A Technological Singularity: What are the Implications for Free Software?

I was at another meeting of the Editorial board of the Skibbereen Eagle yesterday. Hopefully you read the outcome of the last one. Some clever clogs suggested that it might be a spiffing wheeze to write something about the possible implications of the much mooted singularity (is that a proper noun, with a capital S?) and what it might mean for the future of both free and proprietary software.

Pay a little now, pay a lot later

Freedom of choice is an ideal. It’s also increasingly obvious that it’s almost always the most pragmatic approach, whether involving economic issues that affect billions of people or comparison shopping for a pair of jeans. Unfortunately, the people who voluntarily give up their own are the ones who can least afford to do so.

When free meets proprietary

In a dream world, all software would be free. However, we spend enough time with our eyes open to realize that some situations call for proprietary software, either as a desktop or as a server application, on a free system. On the other hand, those stuck with a proprietary operating system can still enjoy free software applications. This article will list a few situations where free software and proprietary software can mix, and give three examples of each.

Why free and proprietary can mix

The risk of mixing free and non-free

If you are reading this you probably use free software. In fact, I think the probability that you are reading this article using free software is extremely high, whether it is “free-as-in-speech” as in Firefox, or “free-as-in-beer” as in Internet Explorer. Free software is increasingly being taken for granted and is almost treated as some kind of legal right in some quarters. And so it should be. A lot of people have had to put a great deal of effort into ensuring sufficient “free-as-in-speech” software exists for this to be so.

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