09.25.20

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Losing the Battle for Rights/Justice, Freedom/Liberty, and Emancipation Potential

Posted in Free/Libre Software, GNU/Linux at 11:34 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Not even free speech is honoured any longer (because it might ‘offend’ abusive corporations and rich sponsors with limitless avarice)

Tribunal de Justi'ca Building

Summary: We’re losing our most basic rights amid transition to “digital”; too little is being done to push back against this worrisome trend, which necessarily means reduction in both our freedom and our fundamental human rights

THE name “Techrights” was chosen more than a decade ago (thanks, Tracy). As I recall it, RMS initially opposed it, thinking that it was missing the point of freedom, focusing instead on rights. The term “rights” typically alludes to law (something enforceable), which in turn can be connected to a system of justice. Tribunals apply law (in principle at least). The concept of freedom is broad and the word can be misused to mean deregulation (corporations taking people’s freedom away) or even bombing countries in the name of “liberating” them from alleged tyrants. Emancipation is an act of turning the oppressed into lesser oppressed or “free”, sometimes offering some “rights” in the process (to guard against future oppression).

“We have far too few rights protecting us from robotics and programmatic nihilism (the principles of human rights in relation to machines are grossly underdeveloped).”The semantics don’t matter as much as the underlying concept/s. It’s hard to find anyone who disagrees about technology becoming as harmful as it is beneficial (one frequently-explored aspect is the impact on people’s privacy, however narrow a focal point). We have far too few rights protecting us from robotics and programmatic nihilism (the principles of human rights in relation to machines are grossly underdeveloped). The media keeps using or misusing buzzwords like “hey hi” (AI) and “clown computing” (outsourcing of our data and computation to surveillance giants, usually overseas). So it’s not really helping. The media is a tool of oppression (big publishers, in the pockets of those very same surveillance giants). The word “smart” is nowadays being used to lure people into dumb practices (or shame those who refuse to play along). Hours ago I saw a puff piece promoting a wall clock which is actually an Amazon bug (listening device) and about 10 days ago I became aware of the most notorious former NSA chief joining the board of Amazon. This is the same guy who started PRISM with Microsoft almost a decade ago.

Computing won’t be improved thanks to the ‘goodwill’ of corporations, masters of openwashing and greenwashing (we have the Linux Foundation to ‘thank’ for that). The popular struggle must come from below, it will never come from above. All we can expect “from above” are orders and crushing boots. People who wrongly assume that a corporations-led OSI or corporations-funded FSF/FSFE will save us (EFF as well for that matter, albeit EFF never cared about software freedom) haven’t been paying attention to the corrupting influence of money — including Google and Microsoft money — inside key institutions. They gag critics (self-censorship and expulsions) while assuring us that they’re all becoming “open” (whilst in fact pushing lots of proprietary software) and dropping laughable soundbites like “Open Source has won” (they mean to say it was taken over, not adopted).

Times may seem depressing at some level; on the one hand, Free software (including GNU and Linux) is everywhere, but on the other hand, this isn’t how many of us envisioned it. Having a wall clock running Linux only to record us and send the recordings to Amazon (with NSA inside its Board of Directors) isn’t freedom; it’s pure, vulgar tyranny. Several years ago we already warned about the threat of Linux becoming a “cheap” (cost-free) option for some of the very worst elements of technology. Nothing in the GPL prevents that (free-as-in-deregulation), so people need to prevent that by rejecting such things and calling out the culprits. Not enough people are doing it. In an interview published less than 24 hours ago, RMS spoke about it to RT. Funnily enough, that RT interview with RMS (made public yesterday morning) asks him the very same questions we was planning to ask him next. It’s like RT ‘stole’ questions we was planning to ask RMS (questions that he answered very well). We’re joking of course. Nobody ‘stole’ anything. Whether or not he does an interview with us as well may depend on what he perceives to be the outcome, knowing that some fussy petitioners are still scheming from inside GNU to oust him. Many of them work for IBM and most of them (at least two thirds of the whole lot) develop on Microsoft servers (GitHub) — a practice long condemned and discouraged by RMS.

We’re up against powerful and well-funded forces. They’re subversive. They shoot messengers. Days ago one of these petitioners (Garrett) entered our IRC channels, obviously digging for 'dirt' on us.

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4 Comments

  1. Canta said,

    September 26, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    Gravatar

    Freedom – Rights = Social darwinism.
    Rights – Freedom = Totalitarism.

    We clearly need something better, more complex than that. But in any casen a middle ground seems like a good start. Which means we need both: freedom activism, and rights activism. And that means we need to learn how to work that out.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Maybe we can draft something to that effect…

  2. Canta said,

    September 26, 2020 at 10:20 pm

    Gravatar

    Well, we can, of course… but you got to know beforehand that this journey gets pretty much metaphysical very quickly, and my guess is that one can only productively talk about this kind of stuff but after coming back from there. So, the messy middle ideas doesn’t sound like techrights material to me.

    My intuitions are taking me to figure out some strategy around making freedom/rights problems a second level of problems, under a higher order. Those higher order problems should be about the human condition itself, and thus freedoms (things we could do if we wanted to) and rights (more close to things we shouldn’t suffer) would be at the same level with other stuff (like things that actually affect the free will, things only present when humans are understood as a group, things related to the pass of time and thus history, etc). This way every freedom/rights problem gets less binary, and newer contact points between positions would arose, as well as Free Software activists can inmediatelly get a common ground with other related activisms.

    Basically, I’m sick of seeing everywhere justifications for problems like they where forces of nature instead of human actions (this is specially annoying in economics arguments), and so the human condition has to be the focus again. But “human” in a contemporary sense, where animals or even the very world are being considered persons. Yet, it’s all just noise inside my head and naivety inside my heart right now. I’ll tell you know if this leads somewhere someday. In the meantime, the less-lunatic-sounding posture I believe would be to just be careful to not push too much either towards freedom in detriment of rights, and viceversa. That is something we can do everywhere we talk with all kinds of people.

    Dr. Roy Schestowitz Reply:

    Today I focus on issues further away but not far removed from Free software.

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