UNESCO publishing paper on “Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies”

UNESCO has published a paper on "Ethical Implications of Emerging Technologies" which follows up on discussions during the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) and UN Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

The paper also talks about the OLPC project and includes a brief introduction into Free Software:

Free Software: Access to Information and Knowledge

By Georg Greve

Information and knowledge have always been at the heart of human evolution: They have shaped societies, helped build peace and were reason for war. Information and knowledge in the hand of a few can enslave entire peoples. Used wisely they can liberate them. Information and communication technologies have fundamentally changed the rules for access to both information and knowledge. Digitalization has for the first time made it conceivable to transfer information in real time, without loss and at virtually no cost, across the planet.

Software is a cultural technique at the heart of this change, the medium that shapes this evolutionary step. Software codifies the rules along which information is exchanged and converted to knowledge. It controls who can do this and under which conditions: Access to and control over software determines, in part, today’s knowledge and power structures. That is why software is such a controversial and central issue.

Software can be designed to give all power to change and enforce rules to a single person or group; this is the default approach in proprietary or non-free software.

But software can also be designed to give all users power over their own computers, and the right to determine how to interact with others in this new, virtual environment. For this right to be fully provided, software must give its users four fundamental freedoms: the freedom of unlimited use for any purpose; the freedom to study the software and learn how it works; the freedom to modify the software to adapt it to the needs of others; and the freedom to copy and distribute the software in original or modified form.

The rules of proprietary software make many dependant on the good will of a very few. The rules of Free Software provide an equal and independent playing field, which is why it is a natural choice for all activities that seek to promote Access to Information and Knowledge for everyone.

About Georg Greve

Georg Greve is a technologist and entrepreneur. Background as a software developer and physicist. Head of product development and Chairman at Vereign AG. Founding president of the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE). Previously president and CEO at Kolab Systems AG, a Swiss Open Source ISV. In 2009 Georg was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit on Ribbon by the Federal Republic of Germany for his contributions to Open Source and Open Standards.
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