A New RMS Interview with fresh questions; DRM in comm and in medicine
RMS was interviewed by Sean Daly in the GPLv3 Conference in Barcelona.
The interview is available both as Ogg file and as textual transcript
(thanks to whomever made the textual transcription; I found no credit
Sean Daly asked RMS fresh new questions, departing from the beaten old
questions, which used to make previous RMS interviews repetitious.
RMS identified the following areas as areas which he believes are
important for future GNU programmers to work on:
- Speech recognition
- Free drivers
- Java still qualifies as a priority.
Most of the interview was about DRM.
The following is not part of a review of the interview, but is my own
There are at least two areas, where DRM would naively be considered as a
solution to legitimate concerns:
1. Embedded systems, which emit electromagnetic energy, such as WiFi
cards. The hardware is typically designed to be very flexible.
Uncontrolled software can cause the device to violate emission and
2. Medical instruments, which must not be tampered with, lest they harm
We (the Free Software movement) need to suggest alternate means for
addressing legitimate concerns.
About (1), I do not have yet intellectual ammunition.
About (2), I can offer the following thoughts:
1. Medical instruments, like medications, are regulated when they are
being sold to physicians/patients. The physician is allowed to modify
the instrument to fit his patient's needs - the limitation is that he is
not allowed to sell his modifications to other physicians.
2. Modifying the software of a medical instrument by unauthorized people
can, in principle, be likened to a passer-by who drops in an intensive
care unit in an hospital, and messes around with the controls of the
instruments there. Hospitals have (or should have) security precautions
to prevent both.
Authorized people (nurses, doctors, hospital-employed software
developers) can be assumed to Know What They Are Doing.
3. Physicians must have the power to tamper with the software of medical
instruments, which they use. They are responsible to their patient's
well-being. Sometimes, the patient needs non-standard treatment or
supervision procedure. Then, the physician must have the power to have
the instrument modified to fit his patient's needs.
Of course, together with power comes responsibility. But one can ask
why do we trust physicians (in their role as surgeons) who cut parts of
our hearts, and we stop trusting them to order and supervise software
modifications to the instruments which they use.
You haven't made an impact on the world before you caused a Debian
release to be named after Snufkin.
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