The man never misses an opportunity to try and get people thinking about the issues that matter.
I'm unconvinced. The majority of people are sharing more about themselves online. Not less.
Outside this niche, people seem pretty uninterested that governments monitor the internet. They pretty much assumed as much.
Stallman is just always swimming against the tide of what people actually want.
These two are not at odds with each other. The whole idea of "look at these people with 15,000 Foursquare checkins complain that the NSA is watching them" is fallacious. People choose to share their location with Foursquare; they don't choose (and currently cannot choose) to share their location with the NSA.
Instantaneous perfect replication of massive strings of digits (into which meaningful information is encoded) is a double-edged sword, and it's scary for the same reasons it's valuable, and that's what people need to be educated on if they want to able to conduct private business on a major public communications platform.
I love Bruce Scheiner's quote: "trying to make digital bits uncopyable is like trying to make water not wet". Fast, viral, sometimes uncontrollable replication is an inherent property of the medium we've established. It cannot be extracted without fundamentally modifying the essence of the 'net. We must learn to accept and cope with this.
This isn't about making bits uncopyable, this is about keeping our employees on task and within scope.
It's just like going out on a public square -- you may hope that you'll have basic dignities respected and that no nefarious or malicious players are observing/recording, but since you can't be sure you must take reasonable precautions against potentially egregious misuses.
If Congress says the NSA is no longer allowed to this, it doesn't really affect anything -- because the NSA or a close cousin will most likely defy the essence of such an order via loophole exploitation, etc., but mostly because any reasonable expectation of privacy from any and all entities, intel service or not, while sending comms through a public platform like the internet, requires heavy, explicit defensive measures like correct usage of PGP.
That's how people need to view the network, because that's the reality. In almost all cases, your packets go through a dozen or more routers all around the world before they hit the intended recipient, and it's ridiculous to presume that none of these many nodes are an entry point for an actor who may not have your best interest at heart. It's like going out to the mall naked, and getting upset that someone took and published photos. We may hope that the people at the mall at a given time would not do this, but people realize that this is not realistic and wear clothing to prevent the exposure of their nude bodies. They take the initiative directly and personally.
That is how the internet must be viewed. If you don't want something exposed, you can hope that no "bad people" will come in contact with it, but it's much wiser to personally ensure it's covered before you take it out "in public" (aka, bouncing between dozens of anonymous nodes, sitting on a server which any employee can access (including the cleaning lady, or someone posing as the cleaning lady...), exposed to hundreds of "friends", all of whom have total freedom to copy those bits and replicate them elsewhere, intentionally or not).
In fact we can do both - develop tools to make centralization of collected data harder and develop laws that make that centralization harder. Neither will ever be perfect, but the effort is still vitally important.
People get to choose to share or not to share, but when they scream it out in public they do not get to choose who hears it.
The flap over the last few weeks has been about government surveillance of information that was not intended to be public. Private email, private IMs, private Facebook messages, etc. Where Americans do have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Isn't that the mark of a thinking man? A drug dealer gives people what they want; a thinker tells them what they should want. So what if they don't listen? That's the normal division of labor: the prophet warns and the people ignore him.
For most people, they just want a computer/games console/cellphone that works, and operates in the way they want it to. Whether the source code is free or not is completely irrelevant, if it fulfils the purpose.
If I buy a plastic toy for my kids, I don't feel the need to have the schematics, plastic moulds, and full assembly details for it. It's enough that it fulfils the purpose for which it was made.
Personally, I think you have to trust other people at some point. You have to trust that a hot wheels toy car won't have a secret hidden camera transmitting back to the government, just like you have to trust closed source software.
Fucking hell, even of Steam, the popular game distribution and DRM software (which distributes primarily DRM'd closed source games) running on Linux, he says:
“This development can do both harm and good. It might encourage GNU/Linux users to install these games, and it might encourage users of the games to replace Windows with GNU/Linux,” he wrote. “My guess is that the direct good effect will be bigger than the direct harm. But there is also an indirect effect: what does the use of these games teach people in our community?”
Would he use Steam? I can assure you not. Even so, he thinks that Steam being on Linux will likely do more good than harm. This is not extremism, this is pragmatism.
I guess you did say 'major,' but http://www.gnu.org/distros/free-distros.html
Stallman doesn't care that you don't care about getting the source code; that's just not the point at all. Also, Stallman's issue about free software is not just about not being spied upon -- and also his ideology mostly deals with software. :)
Torturing your analogy further, you don't care about the provenance of the plastic toy until it turns out that the factory in China used lead-based paint to decorate it. As an average statistical westerner, you are very angry when you learn this and want to know why your children were not protected.
Stallman is merely stating that you may want to check that your Hot Wheels car isn't going to take fifty IQ points every time your kid sticks it in his mouth.
(You don't even want to know about Barbie.)
Or worse, the trusted software company goes out of business and it turns out they were gathering up all sorts of data, and you didn't know that because it was closed source, and the way you find it out is that someone buys it all at the bankruptcy auction and you start getting a dozen calls a day and your identity gets stolen.
Also - seriously? You never fix your kids' toys?
Just as I don't need source code to modify/analyse software.
Weren't these the guys signing onto prism in what? 2007?
Stallman is extreme in his views. This has always tempered my respect for him. Gotta say though, he seems less extreme and more insightful given recent revelations.
Probably the reason that you can afford raising kids and buying them toys, is that at some point of your life you got educated, you learned to read, write, you learned math and everything else needed to land your job.
If one can hide how he made a plastic toy through legislation, then tomorrow the legislation may be used to control what one is allowed to learn.
True equality requires access to and sharing of knowledge.
I sincerely doubt that. If the toy was made by child labor, would you still buy it? What if the toy was created from oil in war zones with child militias? Or what if the toy was made by companies that dumped oil in the oceans?
If you do indeed say yes that all you can about is the functionality of the toy, then I would claim that it is some strange priorities. Otherwise, you do have priorities other than the functionality of the toy.
For most people, they see a product for sale, they recognize that they want said product, and they purchase it. Buyers implicitly assume that the product was developed and produced basically ethically or its purveyors would be imprisoned, and that's pretty much as much thought as you can expect from the market. That's why regulatory bodies like the EPA and FDA exist.
I think more people would say the priorities of a curmudgeon who will not purchase an occasional gift for his son due to corporate politics are uncalibrated, rather than the priorities of one who simply buys the desired gift.
Dude, but did you hear about the recent surveillance leaks? ;-) What was revealed is almost exactly analogous to toy having the secret hidden camera. I am puzzled a bit - you say that you have to trust other people at some point, just after revelations that we can't trust them. ;)
But if you believe that the data collected about you will never by misused by anyone, then fine - but we shouldn't dismiss Stallman's concerns, especially when they turned out to be almost exactly true.
Is it important when I buy a wooden table that I'm given full details of how it was made, how the pieces fit together, what glue was used, what size router bits, etc?
Now the species of the tree your table's wood was taken confers it with quite distinct qualities and, some would dare to say, "personality". The particular process used to assemble it may or may not imbue it with additional properties by performing (potentially nefarious) rituals. Ditto for the different substances that may be used as glue. The router bits may have magic properties themselves, even if the table is otherwise ordinarily Muggle-made.
The problem is not that all this could happen. The problem is your mental model of a wooden table is so dissimilar to reality that you have no way of making informed decisions on what piece of furniture to bring into your home/life.
What if you wanted to build your own wooden table? Maybe you don't need the original schematics, but should you be both technologically and legally prevented from examining your own table to learn how it was constructed?
What if (for whatever perverse reason) your wooden table did in fact come pre-installed with a miniature surveillance camera that sent footage of you back to the manufacturer. Should you be both technologically and legally prevented from removing such a device from your table?
Allowing reverse engineering is a matter of allowing people freedom.
Trying to force people to provide source code for everything is the opposite.
The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
If anyone believes that, they're effectively saying that it is absolutely impossible for a human to program in machine code. Which is obviously false.
Also, I believe that most EULAs for non-free software have clauses which specifically forbid any attempt to reverse engineer it. I could be wrong, of course, but I doubt it.
A perfect demonstration of why "open source" is problematic. Stallman doesn't care especially about open source as the way things are made. He cares about freedom. If you can use your table freely how you like, great. Software happens to require access to source to preserve that freedom. Whether it was written using open-source methods is irrelevant to Free Software.
I get that importance is subjective. That being the case, why would you choose to support your own opinions by appealing to the cloudy ignorance of the majority?
My opinion: some tides suck and should be swam against. Sometimes it takes an uncomfortable amount of effort to avoid drowning.
If you don't want to be monitored, either encrypt things, or don't post it online.
And i guess that you, like me, don't know the future; The question if there will always be government surveillance depends on our collective decisions and good portion of historical luck, but it isn't for sure.
Honestly, I don't see why it is is scarier to think Eric Holder might have access to your data or Eric Schmidt ... Anyway, I think people do care.
And? What does that have to do with anything? I can share 99.99% of my personal information, but if I want that .01% to stay private, I have the right to keep it private. So what if people have gone from routinely sharing 75% to sharing 98%... pretty much everybody has something they don't share. That's what is at issue.
So it matters even more. People need to be educated.
I can understand where you are coming from here, people are submitting themselves to this kind of monitoring even though they have options right now to baffle it. It seems people either don't know enough to do so or don't care. That can be frustrating, but it's not grounds to say: "You've done it to yourself, this is what you wanted."
People won't start using "free and open software/hardware/web services exclusively", because none of that matters for the end users. I do like and use open source for infrastructure, this is where it shines. But as Joe User I prefer highly polished (and paid) apps to "free" software which is powered by advertising. I am sick of this "advertising will pay for everything" world with ever increasing noise and subpar quality.
How about paying some real money for some real work?
(but i totally agree with you)
First we all knew it would happen, then we found out it was happening, and now we're saying thank god for Stallman or we'd have never known and lets be sure to listen to him from now on? Stallman's idea of freedom doesn't work unless everyone gets involved. We live in the real world here and we know that isn't happening. He needs to live and let live a little.
There are however people that don't accept everything that's going on in the world and will fight for change. And they DO make change, ever heard about GNU/Linux?
I can host it on my own server and not share the data, or make a fork which respects user privacy and compete with you. Failing that, I can verify any claims you make about the integrity of the data - what is kept and how it is stored - and petition for appropriate change.
Its called a salary.
People do not share his principles, or worse, they give lip service to the principles but compromise. This creates internal dissonance that is difficult to reconcile without admitting that your principles do not in fact include "freedom" of this sort.
We tend to get unhappy when we believe we value something only to be shown that we do not. We can be angry at ourselves (depressed, sad, etc.) or we can look outwards.
RMS is not a sympathetic figure, so if one were to look at a target of ridicule, he is just about perfect. Stinky pinko whining hippy couch-surfer with a thing for parrots.
If only we could eliminate this harsh parrot bashing from HN :-)
Since they live forever, you know your 'pretty bird' is deciding which bits of you to eat first. Talking is their way of testing if you're dead yet.
Stallman, however, is not the president and not Brad Pitt, so he has a harder time achieving celebrity status.
You never know, Marilyn could go that way. Everyone knows her name, but I'd bet already many people don't even really remember how she looked, sounded like, or what she acted in.
And the developed world in general is filter bubbled by the mass media.
One could say that an intellectual's goal should be to get as little filter bubbled as possible, but then we'd all end up like the cranky people on lesswrong.com.
I'm sure you or any follower of Stallman could debate but this has been debated with Stallman before and Stallman's response is basically (paraphrasing) "yeah, well that's the way it is." If Stallman had his way en toto, then entire industries would crumble; maybe this would be great in some egalitarian fantasy but ... If you actually examine RMS' position, it is much more radical than you might think if you have only a cursory understanding and Stallman does not attempt to hide these ramifications, he merely claims his view is morally superior and the consequences be damned.
On the contrary, tech iterates most rapidly when there are no barriers to sharing. "Against Intellectual Monopoly" has many great examples of this. I think my favorite was about the steam engine; originally patented, it didn't change the world much until ~40 years later (IIRC) when the patents ran out, and a ton of different companies could manufacture them.
It's the same way with software: which stack lets you move more quickly:
1. IBM-branded big iron hardware, Microsoft OS, Microsoft language, Oracle Database
2. commodity hardware, Linux, LAMP
Honestly, on some level, while I do admire Stallman in a certain way, seeing otherwise intelligent people seriously defend the possibility of enacting this paradigm is sort of a totally fruitless endeavor. I mean, I myself couldn't imagine living in such a world. As much as I love open source (which is not something Stallman things is even minutely worthwhile) and can, from a distance, admire the notion of FSF, I can't help but think how crazy it would be for me to seriously think of myself as some sort sinner for even pondering the idea of developing a piece of software and distributing it without the source; it's sort of hard to take seriously for me. :)
Stallman's views are pragmatic: some people would lose their job but that's the price to pay to get closer to an ideal society. That's not more extremist than socialism.
If you want to say "Stallman's ideology is morally right and consequences be damned" then fine but don't sit here and compare proprietary software developers to hitmen. Let's be serious.
Assuming you're from the USA, if you can't remember who was president in 1913 (Hint: there was a rather significant war we sat out until the big finish.) you're just demonstrating the stereotypes about our ignorance.
How did Jimmy Wales got there before Stallman, using an ideology that was pretty much ushered by Stallman as Guerrilla Warfare?
I know that Stallman has his fair share of quirks, who doesn't? But I believe in today's world, he is more of a forgotten hero, whose "quriks" get highlighted more than his long list of achievements and just for inspiring people to join the bandwagon of open source coding.
He didn't. He's also being inducted this year.
It only started last year.
Congratulations offered, I would also like to point out that his concerns over freedom, control of your own software and data now seems even more relevant with the recent disclosures about the NSA.
I like that guy.
But they were between a rock and a hard place last year, given that the FSF was itself founded by RMS. They probably waited a year to avoid immediate whining of "RMS created an award to give to himself".
I honestly believe if that "read everything offline" system was proposed on some popular productivity blog as a new life hack, hipsters would be all over it.
"Aaron Swartz (posthumous)
Co-authored version of RSS"
But he still seems to be falling victim to the "Smarter people are more likely to believe in false conspiracy theories" rule.
In his post against Ubuntu's local searches being sent to Amazon, he claimed as-a-matter-of-fact that Windows sends local searches to an internet server and his friend proved so. This may be true in Windows 8.1 but is certainly not true beforehand. I figure that if someone else said something similar about FOSS in the same casual way, RMS himself would characterize(rightly so) it as FUD tactics.
Still, I do think that we need more people like him rather than everyone else who seem to be aligning themselves with some or the other corporate entity and thus lose their moral compass in the process.
It feels sort of weird to see such claims about a guy who was hacking on computer systems that were almost two decades ahead of everything else. (But that probably depends on what one sees as "technology". Shrinking transistor size is definitely technological progress, but I don't think that this alone has ever had a qualitative influence on the impact of computing systems - unlike their ubiquity, which, on the other hand, is not as much a technological advancement as it is a social one.)
Seeing the source and nothing more doesn't qualify as 'free software'
If he was only representing himself, as if he was just a writer or a programmer, you'd be right.
Yet when it comes to Stallman, his detractors seem to focus on ridiculing his person rather than argue against what he is saying.
If I find anything disgusting, it's such cowardly behaviour.
Obviously these have an impact on his ability to be a spokesperson because they are a constant distraction.
Why is it so insane to suggest he's moved to an "emeritus" position so someone new can push the organization forward?
It's ironic that an organization dedicated to change is reluctant to change anything of this nature.
As demonstrated recently, even the Pope is capable of stepping aside when it's best.
I've not been a HN member for long but the support for Stallman here is one of the most surprising things I've seen about this place.
For example, Dennis Kucinich made a great Congressman. That being said, he would most definitely not make a good President.
Richard Stallman is the same way. Is it a terrible idea to take all of his ideas and mold the programming community in his image? Yes. It would be impractical and completely insane to expect everyone to work for free. But that doesn't mean that we should completely discount everything that he says. There are great ideas in there right alongside the craziness.
Do you have any examples of him saying that code should be free of cost. As far as I know he has no problem with people charging for programs, only that the source code should be made available to recipients, along with rights to modify and redistribute (the latter obviously poses problems for business-schemes based upon artificial scarcity).
I also seem to recall him arguing for micropayment schemes to be used to finance developers (and artists), this is something which could perhaps become a reality in the (hopefully not too distant) future, as shown by successful kickstarter type projects like for example openshot: