Bruce Sterling on making the Internet safe for freedom and art


There’s a species of bottom-feeding contrarian that has sprung up in this century to decry the Internet as a system of oppression.

I think a more pervasive threat to digital freedom comes from progressives and radicals who continue to use Apple and Microsoft technology. If more Apple/PC users in that group switched to GNU/Linux and encouraged others to do the same - if more of them saw free software as integral to, and a piece with, the other freedoms many of them are fighting for - it would do a lot to catalyze adoption of those technologies. (I’m thinking mostly in the US; I know there’s more widespread adoption of free software elsewhere.)


I say that as a person who dropped out of university and totally upended his life after reading a transcript of one of Bruce’s speeches

Kind of obliterated the lede there. Now guess which speech I’m interested in first.

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What was the moral of the story about how things become obsolete?

Intel making Arduino stuff reminds me of Microsoft’s “Embrace and Extend” strategy. What does Sterling see in Intel’s involvement that I don’t?

The word “bloviate” comes to mind every minute while I watch that presentation. I’ve got nothing against anything that Sterling is trying to say, and in fact would generally laud and echo his sentiments, but if this is what passes for an amazing public speech these days then I think we’re in trouble.

I’ve been running GNU/Linux for a few years but I’m not sure I’m going to continue to do so. Since I enjoy playing mass-market video games I want to keep an up-to-date Windows machine around. However, that Windows machine can do anything that I’d really want to be able to do with a GNU/Linux machine (which essentially comes down to web browsing). Do you think there’s a compelling moral reason for me to install GNU/Linux somewhere even if I’m probably never going to run it? Sincere question, your comment seems to suggest there is such a reason but doesn’t spell it out.

In your situation I think I would run whatever programs can be run on the GNU/Linux system on that system. So maybe that would mean one gaming machine and one for all else. You pay a price in inconvenience, having two systems, but the compelling moral reason would be that you would support and promote free software and all the goodness* that derives from that; and you are also doing your bit to neuter the corporate surveillance state.

*Goodness summarized here:

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fine and dandy, can i run autocad, revit, or corel draw under those ?
no, unless i am a super-nerd (and perhaps not even then), i can not…
then i can not use those options…
i am ‘program-centric’ and OS-agnostic, but it just don’t work for a LOT of stuff beyond simple browsing and word processing (and programming, which is a small percentage)…
(yes, i am aware of libreoffice/gimp/blender/etc, and use them, but they are NOT replacements for the s/w i need to use)

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Bruce Sterling has a great interview in Freedom Downtime at about 17 minutes in (with nsfw audio).

Two things, really:

A transcript of the speech would really be appreciated. Not everyone has the time or bandwidth to watch an entire video.

And then this:

There’s a species of bottom-feeding contrarian that has sprung up in this century to decry the Internet as a system of oppression. Most of these men are people with some passing connection to the entertainment industry, which has spent the past 20 years demanding systems of Internet censorship and surveillance to help with copyright enforcement.

Please don’t do this.

People who criticize American, Canadian and, oh yeah, Bad Countries™ for using information obtained by companies operating on the Internet (like Facebook, Google & co.) to profile, harass and occasionally murder people are not necessarily the same people who want the bad old way of doing the content-creation business. Heck, sometimes they’re the same people you credit for keeping Internet Freedoms alive.

I mean, the biggest issue with regards to Internet surveillance is how governments brazenly do it, often aided and abetted by corporations that trumpet the “freedom to innovate” line when it suits them.

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Similar to @wysinwyg and @ycharleyy I chose my OS based on software to do the job I want to accomplish rather than for idealist or quasi-cultic reasons. I too am aware of the attempts of FLOSS developers to clone commercial packages to try and replicate the tool chains which developed in the closed source/commercial world and have used some of those FLOSS applications at different times and my current choice of OS depends on the goodwill of the FLOSS community. That doesn’t mean the FLOSS applications fit my needs and I am not persuaded by the jeremiad cries of he prophets of GNU that I should alter my needs to fit their moral view.

I’m well aware of the goodness of the FLOSS concept and I applaud it but I don’t view the moralist overlay as being universally applicable.

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which includes a fair deal in copyright, because the Internet is a machine for copying

As a creator, small label owner and occasional writer, I feel I’ve got a dog in this fight. Perhaps @doctorow and I disagree on what a fair deal in this case might be. Back when Lessig was trying to get some term limit reform action, I was hoping he would succeed. When he failed and the matter turned into what looked like whargarbl I was sad. When the Creative Commons license first got going I was thrilled as it solved a practical problem in that I wanted a clear way to differentiate between what I want to give away and what I want to sell.

The thing is that while the Internet does facilitate copying, I don’t see its existence as a causal reason for copyright reform at all. If anything the “machine for copying” aspect has been a net negative for me and this brings me to the meat of my comment.

It is a marvel of rhetoric and a tonic for those of us who are heartily sick of the trolls.

Must those who have different interests and understandings be trolls? @doctorow I don’t know if your upbringing included any “traditional” Jewish education or not, but when I read your positions on the matter of copyright in general and how you treat those you see as opponents I’m reminded of Beit Hillel vs Beit Shammai. Both sides of these debates are considered worthy of respect but in general part of why the rulings of Beit Hillel are considered to be correct is that they are respectful of the views they are countering.

Is it not possible that those who don’t see eye to eye with you are also worthy of your respect?

@Hillary_Rettig @wysinwyg

Have you guys not heard of dual-boot?

IIRC many Linux distros have an option to be added to an existing OS like this on install.

Duh. The subtext of my question was: “Why would I even bother installing dual-boot if it’s just going to add another screen on startup and I’m never going to use the other boot options?”

A 3-second timeout on the menu pretty much negates its hassle.

But if you’re not gonna use it, you’re not gonna use it.

I give Linux a whirl every year or two to see how it’s coming along, but last time I checked it didn’t quite cut the mustard for me.

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