The New Yorker: The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty

I think it’s indicative of how pervasive Open Source has become when a traditional non-technical mainstream publication such as The New Yorker writes an in-depth article about the GNU manifesto turning thirty. A well done, fair, factually accurate, and balanced article at that. You should read the article, but a few quick comments:

* While there’s been a lot of anti-GPL sentiment recently, whether you agree or disagree with the direction GPLv3 took, I think it’s important to remember that the technology and licensing landscapes would almost certainly look quite a bit different if it wasn’t for GNU and the GPL. Stallman was significantly ahead of his time in codifying much of this, so early on it changed perception and perspective, which is easy to forget now. Later on, the GPL served as an extreme left example which helped move where the center was for other more permissive Open Source licenses.

* I had forgotten Stallman was at the M.I.T.’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory thirty years ago. Apropos of a recent Bad Voltage discussion, I think it’s misunderstood just how difficult AI is and how long we’ve been at it.

* If you haven’t read the “ten-thousand-word document [sent] to prepare his hosts for his arrival” you should. That’s all I’ll say about that.

* It’s not just that “Stallman does not own a cell phone, nor does he use Facebook, Twitter, or many of the programs most of us take for granted. ” It’s how he does his computing, especially web and email.

* It is interesting to me how many staunch hardcore Free Software advocates are willing to completely forgo their ethos when it comes to mobile, despite it being such an important part of computing. It’s a testament to how nice some feel the Apple ecosystem is; but it’s also quite worrying IMHO. We’ve fought long and hard to get where we are. It would be a shame to have to start the battle all over again.

It’s easy to forget how important the fundamentals of Open Source are sometimes. Even after doing this for almost twenty years, I continue to think Open Source has the profound ability to change the world for the better. That makes it humbling, fascinating and inspiring all at the same time.



One Response to The New Yorker: The GNU Manifesto Turns Thirty

  1. James Butler says:

    Stumbled on this post while following others … as an AI guy, I may be just blathering a little …

    To my interest, I’m a GPL v2 guy … whatever.

    I absolutely agree with your position that licensing would be different without the Open Standards concept.

    Open Standards clearly lead to a more productive code base, as it is easier to figure out how you want to unleash your beast unto the world, if the rules are simple enough to understand.

    I like your suggestions, in this post. People should be more familiar with the Architects’ vision, if they want to mess with it, intelligently.

    Okay … nice piece, interesting content … and, in my exceedingly humble opinion, perhaps even more humble than the others … there is only one reason why immersive, responsive tech is not ubiquitous:

    Les Dollars

    There is simply too much R&D plus equipment prototype bucks involved to make the ratios work for your classic risk-averse, minute-attention-span, trust fund kid tech investor.

    What’s your best guess at how few investors there are, outside of that lump?

    We have the brain power, we have the protocols, we have some support … out of a sense of philanthropy, I guess … from all of the major players … “Sure, dude … make yerself a plugin, and we’ll pretend to support your minimum requirements …”

    But, who is gonna pay for the nerds to bunch up and spit out something close to an Open Standard solution for AI, or anything immersive/responsive, these days?

    Where’s VRML at? Perfectly simple approach … boom, gone. Nothing Open Source about it’s “players” … actually, never has been … but the markup is so extensible … why didn’t this succeed?

    Love ALICE … but she languishes … not enough suitors?

    Are we looking for something too plug-in ready?

    Am I being too cynical?

    I’m Open Minded about Open Source … I sincerely long for a virtual+really-a-lot-like-AI-rich world …

    Can we start a discussion about what, in Real World Terms, it takes to get some Serious Traction, outside of the get-rich-quick meme?

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