Stallman is a pretty wicked (in the good sense) old school style computer geek. And, unlike many who have long since abandoned the hacker ethic for mansions and executive slots in corporations (as in: sold out) he's remained utterly consistent about his principles since day one.
You don't have to like or agree with him in order to respect his integrity. Especially when you realize this guy could have become a multi-billionaire a dozen times over had he chose to do so. And all it would have taken was a slight initial abandonment of his principles (see: Steven Jobs et al.) to make it happen.
A famous man once said: A prophet is not without honor except
in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home. And this certainly seems to be the case with Richard Stallman. Much of what he warned about that was previously dismissed as 'nonsense,' paranoia and 'over dramatization' has now become the norm behavior for the technology and software sector.
Cut to its core, Stallman's key insight is very clear and simple: People cannot, in fact - nor should they be allowed under the law
- to claim ownership
of an idea
. To do so would stifle innovation; destroy an individual's
incentive to invent; and hand an unacceptable amount of broadly defined power to those who have already demonstrated their complete untrustworthiness and lack of ability to wield it for the common good.
A look at our current (and worsening) morass of patent trolling and IP legal chicanery is proof Stallman wasn't as delusional or paranoid as many of his critics claimed.
"So it goes," as Kurt Vonnegut so neatly put it.
When the Linux Action Show (or GNU
/Linux Action Show for this
) decided to celebrate their 200th show with something special, they scored a major coup
by getting RMS himself to be on the show for an hour of give & take. It's interesting to watch with RMS on his soapbox and Brian Lunduke trying to work around something (that for RMS) is already settled. In many respects it's the perfect example of why this argument continues - and where both sides of the argument come up short and fail to reach any sort of agreement.
I do have give Brian props for having the kahunas
to go up against an institution such as RMS. First, because RMS is very smart - and has spent most of his life preparing his arguments. So there's little you can bring forward that Stallman hasn't considered and debated hundreds of times before. Secondly, because this is a real Linux geek's show - and RMS is...well
....it's kinda like arguing with the Pope about church doctrine on an EWTN talk show.
Stallman, on the other hand, also shows that trademark combination of intelligence and infuriating intransigence he's so well known for. Many people mistake it for arrogance. But I really think (having observed the Stallman-monster for many years) that it's really more that RMS has given more considered thought to this subject than his critics have - and he knows it
. And furthermore, RMS believes the conclusions he has reached are clearly evident
. Which makes him a very difficult guy to "get along" with. He's much like most people who are deeply convinced of the "rightness" of what they're proposing - but lack the 'people skills' needed to 'sell' their argument to average person. (Selling is definitely something RMS doesn't understand. He's the sort who believes that, if a person is confronted with a logical argument, logic must ultimately prevail. What can I say? It just doesn't get more geeky than that. And RMS is the poster child of absolute geekdom.)
Anyway, check it out. Expect to get angry before it's over - no matter what side of the debate you come down on.
But then again...it's a FOSS
discussion. Do those discussions ever go any other way?