Saturday, January 28, 2012

History Needs Software Piracy (Link Round-Up 1/28/12)


The myth of American decline
"First came the belief that the tide of history was with the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders themselves believed the “correlation of forces” favored communism; the American defeat and withdrawal from Vietnam led Soviet officials, for the first time, to believe they might actually “win” in the long Cold War struggle. A decade later, in 1987, Paul Kennedy depicted both superpowers as suffering from “imperial overstretch,” but suggested that it was entirely possible that the United States would be the first to collapse, following a long historical tradition of exhausted and bankrupt empires. It had crippled itself by spending too much on defense and taking on too many far-flung global responsibilities. But within two years the Berlin Wall fell, and two years after that the Soviet Union collapsed. The decline turned out to be taking place elsewhere."
Why historians need software piracy
It may seem counterintuitive, but piracy has actually saved more software than it has destroyed. Already, pirates have spared tens of thousands of programs from extinction, proving themselves the unintentional stewards of our digital culture. 
Software pirates promote data survival through ubiquity and media independence. Like an ant that works as part of a larger system it doesn’t understand, the selfish action of each digital pirate, when taken in aggregate, has created a vast web of redundant data that ensures many digital works will live on.
Banning Salman Rushdie from speaking in India 
Outdated colonial laws need to be repealed, violent fringe groups must be stopped from holding the nation to ransom and we need a movement to stop politicians abusing religious sentiment for political gain. Only when freedom of expression can be taken for granted can India really call itself the democracy it claims so proudly to be.
The cultural gap between Western and Chinese research methods
Many of the students “haven't been trained so much in using their knowledge to generate new ideas and find new solutions”, says Danielsen. “They work extremely hard and very long hours, but I am not sure whether they are able to step back a bit and reflect on the results.” Wickham says that the science is often highly managed by professors, and researchers are not encouraged to take risks or learn from their mistakes.

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