11.25.11

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While Thanking and Celebrating Independence, Freedom…

Posted in America, Site News at 11:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Richard Stallman
Richard Stallman at the launch of GPLv3

Summary: Wikipedia defines Thanksgiving Day as the “annual holiday celebrating the harvest and other blessings of the past year,” but as a mission-oriented site we wish to take a moment to discuss what needs fixing

FREEDOM cannot be properly understood until one loses it. Freedom is a gift that can be taken for granted in nature, but in an organised society people are subjected/confined to cubicles, servitude, loans, etc. In turn, one can be conditioned into the state of being a prisoner — a prisoner not behind bars but under pressure, not with free will but with free choice that is limited to several appalling options.

“If we could assure that the system’s internal nature is known to more people, then back doors (e.g. for spying) and corrupt procurement will become less likely.”The way to ensure our society respects personal freedom is to speak about the subject and organise. We need not achieve anything extreme or overthrow a government, which is merely an instrument set up by people to centralise particular activities that conveniently serve those people.

There are building blocks in our society that can prove to be more divisive than others. For instance, when our governments are dependent on a corporation, e.g. for access to source code, then we all can, in turn , become dependent on this corporation, which is of course structured hierarchically and has no facility like elections to keep power in check and to assure conformance to wider interests. It is the obligation of our governments to procure whatever tools serve us — the citizens — best, as well as adhere to open standards that reduce costs and facilitate access to information many years down the line.

The system as we know it can be easily perturbed when the governments become more dependent (financially) on corporations than on voters, who typically represent the majority of a population. When PR campaigns determine who wins and who loses, then a politician’s wise strategy becomes to just do what attracts the most campaign funding. The funding comes with strings attached and it is not too shocking to see continued investment in proprietary software, nuclear programmes, bank bailouts, and conquests overseas, especially when we all take a moment to see who funnels money into the political system. Rather than put tender on acquisition of products for use in government, it is government that applies for a sort of bidding among corporations, seeking a sugar daddy in exchange for campaign aid. It is then that we know that the systemic failure is so great that the only way to restore sanity is to restructure the topological annals of the system, putting people at the top and government beneath them, truly dependent only on the people. Corporations are merely an assemblage of particular groups of people, but decisions there — unlike decisions of collectives and governments — are made in private by very few people. These people are not beholden to the public.

“In the age of computing, knowledge gets encoded and formalised in accurate terms that make the application of knowledge easily reproducible.”So what does it have to do with Free software and competition? Quite a lot actually.

First of all, the transparency that goes hand in glove with Free software serves to demonstrate that operation can be put to scrutiny. In an ideal system, one who breaks the rules needs to have some fear of retaliation, or at least a fear of getting caught. If we could assure that the system’s internal nature is known to more people, then back doors (e.g. for spying) and corrupt procurement will become less likely.

Second of all, Free software is about modification, not just visibility, putting freedom aside for a moment. Throughout history scientists have collaborated and inherited the knowledge of others. In the age of computing, knowledge gets encoded and formalised in accurate terms that make the application of knowledge easily reproducible. No longer need we build a complex machine one part at the time. When a complex system is built with zeros and ones, it can be conveniently copied ad infinitum and then modified or changed in an evolution-esque process that further refines this encoding of knowledge. It’s what we call “innovation”.

To overlook this important fact is to give up on the basic building blocks of progress in science. For governments to harbour monolithic and separatist efforts to build software is to merely pursue the enrichment of selected corporations and not public knowledge, the Commons.

“For governments to harbour monolithic and separatist efforts to build software is to merely pursue the enrichment of selected corporations and not public knowledge, the Commons.”In order to guarantee that our elected officials promote and disseminate open standards, we need to do more. We should use the democratic system to have them select free(dom) software. Businesses interact with the governments in all sorts of ways (e.g. tax system/s) and if the government relies on proprietary software, so will they. In turn, people tend to use at home what they already use at the office, so tackling the problem at its root, it is vital to ensure that various administrations come to appreciate and ultimately choose software that helps us inherit some inherent freedoms.

There are other issues that governments these days seem to be getting wrong. One of these would be patents, especially patents on thought processes and matters that can be replicated infinitely rather than rebuilt based on one’s physical resources/capacity. If governments hand out monopolies on ideas that are mere commodities, then it may work very well for those who exploit this system and use it to their advantage. However, that gain comes to someone else’s expense, and that someone tends to be the public at large. Analysis of the real cost of patents does exist, but since this analysis does not really help sell anything, it tends to be overwhelmed by by contradictory disinformation. It’s an easy to concept to explain. When pollution accompanies great increase in energy resources, then there is a lot of money at stake, so to compel one to stop or reduce the pollution would be a tough fight against powerful wealth gainers like the Koch brothers. In the case of software, it can be monopolists and patent lawyers.

It does not take long to see that the real problem here is an administration so deeply interconnected and dependent on the few who are affluent is bound to make silly decisions on software, on patents, and more (copyrights for example, but that is another subject). if the law is intended to serve the interests of the people, then something here just doesn’t make sense. Decision-making fails and those who are elected to positions of power are hostile towards those whom they relied on for being elected (in the ballot boxes, not the wallet). The seriousness of these issues can probably be comprehended a little better now that there is Thanksgiving in the United States, not to mention the “Occupy” movement whose goals indirectly address some of the issues above.

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A Single Comment

  1. Michael said,

    November 26, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Gravatar

    FUD:

    he funding comes with strings attached and it is not too shocking to see continued investment in proprietary software, nuclear programmes, bank bailouts, and conquests overseas, especially when we all take a moment to see who funnels money into the political system.

    Your grouping those all together is beyond absurd.

    FUD:

    In order to guarantee that our elected officials promote and disseminate open standards, we need to do more. We should use the democratic system to have them select free(dom) software.

    Why not encourage them to use whatever tools serve best? You know: choice.

    Why is choice such a bad thing in your world? You pretend to be for freedom but then demonize people who make the choice to pick tools that serve a direct goal best even if they do not serve *your* goal.

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