Software Freedom Yes, but for WHOM? To do WHAT?

…one so-called freedom that we do not advocate is the “freedom to choose any license you want for software you write.”

If you think that’s Big Bro, it’s a Big no. Believe it or not, it’s Kuhn and Stallman bashing their heads together fiendishly propping up the FSF’s own mendacious brand of contrived mindf*kery.

There is a worthwhile distinction between freedom and power no doubt, but not with self-defeating, self-annihilating, anti-philosophical crankiness like this.

Recommended reading:

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Need a bit more context here, as otherwise this seems a tweet rather than a discussion.

Yeh, you’d think so… but I am struggling to find ANY context that could possibly make this sentence make ANY sense?

If you read the article, Kuhn and Stallman thrash around, trying to make a case for software freedom by suggesting software developers ought not to have the power to license their work in the way they want.

Even if we agree with those politics (and I don’t see how any software developer could), how can they justify software developers choosing a license they do like (presumably something like GPL)?

It’s just so stupid.

I’m assuming this is meant to be a link to the article that is the source of the quote? However, it is just blue text. It isn’t a link.


Generally, I’m doubtful that a state of acrimony to the connections oneself is drawing from another’s outputs, is a state able to be successfully receptive enough in achieving the empathy with another’s frame of reference that is necessary to understand their “stupid” beliefs. The more we consider something detestable, the more we distance our ability to understand and engage with it. We can still disagree with it, but disagreement or rather the withholding of advocacy is different than condescension.

Link fixed. Thanks.

For convenience: https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/freedom-or-power.html

Generally, I’m doubtful that a state of acrimony to the connections oneself is drawing from another’s outputs, is a state able to be successfully receptive enough in achieving the empathy with another’s frame of reference that is necessary to understand their “stupid” beliefs.

Generally… that’s a great heuristic. I agree. However, occassionally, perhaps even rarely if we are fortunate to live and work among smart people, we encounter an utterance that is so bonkers it really needs to be called out as just that… some utterances really breach every frame of reference. Saul Gorn has an amusing paper that has lots of them… 1992 I think?

The more we consider something detestable, the more we distance our ability to understand and engage with it.

Yes. With natural person’s it’s an ethical judgment. Personally I tend to be very forgicving of human persons because I am one and I know how prone we are to getting things badly wrong, but with institutions like language I don’t think the psychoanalytic model applies… or if it does… it would depend on some highly unreliable analysis I think. On the other hand, Comp. Sci. is all about not putting up with shoddy code, no? I have no idea about Stallman or Kuhn as people… I suspect they are people of good character, but this… this work is just nonsense… I am pretty sure I’ve made it clear I am detesting the words here… if not… I hope this makes it clearer that it is the words that are clearly detestable?

We can still disagree with it, but disagreement or rather the withholding of advocacy is different than condescension.

Yes. Let the record show that other patronizingly superior behaviors and attitudes are available.

Now, about that quote… can you really agree with it, or is it, (as I suspect) fit for nothing?

Thanks

No worries on the above.

When I understand the quote with their frame of reference, it makes sense. In the same way that one calls to nationalise certain industries for freedom, use political power over free markets for freedom, use liberty and its civil contracts for freedom, use or not use war for freedom.

To put in another way, sometimes absolute freedom coagulates into games that are stable dominance hierarchies at the expense, or rather exploitation of some for some others; when this happens, we may use political power or cultural regulation to stake a claim that the lack of social mobility in those games as unfair, and create upheaval to prevent such exploitation in the now, and hopefully in the future.

It’s the question whether or not those in Huxley’s Brave New World are free, and if the Brave New World is a fair and just world? These are questions that require book-length battles at the framing/worldview/meta level.

The authors of the article seem to be hyperbolically playing with the varying terminology of certain words. For instance, advocacy could be read as a substitute for forbiddance or as a substitute for evangelism. They are doing the same for freedom. They use a hyperbolic prose to prompt reevaluation of the inspectional reader’s existing frames, having the introduction provoke, then using the body of the article to attempt to deconstruct and supplant. A plato’s cave variant pissing contest of “you think that’s a knife?”: you thought that freedom is freeing? Which each descent hedges upon more preamble, more ideological tourism.

I don’t have any stakes in this fight, so have minimal interest in arguing for or against their behalf, however I hope that helps in understanding their frame of reference, which in this case is more of philosophical and political inquiry than scientific inquiry. Free Software Foundation is a political organisation after all.

I’d like to show some personal appreciation towards you, in having the courage and skill to write what I suspect may be echoed in some others readers minds.

You seem like a serious person, which itself is rare to find in discusions on the political economy of F/LOSS.

So, I appreciate you taking the time to write down your thoughts and the effort you have gone to, to emolliate my earlier provovations.

Here, I will give up the armed rhetoric and plump for some sober analysis of what you have written, for the purposes of encouraging clarity, rather than the tiresome tendency for discussions to become… well… tiresome.

Let’s try that?

Okay, so I get the relativistic argument, of the type:

When I understand the quote with their frame of reference, it makes sense.

Pedagogy is just like this… higher knowledge reproduction I think gravitates towards certain contexts. I am also comfortable with paradox, paralogics and the postmodern turn. I get a sense you are too. That will help I think.

But let’s think seriously about the implications of what Kuhn and Stallman are doing with this.

They are clearly advocating something like ‘license standardization’. Also, they are advocating software freedom on a very esoteric interpretation of what freedom can mean… you get this too, by analogy. I won’t labor it.

Riffing on various forms of license restrictions in order to defend a particular conception of technological liberty has become a banal pantomine between pro-corporate libertarians and moralizing liberals. That is the stage for conversations about software licensing AFAICT… well… apart from places like this where the complexities of the politics informing many of these software licensing efforts occasionally come to die.

I gave an incomplete list of links to further reading for people interested in exploring the complicated relationship between various conceptions of freedom.

So yes, it’s complicated and yes, freedom is often used as camouflage for power, as Kuhn and Stallman naively highlight.

Much of the article struck me as typical Stallman: too naive and too literal. It reads like a Bible Study in Free Software. I can see the seductiveness, especially for software engineers whose appetite for workforce politics, I have observed almost always matches those of their employers… business owners… rather than those of other producers that they have much more in common with… artists, scientists, academics, other engineers and so forth.

So, as we are here, both pondering about what freedom can mean, it does leave this outstanding quote from Stallman and Kuhn, and I do stand by this, it is an astonishing claim that is worth repeating because of it’s audacity:

The argument is co-creating fairness in society is contingent on we, the producers not being given the means to control the way the products of our labor are distributed.

We do not need a book length treatise to see the implications of this, do we?

In good faith, I am assuming that Kuhn and Stallman don’t mean it literally, because if software producers couldn’t choose a license, then they couldn’t choose their flagship license, the GPL… and that in itself would be the death of that.

So, we have to take this argument as facetiously as they are. What they are actually saying is something like:

‘We don’t want producers of software to choose a license that we don’t like.’

We could go as far as to say they are really adding a footnote to that old article about the four freedoms from years back, simply because of the growing interest in so called ‘Ethical’ licenses.

I am forever skeptical about people who say ‘they don’t have any stakes’ and so forth. If you produce anything at all in this world, whether it’s a critical piece of web infrastructure, a JS lick, or whether you just stay at home and tinker around with computers in your spare time, the politics of technology I believe are inescapable.

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Even if your preferred lifestyle is practically living in a political cave, the effects of technology are a fight everyone is already in, whether we like it or not?