Do users control the software they use?

‘Playful cleverness’ as RMS puts it, has been a much awaited jargon for the motivation behind building new things in computing be it…

Do users control the software they use?

‘Playful cleverness’ as RMS puts it, has been a much awaited jargon for the motivation behind building new things in computing be it software or hardware. A more popular jargon being ‘hacking’ or some choose a more euphemistic term ‘ethical hacking’ to distinguish themselves from the colloquial pirates. Ethical, in itself is a subjective term. Would someone call Amazon ‘ethical’ for having universal backdoor(s) in Alexa and Kindle? Perhaps, a freedom respecting (in terms of software) person would not.

It’s quite bewildering to see that the software we use in our daily lives are intrinsically controlling the way we interact with them. These may have serious ramifications on privacy and freedom. What we call as 'using' a software is actually turning out be 'used by' the software. For example, we believe that we use Facebook for making friends, following news, communication, advertising etc but in reality we are being used by social media platforms in giving out private details, targeted for incessant advertising and acting as a servant for the Government. Do you think Facebook would not give data to the Government, third parties and data brokers? In fact, Facebook can do whatever they wish to, without any informed consent from its users. The privacy and usage terms devised by these social media bigwigs are obscure, malicious, intrusive and ephemeral. Facebook and other social media sites chews on user’s data and spits out targeted ads which makes the users buy things they don’t need. Public opinions are hugely influenced through these social networking sites. Anyone can pay Facebook to get their propaganda through.

In fact Facebook doesn’t allow its usage, by blocking users and victimizing them. Yet, I continue to visit that website because it is built to make people addicted. Checking notifications from people. Every notification pumping a small dose of dopamine. Man is such a gregarious being that socializing becomes inevitable. These philosophers and spiritual gurus who preach of aloneness (a made up word I guess because the spell-checker doesn’t seem to agree), disenchantment, austerity, mindfulness and awareness are doing it through Facebook and other social media sites. How thoughtful!

These ways of wisdom is enriched through experience. Memories are like those binoculars through which we see our present and chart the future course. Without it we are blind. Every action would be spontaneous and impromptu. No more déjà vu. No more hesitations and conflicts. Just perpetuity without classification and discernment. This ushers a possibility. A possibility of a beginning and not a means to an end.

What Freedom Means by Michael Pagnotti

One fine night, just about midnight I woke up and realized the mention of a freedom respecting hardware. A notebook which was modified to allow the users to use it without sacrificing their freedom. Freedom of using the hardware in whichever way they wished. No hidden backdoors to spy on them. So, went ahead to get a Libre machine with a free (as in free speech) operating system. Completely customizable to suit my experience. No proprietary or confidential programs on it. A day of true liberation for my computing. Would I call my self with an erstwhile maligned term 'Hacker' which now is just a passé by appending an 'Ethical' tag to it? Perhaps, hacking in its true spirit would mean 'playful cleverness’ without any good or evil morality. Morality, still is an issue of societal acceptance and preferences. More so, an issue of conflict between cults on various disagreements.

In fact, me writing an article on Medium would be frowned upon if I were a devout follower of the free software philosophy. Simply, because I’m writing on a website that uses non-free JavaScript. I tell myself that at the end of the day - "Neither am I a true conformist or a contentious rebel, but somewhere in between."