Subject: Re: Questions about Symbolics lisp machines
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: Wed, 27 Mar 2002 15:42:40 GMT
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Kent M Pitman
> Because they offer nothing of value.  Where "value" is defined by
> "something above the baseline of what you can get for free".

* Lars Magne Ingebrigtsen
| Well, that's an, uh, interesting definition of "value".

  "Value" is often thought to be an absolute or argued as if it were, but
  while one may always be able to quantify some value for the purpuse of a
  monetary exchange, I think even then it is a relative concept.  This is
  just like "priority".  People say they "value" something just like they
  say they will "prioritize" something.  How utterly meaningless.  To give
  this any meaning at all, it must have more or less value or priority than
  some other thing.  In this regard, something is valuable if you are
  willing to do something to acquire it and/or willing to do something to
  maintain it.  If you need not take any action at all to either acquire or
  maintain something, I think the concept of value does not apply to it.

  Since all choices of action related to value thus defined boils down to
  at least its relative value to the time and energy you need to spend to
  acquire or maintain that value, I think it follows that those things that
  can be acquired with the least amount of time and energy spent or "what
  you can get for free" does indeed define the baseline, but this
  definition only works in a context where "value" means "more valuable
  than" which means "higher willingness to spend time or energy to acquire
  or maintain than", and for all practical purposes, nothing ls less
  valuable in this scheme than that which has no cost.  (That is, the cost
  of maintaining something may be considered the negative value of not
  acquiring something you do not want.  I choose to ignore this and instead
  use "maintain", but feel free to translate it to "acquire or prevent".)

| I assume that you can get air for free around where you live.  Does air
| have no value for you, then?

  If nothing has to be done in order to continue to breathe, who cares?  It
  actually took mankind a _really_ long time to figure out what breathing
  was all about.  One reading of the very early Jewish mythology likens
  their early images of deities to that which inhabited breathing life.  I
  mention this only to suggest that not only has air been "free", it was
  "valued" only because it could leave a living thing and it died, but
  there was nothing anyone could do about this, so this became religion.

  Water is generally considered free, too, but I think I pay a nickel for
  each cubic meter of tap water and about a quarter per liter of bottled
  water because I think the tap water tastes funny.  However, the third
  world war is expected to start, at least, over water access.

  Then there are the smokers, who are facing ever harsher reactions for
  soiling the air that non-smokers want to be free of their pollution.

  All of these indicate that something that was free _gains_ value (i.e., a
  willingness to _do_ something about it) only when it is under threat.
  This I believe, is not unusual for natural resources.  For whatever this
  is worth.

  In a fight against something, the fight has value, victory has none.
  In a fight for something, the fight is a loss, victory merely relief.