From: Tyler Close <>
Replying To: marcs <>
Date: Sun, 8 Dec 2002 11:08:47 -0400
Subject: Re: [e-lang] Naming Capability Systems

It's amazing how quickly a conversation on this list can turn. shap 

The main point of this email will be to convince people to slow
down and carefully consider their reasoning.  Marc Stiegler has
presented the list with a 4 day deadline for renaming a field with
a 36 year history. He is seeking to do this through rough
consensus on a mailing list. This is clearly impetuous. marcs

Marc, if you want to rename the field of capability security, you
must bear a burden of proof.  You must show that renaming will
substantially improve our ability to communicate and will not
significantly injure the field's history. You have done nothing to
meet, or even acknowledge, this burden. So far, all of your
arguments amount to believing that a new name is like magic pixie
dust that pushes aside misconceptions without injuring the
history.  You've done nothing to lend credence to this view.  So
far, all you've got is wishful thinking. daw marcs

On Thursday 05 December 2002 19:39, Marc Stiegler wrote:
> 1. Stop trying to market capabilities. Get a job configuring firewalls and
> wait 10-20 years until folks like jonathan get enough papers published, and
> enough old academicians die, so that capabilities are credible (this is the
> quantum theory strategy, as the physicists noted, the way quantum physics
> "won" over newtonian physics was by waiting till enough respected geniuses
> who couldn't accept it were dead).

Following through with your argument, quantum physics would have
won earlier if only it had changed its name to "packet physics". 

Your audience is more inquisitive than this.  If your audience
suffers from capability misconceptions, using a different term
will not dissuade them. The misconceptions will have to be
addressed. If you do not address them, your audience will likely
just think you are trying to pull one over on them. You have no
evidence to suggest otherwise.

On Thursday 05 December 2002 19:39, Marc Stiegler wrote:
> 2. Invent a new word for what we have, acknowledging that "capability" has
> been as badly distorted as the term "hacker".

The problem is not one of distortion, but of a lack of
understanding.  Other people use the word "capability" to refer to
the same actual systems that we do.  There is no confusion about
"what" we're talking about. The problem is that these other people
have been trained to not see the full value of these systems.
Changing names just adds another layer of confusion. Are we, or
are we not, talking about the same actual systems? marcs

You are injuring the history for no actual advantage. marcs 

On Saturday 07 December 2002 15:27, Mark Miller wrote:
> On this list, I've already been on both sides of the question. For me, the
> definitive point was
> At 04:25 PM 12/5/2002 Thursday, David Wagner wrote:
> >If we'd like to criticize
> >this concept, then it would help to have an unambiguous name to use when
> >referring to this concept.

This misses the point. We are not seeking to criticize the straw
man. We are seeking to dismiss it. marcs 

On Thursday 05 December 2002 08:49, Tyler Close wrote:
> I think we now have more than enough evidence on the table to
> prove that there is no such thing as a "Lampson-style capability".
> For 30 years, ACL researchers have been criticising a straw man.

David criticized the first sentence without acknowledging the
second.  What ACL researchers think of as a "capability" is a straw
man. We are not seeking to criticize their straw man. We agree
with them about their straw man. We wish to strike down the straw
man. By striking down their straw man, perhaps we can encourage a
fresh look at capabilities.

On Thursday 05 December 2002 20:25, David Wagner wrote:
> Of course there is such a thing as a "Lampson-style capability".  I think
> you mean that noone builds systems this way.  Maybe so, but so what?
> Why should it be relevant?

No, I meant that noone builds systems this way and noone ever even
proposed building systems this way.  A "Lampson-style capability"
is just a pure mistake. Noone is advocating for it, or ever was.
Who do you propose to argue with?

In my mind, the key point that we need to get across is *why*
Lampson was in error.  The way in which Lampson was wrong is the
crux of what we need to communicate. His errors elucidate all of
the key advantages of capabilities.  That's the "Ah-hah!"

Changing names makes it much more difficult to achieve this
"Ah-hah". marcs 

Not many real arguments have been presented for renaming. I've
tried to refute those I could find.  I think the renaming effort is
primarily founded in a wish for an easy way to make the 31 years
of bogosity just go away. Unfortunately, it's just not that easy. marcs

I suggest that Marc Stiegler list the arguments in favour of
renaming and provide evidence that each is valid.  Basing a
decision like this on the changing emotions of participants in a
mailing list is insufficient. marcs

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