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Remembering Aaron Swartz: We need to take care of each other

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Jan 31, 2013

For last one week one of the events that moved me deeply & clouded my heart with unknown sadness is unexpected death of internet and open-access activist Aaron Swartz. I never heard of Aaron until he took his life last week after relentlessly and unscrupulously prosecuted for the last two years for making academic journal articles freely available online. Aaron was genius with a pure heart. What he wanted was nothing more than making this world a better place to live unfortunately which was not his individual responsibility but ours too. Here goes parts of two pieces by Clay Shirky & Quinn Norton on Aaron that I believe can teach us something very important we need to learn badly to make this world a better place to live and I also put links to Aaron's website below to serve the curious minds. His story is an unscrupulous truth that tells us about what it means to be alive. Read ongoing discussion about Aaron & his death here.

Aaron Swartz

"We need to remember Aaron by supporting free culture, and by limiting prosecutorial abuse. But we also need to remember Aaron by taking care of each other. Our community is unusually welcoming of people disproportionately at risk, but we are also unusually capable of working together without always building close social ties. Github is great for distributing participation, but it is lousy for seeing how everyone is doing.

We need to remember Aaron by thinking of those among us at risk of dying as he did. Most of them won’t be martyrs — most of them will be people like Ilya and Will — but their deaths will be just as awful. And, as with every cause Aaron stood for, we know how to take on this problem. What we need is the will to act." ~ Clay Shirky

Via Clay Shirky webblog

And here is a piece from Quinn Norton:

"To call Aaron extraordinary is, in a way, to sidestep the message of his how he lived his life.

The only reason we’re all here at this memorial holding up this 26 year old as a paragon is that in a culture ruled by fear he learned, and taught me, that trying was more important than being afraid. “Don’t worry,” he told me, “no one remembers your failures.” Don’t waste time doing small things and being cautious. We’re here because he did so much much in his 26 years… despite a culture saying you have to be careful and risk nothing, be responsible, deferential, go through the proper channels, he rejected that. He didn’t wait to start living. That’s all it took.

Aaron understood that learning was more important that accreditation, and that intelligence is a poor and pale substitute for caring. He burned with love for humanity. He surrounded himself with people — also infinitely complex — struck dumb by a love of the world. He lived a life of thought and action.

We shared an understanding, that a life is a thing made in the living of it.

[......................]

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light."~ Quinn Norton 

Via Quinn Norton blog

Read more about Aaron here and read his excessively insightful webblog here.


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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at ruhul@futurestartup.com

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