Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Food, Software Licence and Extinction by Starvation

In this collection of parables on free software, the first parable related to food struck a cord within me. For one, the food, or in broader sense anything we can acquire and consume, by virtue of the process we obtained them (i.e. bought the food to be cooked and eaten), should be considered already our own.This article won't discuss the difference and issues between the proprietary/closed source solutions and free and open source ones, it's already been discussed to death since the last quarter of the 20th century. In this article we discuss the issues on free and open source software licences (that's spelled with a 'c' rather than 's', I'll stick to real English on this one), particularly between the GNU General Public License (hereafter to be referred to as simply GPL) and the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD), making it simpler when analogized with food preparation.

Food recipe and sharing of ideas
In a recent interview of Richard Stallman, he likened the availability of source code to a recipe. Oddly enough, when you make changes to a recipe, you may opt to share your recipe with anyone or only particular party or individual, however, you are not obliged nor anyone can compel you to reveal what changes you made to the recipe to make it your own, neither is it your social responsibility to explain what changes you made. Ironically, this is the layman's term for the stipulation of GNU GPL.

BSD's (at least in the case of the OpenBSD project) requirement copyright retention reminds me of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead but then again, it doesn't fit well with the notion of food recipe, given that there's yet a dish that required to express from whom the recipe originated nor could you ask the cook where he got the inspiration for the dish.

Overall, the software licence model we have, even for free and open source software doesn't fit with the ownership of idea and sharing of food recipes. Come to think of it, it was "free as in beer" and not "free as in food recipe" after all, right?

Public domain software anyone? Ironically I found some very sophisticated, albeit may be already old software online on molecular modelling, spatial data transfer standard (SDTS), and, surprise surprise, aeronautical engineering.

Sharing, Greed and Consumption to Extinction
Whatever artistic, technological and social endeavor one engages in hoping to move mankind forward, arguably, no relevant idea big or small was properly made on an empty stomach. Consequently, no ideology was in praise of hunger, but rather to quell it. Likewise, in our society's current technological landscape, the software defines the potential power and benefit coverage.

Based on the documentary The Future of Food, our use and (aware or unaware) consumption of genetically modified organism- or better known as GMO-based foods may harm us economically, physiologically, and worst, legally (GMO-based products are patented and patent holders will sue you even if you unknowingly use their product, which is very different from using it without consent of patent holder). You may want to check their video for free viewing online here.

If we keep using software with very restrictive user licence, we may be heading for stunted growth of technology progress, much like the 1990s when Microsoft practically has software monopoly. The rise to popularity of free and open source software was due to people's yearning for a democratized platform for business, education and technological endeavors.

If only select few holds the key to the source codes that are the building blocks of every software we use, the time when even the code that merely say's "Hello World" may be under patent is not far and impossible. I think it's time to return to the roots and make your own homebrew computer from scratch as discussed here.

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