Re: comment wrt. ESR's talk in Vienna

Autor: Eric S. Raymond (
Datum: Sam Jul 13 2002 - 20:17:04 CEST

Karin Kosina <>:
> I also think that "moral" reasons are the real cause, but I still have
> doubts about your gift culture theory. Not stealing somebody else's work
> is anyway a question of basic honour. People had this principles long
> before they mutated into homo computensis, and I hope they will keep
> it for a while.
Yup. The hacker culture is new behavior that exploits very old wiring.
Professional gift cultures have arisen before (think guilds or arts colonies)
and doubtless will again in the future. What you call "basic honor" is a
central value in all of them.

I think the reason you've been resisting the gift-culture model is
that you are emotionally reluctant to see hacker culture as something
that is powered by ego and selfishness -- even the rarefied,
non-materialistic kind found in gift cultures. I've seen this
reaction, leading to the kind of objections you make, before. You
would prefer explanations that have a lot of nobility, altruism,
community feeling, and sacrifice in them.

In general, I don't believe altruistic explanations for anything.
Partly this is because I know that while my own behavior often looks
altruistic from the outside (huge amounts of community service,
voluntary gifting, etc.), it is actually selfish from the inside.
What other people interpret as altruistic willingness to make
sacrifices for the sake of making a better world is actually my
selfish desire to *create* that world so I can live in it.

My experience teaches me that "altruists" are not trustworthy.
They're normally either ignorant of their own motives or in denial
about them, and are therefore ethically unstable. I prefer to deal
with people who are like me -- selfish on a long time scale, and smart
enough to be constructive about it.

Accordingly, I don't trust altruism as an explanation for long-term
human behavior; it's too unstable. I always look for the self-interest
that altruists are concealing from themselves.

		Eric S. Raymond

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