Out of all the humans that ever were, how many possessed the same genetic mental attributes as Einstein, Shakespeare or Monet? Of those people, how many of them were rich enough to afford to learn how to use and expand on their unique mental gifts?
This is a question that sometimes keeps me up a night thinking. No matter what you believe the answer to be, because of our current population, there are at least that number of people alive right now, letting their brains waste away. It’s an immoral condition, and it’s one that weights on me heavily because I see so clearly how that immoral condition is easy to rectify.
This wastage of brains, wastage of human potential, is what the network (our internet) has irrevocably changed for humanity. Right now anyone with access to a computer and a pair of copper wires attached to a telephone network has literally all the information one could ever need to learn about all subjects, in addition to being able to freely and instantaneously communicate with other people anywhere on the globe.
This is the introduction to the free software movement. Indeed, this is the purpose of the free software movement.
The digital revolution means that knowledge no longer has a non-zero marginal cost – that is to say – the initial cost of the production and digitization of a thing is the only cost. If you write a book you no longer need to go to a printing press and print physical copies to physically distribute them; You push a button and send it anywhere around the world you desire, as many times as you like at no additional cost. In our current digitized reality, pretend for a moment you’re a player in a publishing oligopoly (educational books, print media, even DRM’ed ebooks – take your pick). A significant moral question arises: When you can provide to anybody everything that you value, at the cost of providing it to any one body, what is the morality of excluding those who cannot afford to pay? It’s a difficult moral problem, explaining why you are excluding people from that which you yourself value highly and could provide to them for nothing.
We must have a network that makes it possible for us to share. It’s not enough to simply share what we make, we must ensure that the network remains completely neutral and that neutrality is engineered into the very hardware that composes the network. We must prevent bias by those people whose primary concern is preventing sharing as competition to ownership. We do this by not buying into propriety. By not buying systems that lock you into one content delivery mechanism. You may be able to afford an iPad, but what happens when if iPads became the dominant form of passing data – think of how many people would be excluded solely because they cannot afford it and how many more because “this content isn’t available in your country”.
Watch (the video will jump to a specific time, but feel free to listen to the whole talk – you’ll notice some paraphrasing):
Think about all the ways in which you can benefit by connecting your life to the things we share.