On Technological Liberty


I start from the premise that the FOSS movement has an underlying political philosophy, namely classical liberalism. Classical political liberalism has a rich intellectual history and provides a powerful framework for analyzing concepts of software freedom. I discuss three prominent thinkers in the liberal tradition — John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, and Erich Fromm — and map their concepts of liberty on to the open source licensing and development models. This mapping generates some surprising insights. I then speculate about the future of open source. In the larger world, political liberalism is under siege; and so, too, in the FOSS world, the value of liberty is being questioned, and new technologies present new challenges. How can we preserve technological liberty and extend it into a new era? BTW, I understand a talk about abstract ideas in political philosophy might be a little dry. 🙂 Consequently, I try to make the presentation style engaging. 1980s dance music is also invoked.