieved market saturation, must push prices forever upwards on its fixed-size customer base to maintain the rising returns that Wall Street demands. Eventually the expected cost to customers will exceed their cost to transition out of the technology, and the monopoly will melt down. This is why TCP/IP is king today and proprietary networking technologies only fading memories. It has already happened to Microsoft in the financial-services sector and the movie industry, and the handwriting is on the wall elsewhere.
Note how this argument rests on the crucial characterization of “natural monopoly” as a transitory phenomenon in a dynamic economy with contestability, as I mentioned in the prior post.
The second is Neal Stephenson’s essay, In the Beginning Was the Command Line. Stephenson takes, as Raymond puts it, “a more humane” perspective on command-line-based operating systems. Indeed: perhaps text-based systems are one form of a heuristic that humans can grasp intuitively as we try to impose structure on the world around us. Is it really the case that text-based and command-line-based structures limit creativity? I could argue otherwise: think of the command line as an analogue to simple, transparent institutions that leave a lot of room for individual creativity and productivity, as long as it whatever you create can interoperate with the simple infrastructure.
More as the discussion evolves.