RICHARD STALLMAN DESERVES AN ENDOWED CHAIR IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF TECHNOLOGY
It’s been more than two years since MacArthur Fellow and founder of the Free Software Foundation Richard Stallman was forced to resign from his positions at MIT and the FSF.
In March of 2021, he was reinstated to the board of the FSF in recognition of the role he has played in founding and campaigning globally — with great success — for the concept of copyleft, or the freedom to use, study, distribute, and modify what would otherwise be proprietary software.
Stallman has opened our minds about the role of software, which permeates every aspect of our lives. He is not only a software developer, but he is also a philosopher of technology.
In hundreds if not thousands of talks he has presented in universities, national legislatures, computer companies, and high-tech conferences since he first announced the plan for the GNU operating system in 1983, he has warned about the dangers and limitations of proprietary software, while encouraging the adoption of free software.
I have heard Richard speak several times. In fact, I invited him to speak at one of my Berkeley Cybersalons, which featured conversations about the impact of technology on our lives. It’s been more than 50 years since I graduated from Reed College, and listening to Richard reminded me of the lectures at Reed that influenced my life. Those lectures to a 16-year-old freshman made me realize that ideas — like free software — have the power to shape the future.
And that’s why Stallman needs to be heard by young computer scientists and future startup founders in an endowed university chair for the philosophy of technology. It’s time for some tech millionaires to step up and acknowledge Stallman’s positive influence in the world and help him continue to free our minds.