[E-Lang] List Purpose & Popperian Advocacy

Mark S. Miller markm@caplet.com
Mon, 29 Jan 2001 01:58:02 -0800

>[1] By the way, if an eventual goal of this list is to be an advocate
>for capabilities systems, it occurs to me that this might be a barrier
>for outsiders trying to appreciate the contributions of this list.
>I don't know; maybe I'm the only one to find this confusing...

First, Jonathan is right.  The primary purpose of this list is to discuss 
matters relating directly to the E system (both the E language and ELib, the 
name "e-lang" is unfortunate).  To that end, and in light of my new 
responsibilities to openCOLA to make rapid progress on E, I'm personally 
going to try contributing to the more "philosophical" threads such as this 
one only on the weekends, and stick with narrower topics during the week. 
This shouldn't effect anyone else's behavior -- I like the mix of 
contributions we've got.  I'm just saying this so no one misinterprets my 
mix and timing of contributions.

Regarding advocacy, well, sort of.  I am certainly an advocate for 
capability systems, but my purpose for the list, in this regard, is vigorous 
examination, argument, and criticism of capability systems, and critical 
comparison of them against other systems to find out what we capability 
advocates might be missing.  You may well have other purposes for 
participating, but as long as both of our purposes are served by arguing 
with each other, great!

I started the E project, erights.org, and (with Jonathan) this list 
partially out of frustration that a proposition I considered obvious -- the 
superiority of capability systems -- was widely disbelieved and worse.  You 
could say I'm a Popperian advocate: by seeking vigorous critics (such as 
yourself), and engaging in publicly archived and indexed discussions and 
debate, when capabilities get knocked down, I'm surprised and I learn.  As 
John Henson of openCOLA says "we don't want to be wrong -- it's great to be 
corrected."  I'm proud to say that, as a result of this list, this has 
already happened with Ralph Hartley's discovery 
http://www.erights.org/elib/capability/conspire.html#revokability of a 
weakness of capabilities compared to ACLs.  My original "strict superiority" 
hypothesis was refuted, and I learned.

A "crit-me-now" button appears on every page on all my sites because of the 
high value I place on being publicly criticized.

When, as has otherwise been happening, capabilities withstand vigorous 
criticisms, seemingly against all odds, then one would hope their critics 
would notice, be surprised and learn.  The more vigorous, clever, and 
insightful the attacks against which a hypothesis survives, the greater the 
credibility it should gain.  I dare say this has been happening too.  
Hopefully, it's just beginning.

Note: I know I'm dangerously oversimplifying by dividing people and 
positions into pro and con camps.  But it's hard to make observations about 
a process such as this without such oversimplifications.  Please, no one 
feel pigeonholed, and my apologies for not finding a more nuanced way to 
make these points.