Friday, December 22, 2006

Secrecy and Democracy

Even back in Ronald Reagan's day it was always a question of how to promote transparency in government while keeping vital secrets from falling into the wrong hands.

This is the perennial question for a democracy, presuming enemies exist, which is pretty much a given, as it's a difficult form of self government to practice, and many want an easier way, especially where selfish ends are concerned.

As geek culture gets more experience, with its new tools and ethical codes, some of the same questions arise in new forms.

I asked this of Richard Stallman when he came to Portland: what if there're groups you think unworthy of your free source code? Shouldn't we geeks have the right to not empower those who would subjugate us?

I suppose a good answer would be that this is just a cost of doing business, and in the long run, those who collaborate will win out over the more isolated and necessarily secretive.

These thoughts continue my ramblings on geeks as role model math teachers. Keeping our mathematics strong, free and open is part of what gives our democracy a backbone. I'm also continuing my Katrina Math thread.