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Re: [gNewSense-users] Re: Freedom and webapps

From: Janet Hawtin
Subject: Re: [gNewSense-users] Re: Freedom and webapps
Date: Tue, 6 Feb 2007 11:21:02 +1030

On 2/5/07, Dave Crossland <address@hidden> wrote:

Please explain how a lack of sourcecode is immoral.

I do think there are ethical issues with closed source and restrictive
information models.
It is more about what the overall goal for technology (and
information) is for a society and whether restrictive models enable
those things to be. I think that in a global sense we are a global
community making decisions about business, economics, health,
environment, diplomacy based on information systems, technologies and
law which are controlled by individuals and which can not be mapped
and understood as a system of knowledge.

Sometimes it is the context that makes it most obvious.
Here are some software examples:
Voting machines need to be seen to be transparently accurate unbiased
and effective.
Public information systems and systems where the technologies are
modelling in order for decisions to be made based on the outcomes of
those models should be open source for the same reason. We need to be
able to see the path the data takes in order to understand whether the
decision or recommendation matches with our own ideas about what the
contributing factors and processes should be.

And in the information space:
One of the petition's signatories, Richard J Roberts, Nobel Prize
winner for Physiology or Medicine in 1993, said: "Open access to the
published scientific literature is one of the most desirable goals of
our current scientific enterprise. Since most science is supported by
taxpayers it is unreasonable that they should not have immediate and
free access to the results of that research. Furthermore, for the
research community the literature is our lifeblood. By impeding access
through subscriptions and then fragmenting the literature among many
different publishers, with no central source, we have allowed the
commercial sector to impede progress. It is high time that we
rethought the model and made sure that everyone had equal and
unimpeded access to the whole literature. How can we do cutting edge
research if we don't know where the cutting edge is?" The petition is
available at:

From the Yale symposium:
"The panel discussions focused attention on the need to acknowledge
the policital, legal and economic as well as technical relevance of
software code and of software standards processes; that software
standards are policies in disguise, that code is law, and that our
institutions exist today in the wrong shape to cope with creating and
managing technology that serves both public and private interests."

We have laws developed for and in partnership with specific interest
groups, owners of components of our information and technology
interests. We do not have a responding
strong guiding hand representing overall systemic role of information
and technology in society. We need to develop ways of making business
and culture which are not dependent on restrictive practice because
restrictive practice has high costs for the social roles of both
information and technology as a global community.

In many spheres the individual control of information by specific
interest groups is achieving business outcomes for individual entities
at great social and environmental costs.
Patents on AIDs vaccines, debates about who is *allowed* to develop
vaccines for bird flu,
how technology and information can be effective tools we can
participate and interact with rather than products we can consume

Access 2 Knowledge movement is the response to this situation.
We are lucky that open source software is probably one of the areas where
people are finding hands on practical ways to have business,
technology and culture without restrictive licenses, other areas
perhaps have some of that work still to do.


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