The Future of Freedom

Tue, 21 May 2024

As we stand on the precipice of the future, I see a landscape of subjugation and control and unprecedented software freedom. In this context, the free software movement emerges as a beacon of hope, a guiding star that empowers and liberates. It's a movement with liberty and user rights as principles and a vision for a future where software empowers and liberates rather than controls and subjugates. As we venture into uncharted territories in the coming decade, free software is necessary and a source of inspiration, empowering us all.

The free software movement, championed by the visionary Richard Stallman, emphasizes the ethical imperative of software freedom. It advocates for the four essential freedoms:

  1. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  2. The freedom to study how the program works and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help others.
  4. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others.

These freedoms are not just technical details; they are a moral stance, a declaration that software should respect user freedom and empower them to control their digital lives.

In the past, I've discussed how open source is a trap. While open source shares the principle of source code availability, that's where the similarity ends and the key differences appear. Open source focuses purely on technical merits, while the free software movement stands for more profound principles based on ethics. Unfortunately, I anticipate that this will persist in the next decade. The push for "open everything," without the principles of freedom and ethical underpinnings in place at its core, will likely continue the proliferation of software that is technically open but ethically empty.

DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) will also change significantly over the next ten years:

  1. Advancements in technology will enable more sophisticated and effective DRM methods, making it harder for users to bypass or hack them.
  2. Stricter laws and regulations will be implemented, resulting in even more significant penalties and liabilities for even trying.
  3. The increasing popularity of streaming (dis-)services will result in more people using those rather than trying to break the DRM.

I predict the allure of convenience and compatibility will lead some developers and users to compromise on the principles of software freedom and incorporate proprietary software, especially when they're not making decisions from the free software movement's ethical viewpoint. This would seriously affect user autonomy and control over their digital lives. As a result, we're likely to see a paradoxical situation unfold: While the quantity of available free software will likely increase, the ability to use 100% free software will become even more challenging than it already is, potentially leading to a digital landscape of even more subjugation and control.

In a world where software is ubiquitous, the need for software that respects our freedom is paramount. Free software is more than just code; it's a philosophy. It's about empowering individuals and communities to control their computing and the software that does that computing. We advocate for our freedom and contribute to a better society by supporting the free software movement. This is a collective responsibility and commitment that we all share.

As we move forward, it's crucial to remember the ethical considerations at the heart of the free software movement - these are fundamental values that shape how we interact with software. By prioritizing these principles, we can ensure that the future we create empowers and liberates rather than confines and controls.

I predict that education and advocacy will not just be important; but essential to overcoming the challenges ahead. We must continue to educate people about free software and the ethical failures of proprietary software. We must advocate for policies that promote free software and protect user rights. By raising awareness and building a strong community of supporters, we can ensure that the free software movement continues to thrive in the years to come. Your involvement is not just crucial, but it is valued and appreciated. You are an integral part of this endeavor.

The future of free software is bright, but it's not without its challenges, and the future lies in our hands. By choosing free software, supporting the free software movement, and remaining committed to the principles of freedom, you can ensure that free software continues to play a pivotal role in shaping the future and ensuring it's a future that is truly empowering and liberating. The coming decade will be critical for the free software movement. Still, with your commitment and dedication, we can ensure that software freedom prevails, not as a technical matter but as a moral imperative.