Agenda item 2: Complexity

To plan and discuss the meetings to take place under the auspices of the Comission

Moderator: SC Moderators

User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Re: I feel ADR and Arbitration handle the flexibility

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Flyingroc Chung":1zi7zvch]Are you really saying that your judicial system is as close to perfect as anyone can get?[/quote:1zi7zvch]

Please read the above post.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Flyingroc Chung
Passionate Protagonist
Passionate Protagonist
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 2:55 pm
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Contact:

Post by Flyingroc Chung »

I tried, but it's too hard to parse; can you explain a little differently please?
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Flyingroc Chung":1dlmid5r]I tried, but it's too hard to parse; can you explain a little differently please?[/quote:1dlmid5r]

It may be easier for me to do that if you explain which bit(s) that you do not understand, and why.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Flyingroc Chung
Passionate Protagonist
Passionate Protagonist
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 2:55 pm
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Contact:

Post by Flyingroc Chung »

Ok, I'll bite. What does this mean?

[quote:3dluzb2g]
... one can only criticise a choice for being a worse choice than another, specific choice (or one of a set of specific choices). If one cannot show that another specific choice would have been better, there is no basis for criticising the choice made.
[/quote:3dluzb2g]

Can you give examples? I'm afraid I can't explain why I dont understand this, but I think sentence structure may have something to do with it.
michelmanen
I need a hobby
I need a hobby
Posts: 812
Joined: Sun Nov 19, 2006 2:53 am

Post by michelmanen »

In very stark terms (not intented as an insult, but simply for demonstrative purposes), it means:
[b:wvg82l2l]
Put up - or shut up. [/b:wvg82l2l]

In sligthly more detailed language:

If you can't give a better real example, you can't keep criticizing what's now in place.

:lol:
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Flyingroc Chung":11ksmqcr]Ok, I'll bite. What does this mean?

[quote:11ksmqcr]
... one can only criticise a choice for being a worse choice than another, specific choice (or one of a set of specific choices). If one cannot show that another specific choice would have been better, there is no basis for criticising the choice made.
[/quote:11ksmqcr]

Can you give examples? I'm afraid I can't explain why I dont understand this, but I think sentence structure may have something to do with it.[/quote:11ksmqcr]

It means that one can only criticise a decision for being a wrong decision. A decision is a choice between a specific, finite set of possible options. The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences. All other decisions are wrong.

That means that a decision can only be wrong if there is another specific option that one could have taken that has better consequences. "This decision is wrong because taking it has bad consequences" only makes sense if one can also say, "and taking this other option would have [i:11ksmqcr]better[/i:11ksmqcr] consequences". Choosing the best of a bad bunch is still the right decision, and one cannot be criticised for it.

So, Ranma criticises our judiciary for being "too complex". I challenged her to specify a design of a judiciary that she thought was better, since the criticism in choosing our model of a judiciary does not make sense unless one can compare it to another, specific, possible model, and say that that model is better. The point is that I do not believe that she will be able to find another, specific model that is superior overall to our present system, and that is not also complicated, because judicial systems are inherently, unavoidably complicated; by making one part simpler, one is just shifting the complication elsewhere, often to s0mewhere where it causes far more trouble.

So, the basic point is: of course our judicial system is complicated. Any judicial system must be for it to be a judicial system in the first place. We cannot choose whether to have it complicated, but we can choose [i:11ksmqcr]where[/i:11ksmqcr] we want the complexity to manifest. It is better to have the complexity in the written rules than in the application, because that makes things easier and more predictable for everybody, and involves less complication overall in the individual cases. Those who are arguing for a "simple" system are, in fact, just arguing for more poorly managed complication.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Beathan
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1364
Joined: Sun Oct 29, 2006 3:42 pm

Post by Beathan »

Ash and MM --

I have already designed such a judiciary. Other than MM's criticism that I am the Ayatollah and Ash's assertion, without reasoned support, that it cannot work just because it is simple (which dovetails nicely with his equally unreasoned assertion that the complicated works just because it is complicated), no one has pointed out why this will not work -- especially as it was intended as a skeleton, not a full-grown system.

Personally, I would like to start with a nice skeleton and build on it -- rather than try to work with the Frankenstein's monster that we have.

Beathan
Let's keep things simple enough to be fair, substantive enough to be effective, and insightful enough to be good.
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Beathan":3l2r1k3n]I have already designed such a judiciary. Other than MM's criticism that I am the Ayatollah and Ash's assertion, without reasoned support, that it cannot work just because it is simple (which dovetails nicely with his equally unreasoned assertion that the complicated works just because it is complicated), no one has pointed out why this will not work -- especially as it was intended as a skeleton, not a full-grown system.[/quote:3l2r1k3n]

Beathan, I have given very detailed and precise arguments in favour of the proposition that law is unavoidably complicated, and that a system that appears to be simple is just moving the complication to somewhere where it can be managed less. You know perfectly well that I have made such arguments, because you have responded to the thread in which I have made them (by responding to the example and failing to address the abstract point). If you do not agree with the argument, that is one thing, but it is just dishonest to assert that I have not made one.

[quote:3l2r1k3n]Personally, I would like to start with a nice skeleton and build on it -- rather than try to work with the Frankenstein's monster that we have.[/quote:3l2r1k3n]

Metaphors are worthless when people disagree: it takes as much reasoning to show that the metaphor applies as it does to make the point without metaphor.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Flyingroc Chung
Passionate Protagonist
Passionate Protagonist
Posts: 198
Joined: Thu May 25, 2006 2:55 pm
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Contact:

Post by Flyingroc Chung »

[quote="Ashcroft Burnham":2bipfufn]
It means that one can only criticise a decision for being a wrong decision. A decision is a choice between a specific, finite set of possible options. The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences. All other decisions are wrong.
[/quote:2bipfufn]
Perhaps I couldn't understand it before because your argument is so wrong. Let's start with: "A decision is a choice between a specific, finite set of possible options." Let me ask you do decide on this: pick a number, any number. Guess what, that's a choice between a specific, but infinite set of options.

And then there's this: "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences. All other decisions are wrong."

There are a couple of problems with this statement. The first is, people might have different measures of "best" consequences. For example, a legal system that amataurs can easily navigate is a high value consequence for me, but it may not be for you.

The other problem is that you assume the solution space has been explored. Let me explain: Assume we have a problem--we need judiciary. Every legal system is a "solution" to this problem. Some solutions are bad (rock paper scissors), some solutions are not as bad.

Assume further that your statment is correct: "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences." Now, if you believe that we have seen all possible legal systems that can ever exist; and that your legal system provides the best consequences; then this legal system is the right choice.

However, if we believe that some legal system has not been tried before, and "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences." Then we can say [i:2bipfufn]we don't know[/i:2bipfufn] that your legal system is the right choice, because there may be some legal system out there that has better onsequences than yours.


[quote:2bipfufn]
That means that a decision can only be wrong if there is another specific option that one could have taken that has better consequences. "This decision is wrong because taking it has bad consequences" only makes sense if one can also say, "and taking this other option would have [i:2bipfufn]better[/i:2bipfufn] consequences". Choosing the best of a bad bunch is still the right decision, and one cannot be criticised for it.
[/quote:2bipfufn]
Choosing the best of a bad bunch is the right decision if the bad bunch is all there is. Maybe we can find a better bunch if we looked at a different tree.

[quote:2bipfufn]
... the criticism in choosing our model of a judiciary does not make sense unless one can compare it to another, specific, possible model, and say that that model is better.
[/quote:2bipfufn]

Here's a counterexample: I ask a mahematician to give me a prime number that is larger than the largest known prime number thus far. The mathematician works day and night spending hundreds of hours on this problem, he comes back to me and says here it is: "2^32582657-1". I can criticize his solution for being inadequate since this number has been shown to be prime in September 2006. That I cannot find a bigger prime number myself does not mean I cannot say that his solution is inadequate.

Or, maybe I ask an engineer to build a car that can go 500mph. He toils and toils on it, but gives me a car that can only go 400mph. I tell him: "this car is inadequate" He tells me: you cannot criticize my car until you build a better one yourself. It's true that I cannot build a better one myself, but I should still be able to criticize it as inadequate for my needs. Afterwards, I might hire a different engineer to see if *he* cannot build a better car.

[quote:2bipfufn]
The point is that I do not believe that she will be able to find another, specific model that is superior overall to our present system, and that is not also complicated, because judicial systems are inherently, unavoidably complicated; by making one part simpler, one is just shifting the complication elsewhere, often to s0mewhere where it causes far more trouble.
[/quote:2bipfufn]
So are you saying that your system is about as close to perfect as we can get?

[quote:2bipfufn]
So, the basic point is: of course our judicial system is complicated. Any judicial system must be for it to be a judicial system in the first place. We cannot choose whether to have it complicated, but we can choose [i:2bipfufn]where[/i:2bipfufn] we want the complexity to manifest.
[/quote:2bipfufn]
Isn't this a "bald assertion"?

Let me assert this baldly: I believe that the solution space for a judiciary has *not* been fully explored; thus there may still be some system out there that is better than the one we have now (I suspect--without any reasoning behind it whatsoever!--we don't have to search far into the solution space to find a better solution)

I also believe that we can criticize a system for being inadequate against a certain criteria (e.g. readability, complexity, pomposity level, etc.) even if we are without the skill to propose a better one.

Let me part with this: I don't design legal systems, but I do develop software. If users of my software tell me that it's difficult to use, I don't ask them "well if you can't design a better one, you have no choice but to use mine." If it were within my power to fix it, I do it. If I *don't* know how to fix it, I ask other people (including but not limited to the users) how I might. I may even refer the users to other software developers that may be more skilled than I am.

But what I do not do is assume that using my software is the "right decision", just because my users can't come up with a better one.
Oni Jiutai
Seasoned debater
Seasoned debater
Posts: 69
Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2006 3:42 pm

Post by Oni Jiutai »

[quote:39oz5tkw]
The point is that I do not believe that she will be able to find another, specific model
[quote:39oz5tkw]So are you saying that your system is about as close to perfect as we can get? [/quote:39oz5tkw]
[/quote:39oz5tkw]

Replying here, because it occurs to me I've used the phrase judicial model and I hope I haven't been inadvertently misunderstood.

Judicial model, to me, means the broad category of the thing rather than the specific details. So the UK-US adversarial model is one, the European inquisitorial model is another, and so on and so forth.

I just wanted to clarify, when I say "We should have this sort of model..." I don't mean we never change the specifics in the future, just that I'm advocating that general approach.
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Flyingroc Chung":35ybla7l]Perhaps I couldn't understand it before because your argument is so wrong. Let's start with: "A decision is a choice between a specific, finite set of possible options." Let me ask you do decide on this: pick a number, any number. Guess what, that's a choice between a specific, but infinite set of options.[/quote:35ybla7l]

There are indeed infinite possible numbers, however, a decision must be examined in its practical context. If somebody says, "pick a number, any number", the range of numbers that one is capable of choosing is limited by the range of numbers of which one is able to think at the relevant time. The range will vary depending on the person's mathematical abilities and the time given to make the decision. Superficially attractive though it is, because the human mind is incapable of processing an infinite number of possibilities in anything less than an infinite time, and because all choices are confined to a finite timespan, in practical terms, any choice is, in reality, between a finite set of options. As your example demonstrates, in some cases, the range is easier to calculate than in others: your example is probably the example of the most difficult conceivable range to calculate or even approximate.

[quote:35ybla7l]And then there's this: "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences. All other decisions are wrong."

There are a couple of problems with this statement. The first is, people might have different measures of "best" consequences. For example, a legal system that amataurs can easily navigate is a high value consequence for me, but it may not be for you. [/quote:35ybla7l]

This is not really a problem. Either one of two things apply: either people are just disagreeing about what consequences really are good, in which case, that does not undermine the claim that the right decision is the one with the best consequences at all, it just means that there will not always be consensus as to which decisions are right (which we knew anyway), or it means that one merely needs to look to the ultimate source of value. What is ultimately good for any decision-maker is necessarily singular; if more than one thing is good, therefore, at most all but one of those things must be good only in so far as it promotes some other, ultimate good. By "best" consequences in the above statement, I mean ultimately best consequences. That is not necessarily easy to work out, but I never claimed that it is always easy to know what is right: there would not be so much controversy about such things if anything else was so.

[quote:35ybla7l]The other problem is that you assume the solution space has been explored. Let me explain: Assume we have a problem--we need judiciary. Every legal system is a "solution" to this problem. Some solutions are bad (rock paper scissors), some solutions are not as bad.

Assume further that your statment is correct: "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences." Now, if you believe that we have seen all possible legal systems that can ever exist; and that your legal system provides the best consequences; then this legal system is the right choice.

However, if we believe that some legal system has not been tried before, and "The right decision is the one which picks the option that has the best consequences." Then we can say [i:35ybla7l]we don't know[/i:35ybla7l] that your legal system is the right choice, because there may be some legal system out there that has better onsequences than yours.[/quote:35ybla7l]

That is not necessarily true, since, when examining whether any given decision is right, one must look at the constraints, including the knowledge and time constraints, in which it was made. "Person X deciding to do Y at time Z" is a substantially different description of a decision, which entails a substantially different range of possibilities, than "any given person deciding Y at any given time".

One may therefore say, at the same time, "In the circumstances, person X was right to take decision Y", and "As far as I know, in theory, Y is not necessarily the best solution".

What you wrote above does expose a certain ambiguity in my arguments, since there are differnet senses in which one can concieve of something as being right. Suppose Mr. Smith gambles all his savings on a horse race. Given that he knows no more at the time of placing the bet than any normal punter, there is undeniably a sense in which that decision is extremely stupid - a wrong decision. Now, suppose the horse wins, and Mr. Smith finds himself considerably richer than he was before. There is a sense in which Mr. Smith's decision is right, but the original sense is not diminished. There appears to be a contradiction.

The apparent contradiction is resolved in this way: what appears to be one decision is actually a set of decisions: gambling money on a particular horse entails a more abstract decision to gamble money in general, and gamble all of Mr. Smith's savings in particular. Those are actually distinct decisions from the decision to gamble the money on a particular horse in the particular race. In the case that the horse wins, the specific decision turns out to be right, but the more abstract decisions are still wrong, and one can still criticise Mr. Smith for having made them. The converse also applies: one can say that a person has "done the right thing" by acting in accordance with an abstract decision (for example, always to be truthful) even if, in the particular circumstances, the outcome happened to be worse than having told a lie in those same circumstances.

Returning to the question at hand, it is apparent, therefore, that there are many kinds of decisions under consideration: the decision by specific people about whether, at any given moment to adopt any given legal system, the abstract decision about how one picks what sort of legal system to have in general (and what to do when a significant number of people genuinely disagree with, respectively, each of the possible options, including maintaining the status quo), the abstract decision about the circumstnaces in which previous legal system choice decisions ought be reversed, the specific question about whether these particular legislators should reverse the legal system choice that they have in fact made, and the more general question of what to believe about what sort of legal system will have the best consequences for the citizens of the CDS in general.

That being the case, Ranma, in criticising our legal system, is criticising it for not being the one that will have the best consequences for the citizens of the CDS, and also (by implication) criticising the choice made by those who adopted it to do so. In relation to the first, my point is that Ranma cannot say that it is not the system with the best consequences unless she can point to one with better consequences: "for all I know, there might be a better system" is not the same as "there is a better system". The former cannot, and the latter can, give rise to the criticism that the system [i:35ybla7l]is[/i:35ybla7l], rather than might be, a suboptimal system, or that those who adopted it made the wrong choice when they did so, given that all the alternatives were worse.

My point is that I do not believe that Ranma (or anyone else) will be able to find , in the practical circumstnaces that prevail, a significantly better legal system: that is not to say that I believe that our current model is perfect, but that, if it can be improved, it is by refinement of the details, not the adoption of radically new principles.

[quote:35ybla7l]Choosing the best of a bad bunch is the right decision if the bad bunch is all there is. Maybe we can find a better bunch if we looked at a different tree.[/quote:35ybla7l]

By "best of a bad bunch" I meant ultimately, that is, taking account of all possible trees and other such objects such that the ultimate meta-set of bunches is considered.

[quote:35ybla7l]Here's a counterexample: I ask a mahematician to give me a prime number that is larger than the largest known prime number thus far. The mathematician works day and night spending hundreds of hours on this problem, he comes back to me and says here it is: "2^32582657-1". I can criticize his solution for being inadequate since this number has been shown to be prime in September 2006. That I cannot find a bigger prime number myself does not mean I cannot say that his solution is inadequate.[/quote:35ybla7l]

There is a difference between you saying that the number is not, in fact, a prime number larger than any previously known prime number and you saying that the mathematician's [i:35ybla7l]decision[/i:35ybla7l] to give you that prime number was the wrong one. You accept, I hope, that ought entails can. If your hypothetical mathematician is unable to find a larger prime number through his own personal or technical limitations, there is no sense in which any decision that he makes can be said to be wrong. He would still not have given you the number that you wanted, but he could not be criticised for it. What you do about the fact that he did not give you the number that you wanted is another matter. Of course, this example (unless I am mistaken in my mathematics, which is not my strongest field) assumes that, if one looks hard enough, one definitely will be able to find a larger prime number. We cannot, conversely, assume that, if we look hard enough we will find a legal system that is simultaneously fair, predictable, efficient, capable of resolving all the disputes that we want it to resolve, and simple enough for anyone to use with little or no training or legal skill.

[quote:35ybla7l]Or, maybe I ask an engineer to build a car that can go 500mph. He toils and toils on it, but gives me a car that can only go 400mph. I tell him: "this car is inadequate" He tells me: you cannot criticize my car until you build a better one yourself. It's true that I cannot build a better one myself, but I should still be able to criticize it as inadequate for my needs. Afterwards, I might hire a different engineer to see if *he* cannot build a better car.[/quote:35ybla7l]

For all you know, it may just be impossible, with the current technology, or any technology that will be developed in the foreseeable future, to build you a car that goes 500mph. The first engineer, of course, cannot be criticised in those circumstances for not building a faster one: he has not made any wrong decisions. It might be the case that, in those circumstances, you would be better off with no car at all. Your decision as to whether to take the 400mph car or hold out, perhaps indefinitely, for a 500mph car is a conceptually (and importantly) distinct question to the question of whether the mechanic made the right engineering decisions in building the car that in the end can only go 400mph.

However, as far as legal systems go, it cannot be right that we are better off with no legal system at all unless and until somebody can invent one that is simultaneously fair, predictable, efficient capable of resolving all the disputes that we want it to resolve, and simple enough for anyone to use with little or no training or legal skill, especially since there are very good reasons to doubt whether any such system is conceptually possible (at least, without the development of artificial intelligence far more powerful than human intelligence, to act as judges and investigators, and quite possibly even then). If we can have a legal system that is fair, reasonably predictable, mostly efficient, capable of resolving all the disputes that we want it to solve, but needs some work by the uninitiated to use effectively, why should we not have that when the only alternative for the foreseeable future is no legal system at all, or one that fails in one or more of the other important respects (such as fairness, efficiency or predictability)?

[quote:35ybla7l]Isn't this a "bald assertion"?[/quote:35ybla7l]

It is not a bald assertion that legal systems are inherently complicated: see my discussion of that very topic on "Comments on the code of procedure" for detailed reasoning.

[quote:35ybla7l]Let me assert this baldly: I believe that the solution space for a judiciary has *not* been fully explored; thus there may still be some system out there that is better than the one we have now (I suspect--without any reasoning behind it whatsoever!--we don't have to search far into the solution space to find a better solution)[/quote:35ybla7l]

If you believe that there is a better way of having a judicial system that is as yet undiscovered, do you agree that our present system should be maintained until such a system is discovered, since it is better than all [i:35ybla7l]known[/i:35ybla7l] alternatives? Also, how do you think that you will know when you have found such a judicial nirvana?

[quote:35ybla7l]I also believe that we can criticize a system for being inadequate against a certain criteria (e.g. readability, complexity, pomposity level, etc.) even if we are without the skill to propose a better one.[/quote:35ybla7l]

That depends on what you mean by "criticise" here. One certainly cannot say that any individual person's decision is wrong. One can say that one would like to have a judical system that does not have those features, just as one can say that one would like to have a car that never needs to be serviced, or uses water as fuel, but it does not make any sense to reject the best of all presently-known options, when a thing of that class is required, unless and until a better one comes along. Just as there may never be a car that never needs to be serviced or uses water as fuel, there may well (and, indeed, in this case, most probably) will never be a judicial system that is truly simple.

[quote:35ybla7l]Let me part with this: I don't design legal systems, but I do develop software. If users of my software tell me that it's difficult to use, I don't ask them "well if you can't design a better one, you have no choice but to use mine." If it were within my power to fix it, I do it. If I *don't* know how to fix it, I ask other people (including but not limited to the users) how I might. I may even refer the users to other software developers that may be more skilled than I am.

But what I do not do is assume that using my software is the "right decision", just because my users can't come up with a better one.[/quote:35ybla7l]

The problem with your metaphor, of course, is that there are no users saying "it's too diffuclt to use": there are people who have not tried to use it or learn about it saying "it will be too difficult to use". If the response is "but one cannot make the software any easier to use without massively reducing functionality, or if one can, the best computer software engineers in the world have as yet not come up with any such way", then it does not make any sense to criticise the programmers for any given programming choice. One may magically wish for, say, 3d modelling software that a new user can pick up in five minutes, and be designing intricate objects with precision and accuracy within a day, but, the reality is that there is only so far that software can go. Making something easy to use impacts on functionality: one would not use SecondLife, for example, for any professional 3d modelling uses, and even SecondLife architecture takes a while to get into. Furthermore, some people just plain have better spacial skills than others. Saying "we need a software package so easy to use that professionals aren't required to design intricate, detailed, accurate 3d objects" does not make any sense when no amount of sophisticated programming can make up for a person's lack of spacial awareness. Similarly, demanding a legal system where nobody will ever need to hire a a lawyer misses the important fact that some people are just better at arguing and analysing than others, and those people will be the people who, like the people with good spacial skills will have an advantage in 3d-modelling, will have an advantage in the courtroom.

Since you are a programmer by trade, let me offer you what I hope you will find a very insightful metaphor into the current legal system debate on simplicity. Rank the following programming languages in order of simplicity:

* C++
* Assember language
* C#
* BASIC

It is quite obvious that the task is a meaningless one since there are different [i:35ybla7l]kinds[/i:35ybla7l] of simplicity and complexity in computer programming languages. As far as the computer is concerned, and as far as the designers of programming languages are conerned, assember language is by far the simplest, and, indeed, was (necessarily) the first kind of programming language in existence. It is also the most complicated in another sense, that is the perspective of the programmer using it to write any kind of useful programme.

BASIC is the simplest programming language as far as a new user is concerned, and is certainly the simplest language in which to write a straightforward programme, but, if one tries to write anything sophisticated, one will end up in a terrible mess, with disorganised spaghetti code all over the place.

C# is harder to get into as far as the user is concerned (the programmer has to understand far more in the way of object abstraction than a BASIC programmer, who just has to learn sequential commands), and undoubtedly the most complicated as far as the computer itself is concerned, but, at the same time, is the one that makes sophisticated, complex programmes far [i:35ybla7l]simpler[/i:35ybla7l] to programme precisely because of its abstraction. It makes making complex (and complicated) programmes simpler because, instead of ignoring that complication, as BASIC and assembler language do, and forcing the complication to be dealt with laboriously from scratch with each programme written, it anticipates the complexity in advance, and builds a whole strucutre (objects) around it to manage it effectively. The result is a language that is harder to get into for the uninitiated, but easier to use for all but the most basic tasks than BASIC, and, for those who are accustomed to it even mildly, with the re-use of familliar code (lawyers call them precedents), is just as easy to use for even the most straightforward of programmes as BASIC.

C++ is a language that has genuinely unnecessary complication that arises from historical development, rather than from design. That criticism can be levelled at some aspects of real-world legal systems, too: the law of trusts is to the Anglo-American legal systems what pointers are to C++.

The legal system that we had before the Judiciary Act was an assembler language legal system: one that provided virtually no framework or structure at all, and required every single case to be built up from the most basic components from scratch. That is the system to which Beathan wants us to return, at least partly on the basis that, since we are in SecondLife, we should start all over again, and forget that we have since learnt to develop more sophisticated languages. Some people, like Justice and Publius, want us to have a BASIC legal system (although the current back-of-an-envelope procedural rules actually make it more like an assembler language system again), the purpose being, just as with BASIC itself, to teach people how to be involved with law, and let even beginners have a go. The system that I have designed is a C# legal system: detailed, sophisticated, designed to make the more difficult cases easier; harder to get into, but easier to use when one is into it than the others. A number of people criticise it for being a C++ legal system, largely because there are not many C# legal systems in the world, for historical reasons, but partly also, perhaps, because, to a poor programmer, there is not much superficial difference between C++ and C#: they are both "difficult" to learn because they require understanding of the conceptual abstraction of objects before they can be used successfully, and some people just aren't very good at abstraction.

I hope that people, at least, enough people, will come to realise in time that, if we are building a serious legal system, just as if we are building a serious computer programme, we need to use the right language, one that is based on a history of what has worked, and lessons learnt from the past. Just as C# went from 1.0 to 1.1 to 2.0, so no doubt our legal system will develop, too, but we would be insane to throw out a C#-like system, and replace it with BASIC or assembler language (if our intent, that is, to be a software house, not a computer programming school), or to say, "But somebody may invent C* in 2015!" and wait until then before we design any software at all.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Gxeremio Dimsum
Veteran debater
Veteran debater
Posts: 205
Joined: Fri Jun 30, 2006 6:37 pm

Post by Gxeremio Dimsum »

[quote="Ashcroft Burnham":3vr3cjj1]I hope that people, at least, enough people, will come to realise in time that, if we are building a serious legal system, just as if we are building a serious computer programme, we need to use the right language, one that is based on a history of what has worked, and lessons learnt from the past. Just as C# went from 1.0 to 1.1 to 2.0, so no doubt our legal system will develop, too, but we would be insane to throw out a C#-like system, and replace it with BASIC or assembler language (if our intent, that is, to be a software house, not a computer programming school), or to say, "But somebody may invent C* in 2015!" and wait until then before we design any software at all.[/quote:3vr3cjj1]

Don't we script in LSL in Second Life - a language uniquely suited to the environment and needs of Second Life?
User avatar
Fernando Book
Site Admin
Site Admin
Posts: 92
Joined: Fri Sep 15, 2006 2:39 pm
Location: Pamplona, Spain

Post by Fernando Book »

[quote="Ashcroft Burnham":1jjscysr]I hope that people, at least, enough people, will come to realise in time that, if we are building a serious legal system, just as if we are building a serious computer programme, we need to use the right language, one that is based on a history of what has worked, and lessons learnt from the past. Just as C# went from 1.0 to 1.1 to 2.0, so no doubt our legal system will develop, too, but we would be insane to throw out a C#-like system, and replace it with BASIC or assembler language (if our intent, that is, to be a software house, not a computer programming school), or to say, "But somebody may invent C* in 2015!" and wait until then before we design any software at all.[/quote:1jjscysr]

That's the point, Ashcroft. We are a software house in which more of the programmers only now BASIC, and a number of them think BASIC is enough to solve the tasks we have. Also, jumping know into C# will leave most of our programmers without a task, their jobs will be occupied for foreign programmers, and they won't have the opportunity, in a near future, to learn enough C# to jump into it in due time.
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Fernando Book":en40vnm1]That's the point, Ashcroft. We are a software house in which more of the programmers only now BASIC, and a number of them think BASIC is enough to solve the tasks we have. Also, jumping know into C# will leave most of our programmers without a task, their jobs will be occupied for foreign programmers, and they won't have the opportunity, in a near future, to learn enough C# to jump into it in due time.[/quote:en40vnm1]

I don't agree: all that we need are a few good "Introduction to C#" books. Oni is prepared to write one about the original, C#-like, code of procedure. So far, everyone is seeing the C# reference manual and saying, "Whoa! It's too hard. Only an expert programmer could program in C#". Of course, if you have ever tried C#, you will know that, once you have learnt the basics, usually using a beginner's guide book, writing practically anything other than "hello, world" in C# is actually much easier than writing in BASIC. Any programming language with more than a few commands will look overwhelmingly hard to learn for somebody not experienced in programming if one is trying to learn just by reading the reference manual: that does not mean that a programming language with just a few simple commands is a better sort of programming language overall.

If we end up using just BASIC, we will be in a terrible mess before long at all, since BASIC is simply unsuited to writing anything with any degree of sophistication at all. Most versions of BASIC do not even have [i:en40vnm1]functions[/i:en40vnm1], let alone objects.

Furthermore, you seem to think that the important people are the programmers: I disagree - the important people are the users of the software. We must deploy a programming language that produces the best quality software, since that is ultimately the purpose of what we are doing in the first place. We are not here to give jobs to programmers, or teach people how to programme: we are here to make good software applications. Why should that not mean encouraging a thriving community of professional software developers to come in from outside and join us?
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
User avatar
Ashcroft Burnham
Forum Wizard
Forum Wizard
Posts: 1093
Joined: Thu Aug 03, 2006 3:21 pm
Location: UK

Post by Ashcroft Burnham »

[quote="Gxeremio Dimsum":1hivc5ss]Don't we script in LSL in Second Life - a language uniquely suited to the environment and needs of Second Life?[/quote:1hivc5ss]

That tells us nothing about what [i:1hivc5ss]sort[/i:1hivc5ss] of scripting language to have, whether to have an object-oriented, C#-like language, or a procedural, BASIC like language.
Ashcroft Burnham

Where reason fails, all hope is lost.
Locked

Return to “Special Comission on the Judiciary Forum”