August 22, 2002 · Lessig
It was certainly one of the most interesting parts of this most recent “exchange” to be told, by a coder I respect no less, that binaries “reveal all without revealing the source code.” The implication drawn from this was that having access to the source was not important. Indeed, it was a “distraction.” That was a bit of a shock to the way I look at the world. I’m of course not a coder (I did that for many years in my youth, and indeed, for two years earned my keep coding , but my mind has been corrupted by east coast code so I wouldn’t pretend to know anything interesting about coding anymore), but I wonder, has anyone told RMS this? I mean, why are we worrying so much about open or free code, if in fact binaries “reveal all”?
The folks at Oops helpfully note that at least “there’s more material for study in a book than in a [binary only] softrware program.” And that in turn may be responsible for the “quite poor” state of software development. That seems right. But is this interesting view of this coder (who I want to be quick to add has done a great deal of good advancing all things good and great) shared by others? I mean, I understand the sense of binaries “reveal all” in the sense that all functionality might be inferrable from a binary (not sure if that’s true, but I’ll assume it). But is the open/closed line really so unimportant?