Freedom in Tech Creates Freedom in Society

Freedom in Tech Creates Freedom in Society
November 1, 2018 9 Comments Free Software Zian Smith

“Free Tech” is Technology that gives Freedom.

Many Americans today take for granted the fact that the “Bill of Rights” is in their constitution. The Bill of Rights is a document that gives every American 10 freedoms. The Bill of Rights was made to ensure that every citizen was granted certain freedoms that could not be taken away.

Likewise, as technology (smartphones, smart TV’s, smart cars) become more integrated in our society, it is important to understand how we can have freedoms with our technology. Just like there is a Bill of Rights, there are two other documents that give users freedom in the world of tech.

They are:

  1. Primarily the GPL (GNU Public License) which is a software license. Here is the Official GNU website.
  2. The TAPR (Tucson Amateur Packet Radio) is a hardware license. Here is the Official TAPR website.

Although not commonly known, you have probably been using either software or hardware that uses one of these licenses and not even known it. Android for example uses free software as it uses part of the Linux kernel. And even Microsoft Windows uses Free Software, power-shell is on GitHub and licensed under the free software license MIT. Don’t believe us? Click Here and see for yourself!

 

“Free” as in “Free Speech” not “Free Food”.

Remember. The importance of “Free Software” or “Free Hardware” in the tech world is not concerned with price, that is the world of business.

The world of tech concerned with freedom. These concepts are nothing new and have been around since the Free Software Foundation.

Any technology that provides freedom to the user helps create and maintain freedom in society.

 

Why is it important?

1) Freedom in society

We use technology to exercise our other rights like freedom of speech. If your device begins censoring your messages or social media posts, then your freedom of speech is put in danger. We use technology to research, if your device begins to censor what video you can watch, what documents you can read, your access to information is limited. So far there hasn’t been a major example of this in the news but that doesn’t mean it can not happen. No one heard about Apple slowing down iPhones until it was in the news that Apple was slowing down iPhones.

2) Validation

One of the freedom concepts in tech is that you are allowed to “see” the software or hardware as it is internally. This verifies any claim of the hardware or software. For example, if a program claims to use a certain standard of encryption, you could view the source code to validate that it does in fact use such a standard. You no longer have to take someone else’s word for it.

Suppose there is a medical robot surgeon that runs off of AI and is being used to do operations on patients, now take a second and imagine that you are the patient. Would you like to be operated on by a robot that uses non-reviewed proprietary software? Or would you trust a robot that has been reviewed and test thoroughly by numerous different organizations?

Although businesses may wish to profit off software that makes game graphics or online stores, can one really justify being concerned with profit over people with the software is fatal if in error? Examples would be medical devices, air planes, self driving cars, etc.

You can read about an x-ray machine that killed people due to a software bug by reading this:

https://hackaday.com/2015/10/26/killed-by-a-machine-the-therac-25/

3) Openness

Many are interested in these topics and wish to learn. By giving freedom to these users you enable others to learn information that they might not otherwise have access to. For example, a student in poverty who can not afford an education from a school on programming, can now learn how to program from documentation and source code. A student wishing to work on micro-controllers could benefit from reading the schematics from a hardware device.

4) Adaptability

Free tech is more adaptable. Any technology that respects the user’s freedom will allow the user to add, edit, or remove any functionality to the original.

 

 

How does that help create freedom in society?

As already mentioned, technology is becoming more and more intertwined with our society. Not only in public matters but in private. Smartphones can heed commands, Amazon Alexa can order pizza, cars can drive themselves.

If we do not have freedom with this technology, then we do not control this technology. If we do not control this technology, this technology will control the areas it has influences on our lives.

You can preserve your freedom and the freedom of others by simply using and creating awareness for technology that respects your freedom.

Living Free.

Remember, all you need to do to be free in tech is use tech that respects your freedom. The Raspberry Pi, Debian Operating System and Arduino Micro-controller are examples of such.

 

Please watch this TED Talk video to learn more.

 

Keep it real.

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  1. 1

    Jason Nichols

    I love open source, the GPL, and the concept of copyleft. These are three different things, however.

    You touched on the “free speach” vs “free food”. Personally, I like the original distinction- “free as in freedom” (open source) vs “free as in beer” (you don’t pay for it). It’s slightly irreverent and it makes me happy.

    Everybody loves free beer, even more sometimes than true freedom. I use some “free as in beer” software on my machines. I use a LOT of software that is both “free as in beer” AND “free as in freedom”. I use a few pieces of software that are “free as in freedom” but NOT “free as in beer”.

    “Wait”, you may ask, “if you have to pay for it, how is it free?” To quote the master ballad in Team America, “Sometimes freedom isn’t free…” Many open source programmers rightly charge for the use of their work. They put a lot of time and effort into writing the software and deserve the money they get but they still distribute the binaries. That way, if you are so inclined, you have the freedom to dig in to the code, check for potential vulnerabilities, fix bugs, and make changes to customize the software to suit your needs. So many times, I have found several commercial products that ALMOST did exactly what I needed them to do but each lacked ONE different important feature. With closed-source products, you are stuck using programs as-is and buying several different pieces of software to get you close to what you want to do. Open source gives you the freedom to buy one and then modify it to suit your needs.

    Once you have made your bug fixes and alterations, you cannot turn around and release the original or even your altered version of the original like you can with copyleft or GPL software. That would be theft or piracy but you CAN release your changes. With any open source project, whether free as in beer or not, submit your changes to the project for review to possibly be added to future releases. I have submitted both bug fixes and additional features to both free beer and paid freedom projects. I highly suggest others do the same. You may get a discount on future software. You may get credit (free beer software writers are more likely to list you as a minor contributor than those that are not). You may get neither but you helped advance the ecosystem and won the gratitude of a programmer or software development team. When it comes down to it, that’s all that really matters.

    Reply
    1. 1

      Jason Nichols

      Edit– open source (free as in freedom but NOT as in beer) programmers distribute their code with the binaries when you buy their software.

      Reply
    2. 1

      Jason Nichols

      Edit– …they deserve the money they get but they distribute THE CODE WITH the binaries…

      Sorry about that. Written on a cell phone…

      Reply
  2. 1

    Lauren

    I’m not very tech savy, but I understand enough to agree with this article 100%- which is why I always preferred Linux over Windows, and Android over Apple. We are voting with our dollars and it’s important for the large tech companies to know that we value open source software. Thank you for sharing this and spreading the importance of “Free Tech” and its implications on our society as a whole.

    Reply
    1. 1

      Zian Smith

      We appreciate your support for free software!

      Reply
  3. 1

    Eric Cantu

    Wow… that X ray story is crazy. The title of your post drew me in and I’ve gotta say that was a well written article. These freedoms are so important and we tend to overlook them so much of the time. Thanks for the well written post!

    Reply
    1. 1

      Zian Smith

      Thank you so much!

      Reply
  4. 1

    Thabo Khoza

    I really love this engaging post about the freedom that tech gives the society. I do believe that more and more people could be delivered even through poverty by tech.

    Great post thank you for this enlightenment

    Reply
  5. 1

    Jason

    All I can say is wow! That is pretty deep for someone like myself and makes me want to learn more. I started a WordPress website and learning little by little and always getting stuck on things, but that is nothing compared to what I just learned. From what I understand is that these plug-ins I run on my site, I can actually have a plug-in re-written to my specific specifications, I know that would not be free since I do not actually know how to do this type of stuff, but if I learned it can be done without me having to pay for a plug-in that I really needed. Also not very comfortable with these big companies giving the government access to our stuff, I’ve got nothing to hide but that’s just creepy, what happened to privacy? This is cool and can’t wait to learn more. Love this internet stuff. Thank you!

    Reply

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