breaking bad habits like Doodle and Facebook with plugins?

Mat Witts admin at
Mon Feb 5 11:57:32 UTC 2018

Hi Florian,

> [...] people have the right to give up their freedoms, but I don't
know why they would from a theoretical perspective.

Well, with the obvious possibility of again sounding a bit like a
lecturer with a hangover who has stumbled into the wrong theatre - I
have to say there are many theoretical perspectives available in terms
of accounting for / interrogating the human person. His makes it hard
for me to usefully grasp your perplexity. I think the best domains
capable of articulating much of this are social/political science and
moral philosophy but anthropology, psychology, biology and a few others
I have failed to bring to mind here may also have a bearing 

My comment about ideas of freedom having within them the seed of a
paradox - definitively the right to refuse the terms of freedom as
represented I think is slightly socratic/analytic in tone (which many
people still have a fondness for I think?). If I have you right, I think
you are suggesting that quibbling with end users about the quality of
their 'choice' (ahem) to say, use facebook over other free alternatives
would provide good evidence that the 'logic' that makes the paradox
visible can also be dismissed as 'impractical' and 'misguided' (which it
might be) - so either would prove you right.

The trouble is that the motivations (impractical or misguided as they
might be in your view) for human persons to refuse their rights then
there are again, many situations where this might work seems to me to
rather more counter the rationale based on the assumption of perfect
information symmetry that is confounding you and others. The politics of
the architecture of choice is interesting because often what appear as
choices are not choices at all in that decisions are made due to the
ambush of our cognitive apparatus by affective states, also manipulation
by dominant actors and so on and so forth, (behavioural insights -
'nudges' etc.) but even if we ignore all of that (and there are of
course many reasons why we ought not to since these factors perhaps
account for the majority of what you might see as sub-optimal choices)
we are still left looking at an array of what could be described as
enlightened choices for a human person when it comes to abstaining from
the ideal of freedom.

There are many cases where individuals have sacrificed themselves for
the sake of another, or a cause and although I understand you are not in
favour of such things, the power of the consensus on individual
sacrifice, both religious (Jesus on the cross, jihad etc.) and secular
(civil war, world wars) is perhaps ignored in this narrative of the
ideal of a rational human person, since it is connected (again rightly
or wrongly) with strongly motivating feelings like love, fear, power
(dominance), excitement and so forth. 

> I was talking about how someone might decide for themselves that they
want to use proprietary software X, but they can decide differently at
any later point.

Well, I've lost the context for this comment but taking as it is, and
depending on what use you had in mind, I don't see only one direction of
travel here, I see only countercurrents where people may use proprietary
and/or free software combined, interchangeably and alternately and it's
the job of organizations like the FSFE to make the benefits clear, which
sometimes they do really well, and sometimes that message gets lost in
the mixed imperatives of being an employee of the FSFE, an assembly
members, perhaps a small business owner working on our own account and
an FSFE member which I think Daniel is doing well to point out and
possibly seek to change

>> Proprietary software has to happen, because that's the way
international copyright law is configured,

> Do you mean "has to happen" in the sense of "it is inevitable" or do
you mean it ought to happen?

Both. I don't see the moral gap at all. The challenge for us all I think
is to lobby for policy changes to ensure large populations generally get
what they need from Free Software, by enforcing policy and cultural
change in those institutions, rather than putting too much effort into
manipulating (or perhaps 'massaging' is better?) technologically naive
end-users and attempting to block them with plugins and so forth. That
is a totalitarian impulse in my view and ought to be curtailed - even if
you want to give them that 'choice' (which may act more like a 'belief'

Keeping on message for me is about highlighting the severe threat
Facebook is to individual security and privacy and to argue for change
at the company through political engagement with governments and INGO's,
I don't buy the privatization of responsibility here, it is our
institutions that need to change here and individuals ought to be able
to make their choices as freely as is the case now - but using more FS
when they are living their lives.   

> The idea was to write a plugin that people can voluntarily install and
then it would warn them of potentially harmful practices.

Sure, but that would still control their connection in an automated
fashion, making it indistinguishable form the sort of tricks FB uses to
track people.

FS advocates could do no more harm to their cause in trying to control
end users - albeit in what they believe to be superior software choices
and functionalities. This impulse to control has to be made obsolete
before we open up the terminal to write either proprietary or free code IMO.

We can continue to disagree on how best to achieve this... but I don't
think anyone in the FS movement (if I can even call it that) would
welcome losing sight of the imperative to help set computer users free -
in a non-ideological sense - which essentially is about orgs. like the
FSFE giving up control too - and that is something that even the FSFE I
think struggles with at times - not least in the way it is incorporated
and the ongoing problems with member representation, voice and direction?

/ m

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