If you hit someone with enough felony counts sooner or later something can snap. This in response to those that claim the DOJ didn't have anything to do with Aaron killing himself.
For some people the mere fact of being suspected of a crime they didn't commit is enough to push them over the edge. When you're placed in a holding cell the police will remove your laces from your boots so you don't hang yourself, that's how heavy being imprisoned can weigh on some.
Aaron did something that he thought was right, that he truly believed in and that upset a large number of applecarts and that had far reaching implications, had the proverbial book thrown at him and then some. The prospect of significant amounts of jail time (35 years for downloading scientific papers, it shouldn't even be a crime) and/or a felony record must have weighed very heavy on him.
For a person that is of a very stable mental make-up that would already be extreme pressure.
For someone with a mental issue it may very well be all it takes.
Aaron was inspiring to me, I think that no copyrighted piece of paper is worth a human life and that the DOJ, even if they are not directly responsible at least indirectly carry some of the responsibility here for beating down someone who was fighting for an extremely good cause in a somewhat haphazard way. The letter of the law and the spirit of the law should both be taken into account.
I hope those that had a hand in Aarons' continued prosecution will sleep miserably for a long time to come. Likely it won't weigh on their consciousness at all.
Maybe being indicted while free may even be a bigger psychological pressure on somebody than being in prison. When you are in prison, you can focus all your energy on your case, and the situation can only get better than your current one, not worse. You have certain legal protections, and your basic needs are taken care of.
Imagine having to work a job to earn an income (your assets probably being seized) and function in society with a constant feeling of danger looming ahead. They can fuck up your life one little piece at a time. Imagine working on your defence when the computer you are using to do so can be seized at any time (some DA having convinced a judge that you may be hacking right now). Imagine restrictions on travel that make making a living even more difficult. Imagine randomly being delivered a letter with one more bogus charge.
While being free seems to be better than in prison from an objective point of view, given the workings of the threat detection system in our mind, made for tigers in the savannah, not constant worry and fear, it may be much worse. It is well known that the functioning of our "higher" abilities like creativity and critical thinking are impaired under constant stress. It's easy to conceive what this means for the feeling of self worth of somebody who lives for doing cool, meaningful, big things (one of my favourite essays ever, btw):
Also, it neatly avoids the aura of illegitimacy that imprisoning peaceful activists would have for a government.
One lesson that could be learned from this is to try and consciously provide people in his situation with an environment that feels safe. Nut just a fund for legal and living expenses and therapy to cope with the stress, but much more importantly, reliable relationships with people who are supporting, compassionate and willing to listen.
It is worth noting that JSTOR did not want to press charges in this case. After contacting Swartz, they were satisfied that he was not going to share the documents with others (and they "recovered" them, whatever that means), and that would have been that. The government decided to prosecute, probably to show how serious they are about restricting access to human knowledge (or whatever it is that they thought this prosecution would accomplish).
The JSTOR site says "Libraries and organizations license full-text content for their patrons, and if you are affiliated with one of these institutions, you can access those complete articles."
Their site seems to say anyone with a uni affiliation.
Really, it is not much different from walking into a university library and reading the books there. Most of the schools I see allow anyone to walk into their library, without having to prove they have any sort of affiliation.
It is as though universities believe their purpose is to spread knowledge or something crazy like that...
> Or anyone who is a patron of a university library system,
> which in this day and age means anyone who has been given
> access to a university network.
I challenge you (in a very light-hearted, positive way) to demonstrate how to access papers as a member of the public. Most universities seem to require you to show up in person to use the library computers. You can subscribe to classes and get a student id to access literature, but then you no longer count as the public, do you?
Also, DeepDyve and ReadCube are scams. Anyone who reads a healthy amount gets charged out the wazoo. I didn't even know I had a wazoo!
Sure, but that was not my point; my point was that there was no moral issue with him downloading these documents, because he had every right to access them, just like anyone else whose computer is connected to a university's network. The underlying assumption of people who think he did something wrong is a combination of (a) that access is only supposed to be for reading the articles, not archiving them and (b) that there is something suspicious about writing a program that automatically downloads things (unless you are running an operation dedicated to archiving). The assumption is that anyone who thinks about these things differently must be some kind of criminal or public danger, and it is an assumption that has been fueled by years of propaganda from businesses whose profits depend on people not doing such things.
"I challenge you (in a very light-hearted, positive way) to demonstrate how to access papers as a member of the public"
Unfortunately, the only response I have is that the current system is designed to thwart that sort of thing. We live in an anachronistic age when it comes to accessing human knowledge. We continue to assume that we need academic publishing companies to spread that knowledge. We continue to assume that it makes sense for people to physically enter a major library to find the journal articles they are looking for.
A century ago, that did actually make sense. You needed industrial-scale printing equipment to make enough copies of academic publications to satisfy the world's needs. For the most part, only universities had the resources to pay the publishers for that work, and only universities had enough space to archive those publications. In this day and age, that is not even remotely true: a typical desktop computer has enough disk space to store more than many university library systems could store on their shelves. One only needs to walk through the bound journals section of a typical university library to see the reality of this century: the bound journals are just sitting there, collecting dust, because everyone is downloading the articles using a computer.
So in theory, the general public could have access to this knowledge, and to all future research, and they could even help in the dissemination of that knowledge. In practice, only the lucky few (like me!) who happen to be affiliated with a major university can access it without jumping through hoops or traveling great distances. The sickest part about it is this: I would be prosecuted if I dared use the desktop in my office to give other people access to that knowledge. Stated another way, if I were to use my own knowledge and affiliation with a university to spread knowledge to others, I would be a criminal.
The public already paid 99% of the money for public research, yet only 1% of them have access to the fruits because those who paid 1% (for maintaining an archive) want it this way.
Information shares all of the downsides of the public commons: because it is freely available, no one wants to pay for the maintenance costs. JSTOR charges fees for access to cover the ongoing maintenance costs associated with storing access to thousands of journals and millions of articles published over several centuries. Note also that JSTOR provides assistance with locating articles relevant to the user's needs (i.e., library functions), and such services are frequently more valuable than its archival functions.
A wiki will not suffice to maintain access to this information; Wikipedia and Wikileaks have shown that. You would end up with all of the articles but no practical way to find the particular article or articles you are looking for.
Copying documents does not destroy the original copies, so it does not drain anything.
"Information shares all of the downsides of the public commons: because it is freely available, no one wants to pay for the maintenance costs."
If JSTOR had made these documents freely available, there'd be plenty of people and organizations who'd gladly have paid for the maintenance costs. For example, archive.org.
"Note also that JSTOR provides assistance with locating articles relevant to the user's needs (i.e., library functions), and such services are frequently more valuable than its archival functions. ... A wiki will not suffice to maintain access to this information; Wikipedia and Wikileaks have shown that. You would end up with all of the articles but no practical way to find the particular article or articles you are looking for."
If anyone wanted to use those services, they could pay JSTOR for them regardless of whether these documents were also available elsewhere.
JSTOR's charges aren't at all proportional to the hosting cost. If they were only charging for hosting then they should be happy if people share the data without using their servers, but they aren't, so it is manifest that they are charging for more than the hosting.
Indexing articles for browsing and search is not a real problem if the information is made public. If other people want to help JSTOR with this, they are not allowed to because JSTOR keeps all this publicly-funded information proprietary in perpetuity
I don't understand why they would "[secure] from Mr. Swartz the content that was taken, and [receive] confirmation that the content was not and would not be used, copied, transferred, or distributed".
Even if your argument were true, what exactly was Aaron draining? If JSTOR is providing this valuable search service, wouldn't that alone fund their operation? If having millions of documents is useless because we have no way to search those documents, what difference does it make if Aaron really had been sharing the documents with others? Would it not have been a good thing if Aaron had amassed these articles and made them available using a better search service -- wouldn't we have benefited (and isn't that the whole point of copyright anyway?)?
Had Aaron been accused of hacking into JSTOR to download the source code of their search system, you might have a point. Instead, he was accused of copyright infringement and of violating a network use agreement (because he was trying to evade the ban of his laptop's IP address); at no point was JSTOR's valuable search service even an issue in this case.
Do you know of anyone working through the legal system to effect such change?
JSTOR has scholarly articles dating back centuries - when you consider that that information deserves to be free, and the societal cost of keeping that information and research hidden, JSTOR's mere existence is practically a crime.
CERN has been very clear in their opposition to JSTOR's practices, from what I know.
This isn't true. Something else would be in its place. The only question is whether it would be better. I believe that society has already paid a number of times for the benefit of most of the knowledge in this archive. This should be freely available to anyone with access to the internet.
We are not talking about "authors" in the sense of some guy living in a townhouse, smoking a pipe and drinking scotch while writing a novel. We're talking about people who are paid to do scientific research, usually by the government, and who must publish their work in a journal or conference to continue continue or advance their careers.
Really, JSTOR is not even that bad; they are a search service. Look at the journals themselves if you want to talk about a scam: the authors are not paid by the journal publishers, the journal publishers do not fund grants any more than any other tax payer does, and it is often the case that the reviewers of the articles (peer review, the foundation of scientific publishing) are unpaid, and in some cases even the editors of the journal are volunteers. What do the journal publishers do? They print and bind journals, sometimes, or else they charge people (including JSTOR) for access to electronic copies of the articles. Journal publishers are an anachronism that is being kept alive by an out-of-control copyright system; JSTOR is just an outgrowth of the problem, like a little hair growing out of a cancer (and make no mistake, "cancer" is an apt description of journal publishers: they get in the way of scientific research and make it harder for scientists to make their findings available to humanity).
All of this costs money. Universities and companies pay for JSTOR so that it can keep doing its job. More importantly, universities and companies pay for JSTOR so that they don't have to take on the burdens of maintaining complete archives of all academic works.
Yes, the fees are paid to the publishers— who themselves do not pay the authors, reviewers, and even (sometimes) the editors of the journals. As part of the NYC non-profit high society Jstor is far from the most efficient non profit— but their fault is not their inefficient spending and high salaries. Their fault is facilitating a system which is amoral and harmful to society.
Absent Jstor the universities and libraries would have an easier time reforming the system because writing a single big check per quarter wouldn't remove most of their problems (while leaving everyone outside of those institutions without access).
Exactly. Just imagine what archive.org could do if all those universities were donating all of that money to them instead.
That doesn't follow.
Or, maybe you believe that corporations are our saviors and therefore anything that goes against their interests is a bad thing. In which case the government is doing exactly what it should be doing.
Paywalled journals are a form of rent-seeking which while arguably an acceptable evil in the days of print are an unacceptable evil today.
That's an assumption on your part.
And this was in response to people jumping to completely different conclusions, for instance that these things are not related at all. I wouldn't be so quick to make that call.
Maybe you feel like arguing this line with his mom? : http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5047398
I guess my rub is two-fold:
- The visible portion of public figures lives is only a fraction of the complete picture, and extrapolating from that visible portion rubs me the wrong way.
- These things are complex. As another commenter noted, suicide rarely has a single reason. (And I think we put labels on these things mostly for ourselves; it's easier to cope when there's an label to pin onto a tragedy.)
How do you know the person who setup that account and posted that is actually his mom?
I questioned what you said I didn't (when I asked you) state that the poster wasn't his mother. I don't know that she is or isn't.
That said I will now say that I feel that it's highly unlikely that a mother who has lost her son to suicide is going to open up a HN account  and post something when a loss like this happens.
Of course if a HN admin has access to IP addresses or where and how the account was setup or some other non public information that's something else.
 Adding: so quickly after the loss
Are you assuming that, or...?
I am very, very angry with our system right now.
Often things are more complicated than that.
"I was miserable. I couldn't stand San Francisco. I couldn't stand office life. I couldn't stand Wired. I took a long Christmas vacation. I got sick. I thought of suicide. I ran from the police. And when I got back on Monday morning, I was asked to resign."
"I followed these rules. And here I am today, with a dozen projects on my plate and my stress level through the roof once again." "Every morning I wake up and check my email to see which one of my projects has imploded today, which deadlines I'm behind on, which talks I need to write, and which articles I need to edit."
Post Reddit Era:
"The post-Reddit era in Aaron's life was really his coming of age. His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access. After activists built RECAP (which allowed its users to put any caselaw they paid for into a free/public repository), Aaron spent a small fortune fetching a titanic amount of data and putting it into the public domain. The feds hated this. They smeared him, the FBI investigated him, and for a while, it looked like he'd be on the pointy end of some bad legal stuff, but he escaped it all, and emerged triumphant."
Aaron makes a parallel between the Batman movie and his own struggles, highlighting the corruption of the system and how the Joker was actually the only "sane" person in an insane world. Sadly, he decided to pursue the same path as Heath Ledger. -zatara -doktrin
-http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/tdk discussion on http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5047421
"Depressed mood:.." -http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/verysick
"Later, I tried to take care of him while he was being destroyed, from inside and out. I struggled so hard, but not as hard as he did. I told him, time and again, that this was his 20s. It would be better in his 30s. Just wait. Please, just hold on."
-His Girlfriend http://www.quinnnorton.com/said/?p=644
Lessons to learn for myself: Depression is a serious issue ... no doubt the Govt case played a big role in his last moments, but so did the little things: previous thoughts of ending life, excessive stress, depression. Love how jacques_chester said below: "Depression is insidious because it makes all the alternatives to suicide seem much more difficult than they actually are." It might be easier to blame one person, than these smaller hard to see things. Things we can find fault in ourselves, and improve, putting bigger focus on these clues and hints of depression that exist in many of our relationships, and other early warning signs.
Aaron Swartz did many amazing and courageous things in his life, and his life was a great service for our nation, but had he lived another day...
I want to end with this word of hope to HN community and others by Pitarou:
"TL;DR If Swartz's death is triggering suicidal thoughts, you must understand that this will pass, and life will be worth living.
After seeing the impact of Aaron Swartz's death on the Hacker News community, I am concerned about the Werther effect (the tendency of a prominent suicide to trigger other suicides). I hope I can help by sharing what I learnt through 10+ years of depression and recovery.
Depression robs you of the ability to: 1. remember happiness 2. feel happiness 3. anticipate happiness 4. make considered decisions
#1-#3 make you miserable, but #4 is the killer. Bits of your brain actually shut down, and you run on pure emotion. For example, when I was depressed, I was easy prey for offers like "4 for the price of 3 on this crappy overpriced chocolate" because I couldn't weigh it up. All I could think was "chocolate: good. 4 for 3: good. 4 for 3 chocolate: irresistible". But if you're running on pure emotion and your emotions tell you "everything sucks" well ... suicide looks like a good option.
So why didn't I kill myself? Somewhere in my guts, there was a stubborn belief that "this will pass". You might even call it a sense of entitlement: "come on world -- you can give me something better than this!" And you know what? It DID! Thanks to some wonderful people, and to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, I found a way to recover.
With the best 10+ years of my life lost to depression, starting from scratch in my 30s has been hard, but it's still a life, and I swear that life is worth more than you can possibly understand when you're depressed.
Aaron makes a parallel between the Batman movie and his own struggles, highlighting the corruption of the system and how the Joker was actually the only "sane" person in an insane world. Sadly, he decided to pursue the same path as Heath Ledger.
edit : It's an insightful piece of writing purely in its own right, as are the rest of his works that I have come across.
The EuroPython conference took place in Florence in 2011 and 2012, and again will be there in 2013.
Aaron was a Python über-hacker.
I know it's incredibly unlikely, but it would be the stuff of legend.
Maybe I'm just being optimistic, but with the sum total of evidence, I would have thought he had a better than 70-80% chance of winning outright. The other possibility is he would get a lighter sentence, or simply cop a plea for lesser time. The fact he may or may not felt compelled to take his own life based on what he perceived was going to happen to him is shocking. Instead of playing the hand he was dealt, he simply folded and ended the game.
It makes me wonder what advice people were giving him where he truly believed he was going to jail for the rest of his life. His case could've been a huge landmark case against this sort of unlawful litigation. Sad, really sad.
I asked the lawyers “Suppose that the government’s case is completely frivolous and Swartz is guaranteed to be acquitted. What would he expect to spend in legal fees to defend the case?” They didn’t want to reveal anything particular to Aaron’s case but said “Generally the minimum cost to defend a federal criminal lawsuit is $1.5 million.”
A daunting prospect for anyone. Apparently too daunting for a 26-year-old.
I just want to say the desire to kill oneself does not have to do with outside circumstances. Its the faulure to realize who you really are, it requires a complete living inside the mind, and into believing that your thoughts actually are reality.
Some emerge from wanting to kill themselves enlightened - they realize the true nature of reality before they go through with it. Some of the most potent spiritual leaders today went throught this - Byron Katie, eckhart tolle both wanted to kill themselves.
Others, dont. There is no blame, it does not make it any less sad for those left behind, especially family members; Aaron lives on in all of us who were touched by him. I looked up to him as a hacker, brave hacktivist, and generally kick-ass guy. RIP Aaron.
Can we stop the speculations until we actually know what happened? :-(
We may never know the true cause. There's no harm in discussing possible factors.
OPs assumptions seem warranted.
1) we'll never know what "really happened" (even if he had left a note stating a reason one can never know if something not mentioned also weighted on him psychologically)
2) speculation is, counter to what some may think, productive. For example, it gets you questioning stuff like the legal system in the comment above.
I am speculating that it's because of all of the anti-gun laws in America that led up to his suicide.
Can we start questioning them now?
Numerous courts around the world have put responsibility on third parties pressuring victims into suicide. Cult gurus pressuring people into (possibly mass) suicides, companies and managers for their employees suicides, and individuals pushing their own parents to commit suicide for will benefits.
That is why support is so so so so so so so important.
There have been a few people in my life who have committed suicide. Knowing what they went through, feeling it a lot myself, it often feels like the only way out, the only way it will bring an end to your pain. It's not true but it feels totally like that, like you have absolutely no option.
I would even argue that it's often the opposite; adversity gives motivation and meaning; meaninglessness is more dangerous.
People I knew who committed suicide did it when they enjoyed a limited level of success. For instance, twenty years ago I was an actor in a play by an author who had been trying to make it for years. This play was a (moderate) success. Two days after the last show, the author jumped out of a window in his grandmother's apartment.
It baffled everyone around him, but I think the reason is that success didn't bring him the joy he thought it would bring. There wasn't anything left to look forward to.
They're not the same.
"The criminal investigation and today’s indictment of Mr. Swartz has been directed by the United States Attorney’s Office. It was the government’s decision whether to prosecute, not JSTOR’s. As noted previously, our interest was in securing the content. Once this was achieved, we had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter."
So it's not as if anybody outside the government was still pressing charges over this.
Judges, United States Attorneys, they could have all put a stop to this, instead they allowed it to roll on destroying a life in the process, regardless of what Aaron did to himself or not.
What I was trying to say above is that a prosecutor's goal is to prosecute as many cases as fully as possible. They do not consider whether it is meritorious to pursue a case according to some outside moral standard, that's not their job. Most of the time cases are picked if there's strong evidence.
I know you want to imagine that the DOJ prosecutors were some sort of Disney villains, according to a moral standard that they themselves do not abide by. A good man is dead, we all want somebody to kick.
But the place to make an argument that a case is flawed, or that a case is irrelevant, or repugnant to the letter or the spirit of the law, it's not in the prosecutor's office. It's in front of the judge.
Everybody - including prosecutors - gets to decide what they do for themselves. If your job is so repugnant that you go after good people you have to question your own morality. Just following orders isn't good enough for me.
Nobody selects into public legal work for the money.
They would have been doing what they think is the right thing to do: prosecute suspects aggressively.
That you have a different criteria for what cases to prosecute doesn't make them evil.
That you have a different criteria for what cases to prosecute doesn't make them evil.
How else would you decide that someone's actions are morally dubious, other than using your own moral criteria? By consulting a lawyer? Running a popular vote?
Or the "thing" that improves their career, or annual review.
Let's see: Essentially defenseless hacker-type, historical success of draconian prosecution strategies, and penalties /way/ outside the realm of reason because of fanned-up hyperbole, fear and misunderstanding in the criminal justice system.
Low-hanging fruit, to a prosecutor. Three before breakfast every day. Aaron probably did not _matter_ once he was in the system.
Cases won versus cases lost. In this one, we all lost.
You're about 1/10th of a mm away from Godwinning this thread so I'll let it lie, it isn't worth it to me to continue this line.
Let's just agree to disagree. You're a good man and we simply will not see eye to eye on this one.
I have no idea what the situation is in the US. But here in England that's just not true.
The CPS (Crown Prosecution Service)'s job is not to bring all the prosecutions that it believes it can win. It's to bring all prosecutions that it believes it can win that it's in the public interest to be brought. (http://www.cps.gov.uk/publications/code_for_crown_prosecutor...)
The result is that CPS discretion is an important part of the system. And has the side-effect that the legislature has less incentive to narrow the scope of offences, since they believe (rightly or wrongly) they can rely on the CPS to not bring prosecutions where it wouldn't make sense to do so.
(Hence e.g. there's little pressure to amend the Sexual Offences Act with US-style 'romeo and juliet' laws to protect teenage couples who are technically both sexually assaulting each other, since the CPS guidelines (http://www.cps.gov.uk/legal/p_to_r/rape_and_sexual_offences/...) in practice have the same effect).
Whether this system is better or worse than one where the prosecutor doesn't use discretion, but offences are defined more strictly, is an interesting discussion.
There is also an established system of prosecuting people the government does not like, and of robbing them of their ability to build a good defense -- usually by freezing their assets before they have been convicted, and building enormous cases against them that overwhelm their attorneys. I suspect Swartz was a victim of these tactics, probably because the government wanted to drive home the message that human knowledge must remain locked behind university firewalls and that hacking is a heinous offense. I would not put it past them to include Swartz' suicide in future propaganda about copyrights, as evidence that copyright infringement leads people to depression and suicide.
This is also common sense. If not, it would be difficult to prosecute murderers, since the victim doesn't exist anymore. It would be next to impossible to prosecute murderers of people who have no family and no friends.
The best among us do it in public, under their own names, daring the state to make good on their threats.
The law is not a unitary piece. Were Aaron's case to proceed to its natural conclusion, the courts might have found that higher principles override the civil agreements that he was charged with breaking.
And even when the courts are of no avail - when the basic procedures and principles of the state are corrupt - then it is up to activists to fight that corruption, and one way is through the theatre of breaking the law in public.
For some people, obedience to the law and its flaws, is itself a virtue because of the net win we all have by having a strong rule of law. Others are outraged at abusive exercises of power and find virtue in any struggle against it, even obligation. Others are indifferent to the system and focus on practical experiences. I think when you understand the way that different positions are built up, it's easier not to be heated about this.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alignment_(Dungeons_%26_Dragon...
There are the conditions for suicide, and then there's the impulse that drives it to happen. The first is visible and appears over a long period of time-- felony convictions, mental instability, or extreme career adversity-- but it never seems that things are that bad (especially because a lot of people refuse to admit that good things can happen to bad people). The second is fairly sudden and seems "random". This is why suicides are so unexpected. A person can seem to be "not that bad off" one day, and the next day, commit suicide.
The scary thing is that the first kind of conditions are being more common. We have:
* draconian sentences for minor crimes, including drug possession, white-hat hacking, and file sharing,
* an increasing willingness of corporations to use extreme and illegal career adversity (e.g. blacklisting) against whistleblowers,
* increasing difficulty for a person to "re-invent" him- or herself in the wake of a bad reputation.
Thirty years ago, if your life got fucked up, you could pull a Don Draper. You could pay people off to represent themselves as past employers and reconstruct your career under an alternate name, and move halfway across the country. (I don't consider this unethical in the context of radical reinvention, providing that you're not feigning competences you lack or defrauding people.) In 2013, that's becoming increasingly hard to do.
You can still do that today although agreed it is much harder. You could simply buy someone's company for example with a history and claim that is where you were (and modify the website with the appropriate collateral.) You can fairly quickly setup a linked in profile and get lots of contacts of people in any industry that you don't even know (source: I get people writing to me wanting to be a linked in contact constantly as I'm sure most people do.)
There are people that actually have an inventory of old websites that have been around since the 90's (and domains registered back then) representing a wide range of industries.
That said this is not as easy and of course if someone does a really through vetting much will be uncovered. But how often is that done?
His blog was thought-provoking. http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/
His work on the RSS 1.0 Specification enabled richer, more efficient information consumption. http://web.resource.org/rss/1.0/spec
His work on Markdown enabled intuitive, unobtrusive formatting and structuring of information in plaintext and conversion to HTML. http://daringfireball.net/projects/markdown/#acknowledgement...
His work on reddit enabled thousands—now millions—to share online information in a social manner. http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rewritingreddit
His work on the web.py framework gave countless Python programmers a head-start on serving information through web applications. http://webpy.org/
His work with DemandProgress gave Americans a political voice to protect and win back their freedom and the freedom of information. http://blog.demandprogress.org/people
His work with Creative Commons promoted the freedom of information and fair use and helped inform content creators of options other than copyright. http://creativecommons.org/
Thank you, Aaron Swartz, for all the above and all the other activism and works (https://github.com/aaronsw) I haven't mentioned here. You'll be missed and remembered by many.
This guy was definitely making a positive impact in the world.
May he be remembered well; he seems to deserve it.
I winced when I got to that. It's sad to think this isn't the first time he's had these thoughts and how long he must have had them. Rest in peace.
I wonder what that meant (appears just after the sentence you quote).
Definitely. He wrote a bunch of blogposts last year on improving life, called "Raw Nerve": http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/rawnerve
Of course, if everything was alright, I would have loved to see Aaron existing in this world for many more years and do wonderful things but not knowing what led him to this step and how he judged the current/future life for himself. Simply commenting that he should not have committed suicide is being insensitive to a person who has already done so much great work for humanity.
Life is not always better than no life. Context matters. A lot.
Depressed people are not perfectly rational agents. By the time you are contemplating suicide, it's not even close.
And depression is a factor in almost every suicide.
Depression is insidious because it makes all the alternatives to suicide seem much more difficult than they actually are.
This is classic begging the question. One could easily say someone who claims suicide is never a rational option is the altered one. It must be seriously condescending for those trying to help someone contemplating suicide to offer such plainly specious arguments against it, especially if that person is the contemplative type. It likely does more harm than good.
There are certainly exceptions. Terminal illness is an obvious one. A chronic disease - whether physical or mental - that has few prospects for effective treatment is another. I'm inclined to think that Aaron's legal troubles were not, by themselves enough to make suicide a rational option, though I don't know enough about the situation to be sure. If, however, he concluded that his legal troubles were part of conclusive evidence that the world is a bad place that isn't going to get better, suicide might look more rational to me.
It's simple: Most people who feel suicidal are feeling suicidal because of/in conditions which are shared by hundreds, thousands, millions of other people. All you have to do, as a rational actor, to decide if suicide makes sense, is to look at what those other people are making of the same situation. In the case of being prosecuted for white collar crimes, most people go on to take their lumps (deserved or not), then go back to their families and a perfectly reasonable existence. There is life afterwards, plenty of it. In some cases, like fraud and hacking etc., quite a few folks turn their experience on the wrong side of the law into valuable consulting gigs. Humans have been evolutionarily selected for resilience.
And, on the flip side, if we're talking interminable physical pain or a fatal disease which is incurable & will only lead to worse and worse deterioration and an unbearably slow death, you can use the same approach to see that suicide may make sense in that situation, to avoid an inescapable fate that all those other people in the same situation are definitely and verifiably experiencing.
The thing about suicidal depression is it cuts off your ability to think like this. You cannot even IMAGINE a world where things get better, where there's an "After." You feel utterly alone… often because you cut yourself off from people who love you & would help you. You think your pains are so special and unique, nobody could understand, and you may even get angry when people try to help you because they can't possibly "get it". You think they're against you. You imagine how much your death will hurt the parties trying to persecute you (real or imagined). Maybe you even think "I'll show them!" or that you will make a good martyr. All of which is nonsense, even though it's very persuasive nonsense… when you're in a suicidal depression.
That's why suicidal depression is clearly, logically, and provably the impairment.
This is why, if you're even remotely contemplating suicide, you should ALWAYS, ALWAYS reach out and seek help. Because if you make a permanent decision, you will have been working off false information. As one of my favorite authors says, "DEPRESSION LIES."
In most cases, suicide is literally stupid. And such a damn shame.
Which lets face it is a Christian rule, and not applicable to all people.
I would like to die right now. I'm just too cowardly. There is no simple switch to do it quickly and painlessly. No way to stop others being upset. No way to stop others discovering something that may scar them. I do not wish to mess up others.
Why? I simply do not belong. I don't understand the human race at all, or the world that has been created. I want to leave, assuming I was ever part of it in the first place, which I don't think I was. Certainly not now. I want to shed my human slavery.
This is rational. It, for me, is not a label like "depression". It a conclusion based on my observation and experience. I willingly concede that others may well be different. How ever, many may not be able or willing to express it, especially given the amount of disdain and patronisation fired carelessly at people who feel this way, by people's knee jerk, ill-considered "opinion".
If you reply, be careful. Its too easy to be arrogant, ignorant and judgemental. Its too easy to trot out the usual tired incorrect tropes. Hearing or reading them just confirms conclusion.
Counselling? Don't make me laugh. I seen a few, none had anything to say. Nothing I had not already considered. Last one I tried packed it in after I left her with no where to go and she realised her profession was at best cosmetic. And that is all people have to offer, well, that or drugs. Oh yeah, be drugged up. That solves it all. Well, it might for people with things like chemical imbalances, but they do nothing by put thinkers to sleep.
Right now? I'm just waiting for it to all end peacefully, or at least quickly.
Sorry if this doesn't fit. But then, neither do I.
that's why we are "life bullies" - because we've made it through tough times and can guarantee that it gets better. if you were a hungry child without a family or a roof over your head, i wouldn't be lecturing you. but then again you wouldn't have time for despair - you'd count every grain of rice as a blessing. buck up, cowboy up, weather the storm. if you feel out of place in this world, do something to make it better. pick up trash, help old people, build a website for a nonprofit.
throw this junk about how you're so special and don't fit in out of the window. being sad doesn't make you special or deep or wise. your life is YOUR LIFE - make it worth living.
if you like books, read Eckhart Tolle's A New Earth. it's good perspective shared with the weight of firsthand experience.
The tired tropes are society's collective knowledge on how to deal with it, so to trot them out: I've had to grin and bear it as the saying goes, get some fresh air, cook myself proper food on a regular basis and seek company without getting intoxicated. Sometimes, music is the answer (upbeat stuff does it for me, no radiohead - although even radiohead works for some people). I make a routine of doing these things. I eventually forget the frame of mind, while still remaining a contrarian at heart.
Our rational minds are not somehow separate from our emotions and brain chemistry, though. Beware rational conclusions that have feelings attached, and that make you feel positive affect. And if it's only rational for you, well then that's a statement about your mind (brain), not the world or anything else.
I am also puzzled by this:
> Oh yeah, be drugged up. That solves it all. Well, it might for people with things like chemical imbalances
How would you know whether or not you have one (chemical imbalance isn't correct, but how do you know what your brain chemistry looks like?) And rational conclusions tend not to magically go away due to drugs unless it's drugs that make you seriously impaired in general (which you would notice). And SSRIs don't "put thinkers to sleep", go do some research, and note the thinkers that have been on them for large-ish parts of their careers/productive years.
Finally, have you been checked for common physical illnesses that can cause depression? Off the top of my head, vitamin deficiency is famous for this. Read about people with brain tumours and damage, too, and note how these things can have effects on feelings and whatnot without being noticeable by the person having them.
That being said, I find myself to be fundamentally broken in ways similar to what you describe for yourself. I have found that this apartness can be mitigated, lessened and and accepted by myself and people around me. It isn't easy, and I have to consciously focus on it. However, I also know that by having looked at how I can solve my apartness and lack of understanding with less drastic measures, I have found solutions that work for me. This is why I've chosen 'not today' so far.
I would be glad to talk to you about this, share my experiences and strategies for interacting in a world of people I don't get. I won't try to talk you out of your choice - it is not mine to make. I won't condone it either - that too is not my place. The best I can provide is a simple sharing of my brokenness and hacks to fix it. The tl;dr of it tho, is: treat it like a puzzle or game, it helped me figure out the rules, and the resulting deep analysis helped me get some empathy and insight, allowing me to fit in better even though I didn't really "understand", and that feeling like I have a place even if my role is "that weird guy in the group" really is pretty awesome, and worth carrying on for (to me).
contact: $HNUSERNAME at gmail.
 clicky: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3350666
And to the OP: If you're still young (under 25) I'm pretty sure you'll do fine eventually. If not, you're probably doing fine already...
But the OP is just so over the top. No point in suggesting he get real help because he's already exposed those frauds! He's got it all figured out.
'probably doing fine already' is about the last thing we should be responding with here. What happens at 25 that makes mental illness irreversible? Younger than 25, you just get over it?
I'd wager a guess that he's in his early twenties, struggled with depression through puberty and has currently found stable ground with a nihilistic perspective that helps him get through the day.
If that's the case then (hence the ~25 year comment) most likely he'll learn to build a perfectly healthy life on top of this stability.
interesting piece of logic.
You could accuse me of the same, but at least I'm not dripping with contempt.
I am often accused in such discussions of being an offender against some wishy-washy personal development program ("just give depression a chance, what's the worst that could happen?").
Or of being a shill for some evil master-conspiracy to turn everyone into zombies.
Or ... well lots of things, really.
I honestly don't give a fuck.
The results are in:
Treatment. Saves. Lives.
One of these days, someone will read one of my endless simple, spammy messages about seeking help and it will make them less likely to die, because they will get help.
So you know what? I think I will keep going.
People around the world go through tough times. For some the path is eased by good friends, family, "miracles", etc. For others the path becomes too difficult to tackle. In the end the person chooses not to fight any longer.
As much as we should respect this decision, we should also remember that many people avoid that decision to end life and actually become happier in life. Sometimes you may be just an inch away from being saved.
Every person who has every felt disturbed and suicidal and did not take the step, probably feels good about not taking the step. So if you ask me personally I would differ and say we should help each other till the last moment, never give up.
Having worked as a volunteer on a counselling service for a couple of years I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you are 100% wrong there I'm afraid. Some certainly. Everybody - no.
This is the ultimate example of survivorship bias. Please don't use this line of "argument."
In this case, lets consider all humans who ever considered suicide. Now, while it's true that we can only observe those who did not commit suicide, we do have a substantial amount of data on humans in general that we can work from. If this claim has you skeptical (ie "successful suicides are a separate reference class"), I will remind you we have data on suicidal people who were forcibly restrained, which you are encouraged to look up.
So now let's look at the core of brainless' argument: people change with time. If you look at happiness rates for quadriplegic patients (or any of the hedonic treadmill research), you'll see that your happiness levels aren't so impacted by life events. This effect is present in both the population of completed suicides, and aborted suicides, and is likely a lot of the causal force brainless is trying to reference.
Which is to say that it's highly likely that people who kill themselves counterfactually wish they didn't.
So I personally believe whatever happened is because he felt this was the only escape. To me, again me personally, suicide is no glorified option.
This news is horrifying and only sadness to me, I don't think it was a healthy choice.
We really need to address the stigma of depression in this country and make it easy and painless to ask for help. That help should be free and readily available.
I don't think suicide is the answer, but I can at least see the point of view; after all, I could've seen myself going down the same path, if I hadn't figured out how to cope.
Other comments like "What a waste" and "This didn't need to happen" are borderline insulting. Whether someone realizes it or not, those are incredibly disrespectful comments.
But depressed persons who receive treatment are less likely to commit suicide.
That's the bottom line. We can't save everyone. But we can save more than just letting it happen.
But might help get someone to next week or next month or next year where they might feel different about life.
This is one of those things where you don't "do nothing because you cannot completely solve the problem".
I do disagree though - suicides of the young/healthy are often a sad waste, depression needs perspective which you cannot find by simply looking in the mirror.
I think the very existence of "professional therapy" is a factor in FAVOR of depression and suicide.
It means that as a society we have compartmentalised social life, so that the help one previously expected from his family/friends (and ultimately: from the way he can structure his life) is now to be had from paid professionals (or tacky volunteers).
The fact that there are specialists means that today, we have accepted is as what it its: a disease whose symptoms, professionals can, at least, try to decrease or even eliminate.
Do not mistake 'tiredness', 'a season of bad temper', 'the normal stress during a crisis' with a real permanent disorder. Because you may make more harm than good.
While there are cases of physiological depression (an actual illness) in the staggering majority of cases it's not an illness but an easy cop-out to deny any major wrong with societal structure and the modern way of life.
"The fact that there are specialists" just means that the medical industry has found another profitable malaise to exploit -- similar to all those BS ADD prescriptions.
Ironically, Aaron Swartz conveyed this quite well in one of his posts "fix the factory, not the workers":
"And when the system isn’t working, it doesn’t make sense to just yell at the people in it — any more than you’d try to fix a machine by yelling at the gears. True, sometimes you have the wrong gears and need to replace them, but more often you’re just using them in the wrong way. When there’s a problem, you shouldn’t get angry with the gears — you should fix the machine."
However, I just wanted to point out that there are REAL depressions, as you acknowledge (my fear was that you were not acknowledging even this).
So I see we agree but I had my fears.
Ah, sure, we agree, there are real depressions.
I just wanted to point out that the absurd numbers of depressions one heres (up to 20-30% of the population) are based non on clinical conditions but on a personal life and/or society out of balance, and are fixable by fixing those, instead of treating the person.
What if the depressed person is estranged from his family and friends? Or what if he has none? What if he feels he can't talk to either?
You overestimate the help that family and friends can give, even if a depressed person is willing and able to go to them for help. They rarely have the training or understanding of human psychology to do more than provide the equivalent of first-aid.
Expecting family or friends to help someone overcome severe depression is like expecting them to be able to successfully perform surgery. Sure, if they happen to have significant medical training, they might succeed. But in most cases such expectations are completely unrealistic.
Then those are symptoms of a larger personal/societal wrong, and talking to a therapist is just a band-aid applied ad-hoc.
All this as a long ways to get around to saying: I disagree with anything that may consider suicide appropriate in any situation as one persons personal decision and situation becomes an example or model that someone in a similar situation could look to. But, I also don't think anyone should say a particular person should not have committed suicide. Instead, what should be said is a particular person should not have felt the need to commit suicide.
Last fall and winter, JSTOR experienced a significant misuse of our database. A substantial portion of our publisher partners’ content was downloaded in an unauthorized fashion using the network at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one of our participating institutions. The content taken was systematically downloaded using an approach designed to avoid detection by our monitoring systems.
The downloaded content included more than 4 million articles, book reviews, and other content from our publisher partners' academic journals and other publications; it did not include any personally identifying information about JSTOR users.
We stopped this downloading activity, and the individual responsible, Mr. Swartz, was identified. We secured from Mr. Swartz the content that was taken, and received confirmation that the content was not and would not be used, copied, transferred, or distributed.
The criminal investigation and today’s indictment of Mr. Swartz has been directed by the United States Attorney’s Office. It was the government’s decision whether to prosecute, not JSTOR’s. As noted previously, our interest was in securing the content. Once this was achieved, we had no interest in this becoming an ongoing legal matter.
I'm shocked and horrified by this news too. It's awful that Aaron died. But it's foolish to blame anybody but him for his actions in this.
With a more realistic and efficient judicial system, people would be under a lot less unnecessary stress and there'd be fewer straws to break the proverbial camels' backs. Being threatened with 35 years in prison for what he did is indicative of a sick judicial system.
I mostly don't believe what Aaron did was a crime at all. If it was wrong, it was a civil tort against JSTOR or JSTOR's authors, who declined to give a shit (and I suspect most authors in JSTOR would support him). If it was a crime, it was a very minor crime -- not a 35 year federal felony.
I'm sad Aaron is gone, and angry he didn't fight this to the end. He probably could have won, or at least ended up with a suspended sentence or something like that, and this could have been a catalyst for reform of copyright laws (if not general laws, the scientific-papers-created-with-government-funding laws).
At the end its all about some prosecutor increasing his kill count.
(If you hacked in or bribed an employee and a trade secret and started making something in competition after someone spent 30 years researching, there's probably a civil case there)
I would say that it was about as serious as parking in a loading zone. We need to stop this nonsense where we expect people with no legal background to pay attention to copyrights. We don't tell people they will go to jail for 35 years if they park in a loading zone, nor do we threaten them with prison if they routinely park in loading zones; we give them a small but annoying fine and send them on their way.
That's what makes this so tragic. Aaron Swartz was one of the few people willing to actually do this, even when it meant poking at a sleeping bear, one that, in the end, he couldn't face.
The last option has the side effect of bleeding the existing one dry through inaction (within the boundary of the current system). It is similar to a software fork. We have seen many a project where the ones in charge have become rigid enough in their ways that, for all intents and purposes, the cost and probability of convincing them outweighs the cost of detaching from the infrastructure and moving in a new direction. For example, XFree86 and X.Org.
An issue that we face with activism is that the structure in place is supported by individuals with orders of magnitude more wealth and influence than what the activists have access to. This is evident in the case of Mr. Swartz where he was rapidly running out of money to fight his battle in court. We are at a disadvantaged position in that sense.
As such, every [insert your unit of currency] we pay in taxes go towards feeding the policies we so emphatically disagree with. With a nod to The Art Of War, a valid tactic in such a case is to starve your enemy and wage a war of attrition - in other words, reduce their material wealth while increasing our own. The end result is that nobody gets hurt yet they slowly lose their influence and the new guard have the opportunity and resources to build theirs.
A fundamental misconception of Bitcoin is that using Bitcoin as a currency will magically obliterate the Government's ability to determine income taxes. The government never has tracked currency for the purposes of determining income. They track transactions in whatever currency or assets the transactions are denominated. Thus, governments have been able to determine taxes since the days of barter, and they will continue to be able to determine taxes until long after Bitcoin is digital dust.
Many people who committed atrocities were just following orders or doing their job.
Also, notice that it was not "We're giving you 35 years in jail" it is "The absolute most that you could possibly receive for this crime is 35 years". I somehow suspect that number is far higher for rape cases but, as your comment demonstrates, that number is not necessarily indicative that that's how long you would serve.
Since when was it their "job" to tactfully subject a civilian under stress of facing criminal law with potential 35 years of imprisonment?
Apart from above, the intent to know the people and faces behind such a bench (read DOJ) is not the same as blaming them for the part called suicide in this entire story.
We should definitely know who said what in the case, just to estimate how much weight one added into the sinking of the ship. Blaming justice system "DOJ" is like letting the real criminals getting away with it, however you may want to put it.
I think it's important to bring up names and faces of people (state agents) who make/made laws as well. As someone pointed out somewhere on HN today - "killing in the name of duty is an absurd bug in human psyche. The Lucifer effect? . Those in public duty should probably be publicly visible along with their actions."
[Edited at few places]
It would be interesting to know how much political and lobbying interests influence those prosecutions. I could not find anything of substance on this topic.
JSTOR can of course officially deny everything, but other publishers, along with MPAA would probably have a vested interest in turning him into an example.
Presumably, from what I had just read here, Aaron's political views wouldn't exactly been too popular with the US govt -- maybe this is just enough to put his case at the top of the stack.
Yes, it would be interesting to learn more about whatever behind the scenes machinations may have taken place here.
Clearly, he was made an example of. I suspect, however, that the "who, why, how" will only much later - if ever - come to light.
The federal prosecutors? The division head? The attorney general?
How do you plan to identify the parties bent on indicting him? You certainly can't assume the prosecutors took this on as some sort of personal crusade.
Assuming you can identify the individuals most responsible, what do you plan to do to punish them for their actions? The implication of getting "names and faces" out in the public domain is potentially serious.
I've seen this sentiment echoed variously up and down this thread, and it is scary. Inaction is not the appropriate response here, but neither is the public stoning you appear to be proposing.
We should always know who said what in the case. It's important to know who led the indictment, who pushed a criminal case instead of a civil suit and so on...
Carmen Ortiz's blind ambition has caused her to run roughshod over people's freedom in the past: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/news/141253-15th-annual-muzzle-...
We can only discourage the over-zealousness of prosecutors by making sure that it becomes a career limiting move instead of a career advancing one.
Lessig was kind enough in his writeup to not name names: http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/40347463044/prosecutor-as-bull... but this kindness is both undeserved and unwise. Carmen thinks big convictions will get her a federal judgeship or other appointment. The public needs to make sure this isn't the case.
Or you could just take a step back to pause and lament the toll of depression.
Could you elaborate on that?
Aaron was a terrific young man. He contributed a lot to the world in his short life and I regret the loss of all the things he had yet to accomplish. As you can imagine, we all miss him dearly. The grief is unfathomable.
He did more in his short life than most of us will do in much longer ones, but he'll inspire for many years to come.
I wish you and yours much strength.
You should always be proud of him.
Your son will never die. For the soul never dies.
Also his beauty lives in our memory, and learned aspiration.
This world wil never be the same again, as he left a very strong mark, the mark of a beautiful soul. The world has been touched. Your son is a legend.
Your son brought me closer to you.
Many people had immense respect for your son. He was seen as a good person. Clever, decent, principled, kind, generous.
> The grief is unfathomable.
I cannot understand the depths of that grief. But yes, the grief is unfathomable.