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Re: What would an "An Official" GNU Emacs Book look like?

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: What would an "An Official" GNU Emacs Book look like?
Date: Fri, 22 May 2015 04:39:47 +0900

Richard Stallman writes:

 >   >  > It would be good to show how nonfree software is at the root of this
 >   >  > wrong.
 >   > No, it wouldn't, because it simply isn't true.

And you reply:

 > Of course it is true.  If the software in those devices were free,
 > the users could fix these problems.

 >   > Those of us who care have already rooted our phones,

And you reply:

 > I suspect that only a fraction of those who care somewhat
 > have done this.

You really can't have it both ways.  The latter is precisely the point
I started with.  I didn't claim that non-free software is a good
thing, simply that the reason for people being consumers isn't the
non-free software.  It's that they don't care to do the things that
software freedom makes possible.

 >   > But the "millions" (actually, nearly a billion) were *never* "would-be
 >   > independent computer users, they were consumers *before* they had
 >   > smartphones, and now they are consumers *with* smartphones."
 > That is true, but I don't think it contradicts what I said.

Of course not.  I was contradicting what Emanuel said, when he claimed
they were "would-be independent computer users."

 >   > I really don't see how we can make progress if we don't accept the
 >   > fact that the vast majority of human beings are consumers of software
 >   > who gladly trade software freedom for the "freedom" to play Angry
 >   > Birds and listen to itunes for $1 each.
 > We can accept the fact that many people do this when they have the set
 > of choices that businesses have arranged for them to have.

Unfortunately for *that* theory, that's *not* the set of choices they
have today, thanks in large part to *you*.  They have GNU/Linux, and a
very large set of very useful software to use with it.  And they still
choose non-freedom.  Everybody I work with, everybody I teach, knows
about the existence of free software.  But they choose something else.

That's not because free software sucks, by the way.  It's because what
free software does superlatively well doesn't appeal to *them* the way
it does to *us*.  They don't write programs or use IRC or netnews,
they prefer text/html to text/plain, they don't administer web or mail
servers.  Those things are what *we* do -- nobody should be surprised
that the software we make is good at them ... and not so good at mind-
deadening games and providing channels for gossip (although our
software isn't so bad at that, everybody loves to talk).

 > We can accept as true the claim that many people value their
 > immediate convenience more than their freedom (though this is a
 > result of their cultural environment,

I rather doubt that it's a cultural artifact.  Guns are physical,
phallic objects.  I don't have trouble understanding the appeal of
"freedom" that is associated with guns, although I don't feel it
myself.  On the other hand, every kid in America gets their mouth
washed out with soap for exercising their First Amendment rights, but
somehow for most fighting for that freedom loses its appeal after they
reach their majority.  These more abstract freedoms often provide
individuals with no direct benefit, and they have to put up with the
annoyance of others exercising their freedom.

 > However, you seem to be suggesting that it is a "fact" that people
 > will always totally let companies dominate them.  

No, I don't have opinion on whether people will *always* or even
*frequently* "totally let companies dominate them", and didn't intend
to express one.  That's your nightmare, not mine.

I am suggesting that 99% of the hundreds of million of smartphone
users simply don't see any "domination" in the closed software that
runs their phones, because they have no intention of repairing or
improving their smartphones themselves (and don't have the ability to
do those things, anyway).

True, that self-centered point of view doesn't enhance freedom for
society as a whole, and thus leads to *you* being dominated by the
phone company, such that you end up refusing to have a smartphone at
all IIRC.  But that doesn't mean *they* are dominated, not in any
sense an ordinary person would understand.

 > I don't see what "progress" _means_ if we accept that as a "fact".

Same as it did for the folks who wrote the First Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution.  Many of their neighbors didn't think it was worth
fighting a war for political and economic freedom, and despite the
mythology popular in U.S. high schools, it's pretty clear that
economic freedom weighed more on the minds of most of the Founding
Farmers (and businessmen).  Even James Madison (who actually penned
the Amendment) took almost a decade and the possibility of being
prosecuted under the Sedition Act of 1798 to fully realize the
importance of the reading of that Amendment we take for granted today.

In plain words, "progress" means that we get enough people to
understand that ensuring freedom for the few who actually do something
with it is good for society as a whole, just as free speech is, and
get some guarantees into law (or, given the current situation, we get
some restrictions on users removed from the law).

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