Tuesday, March 23, 2021

The RMS thing has come up again. I wrote at some length about this back in October of 2019. I felt messed up about it then, and I still do. If anybody wants or needs my opinions, they haven’t changed much since I wrote that piece.

Anyway, I signed the open letter. I could quibble with aspects of the demands there, but I guess this feels like a necessary push right now. A lot of friends and colleagues are on that list, and it seems like for the right reasons.

I don’t want to see the Free Software Foundation destroyed. I would very much like to see it saved from some of the worst impulses in this scene. If that can’t happen, then we as a community probably need to stop treating the FSF as a useful proxy for the radical libre software position and put that effort, time, and money into less damaged undertakings.

At any rate: I won’t personally renew my membership with the FSF until, and unless, meaningful changes are made.

p1k3 / 2021 / 3 / 23
tags: topics/free-software, topics/richard-stallman

Sunday, March 14, 2021

reading: a desolation called peace

A Desolation Called Peace, Arkady Martine, Tor Books, March 2021.

The followup to A Memory Called Empire, which I read in November of last year. More overtly Space Opera in its plot mechanics and fantasy physics, but digs deeper into the first novel’s most interesting ideas, and pays off all over the place. Doubled themes of memory, language, theory-of-mind, small cultures surviving at great cost in the face of larger ones, cultures and polities transformed by what they attempt to subsume.

I have marginal notes like “this is so fucking good” in a couple of places. If this is a kind of thing you enjoy, you will very likely enjoy this instance of it.

p1k3 / 2021 / 3 / 14
tags: topics/arkady-martine, topics/books, topics/reading, topics/sfnal

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

We loved computers: That’s a simplification, almost a category error. What happened is we found computers, we got on the network, and before long we lived as much inside the possibility space of computing as we did anywhere else.

Maybe what we got wrong is this: From the beginning, computers appeared to us as a kind of liberation. Because we were young and our horizons were close, we mistook the ways they opened the world to us for their most important quality. What we couldn’t see then was that they were born as instruments of the oppressor, and would help us become the same.

Even when we grasped that the scaffolding of computation came from power, when we were running free around those systems we felt like we understood their real purpose in a way that the institutions that built and purchased them couldn’t. Nevermind that they couldn’t exist without an industrial economy, ranked tiers of exploited workers, and a relentlessly degraded environment.

Computation was a power that we could see how to take for ourselves. It unfolded in front of us in a way that the authorities in our lives could, for the most part, barely even perceive. Sometimes they’d glimpse it and lash out in fear or contempt. We mistook their fear for a sign we were on the right track.

And maybe some of us were, for a while. But we didn’t understand that what power serves is usually power itself.

p1k3 / 2021 / 3 / 3