2019-08-09T18:14:36Z; baltakatei>

Updated: 2021-03-12T01:47Z (spelling correction)

Four Freedoms and Three Purposes

Below are some notes regarding my thoughts on how to identify a purpose for one's actions after you have discovered that there is no built-in purpose engraved into the laws of physics. See existential nihilism. Skip to the

Four Freedoms

Source: Free Software Free Society (PDF)

Description: The Four Freedoms answer the question: "What abilities must a software programmer have in order to have control over computer programs they create?"

0. The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.

1. The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

2. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.

3. The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.

I believe these principles can be generalized to cover any apparatus constructed of matter (including the human body and augmentations to human capabilities). As of 2019, I am unaware of these principles being applied in any significant scale to machinery required to sustain the current human population on planet Earth. Mechanical fabrication prints, P&IDs, PFDs, and industry consensus standards for machines involved in water purification, food production, waste processing, and other technologies required to sustain the current earthbound human population are mostly "closed-source". I imagine the four freedoms are not being applied to improvements in such technologies due to the fact that currently new improvements occur frequently. These improvements are protected by copyright and patent laws designed to accelerate creation of such improvements by granting patent owners temporary government-enforced monopolies in the manufacture of machines utilizing such improvements.

However, if new industrial machinery improvements are developed and released under "copyleft" licenses (ex: "Creative Commons") then collaborative efforts may outcompete the temporary government-enforced monopoly model (patents). For comparison, I direct you to the emergence of "free/libre, and open source software" (FLOSS, a.k.a. FOSS) development as the source of software used in most production environments (ex: GNU/Linux). This would mean that a person in a future where complex technology beyond the median human's understanding is required simply for basic human survival would at least have the option of "opting out" from having to agree to a license agreement in order to not die.

In in other words, the Free Software Foundation lacks an industrial arm to ensure people can choose to rely on freedom-respecting industrial machinery they need to survive. I think such an arm needs to be created, the sooner the better.

In order to control over one's existence, all tools one uses to survive must satisfy the four freedoms.

Four freedoms (generalized)

Redefine "program" to include "any machine" and "source code" to include "technical documentation and source code required to fabricate the machine".

Note: For generalization across all baryonic matter, include in definition of "machine": "atomically precise molecular assembler".

One problem I see in the four freedoms is that there is no explicit provision addressing use of software to destroy or inflict physical harm. I imagine this omission is an artifact of the fact that software requires hardware to interact with physical reality. Physical hardware capable of causing energy or matter to flow is needed to inflict physical harm. Most weapons work by dumping sufficient energy into a small enough volume of space (ex: bullets) or causing certain types of disruptive material to flow (ex: poison). A computer control program does not directly cause harm; the final control element does (a hammer strikes a firing pin; an actuator opens a valve on a poison canister; a metal switch completes an electrical circuit). This raises the question: "How does one apply the four freedoms to hardware that may be used to kill someone?". Traditional agriculture tools such as scythes, sickles, pitchforks, horses, shovels, and sledgehammers all can be used to create food or to kill and destroy.

The question becomes one of purpose and motive. In general, I understand the purpose of a nation-state government to be the holder of a monopoly on violence. Therefore, a nation-state should be interested in controlling the production and possession of weapons and tools which can be used as weapons. A nation-state with strong gun control actively profiles users of potentially lethal tools for past misbehavior and statistical likelihood misuse. In other words, gun control laws restricts freedom globally in order to reduce the number of individuals who may possess lethal tools giving them power to cause physical harm at scale since infliction of lethal physical harm itself deprives victims of all freedom.

Freedom is being able to make decisions that affect mainly you; power is being able to make decisions that affect others more than you. If we confuse power with freedom, we will fail to uphold real freedom. (Free Software, Free Society, v3, Ch. 46, Pg. 257)

The resriction of freedom for lethal tool imposed by a nation-state upon users may come in the form of punishment for possession in certain areas. It may also come in the form of complete prohibition of sale or possession of certain lethal tools.

However, nation-states come and go on the timescale of human generations. What principles should an existential nihilist follow when not even the laws of physics endorse any particular creed or moral code? If I want to help implement the four freedoms for hardware I should be prepared to explain the problem even to someone who doesn't necessarily share my value system.

This next section is going to be one huge tangent but it led to some interesting thoughts that I thought I'd make public.

Purpose for existence in a purposeless cosmos

A rational observer should conclude that there is no all-powerful God or intrinsic meaning to existence. Nation-states historically have been built around shared hallucinations of religion, humanism, or money. If negociations must be made with a group of inscrutable aliens or foreigners, what purposes for existing drive their value system? What purposes may already be shared in common between your familiar group and the foreign group prior to first contact? If coexisting with such foreigners is unavoidable and they share/possess lethal technologies without regard to your local government regulations, how can such common purposes be used to reestablish trade restrictions or to reevaluate the efficacy of existing restrictions?

These are thoughts that come to mind when I try to answer the question "What universal purposes might we share with foreigners whom we have never met?". The simple answer of "loving and supporting your family" comes to mind from my time working to open conversations with strangers as a missionary for the Mormon church. However, I want to define such a phrase methodically. What value and problems come from prioritizing resource allocation towards blood family members who may act irrationally as opposed to allocation towards non-blood friends who do act rationally?

An analogy to solving reaction rate kinetics

One strategy I have found useful when tackling a difficult question is to produce a set of answers, each element of which addresses a specific aspect of the original question. For example, when answering the question "What governs the amount of heat in a plastic polymerization reactor?", I would be inclined to answer with a rate equation composed of multiple terms added together. Usually it would be of the form:

(rate in) - (rate out) + (rate of generation) = (rate of accumulation)

The rates might be energy flows and/or mass flows. There may be multiple equations, one for each type of material present within the reactor. Two types of material might go in and therefore have positive rate in terms in their equations. If it is a steady-state reactor, the rate of accumulation term should be set to zero. The rate of generation might be the generation of heat that must be dissipated by convection, diffusion, and radiation processes. Concentrations of material might be invovled. Each rate may be a function of chemical concentrations of various combiantions of elements according to a separate set of rate governing equations. See https://che.engin.umich.edu/people/scott-fogler/ .

However, my point is that a seemingly unsolvable problem can be made usefully solvable by splitting the problem into simpler component processes.

Components of 42

With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to split up the question "What is a common purpose for existing that any sentient being might share with me?" (a stand-in for Douglas Adams' more ambitious and vague question "What is the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything" to which the answer is famously, "42") into a set of "purposes" which a sentient (read: thinking) being made of matter might set as its purpose for living. Obviously, the amount of possible purposes and permutations of purposes makes the assembly of an exhaustive list impossible. But by aiming to reduce the number of purposes to the minimum required to generate all purposes, then perhaps a set of fundamental "meanings of existence" might be reached.

Each "purpose" that on could dedicate their life to is an action. "To make lots of money" might be one but what is money for and why not something like seashells or gold? "To support my family" is a common one I think many in family-oriented religions would agree is their purpose for existing but is there a more general way of describing what a family is that could also describe other human relationship configurations like mentorship or slavery or even money? If I could define such a system then I would have a minimum moral code that I could reasonably expect another rational observer of reality to have adopted already. Like weathermen who never met one another yet still able to share stories with useful information based the fact that they have been observing the same givens, perhaps I can use this minimum set of purposes as a communication tool for my friends and strangers we meet in the future. Ideas such as the four freedoms described above require a definition for "free/libre" which I may be able to describe within this system.

The end result of these ruminations are a set of four actions which I've converted into pairs of words in the style of english legal doublets (ex: cease and desist, free and clear, null and void, terms and conditions, aid and abet). I am calling three of them "self-evident purposes" since they are living processes that should be based only upon what other sentient beings can be expected to share in common with us. A fourth action is an implied aspect for the three self-evident purposes but isn't a purpose by itself ("Destroy and Forget"). However, it is a self-evident action present in every other process which deserves identification. After that, I proceed to define actions that can be described as permutations of the self-evident purpose-actions but which I do not necessarily believe may be shared among even humans on earth as purposes, much less all sentient entities. Some of the derived actions may be life purposes.

Self-evident system of purpose

Self-evident purposes

Source: introspection

These actions are answers to the question: "What common purposes for existence are we likely to share with any stranger we encounter?"

The question, in other words: "What are members of the smallest set of actions that you will likely share with any alien/stranger?"

  1. 👁 Observe and Discover - To see reality as it really is. To take in new givens.

  2. 📚 Integrate and Correlate - To create stories explaining what you see. To record history. To correlate givens with other givens.

  3. 🖧 Reticulate and Network - To trade stories with entities different from yourself. To form relationship networks with others.

Self-evident actions

  • 💣 Destroy and Forget - To nullify an action.

Note on Destroy and Forget

This is a weird one since I have a hard time imagining a sentient being whose nature is Destruction but it is a fundamental action required to derive many other actions. It feels like the concept of "zero" in math. Multiplying by 0 is not useful when performed in isolation but is required when part of a process of selectively ignoring aspects of a signal for the purpose of amplifying useful signals. Part of the act of creation is the removal of the construction waste. Observe and Discover involves collecting data; part of integrating and correlating information is the ignoring of many observed data points in favor of highlighting certain data points that promote/accelerate all activities. Likewise, if only creation and strengthening of relationships was permitted with no ability to dissolve/unlink relationships then new relationships would be inhibited if material resources must be dedicated to maintain each relationship; Destruction of old relationships (chemical bonds or social ties) is necessary.

However, Destroy and Forget isn't really a useful "purpose to live" unless used in combination with the other self-evident actions. Likewise, to Observe and Discover isn't really useful if data is not correlated or shared. Sharing of data can happen unwillingly (forced reticulation) as can destruction (unwilling destruction).

Derived Actions

Below are other actions defined in terms of the above self-evident common actions:

  • Touch - To form relationships (Reticulation) mediated by physical forces (electron-election repulsion, photon emission/absorption).

  • Create - To simultaneously Integrate and Touch.

  • Defend - To secure integrity of other actions via Touch.

  • Replicate - To Create copies of Observers in order to increase the number of points of view from which reality can be Observed or to Defend against Destruction.

  • Expand - To increase spatial scope of Observation or Reticulation activities.

  • Control - To selectively Destroy actions (Observation, Integration, Reticulation, and all permutations of such).

  • Conquer - To Control in order to Expand.

  • Separate - To selectively Destroy undesired relationships between certain entities.

  • Control - To form a relationship

  • Liberate - To Destroy Control.

  • (etc.)


I am not completely committed to there being only three self-evident purposes. Perhaps another can be added but I think there should be a small number for this system to be useful.

One idea that amuses me is for a society that divides itself into different factions, each with certain principle actions guiding faction members.

A person of an Observe and Discover faction might primarily be involved with activities that expand the scope of what a civilization knows. This might include radio astronomy telescopes and cosmology. It might also have subfactions dedicated towards more introspective observations such as internal surveillance of a civilization's activities. Researchers would be primarily focused on developing tools that allow them to see farther.

A person of an Integrate and Correlate faction would primarily be involved in fact-checking and using observations from O&D to update abstract models of the civilization's internal state, the civilization's impact on external reality, and creating predictions of possible future problems based on history.

A person of a Reticulate and Network faction would primarily be involved in forming communication channels between nodes within and without of the civilization in order to collect useful information from internal and foreign I&C factions.

Many other actions such as Defend or Separate or Conquer or Liberate could become focal points of many factions. However, any civilization, local or foreign, would be guaranteed to have the factions of O&D, I&C, and R&N. As effects of the ongoing heat death of the cosmos continue, these self-evident purposes will persist into deep time. Members of civilizations that nullify these common actions will handicap themselves.

  • Nullification of Observe and Discover causes blindness.

  • Nullification of Integrate and Correlate causes madness.

  • Nullification of Reticulate and Network causes ignorance.

Application to the Four Freedoms

How does this system of belief help me to apply the Four Freedoms in a more general context that includes everything from factories to molecular assemblers? I'm not sure. One thing I do know is that my butt is tired from all this typing while sitting.

I made this tangent into self-evident purposes for existence with the hope that I could identify a way to explain to someone the value of applying the Four Freedoms even to potentially lethal machinery. The dream I have been trying to find a way towards is one in which every person has the option to manufacture their own life support equipment in an uninhabitable environment such as the vacuum of space, any future human space colony, even the surface of planet Earth itself if exponential population growth continues, or even a virtual environment where all humans are forced to live as non-biological emulated brains in a completely artificial substrate in machine cities. I went on a tangent because I wanted to explore a belief system that might survive even in places where people might live under even in combinations of such inhospitable environments. As of the year 2019, most humans would die if they switched to hunter-gatherer mode instead of relying upon machines to feed, clothe, and shelter them.

So what does these self-evident purposes buy me regarding applying the Four Freedoms to all hardware?

I think relevant questions for people concerned about losing their own freedoms caused by application of the Four Freedoms to all machines are:

  • What happens when anyone can print a fission bomb from raw materials in hours?

  • What happens when anyone can print a firearm on a whim in minutes?

The O&D and I&C factions must step up to the plate and keep up with manufacturing technology advances in order to search for signatures of uranium refining and other signs that advanced weaponry are being fabricated. R&N factions must quickly share information to track patterns of material movement. Human fragility must be buttressed by brain emulation backup and/or clone bodies that can withstand disasterse. Law enforcement I&C factions must augment themselves to track and prosecute crimes as fast as new techniques are developed.

The pattern I am seeing here as I talk myself through the problem of Four Freedom lethal machines is speed and complexity. The faster a threat can be developed, the faster society-approved local law enforcement must be able to act and neutralize such threats. If the risk of physical harm is too high then physical redundancies must be planned and implemented to minimize damage. The benefits of Four Freedom manufacturing hardware must outweigh the new threats with increased capabilities offered to people who will defend their access to blueprints despite the increase in personal risk. Automobiles are lethal machines that are a significant cause of deaths in the United States but users defend their rights to use them because of the benefits of personal mobility they offer. Licenses and law enforcement mitigate the risk of misuse but do not eliminate it.

Firearms cause massacres in the United States regularly yet there is a cultural inertia among lawmakers and people that vote for such lawmakers that causes them to refuse to ban firearms. There is no perceivable economic benefit to firearm ownership. The perceived benefit seems to me to be primarily imaginary: "Owning this gun gives me the power to defend myself with lethal force and that makes me feel safe."

Given that firearm ownership is something that remains fiercely defended in the United States, I imagine that at least one nation-state will permit Four Freedom machines to exist and become part of the local culture. The fact that no significant population actively promotes Four Freedom philosophy for manufacturing is probably because the population of "programmers" (ex: engineers on industry consensus standard technical committees) is low and they do not perceive any urgency for free/libre machinery.

Possible fertile ground for the idea of Four Freedom machines are discussions of "Right to Repair" and disgust about planned obselescence. For example, several news stories discussed how farmers were pirating software required to operate John Deere agricultural equipment which apparently uses an expensive license model completely at odds with how farm equipment has traditionally been maintained.

One argument that is coalescing in my mind as I write these thoughts is that if Four Freedoms aren't applied to industrial consensus standards and fabrication blueprints, then a larger and larger fraction of living humans will be priced out of the ability to participate in society. More and more of their resources will be required to buy licenses for services required to maintain employment and the certifications employers require.

Additionally, even "middle class" citizens of an industrialized nation will be vulnerable to actions of the relatively small number of licensors of life support technologies where a Four Freedom machine equivalent option is not available. As manufacturing processes become more centralized for sake of efficiency, repair of "turn key" services such as automobile packages, municipal water treatment equipment, road maintenance equipment, material transport equipment (piping), and other infrastructure products will become more and more subject to license and service agreements. Already I know variable speed drive water pumps come equipped with bluetooth tranceivers that can only be configured via an app and bluetooth device that can cost significant amounts of money with. The pump manufacturer could charge money for the app and the closed source nature of the app makes the pump vulnerable to cyberattack. Problems that the Free Software Foundation argued its Four Freedoms were protecting people from in the realm of software will become more problematic in realms of industrial equipment as the equipment becomes more "smart". This will especially apply to a future where local 3D printing of industrial equipment becomes commonplace. If the digital programs fed to "matter compilers" (MCs) do not come from design "manufacturers" with the source code (today, the equivalent of P&IDs, instrumentation diagrams, mechanical drawigns, control philosophy, etc.), then the MC owners are subject to the designer's will similar to how Microsoft strongarmed its users to use Internet Explorer instead of competing web browsers. Hardware manufacturing can be more free but there has to be an active force for freedom. Otherwise the path of least resistance is centralized control by a small number of licensors.


I'll end this rather lengthy rambling blog post with a short summary. The Four Freedoms applied to the realm of industrial machinery will force civilization to augment its speed and detection capabilities for lethal tool fabrication. Lethal tool fabrication increases risk of loss of your individual freedom if that tool is used against you. In a tangent I discussed a recurring thought I had regarding a universal set of purposes for living that may help any person to build communciation bridges with foreigners unlike yourself who may think Four Freedom machines are a pipe dream. I conclude by discussing the recent appearance of the Right to Repair idea and how it may be a fertile ground for discussing Four Freedom industrial machinery. I close discussing the value of Four Freedom machinery and potential negative consequences of failing to use Four Freedom machinery (loss of freedom).

baltakatei 🅭🅯🄎 4.0

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