Friday, June 29, 2007

There's a really great article over at the Anarkismo site. Free Software as Part of the Anarchist Toolkit is both an history and a description of the phenomenum of free as opposed to commercial software. The author goes into how the free and democratic spread of information empowers people to run their own lives in the way that anarchists think they should be able to do.
As an aside Molly heard a sterling example of this on the radio just the other day. Some decades ago anthropologists gathered thousands of blood samples from the Yanomamo people of the Brazilian jungle under the false promise that they were sampling to see what diseases these people were susceptible to and the further promise that specific medicine would be provided for those diseases. Of course this was utter bullshit. The purpose of the blood samples was for genetic research. The Yanomamo were particularily useful for this as they were genetically isolated. Today samples of this blood retail for up to $80 per tube on the internet. The Yanomamo custom on the death of a person is to completely cremate every item connected with this person. This, of course, included blood that may be anywhere from Rio to Atlanta to Berlin. The trouble for the retailers of the blood is that some of the Yanomamo now have internet access. They want the blood back. No, not a cut of the profits, but a return of the items swindled from them under false terms. Gotta have the Yanomamo version of a decent funeral. Without the internet the Yanomamo would never have discovered this swindle and would hardly have the means to act upon it.
Back to the article. The author presents numerous examples of how the free flow of information has enhanced democracy and how it could do even more by making local initiatives visible on the world stage. He also argues about how further development, often held back by copyright laws, could enhance the freedom of both individuals and groups by providing the technical knowledge that they presently lack. He goes into some of the "collaborative public science" projects, mostly environmental, that exist (Molly Note: Strangely enough he misses the larger and more well established projects such as the annual Christmas/midwinter bird count or the many projects under the heading of "amateur astronomy"- both of which have been discussed previously on this blog).
Anyways, have a look at this article. It's interesting and thought provoking though it would have been better if the author had provided more references for further study.

1 comment:

Terence said...

I've just see your blog reference to my article over on Anarkismo on 'Free Software as Part of the Anarchist Toolkit'

I take your point about the other well established projects. Actually I was only vaguely aware of them, so they were not included. They probably would have helped strenghten the case.

As for references, I am not sure which particular points you would to see cited.