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Re: [emacs-humanities] Has Emacs made you appreciate software freedom?

From: Alan Davis
Subject: Re: [emacs-humanities] Has Emacs made you appreciate software freedom?
Date: Wed, 2 Jun 2021 19:04:04 -0700

This is an extremely important question.

Emacs made me aware that Free Software even exists, and it revolutionized
how I approach the use of a computer, a PC.

Emacs epitomizes something I take to heart, something that is difficult to
put into words.  Emacs is an instrument, a core component of a system that
has actualized practically every aspect of my work and creativity.  Made
with Love, and shared.   What  could be better?  This is a spirit that is
rare and wonderful, and something we can all use more of.

The only thing I must regret is that I have played so minor a role in
creation of this system, and that I have failed so miserably in expressing
the joy that Free Software brings to me, as I have watched, as proprietary
commercial for-profit computing systems have metastasized across the
globe.  Friend by friend, and colleague by colleague, I have seen this
vision abandoned in favor of the easy way.

Emacs brings a joy, an exhilaration into my heart, the very idea of the
sharing of useful tools.  Thank you is not enough to Richard Stallman, a
visionary, and others who have contributed so selflessly

Is that enough?

Alan Davis

On Sat, May 22, 2021 at 10:20 AM Benjamin Slade <slade@jnanam.net> wrote:

> Thanks, Prot, for starting this discussion. I've been meaning to try to
> participate on this excellent listserv, but up until now I've not managed
> too (including a lack of an intro post). Please accept a long, rambling
> email as back-payment ;)
> > + Do you think that Emacs helped/helps you value your liberties, as
> >   those apply to your day-to-day computer experience?
> To a certain extent it's made me cognisant of my relative *lack* of
> liberties, both in day-to-day computing and elsewhere. That's sad on the
> one hand, perhaps, but it's made me try to take control over as much of my
> day-to-day computer experience as possible (at the cost of time).
> > + Do you believe that there is something to be learnt from Emacs and be
> >   applied to other parts of life?  Could/should, for instance,
> >   scientific research be conducted and publicised in a free,
> >   collaborative fashion?
> Most definitely. And occasionally we do even see good true "open access"
> research venues. My field (linguistics), there are at least Glossa [1] and
> Semantics & Pragmatics [2], and a fairly strong tradition of scholars
> posting "pre-prints" in an accessible manner (on Lingbuzz [3], sort of like
> arXiv, but specific to linguistics).
> (But still in day-to-day academic life I'm quite literally forced to use a
> lot of software I find morally- (not to mention technologically-)
> questionable, and pressure to use even more of the same.)
> Back to the larger question, I think there is still a lot of "alchemical
> practices" (in Doctorowian terms) in academia, perhaps loosely connected to
> the publish-or-perish framework we exist in.
> > + More generally, do you see a connection between software freedom and
> >   politics/economics?  Could/should the lessons drawn from Emacs and
> >   free software in general (especially copylefted) be used as an
> >   antipode to repressive forces, be they corporate actors or state
> >   entities?
>  Yes, but it's hard to know how exactly to do so.
>  To touch back on the linked articles, specifically "The Problem With Free
> Software... ...Is Capitalism", even this article, which obviously isn't
> exactly comfortable with capitalism, still seems to overrate its
> efficiencies ("...it is true that we’ve seen an unprecedented boom under
> capitalism"). If your goal is maximisation of paper clip production, or you
> really enjoy rolling fields of maize whose monotony is largely only broken
> by highways and petrol stations: then Capitalism's your man. That is,
> ever-increasing efficiency of production of some particular product.  But
> otherwise capitalism seems largely parasitic on innovations produced in
> non-capitalistic fashions (creations by dilettante/independently-wealthy
> scientists; creations by artists/inventors with wealthy patrons, or who are
> employed by academic institutions).
>  I think here about the software that's most useful to me. As with the
> non-utility of a room full of VC-funded paperclips, there is very little
> commercial software (simply on technical grounds) that's actually useful to
> me. Before Emacs, the software that opened my eyes to power of really
> free/libre software, that was exponentially more powerful than any
> commercial offering, was (La)TeX, which was, and remains, indispensable for
> my work. (And to a large extent I started using Emacs as extensively as I
> did because it provided (& continues to provide), via AUCTeX, the best TeX
> editing environment.)
>  And both TeX and Emacs were developed by people who had the ability (at
> least in part due to their affiliations with academic institutions) to make
> tools appropriate for their own uses, without having to worry about
> commercial viability. And luckily both the (La)TeX and Emacs ecosystems
> have had enough contributors (of additional code) to make them viable.
>  (The) Linux (kernel) is, I suppose, a different sort of case. It has the
> same 'dilettante'/'hobbyist' origins as TeX or Emacs, and also developed
> its own hobbyist ecosystem, but the ubiquity of Linux across a wide range
> of hardware does reflect in part corporate funding. But my main use case,
> desktop Linux, is just a happy side-effect, since corporate funding doesn't
> care about desktop Linux in the slightest. In this case, I feel we just
> shelter in an alcove accidentally created by market forces.
>  So, what does this suggest in practical terms? Don't be seduced by the
> short-term efficiencies of capitalism: they're limited not only in time but
> in scope, and are only really efficient in maximising share-holder revenue.
>  Try to create spaces in which people are able to freely create and
> innovate, and which thus are not tied directly to commercial interests.
>  Ideally this is people just being independently wealthy, or having
> (largely) benevolent 'patrons' (including universities). But in most cases,
> it's probably actually just trying to figure out how to best co-ordinate
> the efforts that unfunded hobbyists can carve out from their days, and how
> to cobble these together into meaningful actions.
>  It's hard to be too optimistic though, since both in software and
> politics/economics it seems far too easy for such efforts to be easily
> frustrated as soon as they run afoul of commercial interests.
> [1] <https://www.glossa-journal.org/>
> [2] <https://semprag.org/index.php/sp>
> [3] <https://lingbuzz.net/>
> best,
>   —Ben
> --
>  '(Benjamin Slade ("he/him") ( https://lambda-y.net )
>   `(pgp_fp: ,(21BA 2AE1 28F6 DF36 110A 0E9C A320 BBE8 2B52 EE19))
>   "sent by mu4e 1.4.15 in GNU Emacs 28.0.50 on Void Linux")

  "When the Last Tree has been cut down, the Last Fish caught,
   the Last River poisoned, only then will we realize
   that One Cannot Eat Money." (Native American Saying)

  “Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
  Nor whence, like water willy-nilly flowing;
  And out of it, as wind along the Waste;
  I know not whither, willy nilly blowing.”
       (Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám )

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