[OT] Free software versus software idea patents

Steven D'Aprano steve+comp.lang.python at pearwood.info
Sun Apr 17 01:36:22 CEST 2011

On Sat, 16 Apr 2011 00:21:55 -0500, harrismh777 wrote:

> software *is* mathematics

No it isn't.

I might accept an argument that *algorithms* are mathematics, but 
software is not algorithms.

Consider the difference between the mathematical concept of leverage and 
an actual physical lever. We wouldn't say that a physical machine "is" 
mathematics just because we can describe an idealized version of the 
machine in the language of mathematics. (If the machine is particularly 
simple -- you might be able to exactly simulate a lever in pure 
mathematics, but simulating, say, a nuclear bomb or a dialysis machine in 
mathematics is more of a challenge...)

Likewise, we shouldn't try to pretend that an actual software 
implementation of an algorithm, written for an actual hardware machine, 
with all the complications and difficulties that entails, "is" 
mathematics just because we can hypothetically describe an idealized 
version of that algorithm in mathematics. We of all people, being 
programmers, should understand the practical difference between an 
algorithm in a book and the actual code needed to implement that 
algorithm, and not just gloss over the differences with a handwave and a 
confident assertion.


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