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Renaissance men/women and celebrity Linux users?
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Carlos
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:21 am    Post subject: Renaissance men/women and celebrity Linux users? Reply with quote

Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the world lacks... not Renaissance people, but people who reach or approach the pinnacle of more than one profession/art/area of specialization/whatever. Granted, the only historic examples I can think of are Leonardo da Vinci and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who besides being being a big name in Western philosophy also made a flute version of one of Vivaldi's Four Seasons (can't remember which). I got to thinking about this because I haven't heard of any celebrities, for example, who use Linux - not people like Linus Torvalds and RMS who are famous primarily because of their involvement with Free Software; you'd think that there would be at least one actor or musician or writer who uses Linux. There probably are a few, but I haven't heard of any. Is it so strange to expect at least one person like Noam Chomsky, Jude Law, or Eminem to have written an MTA, or an editor, or something?

Since I imagine that the lack of celebrity Linux users is part of the apparent lack of people who are at the top of more than one field, I can think of some possible explanations for both:

  • The degree of specialization necessary to achieve success (in the superficial media sense) is too great today for people to accomplish it in more than one field.
  • "Famous" people are unauthentic, untalented people who get where they are through sheer luck.
  • Something has changed in the past few centuries that makes people less inclined to become good at more than one thing.

I know, of course, that there are renaissance people out there, like Larry Wall. And I'm sure there are many scientists, mathematicians, and other specialists who also use Linux. I'm just curious about the lack of celebrities who are like that; people whom even less technically inclined people will have heard of. The explanations I put above aren't even necessarily ones that I evn think make sense, they're more like discussion questions.

So anyway, if there really is a famoust novelist who plays in the Wiener Philharmoniker, a top corporate lawyer who has written a major OSS tool, or anyone else who has acheived fame in more than one area, I'd like to know. It might just be that I've been living in a hole and haven't heard of them. But if not, then why not?
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Larde
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
It might just be that I've been living in a hole and haven't heard of them. But if not, then why not?


Hmm. Honestly, I haven't heard of celebrities using Windows either. I mean, it's not usual to hear something about OS preferences of some "star". You'd rather hear about their sexual preferences or whatever...

Anyway, wasn't there a story about a famous writer (not known to me before I admit) using Linux on Slashdot some weeks ago?

Regards,
Larde.

P.S. From time to time there is a guy with a @bundestag.de adress posting to the GnuCash mailing list, so I assume there is at least one german politician of the parliament who uses Linux at home. If that counts... ;-)
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Carlos
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Larde wrote:
Hmm. Honestly, I haven't heard of celebrities using Windows either. I mean, it's not usual to hear something about OS preferences of some "star". You'd rather hear about their sexual preferences or whatever...

Except that people who use Windows usually don't have a reason for doing so: in a sense, it's the default choice - which is something we have to work hard to change, but that's OT. People who use Linux usually do it for a reason: they like to tinker with computers, firmly believe that it's a better operating system, are morally opposed to Microsoft or even "Intellectual Property" in general(though that's unlikely for most kinds of celebrities), or whatever. There are those who use it because they can't afford Windows, but the set of those people will probably not intersect with the set we're considering. So, considering, and I may be wrong, that Linux users tend to be conscious of their being a minority and more vocal about operating system choice, I would think that celebrity Linux users would at least mention Free Software once in a while, if not donate large sums of money or patches to it.

Quote:
Anyway, wasn't there a story about a famous writer (not known to me before I admit) using Linux on Slashdot some weeks ago?

I haven't read a story like that, although it was in part Larry Wall's interview, where he mentioned something about "renaissancy men" that got me to thinking about this. I'll try searching Slashdot.
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Larde
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 12:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, the Slashdot story is this:
http://interviews.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=02/07/14/1854209&mode=nested&tid=99
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pjp
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 4:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How famous do you want? Wil recently installed linux.
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lanark
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 5:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think the "renaissanceness" of the people don't have to do anything with "fame" of "celebrity", but with capacity or qualification or skills; and I'm sure that a lot of people right here, at gentoo forums, have enough qualification to be called a Renaissance Woman/Man...
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Carlos
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Right Lanark, I recognize that there are plenty of people who aren't necessarily famous but are quite skilled in multiple fields. I'm really more curious about the lack of celebrities who are like that. As for Wil Wheaton, I guess he's exactly the kind of person I was looking for. I wonder if there are more...
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Curious
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2002 11:46 pm    Post subject: Re: Renaissance men/women and celebrity Linux users? Reply with quote

Carlos wrote:
Maybe it's just me, but it seems like the world lacks... not Renaissance people, but people who reach or approach the pinnacle of more than one profession/art/area of specialization/whatever.


Try searching the web for people matching the description of 'polymath', which is sort of a 'technical term' for a renaissance person. I read an interesting discussion paper the other day on the role of polymaths in assessing the importance of IT communications in law and society, but I can't seem to find it.

To pluck an example from thin air, the late, great Stephen Jay Gould was a polymath of the sciences.

-- Curious
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