Web3, SoftwareICs, MicroTransactions, and ComponentSoftware

Here’s a comment of mine that’s in response to the following article posted to eLiterate:

Web3 in Education Isn’t Very Interesting
by Michael Feldstein
26 February 2022
https://eliterate.us/web3-in-education-isnt-very-interesting/


FMB Comment

Hi Michael,

Very interesting article on eLiterate.

Finding a way to break free of the control of code and content development organizations has long been an interest of software developers, faculty authors, and others.

For example, back in the late 1980s, there was a fair amount of interest in this book by Brad Cox:

Object-Oriented Programming: An Evolutionary Approach
Brad C. Cox
1 January 1986
https://www.amazon.com/Object-Oriented-Programming-Evolutionary-Brad-Cox/dp/0201548348

There is still discussion of this book to this day. See:

When OOP was about “Software-ICs” and micro-transactions
Discussion of OOP: an evolutionary approach, by Brad Cox
20 December 2019
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21833331

Generally speaking, Brad’s idea was to ask whether society could come up with a way to reimburse individual software developers with some kind of micro-transaction system. If someone wanted to use their code, the developer/owner of the code could get a micro-reimbursement each time the code was used. Also, note that the “user” could be another software developer who wants let their code access the upstream code . Finally, the system had to be designed to reduce the transaction cost of using the code.

As you discuss in your article, Michael, one of the main reasons we have organizations in the first place is to reduce transaction costs. Imagine how costly it would be if all the programmers who work for Microsoft wanted to own their own code. The extreme transaction cost scenario would be where every programmer has a lawyer who has to be paid to negotiate a software use license with all the other programmers who work for Microsoft. They, of course, have lawyers of their own. So, the transaction costs would quickly go through the roof. This is why people like Brad Cox have been looking for ways to automate the lawyers out of this picture. (BTW: Microsoft has a solution to the high transaction cost problem. The programmers who work for Microsoft do not own the code they create. Just one legal entity owns all of that code: Microsoft.)

Anyway, another author who forwarded the SoftwareIC/MicroTransaction idea was Clemens Szyperski:

Component Software: Beyond Object-Oriented Programming
by Clemens Szyperski
1 January 1998
https://www.amazon.com/Component-Software-Object-Oriented-Programming-Addison-wesley/dp/032175302X

(There’s a second edition that was published around 2002.)

As for your excellent blog post on Web3 and crypto-currencies, I believe that part of the story/hype is that crypto-currencies and the block-chain idea will finally allow this combination of ideas (i.e. micro-transactions, Software-ICs, and Component Software) to take off.

Perhaps this combination of ideas can also be applied to the needs of faculty content developers, too.

Frankly, I don’t have a clue, except to say that hope springs eternal.

Thanks again for your article,
Fred

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