On Freedom

This is more like making a transcript of two very interesting conversations – one over phone call and the other over Google chat. The one over Google chat happened earlier – musician friend who’s doing his music studies in Berklee, (the very royal Music School we all know of) suddenly starts an argument asking ‘Why this insistence on Open Source, at all’. My usual instincts naturally turned it into a conflict, where I was putting much effort in explaining how it is much important to provide people with the four basic freedoms Free Software is concerned about. At one point he said, “Yes, but isn’t it a bit insane? It’s like saying that Clapton is an evil musician if he doesn’t, with all his cds, give separate tracks for everyone to mix and listen the way they want!” Well, it would actually be a little insane if he did so. We left the conversation there – I had to run to catch my flight back to India. A week later I was talking to my other friend over phone and we somehow came to the same argument in a slightly different mode – this friend of mine has been an Open Source contributor/ enthusiast for a long time now, currently doing quite a bit of very cool things in MIT (apparently getting a PhD degree there). If you are wondering, yes I am blessed with many cool friends. He quoted his colleague Brian, whose view is – ‘You can write a software in two ways. You can write it as a piece of work or you can write it as a piece of art.’ If you are writing it as a piece of art, you might want to have your identity protected. Here’s where I was reminded of my conversation with Salil. An artiste might not want his creation to lose the identity of his own self that is obviously very attached with that particular piece of art. So, that sort of saves us from the sin of calling the great Clapton evil. (I love him!) But what I would still be believing is – every individual should  have the right to study the source and also to share it. Modifying a software in some random ways or even sometimes in some apparent organized way might be for no good. The creator has the right to protect it if he has to, I believe. Even if it does involve taking away the freedom to modify, from the users. It does not make the developer evil. It makes him an individual who wants his identity to be preserved in his piece of art, for good.

One thought on “On Freedom

  1. You know, I had come on again, off again on this particular blogpost. And it never fails to set my mind buzzing. (No wonder I avoid this post – it fires up a flurry of imagination and a database of worldviews to reconsider.)

    Over the last two months I have been thinking about the same problem, and it has been a journey. Who knew the two conversations that you had would make a difference in a total stranger's life?

    But I comment here, not about open source, but about the final piece of the puzzle.

    "My usual instincts naturally turned it into a conflict." I specialize in arguments. And I like to push people's buttons with them. And I finally realized one thing – when people argue over something with heated emotions, they are only holding on to a view of the world that fits in to their head. Changing it would require a lot of effort.

    In other words, turning a conversation into a conflict – as I have seen – is merely a way of holding on to what one believes, so that one doesn't have to see his mind burst with overload.

    Conflicts happen – not the friendly kind you probably are talking about – when we don't understand completely what we are fighting about. When we don't know why we believe in what believe in. If we did, we would be calmly confident about it, and merely listen to educate the other person.

    Atheists and religious people? Capitalists and communists? Congress and BJP? Everywhere, we have the same story.

    Making this comment on your blog might be a little insulting to you, but believe me, it is in fact an opportunity. An opportunity for you to gain that calm confidence in open source.

    Maybe you have already gained it.

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