Free software, free society: Richard Stallman at TEDxGeneva 2014

Free software, free society: Richard Stallman at TEDxGeneva 2014


Translator: TED Translators admin
Reviewer: V字龍 N/A Free software is the first battle in the liberation of cyberspace. Who controls your computer? Is it you or is it some big company
that’s really controlling it? What is a computer? A computer is a universal machine. It will do any computation you want it to because you give it a program that says what the computation is that you want. The computer only knows
how to get out an instruction and do it, and get out another
instruction and do it. The program has the instructions,
it says what to do. By writing the right program,
you can make it do anything. Well, almost anything. Who gives the instructions
to your computer? You might think it’s
obeying your instructions when really it’s obeying
somebody else first, and you only as much as
that company will let it listen to you. With software,
there are two possibilities: Either the users control the program,
or the program controls the users. It’s inevitably one or the other. In order for the users
to control the program, they need the four essential freedoms. That’s the definition of free software. Free software respects
the user’s freedom and community. Now, we often call it “Libre”
using the French or Spanish word. Pronounce it as you like,
the point is that’s what we mean. We don’t mean it’s gratis,
we’re not talking about price. We’re concerned with your freedom, and we sometimes say
“Free/Libre” to show that. Freedom zero is the freedom
to run the program as you wish for whatever purpose. Freedom one is the freedom to study
the source code of the program and change it, so it does
the computing you want it to do. But what is the source code? Every program typically
will have two forms. There’s the form that you can read,
and you can understand if you know the programming language. That’s the source. That’s what programmers write and change. Then, there’s the executable,
which is a bunch of numbers which even a programmer can’t figure out. If all you get is the executable, it’s a horrible pain in the neck
to the figure out what it does, and even harder to change it. So, to give you the real possibility
to study and change it, they’ve got to give you the source code. That’s a requirement. With those two freedoms, each user separately can make a copy and start changing it
and make it do what she wants. That’s individual control. But what if you’re not a programmer? You look at the source code,
and you don’t understand it. Individual control isn’t enough. We also need collective control, which means any group of users
are free to work together to adapt the program to what they want. Of course, in the group,
some of them are programmers. They’re the ones who
actually write the changes, but they’re doing it as part of the group for what the group wants. Of course, the group
doesn’t have to be everybody. Others can use it some other way. They’re all free to do that. Collective control requires
two more essential freedoms. Freedom two is the freedom
to redistribute exact copies, to make the copies and then give them away or sell them when you wish. Freedom three is similar, but it’s for your modified versions. You’re free to make copies, and then
give them or sell them when you wish. If you do have these freedoms,
then it’s free software, the users control the program. But if any of those freedoms is missing, then the users don’t control the program. Instead, the program controls the users
and the developer controls the program. So, that means this program
is an instrument of unjust power for its developer over the users. That means the users don’t have freedom, that’s non‑free, proprietary software
which we’ve got to get rid of. When you’ve got proprietary software,
what happens? Sometimes, the program snoops on the user. Sometimes, it tracks the user. Sometimes, it restricts the user, and stops users from doing
what they want to do. You can see that the blue ray
is your enemy. [Laughter] Sometimes, the software
remotely deletes books as Amazon did with “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Sometimes, the developer compels users to install a harmful upgrade, by threatening to take away
other functionality if it’s not installed, as Sony did. Sometimes, they can even forcibly change
the software at a distance as Microsoft can with Windows
through the universal back door. Sometimes, they even sabotage users, as Microsoft does when it tells
the NSA about bugs in Windows, so it can use them
to attack people’s computers. What you get is basically,
with proprietary software, the owner has power over the users, and takes advantage of this power, putting in those various
malicious functionalities to hurt the users. Of course, they don’t do this
because they’re sadists; they’re doing it just
for money, for greed. They have various ways
that they can profit from having this power over users, which does not make it
even the tiniest bit less evil. But they have no shame about it. They have conferences where
they talk about the latest ways they can take advantage of users
through the power they have. Basically, proprietary software, which is now for almost all of the users
of proprietary software, they’re using proprietary malware. It’s “software for suckers”. How do you stop being the victim? Formerly, you had to stop using computers,
but not anymore. Now, you can come join us
in the free world that we’ve built. In 1983, I announced I would develop a completely free software
operating system called GNU. In 1992, we had it almost finished, but one piece was missing, the kernel. Linus Torvalds, in that year,
freed his kernel, Linux, which filled the last gap,
and gave us the first complete system
you could run on a PC: GNU/Linux. Unfortunately, having freedom at one point
doesn’t guarantee you’ll keep it. There are over a thousand
different variants of GNU/Linux. They’re called distributions. A few of them are entirely free software; most of them have non‑free software added, because they’re maintained by people
who aren’t concerned about freedom. They’d rather add convenience —
but at the cost of freedom. So you have to check
which is a free distro. To keep your freedom,
sometimes requires a sacrifice, sometimes a big sacrifice,
as at Lexington. But in our campaign,
they tend to be little sacrifices. Anybody with a little bit of maturity
can make these sacrifices. For instance, you want applications,
but some of them are non‑free. If you want freedom,
you’ve got to do without them. There may be some inconveniences you have to suffer
for your freedom’s sake. Then, many websites
send non‑free programs, written in JavaScript,
to the user’s browser. If you don’t want
to run non‑free programs, you should install LibreJS which blocks, keeps out,
non‑free JavaScript. Sometimes, servers will offer
to do your computing. They say, “Send us all your data.” Obviously, for suckers. Then the server does the computing,
and sends you back the results. But you’re not supposed
to think about what’s happening, because it’s a “cloud”,
and you don’t see what’s going on. Well, you should look. It’s service as a software substitute, and it takes away control
of your computing. A large fraction of
the world’s web servers are running GNU/Linux
and other free software. But I think the most important
computers to put freedom in are your computers,
not companies’ web servers. They deserve freedom, also. But above all, it’s people
that deserve freedom. So we need to advance, and to do that,
we have to cross obstacles. One of them is there are big companies that make a lot of money
by having control over users. They don’t want to let us advance. We have to overcome their opposition. Another is that the mainstream media
don’t talk about free software. They have a term that they use
to bury these ethical issues. They say “open source” instead. Now, it talks about more
or less the same programs, but with different ideas. Where free software activists say, “This is a matter of right and wrong. Users deserve freedom.
We demand freedom.” The people who say open source,
they don’t want to say that. Instead, they say, “Let the users change
the software and redistribute it, and they’ll make the code better. They’ll fix some bugs.” It may be true, but it’s
a less important issue. If we want to keep our freedom,
we’ve got to talk about freedom. So say, “free software,”
and you’re helping us every time. Another obstacle is that lots
of schools teach non‑free software, which is basically like teaching
the kids to smoke tobacco. It’s implanting dependence, which is the opposite
of what schools should do. A school should prepare citizens to live in a strong, capable, independent,
cooperating and free society, which means, teaching
free software in the school. But there’s another reason
to do that for education. Some kids want to become programmers,
they’re curious. They want to know how the programs work. While the one who’s studying
a free software can understand it, the one who’s studying a non‑free
program can’t learn anything, because the knowledge
in the non‑free program is withheld, denied to the students. So to uphold the spirit of education, the school should make sure
its programs are free. But there’s an even
more important reason: Schools should teach
the spirit of goodwill, the habit of helping other people. The class should say, “If you bring a program to class, just as if you bring cookies to class, you’ve got to share it with everyone else. You can’t keep it to yourself. You’ve got to share the source code,
so other people can learn. So don’t bring any proprietary software
to this class.” The school has to set a good example
by following its own rule: You should bring only
free software to class, except as a reverse engineering exercise. Another obstacle is there’s hardware we don’t know how
to write free software for, because they won’t tell us
how to use the hardware. That’s shocking.
They want to sell you the product, and they won’t tell you how to use it. They say, “Here’s a
non‑free program you can use. Run it, and shut up.
Don’t bother us.” How do we find out how to run
that hardware with reverse engineering? You’ve got to study all those 0’s and 1’s
to figure out what they really do, and write down how to use that hardware, so someone else can write
the free program to do it. It’s hard work, but it can be done — if you want to make
a big technical contribution, that’s what you should do. Each new area, activity of life, can bring with it new human rights
that are necessary. The human rights depend on each other. If you lose one, it becomes harder
to maintain the others. So, nowadays, computing is
so important in society that the freedoms of free software
are among the human rights that society must establish and protect. Thus, how to help? You can write free software. You can organize groups to campaign, and persuade schools and governments
to move to free software. You can help other people when
they have trouble using free software, or help them install it. You can say, “free software,”
and spread the philosophical ideas. Moving to free software is the first step
in the liberation of cyberspace, but of course, we also use the Internet. We need other freedoms there, like network neutrality,
and putting an end to surveillance of people in general. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Free software, free society: Richard Stallman at TEDxGeneva 2014

  • So excited to watch this on Linux Mint which would not have been possible without the Debain distro. Indeed free software has arrived.

  • He makes the mistake that freedom is in itself a virtue, when in reality freedom is an aspect that contributes to the greater virtue of “positive user experience” And he uses circular reasoning to prove it. He uses the form “control over the user is bad, therefore the user isn’t free, and this is bad because the user doesn’t have control” essentially. He also makes the assumption that making money off software is bad because it doesn’t allow freedom. He does point out some good flaws with current systems… but given it all hinges on a faulty premise based on circular reasoning he comes to some pretty ridiculous conclusions about education

  • In a perfect world, a free society, everyone would know how to build a computer and software and everyone would have their own custom machine.

  • Today I celebrate my one year anniversary living in linux. When my previous computer broke one year ago, my new one came automaticaly installed with windows. Running slow, every day updates, no control on network traffic or what was being uploaded. I had to pay extra for unwanted uploads: so windows felt like a virus. I installed a dual boot keeping the old windows and adding ubuntu. One year later I am confident that I can do all I need as a graphical designer using libre software (scribus, inkscape, gimp) producing pdf for commercial print. Not once did I need to start from the windows boot. I am very happy with a nice and quiet environnement that does what I need it to do and does not do other things that I can not track. When I need more disk space the windows boot will be the first thing to be removed.

  • Check out Computrace by Absolute Software. It's on most Intel equipped computers and can be activated from deeper then the bios, revealing your location, IP, and even monitor everything you do and type. Extremely dangerous software that has been built into all computers and hidden very well. Won't find it in your programs list.

  • I guess he bought bitcoin a lot 🙂 His intelligence went too far. most ordinary people don't have enough time to think about their freedom actually

  • I know Richard Matthew Stallman and he never asked to publish short movies on YouTube or similar one. Youtube uses js, flash, mp4…. all things pratically in contrast with FREE SOFTWARE and with FREE CODECS as: *.flac, *.mkv, *.oga, *.ogg, *.ogv, *.x264……

  • Say what you want about stall man. I completely support his efforts!
    May we liberate our computers and teach free software at schools.

  • I was 15 and that was when Linux and GNU project became my ideal projects. I am 17 right now, and now I am getting to know more about proprietary softwares learned more . . . i.e. they are all spyware doesnt matter whether it is Microsoft or Mac

  • Why doesn't he just call it freedom software then, just to clear up the misconceptions? Sure, freedom is not an adjective, but…

  • The problem I have with Richard Stallman is he comes across lately as an Markist Socialist and offers no viable solutions to what to use on the market that doesnt provide source code and seems to REFUSE to accept that we can be ethical and write closed source software such as VIDEO GAMES

  • I am amazed with all the free money Richard Stallman gets he doesnt invest into gym membership and lose weight

  • Thank you Mr. Stallman for everything you have done to defend freedom to defend liberty.

  • How do you sell a program that also has the source freely available? Or more to the point, if someone else gives away your program with the source, what reason is there to buy it?

  • I think the problem non-computer scientists cannot address here is ironically: how in-deterministic nature computers and especially operating systems really are; and why that actually means even for them – the sacrifices we are forced to make how ever small they seem are never actually boundable or assumed small in any strict sense of the logic. The reality is you can never know how BIG the sacrifice is.

  • Where are you from ? Im a rapper from Maryland. Your videos are amazing. Check out mine. Id love to know your thoughts. 💪😍

  • Maybe we laughed at him a few years ago, but the funny thing is, he was right all along. In the form of open source, free software now enables most of the innovation, powers most computers, creates productive communities and huge profits for companies that embrace it.

  • When software is knowledge then the free/libre model is perfect, but when software is labour then the proprietary model gives more successful results. Rather than eliminate completely, we'd better just regulate proprietary software more tightly, like say antitrust or patent laws do. In particular, I find the "temporarily proprietary then free" software concept very promising. Not necessary to limit proprietary by time, for instance it can also be limited by a number of copies sold. The number which a creator chooses by themselves before the sales start and which a creator is obligated to inform potential customers about.

  • I agree with Stallman in that we must live free. Too many greedy corporations want to control what we do by sending our usage patterns back to them to analyze so that they can sell us more products and control us. Free software is freedom from tyranny.

  • You know how you sound like a conspiracy theorist? Make outrageous claims with no evidence and act like it's common knowledge when it's not

  • Come on….. Why would school teach freedom and openness….. they are the Government Hatcheries designed for molding the "generation-coming" into obedience through brain washing …….. Question Not

  • Think about it. If you choose to value money more than you choose to value freedom or any other sacred principle or ideal or anything even the least bit good, you will only end up selling your own freedom, and your moral principles and your own sacred ideals , and even the least bit of your own good for money. Is this a wise thing to do ? Freedom is clearly the objective, and they are saying that freedom is not a matter of price but a matter of principle, but isn't the principle of freedom invaluable, to be cherished and to be treasured much more than money. Free as in free meal, and freebie always has more takers, than free as in free spirit. People are sharp to observe the lawlessness and disorder in their society, or their nation or the place they happen to inhabit. Are they themselves model citizens of a model society and are they setting the standards and blazing the trail for future generations ? Is their own society free from and rid of its own evils. Are the individuals in any group ever truly free from their own limitations and rid of their own vice, their own shortcomings and their own weakness. So there is never true freedom in doing the wrong and immoral thing.

  • In another talk richard said that he didnt support open source yet here he is saying that sharing your code is essential to free software? sCan somebody explain this to me?

  • "If you get the executable, it's a bunch of 1s and 0s even the programmer can't figure out!"
    Not if you can read assembly! 😉

  • Although GNU/Linux is far different than Windows and Mac, the only thing I can commend Windows for is it being easy to use. I don't know how easy Mac is compared to Windows, because I'm not too familiar with Mac. Although I've been using GNU/Linux for the last few years to avoid the spyware and restrictions of Windows, I don't know a thing about programming, and even when I did try to learn programming, I found it difficult. What I don't understand is why GNU/Linux programs don't come with both an executable and the source code, because then causal users can just run the program, and if they do decide to learn programming and can understand it, they can run the program through terminal or change and redistribute the source code.

  • school won't teach you that… like what Robert Kiyosaki said for the personal financial independence, you've done a great job for the IT aspect. schools won't teach you how to become rich, and they won't teach you free software

  • I like this guy, it makes me feel good to hear him and listening to his talks and speeches . He is so humble and so competent, The GNU/Gcc C compiler is one of his greatest achievements + the EMACS editor which is a great piece of software.

  • It's funny that companies like Google use free software for themselves to protect their own safety and freedom. But they sell us their malware and claim that there is no other way

  • Free as in the freedom of ideas and knowledge? I don't see any problem with that.

    But free as in money, as in working for a living? Sorry, I don't believe in socialism.

  • If everything is open source, where will innovation come from? In order to maintain and develop software there needs to be incentive for the developers to develop.

    I agree with the man that companies do spy way too much. However, all open source will come at price.

  • How does a computer company make your computer obsolete? Kill the browser. Someday it will be the same with cars. John Deere has programs that force you to fix tractors with them or else…

  • what about free of restrictions. if you want to copy it fine id you want use it fine if you want to sell it for profit fine… absolutely free of restrictions

  • It seems that my assessment of this talk is going to be heretical in the company of those making comments. As an end user, I would obviously enjoy it if all of my software were free, in every sense of the word, including not being forced to consume advertisements against my will. But I cannot see how this would lead to great software. It sounds like this plan has a lot in common with communism. How would civilisation look if people could not receive money for their creativity. At the moment the model we use is one of intellectual property. When someone creates something that is not tangible, we still give them the power to govern how people are allowed to use their property. They are not allowed to behave as if the creation is the property of everyone in the commune. People are rewarded for creating things that are useful to others. This has resulted in the phenomenal advances in our society. I use very few pieces of "free" software that perform as well as microsoft software. We all moan about Microsoft and how buggy their software is, but then we try something for which the creator was not paid and we remember how much we take Microsoft software for granted. So, for my short-term desire to save money, I say the more free software, the better…..but for the long-term, I want to pay for my software because I want good software. I cannot think of a model where software does not have to be gratis and libre for one or the other to exist. But please explain to me how that is.
    As for his talk of "unjust power". In the context of what he was saying, I disagree. I believe it is entirely just for someone to be given the power to govern the use of their own creation. Unjust power can be wielded by any sort of software developer. It is obviously not possible to see how unjust power is being used when the source code is secret. This is the point at which libre software sounds like a great plan….but not at the expense of the motivation for people to be creative. There are other solutions for preventing unjust power. I like living in the west.

  • Right now the only thing that can help us get rid of companies, especially the big 4 spying on everyone is to really have free software!
    Aaaand instead of talking about this kind of stuff he is getting fired for not being PC enough…

  • Just one question, how does a piece of software be free and can be sold for a price at the same time. It seems that the open ideology is violates the ability to price somethin( or renders it futile). Like one guy could buy it and then share it for free. How is that prevented, making both free and commercially sellable software?

  • So I spend countless hours—years even—on research, development and hard work on some sweet new features for my software that no one else is doing. I spend money on R&D, fine tuning my features until they're perfect, I put my life and soul into starting a software business, start selling my software to the public and I've… got to give away all the code I spent years working on? All that research? All that time? All that money? So big companies like Google and Apple can come along and get it all for basically nothing and wipe me out at the same time? Sounds like a great idea to me!

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