P*rl in Latin, whither Python?

Peter Hansen peter at engcorp.com
Tue Nov 14 04:34:50 CET 2000

Alex Martelli wrote:
> "Martin Christensen" <knightsofspamalot-factotum at mail1.stofanet.dk> wrote:
> > 1) Esperanto is a nice idea, and it would be great if everybody spoke
> >    it.
> > 2) Not many people speak Esperanto, so it's not immediately useful.
> > 3) Because it is not immediately useful, I will not learn it.
> Right!  This tends to be the dilemma of innovations, if they play
> in a field where 'network-effects' (in the economics sense)
> dominate.  Many new technologies, such as CDROMs and DVDs,
> meet it at their outset.  And, you know what?  The non-early-

> Human languages, like many other technologies centered on
> communication, are iffier that way.  Maybe a Swiss-Sweden
> combine, for example, would have a competitive advantage
> if using Esperanto -- but none, AFAIK, has yet bet a huge
> multinational firm on it (Asea/Brown-Boveri, just such a

Never heard of these concepts before, but they seem to explain a lot of
things.  Such as why, back in 1887 and for twenty to thirty years after,
Esperanto grew so quickly in popularity.  It demonstrated network
effects because of strong interest in international travel and
brotherhood, and as the world opened up and the educated population of
Europe had the opportunity, Esperanto provided an obvious way for many
of them to experience a new world order.

These days, especially with the current dominance of English in
technology, business, and other international affairs, that role for
Esperanto has disappeared except in small niche areas and a few special

On the other hand, it has survived this long and continues to grow
largely because of the strong "competitive" advantages it provides
(assuming that is the strict opposite of network effects).  For some
people it fills the role of a hobby (and mostly a cheap one!), while for
others it provides benefits related to the learning of languages.  Some
people study it (those amateur linguists) for its own merits, while
others continue to use it exclusively for travel (via the Pasporta Servo
which allows Esperantists to travel the world via a network of other
Esperantists).  There are subcultures of almost every kind in the
Esperanto community.  (I suppose I'm not sure whether you call some of
these things competitive advantages, or some kind of localized network
effects, but one way or the other, it survives and slowly grows.)

Peter Hansen

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