Freedom Beyond Software and Technology

You saw this coming, haven’t you? :) After the lengthy details, comes the downpour of philosophy, drowning you in words and ideas, never letting you go and install your system… Your author must admit, that was the intention at first. Then the chapter exceeded 2000 words and he said. “Wait a second, I cannot force them to read all this!” So he will not.

But if you do want to read more... well, I will not force it on you, but you can find some ramblings in the TL;DR; below

OK, it’s almost over, only a few final thoughts to the end of it. Just like freedom is all about being non-restrictive, it can become somewhat cumbersome. Free technologies will not allow you to use your hardware, your system, your anything to its full potential. It might not allow you to do whatever you want. This is simply because there is not enough free software, and probably never will be.

Choosing to go the non-free way can often be a convenience, while at other times it might just be the only solution. Freedom, like that of GPL licenses, can be restrictive too, which is in and of itself counter-intuitive. Stallman’s approach towards freedom is ensuring it through enforcing it. But can we really enforce freedom? Can we give freedom by taking away a freedom? And this means the freedom of choice.

Yes, choice, and deciding not-to-be free. Should we be free to throw away our freedom? Or are we still free when we are not allowed to do that (in other words, being restricted)? It sounds like a difficult philosophical problem. Stallman is right, freedom only prevails, when nobody can take it away. But what if we don’t want it? What if you say: ‘I’m tired of all this freedom, I wanna be a slave! Sure, they will flog me twice daily, and I’ll be in forced labour, and I will sleep on the floor, and the food will be poor… but at least there will be food and some shelter and I will know exactly what the next day will bring. It will be bad, but I will survive that way.” And if in that situation somebody tells you, that you cannot do it… Does he give you your freedom, or does he take it away by forcing you to remain free, in spite of your (free) will?

This can happen in the software world. What if you need that non-free thing? What if it is for the greater good? (Say life-saving equipment running it, or education groups with special needs, who have no other solution.)

There is no straight or easy answer. Ultimately it will be all up to you, but… Even in such situations, the best to do is to be aware. Never give up the idea of freedom. If there is no free solution, perhaps it is time to create one. While being forced to use non-free ways, we are still free to make a change! And this needs people to shift their thinking, and instead of accepting something as inevitable, make a move towards changing it. Your contribution might be as little as spreading the word, yet who knows where that word will be heard eventually.