Curiosity and Moral Imperatives

Today we honour a young man who changed the world, and chose to leave it after it bullied, persecuted and ultimately crushed him.

 Aaron was also a determined prodigy, and from a young age he was fortunate enough to have an outlet for his creative intelligence via computer programming. He went on to create an early version of Wikipedia, co-write the Creative Commons, he invented RSS feeds, and founded Reddit and Demand Progress - all of this by the time he was just 25. Then he set his sights on the dangerous project that would break him, fighting the absurdity of vast quantities of knowledge being held for profit.

He didn't expect to suffer so severely for what he saw as justifiable civil disobedience. He was undeniably brilliant, and his logical analysis of the situation obviously led him to believe it was worth the risk. When someone of his caliber comes to the conclusions he did, we have an obligation to seriously consider his arguments and ideals.

Whether you end your analysis by agreeing with him or not (or with his decision to depart early) we owe him a great deal for all the work he did on our behalf to protect freedom online. The least you can do is appreciate that, and share his story. If you do agree with him, you have a moral imperative to help share information so anyone around world can benefit from it. His loss is devastating, but he showed us what is possible. He reminded us to fight back.

Laurence Lessig - longtime friend

" Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good. He was brilliant, and funny. A kid genius. A soul, a conscience, the source of a question I have asked myself a million times: What would Aaron think? That person is gone today, driven to the edge by what a decent society would only call bullying. I get wrong. But I also get proportionality. And if you don’t get both, you don’t deserve to have the power of the United States government behind you. 

For remember, we live in a world where the architects of the financial crisis regularly dine at the White House — and where even those brought to “justice” never even have to admit any wrongdoing, let alone be labeled “felons.” In that world, the question this government needs to answer is why it was so necessary that Aaron Swartz be labeled a “felon.”        Source

Quinn Norton, former partner

"He was not a saint. He could be as petty as anyone. But the thing that makes a good life isn’t constantly being saintly—it’s just continuing to do shit. We spend so much time waiting to start to live. He always went big—he never looked for permission to go big. He assumed that he could talk to anyone he wanted, and he was right, and it wasn’t because he was super-special-genius-boy, it was because he tried."         Source

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