On receiving an interview request from Uber

Charles Cossé ccosse at gmail.com
Mon Dec 19 04:35:40 UTC 2016

Greetings,  at some point I will become guilty of engaging in redundant
conversation <https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/edu-eu/2015-02/index.html>.
Initially in this thread I merely sought to agree that Uber were
undermining not only other taxi drivers, but their own taxi drivers, as I
believe that they would ultimately like to have completely driverless
vehicles.   And just a quick idea (O.T. digression) for anyone living in
the San Francisco area (I know this is FSFE!) -- you could take out
full-coverage insurance on your car and "stalking" those autonomous Uber
vehicles with intent to cause them to collide with you (when unoccupied, of
course) and thereby enjoy a little extra spending money.  Just an idea ...
but now back to the point(s).

I just refreshed my memory with many of the links you provided, J.B., as
well as reading your blog, and my previous conversation with FSFE folks
referenced above.  It turns out that I don't suffer from any
misunderstandings after all.  Rather it's just a solid disagreement with
Part "B" of FSF(E) doctrine, in which FSF advocates for the continued
maintenance and availability of pure GNU/Linux systems (Part "A"), but then
oversteps by applying an un-proveable philosophical value judgement which
essentially says that "anything else is unjust"  (Part "B").

Statements like "Free Software supports education, proprietary software
forbids" [1] <https://www.gnu.org/education/> strike me as outrageous and
counter-productive.  I understand that what is meant there is merely
computer science education and not education in general, but even that goes
too far.  If I want to put a new version of my FSF-registed
<https://directory.fsf.org/wiki/TuxMathScrabble> education software online
without GPL-ing it, that certainly isn't "forbidding" any education that it
was ever intended for, i.e. kids to *use* the software to learn math.

GNU/Linux and FLOSS are both great and the world is a better place because
of them.  I will always be an advocate.  But I cannot accept the second,
supposedly altruistic, tenet of FSF(E) doctrine, which asserts that
anything else is unjust / unethical /immoral.  Those are un-proveable
philosophical value statements that have nothing to do with software.  They
only serve to alienate people from FSF(E)'s cause.  Not to mention that
they unnecessarily complicate ones ability to understand the whole
concept.  It's essentially a religious statement that has no logical
connection to a transparent operating system and associated software.  Why
cling to that so fervently for so long?  It's the same as saying that we
should stop eating organically grown food because there's a Window's system
involved in the food chain.

What if life on earth was in danger and couldn't be saved because of
FSF-induced gridlock, i.e. because in order to save life on earth we would
have to do something "unethical / immoral", namely use non-free software
... at what point does it become acceptable?  Why bother with the ethical
arguments at all?  Just advocate for the transparency and more people will
join the cause.

Regards to all,

On Sun, Dec 18, 2016 at 4:00 PM, J.B. Nicholson <jbn at forestfield.org> wrote:

> Charles Cossé wrote:
>> I get the feeling that the FSF communities hold an underlying belief
>> that the freedom being espoused is somehow fundamental, as in a
>> universal truth or moral oblication.
> Software freedom is an ethical issue for the free software movement. This
> is one of the defining characteristics of this social movement and one of
> the things that distinguishes it from the younger, proprietor-friendly,
> right-wing business reactionary group called "open source" which talks
> about a developmental methodology in an attempt to speak more to business
> interests by way of developers.
> But regardless of how hard-line of a stance each individual takes, isn't
>> there some irony there?  After all, "freedom" should also mean "freedom
>> to license ones software however one pleases"?
> You need to catch up on what discussions have been going on for the past
> few decades. This issue is well-covered in https://www.gnu.org/philosophy
> /freedom-or-power.html. In short, no, licensing is not a freedom it's a
> power.
> You could also listen to any of the FSF representative's speeches given
> over the past 20+ years many of which are archived at
> https://audio-video.gnu.org/ in formats that favor free software.
> Another point which I'd like to discuss is: Where does FSF draw the line?
>> Are there not some instances where not revealing everything is alright?
> There are distinctions to be made between generally-useful scientific
> knowledge, artistic & political expression, and information about personal
> lives. Many speeches at the location I've already pointed to cover this. In
> the context of this thread about cars, an ethical arrangement would be one
> where the car owner has complete corresponding source code to their car and
> that software is free software. This arrangement, had it existed for the
> owners of VWs and other makes, probably would have prevented the scandal
> where VW (and others) cheated environmental testing. So we know what power
> proprietary software allows automakers to get away with -- "proprietary
> software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous" as Brad Kuhn
> said in http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2016/08/13/does-not-kill.html.
> We put our faith in closed systems every day, and software is just one
>> type. It oseems like this same notion of freedom would/should apply
>> everywhere, if it is real or universal, and not just to software.
> You should reconsider your use of the word "closed" instead preferring
> "proprietary" or "non-free" because they're clearer and refer to software
> issues that existed well prior to open source. These terms also make no
> reference to open source, and that's appropriate because you're discussing
> the very thing that open source wants to avoid (software freedom) and
> distinguishing along a line that open source doesn't want to distinguish --
> whether computer users are free to run, share, inspect, and modify the
> software on their computers or not.
> Open source doesn't mind proprietary software because for them this issue
> comes down to a developmental methodology which means they might ask for
> permission to develop the software too, but if they don't get that
> permission they're fine endorsing whatever a proprietary software business
> says should be endorsed (see recent announcements of Microsoft's
> proprietary software running on GNU/Linux systems for recent examples).
> This is why proprietary software businesses like open source; putting a
> shine on preserving user subjugation is much like businesses that want to
> come off as environmentally-friendly but don't want to make any substantive
> changes in what they do so they engage in what's known as "greenwashing".
> "The appearance of doing the right thing is eventually more important than
> doing the right thing." as Brad Kuhn pointed out when discussing this
> similarity in his talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ItFjEG3LaA
> calling open source "openwashing". Both the older
> https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-software-for-freedom.html and newer
> https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html essay
> also address how denying a user's software freedom is entirely compatible
> with open source but not at all a part of the free software movement.
> Unfortunately the only current source I know of for Kuhn's talk is
> YouTube. I recommend using "youtube-dl" to download and see it so you can
> avoid Google's proprietary code, tracking, and specify the format you want.
> http://mirror.linux.org.au/pub/linux.conf.au/2015/Case_Room_
> 2/Thursday/Considering_the_Future_of_Copyleft_How_Will_
> The_Next_Generation_Perceive_GPL.webm used to work but appears down now.
> Taking the case of elevator software, the elevator company would pay the
>> developer then give-away their intellectual property.
> Copyrights, patents, mask rights, and other grants of power exist. These
> various grants of power last for different times, cover different things,
> and cost different amounts of money to obtain and enforce, so there are
> more factors separating them than uniting them. Therefore mashing them
> together (as the term "intellectual property" does) doesn't convey that you
> understand what you're talking about. Consider adding
> https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/words-to-avoid.html#IntellectualProperty
> to your reading list.
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