I am writing this post after a long discussion in class with a professor of computer science here at Al Akhawayn University. I decided to write it to share with the world how I see ethics and business in the context of computer science.
Computer science is first about ethics. It is about sharing the knowledge and the code with the world without expecting something back. Computer science should not be interpreted as a market. It should not be seen as business and money. Computer science is more than that. It is what gathers open source programmers from all around the globe to make an exceptional thing that improves the technology and facilitates human beings’ lives. I am talking here about Linux as an extraordinary project that changed computing history.
We discussed an idea about the use of those open source projects in a commercial way which was the argument of considering computer science as a business. I did not agree on that idea because people who developed those interesting things are aware of the use since the licensing of their projects is under one of the public licenses that are commonly used in the field. The famous one is GNU Public License with all its versions which establish an ethical contract between the programmer and the user. I did not use the term “client” here because it is not defined in the open source software dictionary.
They argued on the use of Linux today. They claimed that Windows is more used than Linux-based operating systems nowadays. However, they were not aware of the fact that Android is also a Linux-based operating system. In addition, the number of smartphones nowadays is more than the number of computers. Hence, we can conclude that Linux-based operating systems are the famous and widely used ones.
An important point should be mentioned here is that thinking of computer science as a business lowers the quality of the projects. I saw a hackathon made by a Moroccan company here at Al Akhawayn University. It illustrates how people at this happy land think about money more than the quality and ethics. They are selling the illusion to people in the frame of hackathons and under the umbrella of “Entrepreneurs”. They were using those events in order to test their platform for free even if we are neglecting the quality of the platform itself at that point. And the weird question is that no one asked them about their background and their knowledge in the field. Logically, someone who will judge your application should be knowledgeable than you at least at that specific field. Those people are a clear example of using business in computer science which is bad at some extent especially when it comes to incompetent people. Linus Torvalds famous quote applies strongly in this context: “Talking is cheap. Show me the code.”
So, if Linus Torvalds wanted to sell Linux, we would not achieve what we have been achieving. Open source projects taught me to be generous, to like the community, and to help people that I do not know just because they are humans.The important thing is that they are trying to improve people’s lives.
You should just get the point that we are not doing that for fame or money we are doing it for love.
I have been using Linux-based operating systems since 2012. I have been building a strong relationship with my favorite operating system Ubuntu. When I thought deeply about it back then, I realized that it is not just an operating system. GNU/Linux is a philosophy in computer science. It is an independent way of thinking. It brings us to talk about the open source projects. These kind of projects show that great things are made by many people who love what they are doing. They are based on contribution and combination of millions of developers around the globe who are different in many aspects of life. They have different religions, different cultures, and different languages. However, code and love of making people’s lives better unite them.
It affected my way of thinking, my behavior towards myself and my environment. It taught me that life is not all about money. Life is about helping other people even if they do not know who you are or what you are doing. We gain good friends who share the same interest with us or maybe just respect us because we are doing something that they think it is valuable for them or the community in overall. Some of them do not understand or give the necessary value to what I am doing, and they decide to leave because they think I have a boring and nerdy life. It is their problem because I believe I am doing the right thing for my personal satisfaction. Some of them encourage me everyday and teach me everyday in all life’s aspects, and they accept me as I am. I will show to those people that I worth their confidence.
It affected my decisions. When I want to make a decision, I think a lot about it. Linux taught me that there is no way to return to the previous state. When you type “sudo rm -rf /opt/folder”, there is no way (without forensics headache of course) to return back on time to the normal state. It taught me to be strong and precise in my decisions. In addition, when you type “sudo” at the beginning of any command, Linux taught me to assume my responsibilities and to be professional in my decisions. It has two different states: normal and superuser state. So, it taught me to separate the professional and personal life. The professional one needs careful management and strong behavior. On the other hand, the normal one cannot decide on some very important life decisions, so it can be handled without any additional stress or thinking.
It affected my emotions. I started to think in a binary approach. I do not take or think about the decision twice. When I decide on something, I assume my responsibility in terms of the consequences that it might have. So, in life either you get 0 or 1. I do not believe in 0.5. Adopting this approach causes consecutive failures in my social and emotional side. However, it is still clear in my mind because there is no such state between love and hate.
GNU/Linux is not just an operating system. It represents the way of thinking of millions of noble souls who made the Humanity great by connecting the individuals and providing a wonderful platform for the new technologies to appear.
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