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Cake day: Mar 24, 2022

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huh, I was reading “When Serfs Stood Up In Tibet” this week. Very timely.


Heh, you’re talking to someone with a lumpenproletariat background, so that angle isn’t going to go the way you expect. I won’t get into details, but I can say without hesitation that, yes, it would have been better all round if she had aborted all her children, including me, and I know beyond a doubt that she agrees with me on this. Hopefully you can take the sincerity with which I say this on trust - it’s not about winning an argument on the internet.

My previous post actually rested on how our society treats “human life”, and how we are more casual about it when it is undeveloped, and less casual about it when it is more-developed. I urge you to read it again and think carefully about the request I made of you. “Human life” is not undifferentiated. Not everything we can put under that banner is the same. Being casual about the ending of some of it doesn’t necessitate us being casual about the ending of all of it.


The answer to your question is right there in the question itself - you’re attempting to weigh a person that doesn’t exist against one that does exist. QED, if you ask me.

A nitpick that may help you - you should say “may develop”, not “wil develop”. Odds are better than 50% that any given embryo will spontaneously abort. Typically experienced as a missed period, these episodes do not have the same emotional charge as the loss of a baby, and you should think about why that is.

Many of these spontaneous abortions are preventable or avoidable, incidentally. It would necessitate some inconvenience to actually existing people to do so, and these potential people aren’t worth it, so we don’t. But we could. Can you put together an argument that we should?



He probably didn’t actually say “I’m sorry” 🤮


SSPL is modified AGPL, so pepole are certainly trying that route. I’m not too optimistic myself.

And yeah, if you try to play by the rules, you’ll always find the rules change on you the moment you start to achieve success. I’d file that under “this is a nice problem to have”, personally.


The distinction is very important in the context of your question, because it makes no sense to ask why an embryo doesn’t get a choice in being aborted - they can’t make choices. The “end of existence” of an embryo is also of far less consequence than the “end of existence” of a baby. Using “baby” instead of “embryo” attempts to obscure that, and to create doubt over a reasonably simple situation.

As the embryo develops into a fetus, there are more opportunities for doubt, but the underlying question doesn’t change all that much: do potential people have rights (e.g. to exist) that supercede the rights of actually existing people (e.g. bodily autonomy)?

There’s a huge body of work on this topic; to distil it right down, the more likely the person is to come into existence, the more reasonable it is to start ascribing them such rights. At the point where a pregnant woman decides on an abortion, that likelihood drops right down, so it becomes very difficult to justify prioritising the potential person over the actual person.

The same question often comes up in other discussions - we might talk about preserving resources for future generations, for instance. It’s very likely that there will be a future generation, so it makes a lot more sense to subordinate people who exist now to those potential people in some ways; but not absolutely.


Thanks. I’ve been throwing these ideas at various walls for a few years now, trying to get something that sticks, and that isn’t immediately rejected out-of-hand by FOSS advocates 😅

Yeah, you’re pretty much spot on. These big fish are using the tools we build “for anyone” to construct a prison for us, right in plain sight, and we just… keep building the tools? How does that make sense?


Capitalists aren’t very interested in building commons; it’s not their goal. They can use both copyleft and permissively-licensed stuff to accomplish their goal.

If your goal is to build a commons that capitalists can’t use, then you’re looking at copyfarleft. Being able to bootstrap that effort with already-existing code is very helpful. You can do that with permissively licensed code, but you can’t do it with copyleft code.

Or to put it another way: if you wanted a copyfarleft kernel, you could start by forking openbsd, but you couldn’t start by forking linux.


“A commons that is uniquely exploitable by capitalists” is pretty much the size of it. I could also boil it down as “freedom zero exists”, but if you see that as a strength, you’re unlikely to be swayed by that ^^. A few angles beneath the folds:

The money argument The way code generates revenue these days is overwhelmingly about a big infrastructure-owning capitalist putting up a SaaS and charging people for access. They do this so effectively that others - including the authors of the software, who typically rent their infrastructure - get only a sliver of total revenue on offer.

Nothing in the GPL protects people from this, which is why copyleft people wrote the AGPL. However, the advantage their exploiters have comes from the infrastructure, not the code, so AGPL is ineffective.

In view of this lack of effectiveness, non-copyleft people have been trying different approaches. The Commons Clause and SSPL come from infrastructure-renting little capitalists. They try to get a leg up by putting onerous restrictions on their competition. It’s not been a great success so far, as MongoDB and Elasticsearch demonstrate. Those have suffered from project seizure via forking, but that’s not always possible - new projects are coming along with licenses like this, or with similar effect, baked in from the start, e.g., WriteFreely (AGPL, but with special privileges for the original authors).

My heart doesn’t bleed for the little capitalists, so this angle doesn’t move me much, but it does sometimes get strong copyleft advocates to agree that there is something imperfect going on in their commons, even if they don’t think these license innovations are the right tool for fixing it.

The moral responsibility argument

When I create something, I feel morally responsible for how it’s used. Inside wage relations, this mostly boils down to refusing to work for some employers. I wouldn’t want to become even-more complicit than I already am in, say, the bombing of Yemen, by working at an involved munitions factory. I wouldn’t work at a company on the BDS list either. Liberals had an attempted boycott of companies that worked with ICE, back when Trump was in charge and keeping children in cages was unfashionable. It’s not sufficient, of course, but it’s also not nothing.

If I create a copyrightable work of my own, this sense of responsibility coalesces around who I choose to license it to, and under what terms. If it’s closed-source software, I get to decide this on a case-by-case basis, and I would absolutely refuse to provide it to certain people or organisations. We see this with musicians (those who own their works, anyway) refusing to let political campaigns or adverts use it, for instance.

Now, copyleft makes a big claim: I should discard this feeling of responsibility, because doing so leads to better software. A mortal enemy might help to improve it! Wow!

This is the basis of freedom zero, and usually finds expression in a hypothetical conflict between pro-choice / anti-choice software authors.

I used to be very impressed by this idea. For the life of me, I can’t remember why. Better software is not an imperative - we’d be fine with good-enough software. We’d cope alright with substandard software. We’d make do without any software at all, if we had to.

What about “better software” makes it reasonable to disclaim that sense of responsibility? Why are people such enthusiasts about creating a huge body of excellent software that their mortal enemies can use? Why do that instead of creating a huge body of good-enough software that their mortal enemies can’t use? Why don’t communists s/mortal/class/ and party on?

Copyfarleft licenses like the Cooperative Software License try to express the author’s convictions, in defiance of freedom zero, so they can retain that responsibility. The JSON License, with its line about being used “for Good, not Evil”, could be called an early precursor, I suppose.

Copyleft vs permissive

The previous arguments work the same whether the software under discussion is copyleft or permissive, but permissive software can be used to bootstrap alternatives (i.e. can be combined with copyfarleft code), whereas copyleft software can’t.

The copyfarleft commons basically doesn’t exist at the moment, of course, but writing more GPL code doesn’t help it to come into existence. Writing more MIT code might.


To talk a little about my own “journey” with this - 20 years ago, I was very impressed with FSF philosophy. 10 years ago, even, it all seemed obvious. When heartbleed rolled around, I started to experience worries about the “economic incentives” FOSS created. Sometime after I became a communist, I realised copyleft helps my class enemies more than my class allies. Now, I write permissively licensed code and dicker around with various copyfarleft licenses, trying to find the secret sauce that will fix everything. It probably doesn’t exist, of course.

So in the end, the fascism/freedom thing in the original post still makes absolutely no sense, but I do find myself sympathetic to “don’t use GPL”, for very different reasons.


Over the past few years I’ve gotten a bit down on copyleft myself. In brief, they create a commons that is uniquely exploitable by capitalists, by virtue of their control over infrastructure, at least here in “the west”.

There is a nascent “copyfarleft” commons that tries to fix this in a bunch of only-partially-compatible ways. It can make use of permissively licensed software for bootstrapping, but not copyleft software.


One other thought: sometimes there’s a conflict where they’ll support population control in-general, but be strongly against, e.g., China’s one-child policy. This can be a lever.


My last workplace had an explicit “no politics” rule. Didn’t stop some random git from seguing from an innocent conversation (I forget what) to “we need population control in africa or the world will be destroyed”. Just your average apolitical conversational gambit sigh.

I opted for a chilly “Malthus was wrong” and ended the conversation. Trying to explain or argue it isn’t particularly likely to succeed, so for me the priority is just to get away from the scum ASAP.

If that’s not possible or you’ve got spare energy, making it about their personal lifestyle choices can be fun - “Oh, so you’ve commited to not having any kids yourself? You realise that each of your children take up enough resources for ten Ethiopian children, right?” etc. It at least puts them on the back foot.


Abortions don’t happen to babies. Most of them don’t even happen to fetuses.


Thanks for the detailed reply, that makes perfect sense! The “owned outright” bit was the part I was missing.


I don’t want to be a nitpicker, and I recognise that this is only a small part of your overall point, but I am curious where the 30% of .uk being homeowners number comes from, and what the methodology is.

Typically I see numbers where ~65% of households are owner-occupiers. When I go check on my friends, however, it’s more like 10%.


You mean there are distros… other than… Debian?

I kid, I kid. Been using it on almost everything since ~2000, but sometimes use Manjaro on devices with hardware that Debian struggles to cope with, like the pinebook pro in the early days.

I try other things from time to time, but always return to Debian after a few months. It’s just so pleasant.


A fun implication: .uk has already signed a mutual defence thingy with Finland, designed to give them cover in the period between applying and joining. If that period is years, rather than months, it puts them over a barrel.



Meanwhile, Simon Tisdall in 2014: https://edition.cnn.com/2014/04/03/opinion/syria-refugees-tisdall/index.html

But in the overall scheme of things, the Crimea problem fades into insignificance when set alongside the dreaded ramifications and implications, short and long term, of the international community’s plain inability or its lamentable lack of will to halt the Syrian war.



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