Thursday, September 11, 2008

Free Software: Stallman and Births

Since I have four children, I found the following quote from Stallman to be very disturbing:
Hundreds of thousands of babies are born every day. While the whole phenomenon is menacing, one of them by itself is not newsworthy. Nor is it a difficult achievement—even some fish can do it.
When a fellow Emacs developer said that he had just become a father, Stallman replied, "I am sorry to hear it."

Perhaps he was just trolling. Well, Stallman's right. Even fish can reproduce. However, even a dog knows not to piss on his friend's leg.


Gabriel said...

I though a long time ago that the fact he had no childs was a bit sad, and that maybe he just did not took the time, I'm glad I did not ask him ^^, he his a great man but nobody's perfect, and it seems a lot of people don't especially want to breed, even if I find this curious...

Ian Bicking said...

I do think there's something weird about the idea that, since overpopulation is a general problem, individual children are also a problem, and that some environmentalists feel they are morally obligated not to have children. (Presumably this is Stallman's stance.)

But I would expect that a conscientious person's children will be a net benefit to the world, and along with that, a conscientious person should to impress this obligation on their children.

But of course, that's not the circumstances of a lot of births. And if every potential parent had access to the information and resources to use birth control as they choose, probably there wouldn't be a very rapid increase in population (at least I've heard of surveys that imply that). But of course the whole thing is confusing... there's a choice you can make early on, but once you have a child you have to put the very option of choice behind you and fully embrace the choice you've made -- which makes it hard to reflect on the choice in its then-historical context. And what was a choice becomes a person, who is able to make their own choices, all of which creates a feedback cycle making deductive reasoning hard and prone to misfires like Stallman's.

Gabriel said...

I agree that to "undo" a children is a generaly reprobed action, and thus cannot be achieved easily.

Maybe stallman just disaprove fork()?

infixum said...

It's too bad Stallman is such an a-hole. He's done so much, but he just can't keep from constantly pissing people off.

Anonymous said...

He's probably just jealous, because people with children have had sex.

Brandon L. Golm said...


remind me what I told you like 4 years ago please.

Seth said...

Ian: I can't argue with your logic on the value of environmentally conscious people educating children, but one can do that without producing the children themselves. There are plenty of children who are in dire need of someone to care for them. In times like these, adoption and teaching are vital public services.

All that said, there's no reason for Stallman to be a jerk about it. One can state their opinion without being rude.

CharlesMerriam said...

Sigh. This was on a private mailing list about 15 years ago. Richard S. had gotten tired of a recent trend where the normally eclectic mailing list had been taken over by constant birth announcements, announcements of impending Kindergarten, etc. So he ranted back, as was the custom of that list.

Every few years, Richard T. (not Richard S.) would forge a repost to the list to stir up trouble. Again, the keeps with the custom of that list.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

Great comments, guys. Ian, that was very insightful.

Brandon wrote:
> remind me what I told you like 4 years ago please.

Probably something like, "Don't listen to Stallman."

I just don't think Stallman will every realize how harmful his statements are for the FSF. I will readily admit that Stallman is my hero. However, this is solid proof that I should take everything he says with a massive grain of salt.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

> Again, the keeps with the custom of that list.

I hope you're right. However, saying "I'm sorry to hear that" when someone gives birth is not acceptable. That's not a humorous rant.

Brandon L. Golm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CharlesMerriam said...

I've had more interaction with Richard S. than I'd like. Most of JJ and Shannon are saying are reflections of his assumed persona. The truth is a bit more complicated. Yes, he is a great coder. Yes, he is smarter, in terms of raw horsepower, than you or I. Many of his suggestions appear to be, in order, 1) an explosive rant, 2) an acceptable alternative, 3) a deeply laid plan to make free software continuously more pervasive.

Neither underestimate him nor worship him. Your best single insight would be his original short story on DRM and academic papers. It's the dystopia he fights against.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

> I've had more interaction with Richard S. than I'd like.

I've read three of Stallman's books and I've hugged him in person. I've always liked him despite his rough edges. I was just taken aback by his devaluation of human life and his disrespect for his fellow programmers.