03.27.21

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“The Freedom to Control Your Own Computer” (Updated)

Posted in FSF, GNU/Linux, Videos at 9:27 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The ‘dangerous’ ideas of RMS; who are those dangerous to? Whose business model?

Update: Transcript added below.

[00:00]

I have been fighting for freedom for a long time.

22 years now, I announced the beginning of the free software movement, a social movement for freedom for computer users.

Specifically, the freedom to cooperate and the freedom to control your own computer, the freedom for users to work together in a community controlling the software that they use

This was

[00:30]

impossible in 1983 because computers don’t do anything without an operating system it’s just a piece of metal and silicon that’s totally useless.

But all the operating systems 22 years ago were proprietary software, software that keeps users divided and helpless. So, I was determined not to have to live that way when using computers I don’t want to be helpless and I don’t want to be forbidden to share with you.

[01:00]

So I decided I would do something about it. What could I do? I had no political party behind me. I couldn’t expect to convince governments or corporations to change any of their policies, but I did know how to write software. So I said I’m going to develop another operating system with the help of whoever will join in and together we will make it free software. We will respect your freedom and you will be able

[01:30]

then to use computers in freedom with this operating system. What does this freedom mean? There are four essential freedoms that make the definition of free software. And, they are: freedom 0, the freedom to run the program however you wish. Freedom 1, the freedom to help yourself. That’s the freedom to study the source code and change it to do what you wish. Then there’s

[02:00]

freedom 2, the freedom to help your neighbor. That’s the freedom to copy the program and distribute the copies to others when you wish. And freedom 3 is the freedom to help your community. That’s the freedom to publish or distribute a modified version when you wish. With all four freedoms, the program is free software. But these freedoms should not be strange to you. At least not if you cook. Because people who cook enjoy the same

[02:30]

four freedoms in using recipes. The freedom to cook the recipe when you want. That’s freedom 0. The freedom to study the ingredients and how it’s done and then change it. That’s freedom 1. Cooks frequently change recipes. And then the freedom to copy it and hand copies to your friends. That’s freedom 2. And then there’s freedom 3 [which] is less frequently exercised because it’s more work but if you cook your version of the recipe for a dinner for your friends and a

[03:00]

friend says, “that was great, could I have the recipe?”, you can write down your version of the recipe and make a copy for your friend. The same four freedoms, and this is no coincidence, because programs like recipes are works that you use for practical work. You’re using them to do something. And when you use a work to do something, if you’re not in control of it, you’re not in control of your life and if you can’t share

[03:30]

with other people you’re forbidden to be part of a community. Imagine how angry everyone who cooks would be if some day the government says, “from now on if you share or change a recipe we’re going to call you a pirate. We’re going to compare you with people who attack ships. And we’re going to put you in prison for years, because that’s forbidden cooperation.” Imagine the anger that there would be. That anger is at the basis of the Free

[04:00]

Software Movement too. We want to have freedom in using our computers. So we developed the GNU operating system throughout the 1980s and in 1992 the last missing piece was put in place. That last missing piece is a kernel called Linux. So Linux is not an operating system it is one essential component of the system which is the GNU system plus Linux the GNU / Linux system. And that system now

[04:30]

is used on tens of millions of computers. Jon Hall estimated a 100 million a year or two ago. No one really knows because you see we are all free. Nobody can keep track of what we’re doing that’s part of freedom that nobody knows what’s going on because you don’t have to tell anybody. So today it’s possible to use a computer in freedom. But that doesn’t mean freedom is safe forever. Freedom is

[05:00]

never safe forever. There’s always a danger that you’ll get somebody like George Bush who wants to take it away. Even in the countries like the US which says freedom is what we’re all about that can be turned into mere lip service. Freedoms can be crushed. So for people to have freedom we have to be prepared to defend freedom. And in order to defend our freedom we have to recognize what it means.

[05:30]

That’s the first step. So that’s why I’m here today talking to you about Free Software and the freedoms that it represents freedoms for you. Because that way you will know what your freedom means. And then maybe next year or next decade you will help use defend these freedoms and they may continue. Many people focus on encouraging more users to switch to Free Software. Well, that’s a useful thing to do,

[06:00]

but that alone is not going to bring us to freedoms that endure. If we gave everybody in the world Free Software today but we failed to teach them about the four freedoms then five years from now would they still have Free Software? Probably not, because if they don’t recognize their freedoms, they’ll let their freedoms fall, they’ll let their freedoms slip through their fingers because they won’t bother to close their hands but

[06:30]

they don’t know why. So along with developing Free Software, along with distributing, teaching people to use it, encouraging people to try and switch to it, we have to be constantly teaching these same people why it matters. That it’s not just about how to get powerful convenient software and how to get it as cheap as possible, it’s about how you can live in freedom and be a good neighbor.

[07:00]
So how does this relate to the issue of development? Is Free Software better for development? Well that’s an understatement. Free Software is the only software whose use constitutes development. Because the use of a non-free program is not development, it is electronic colonization. What does it mean if your society increases the use of

[07:30]

non-Free software? Well that software which nobody in your city unless you happen to live in just the right place in the world nobody in you city is in a position to understand it maintain it adapt it extend it or do anything with it. It’s just like the old colonial system where the colonial power had all the industry, they made all the technology and the people in the

[08:00]

colony, they just had to buy it and weren’t supposed to understand anything or make anything they hardly even knew how to fix it. Imagine if you were buying cars and they came from the US and any time they broke you had to ship them back to the US because it’s a secret how they work inside and nobody in your country is allowed to learn how to fix them. That’s what proprietary software is like so this is not sustainable

[08:30]

development. It’s not appropriate technology, this is the technology of dependence. And dependence is exactly what that system is all about. It’s keeping people helpless. Another feature of the old, colonial system was divide and rule. Set people against each other don’t allow them to cooperate because that makes it easier to keep all of them in subjection. Now dividing

[09:00]
people and subjugating them is not just a minor side aspect of proprietary software it is what makes it proprietary software. The license says you are forbidden to share it with anyone, and you can’t get the source code so you don’t know what’s inside it so you can’t control it. Divided and subjugated. That’s the nature of proprietary software. Of course the system comes out looking like the colonial system. Another feature you might remember from the colonial system was that the colonial power would recruit a local elite, a few local people, like maybe the nobles or whoever and pit one tribe against another or they would create tribes if there weren’t tribes so they can massacre each other decades later. So the local elite, they would get certain privileges and in return they would help keep everybody else

[10:00]

down. Well you can see that today, some proprietary software companies actively recruit local elites. They set up a software development center in your country and the people who work there who are part of the local elite or they do some favors for local politicians secretly or for the government openly but it doesn’t make any difference which one either way they are buying influence in the government, converting that government

[10:30]

from a sovereign state into their local overseer of their empire whose job is to make sure everybody else becomes dependent on the same non-Free software. They say to schools, “we will help you by giving you these gratis copies of our non-Free software, so that you can turn your students into addicts of our software”. Why do I use the term addicts because

[11:00]

they develop a dependency on this software and then after they graduate you can be sure they are not going to be offered these gratis copies any more. Because it’s only the first dose that’s gratis. Once you’re addicted then you’re supposed to pay and also of course these companies whose graduates work for , those companies are not going to be offered gratis copies. So what essentially these developers, these software companies are doing is they are recruiting the schools

[11:30]

into agents to lead people into permanent, life-long dependency. These are things that the Open Source movement usually doesn’t talk about, that’s why I don’t support Open Source. Open Source is a way of promoting software that usually is Free but without mentioning these ideals. These issues of freedom. They’re left in the background. Open Source people usually talk only

[12:00]

about practical value, how do you get powerful convenient software and how much will it cost. Well Free Software probably allows you to save money too if you’re not being forced to pay for permission to use it you can probably save money. But I think that’s a secondary issue. Even in poor countries, freedom is important. We should never start saying well they’re so poor freedom doesn’t matter all they need is bread and circuses. Which they

[12:30]

had here once upon a time. And then they shouldn’t even think about being free. I think freedom is important in every country and every society whether it is rich or poor. Nonetheless, people who support Open Source often contribute to extending the Free Software community. Many of them develop Free Software. Those are useful contributions. I am not saying what they do is bad. I am saying that by itself it is not enough,

[13:00]

because it’s weak. You see, when you say the goal is to have powerful, reliable, convenient software and get it cheaply then it becomes possible for the representatives of proprietary software to say, “well we claim that we’ll deliver you more powerful, reliable software. We claimed that our total cost of ownership will be cheaper.” And I think they’re usually bullshit. When Microsoft says this it’s based on distorted facts.

[13:30]

But it’s weak. But when we say the goal is to live in freedom and to be allowed to cooperated with other people in a community, they can’t say they’re going to offer us more of that cheaper. Because they don’t offer that at all. They’re not even competing with us. They’re out of the running. Once you decide you want to live in freedom, they are out of the running. So, we are trying to help you reach

[14:00]

freedom in a community. They are trying to subjugate you, but they’ll say they’ll get you there faster. And maybe they would. …

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