Free as in Free World
Freedom of information and the various freedoms that attend it—the freedom to share, to know, to hack, to fork, to modify—reach a dead end in things that can't be copied without someone having less of the original (the problem of rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods in economic jargon). If there's a wish woven through these pages it's that non-rivalrous sharing will somehow be extended to the material realm, that spreading information and collaborating through a network will sow the seeds of a new culture less fixated on ownership, more prone to cooperation.
The problem is, it's one thing to pass on a file, while retaining a perfect copy for yourself, and quite another to fairly allocate valuable and essential finite material resources like land and water. Let's face it: human beings even hoard immaterial, intangible resources (we're thinking of things like power, privilege, and authority). Given that this is the case, how can we hope to make a leap from networked collaboration towards greater social equity? Is the type of collaboration we're talking about here even a first step, or is it a distraction? How, we wonder, can things like free software, free culture, and p2p be leveraged to encourage a more equal distribution of resources, a more even distribution of power, a dispersal of knowledge and influence?
One way to use this book is as a guide—sometimes critical—to signs on the horizon that may point to more positive collaborative futures. There is much more to be said—see Things We Ended Up Not Including—and even more to be done to make a collaborative, free, and positive future into reality.