How To Build A Future I Want To Live In

-- By YunHsuanKao - 8 Jan 2022

Encountering a crisis

What having freedom of thought means to me is that my attention can be undisrupted and focused on abstract concepts for a long period, and during that time, I get to dive into my thoughts as deeply and as broadly as I want. I get to think as though there are no boundaries. I sometimes am fortunate to experience that kind of deep-thinking process when I am reading a book, but most of the time, when either working on my laptop or studying with my phone on the desk, my attention span is short and easily disrupted. The feeling of almost getting into the “zone” but stopping right before it just to see if there are any new messages on my phone is making me more and more anxious. I want to fix the problem, but then a crisis came sooner.

My computer broke down 1 day before my presentation and 3 days before my final exams. It happened when I am forced to upgrade the OS to be able to download the correct version of the exam software, the computer stopped responding mid-upgrade. After hours of trying to figure out how to fix it, I finally gave up. I reinstalled the OS, which allowed me to install the exam software, but at the same time wiped out all of my settings, data, and software. The stress of finals and the panic of losing all data is a disastrous experience for me. Though this isn’t the plan I had in mind to recover my ability of freedom of thought, I made it my goal to find a backup solution that will not only prevent the disaster from happening again but also learn to build the foundation that will enable me to achieve freedom of thoughts.

In Search of Solutions

When I am trying to identify what I want in my backup solutions, two goals came to mind. Firstly, I want to be free from surveillance. I don’t want to trade my data for some free storage. For this reason, cloud storage provided by big tech companies is not an option, as their data centers are infiltrated by the governments. Secondly, I want to be able to manage the data the way I want, to be able to backup certain documents and store them securely. In other words, I want to have total control over my backups. These goals lead me to a Taiwanese company that made Network-attached storage (NAS) systems.

Setting Up a NAS

Setting up a NAS is more difficult than I expected. With the help of tutorials and the UI of the NAS OS, I can automate the backup process, sync certain folders on my computer, and mirror backup my most valuable folders. These are all the features that can’t be done with Google Drive (with the exception to sync certain folders but Google only allows the files to be stored in the cloud, not on your hard drive) and just like Professor Moglen said in Freedom In the Cloud, I get no spying for free.

Mindset Transformation

Having a NAS as a backup system may not be most people’s first choice. Google and other mega tech companies’ free cloud storage options are far more appealing to customers due to it being “free” and the level of technology skills it required. While my level of technical skill did pose a barrier to how much control I have on the NAS, having my data securely stored in my home, and at the same time still enjoying the convenience of being able to access it through the internet gives me the peace of mind I need.

I think the reason that I used to choose free service over building my own is that the way these free services solve my short-term anxieties. Web calendar solves the anxiety of not being able to keep up with all the daily tasks, Gmail solves the anxiety of losing track of important emails and social media solves the anxiety of being left out. What I learned after trying to build my own NAS is that the long-term benefit of freeing up my mind to lay the foundation of freedom of thought is a lot more rewarding and appealing to me than the short-term benefit these services bring.

Conclusion

This isn’t the plan I had in mind for recovering my ability to enjoy the freedom of thought. In the first draft, I wrote about building a future that frees everyone from the disruption of phones, ads, and notifications, but as professor Moglen suggests, I started by figuring out what freedom of thought means to me and what I can do to achieve that. The crisis came as an opportunity for me to start on that journey. From my experience, I realized that once you experienced having total control over the machines, life without surveillance or even thinking without disruptions, the feeling is far more rewarding than anything else. It is a difficult decision to make to switch from Google drive to set up my own NAS, but it will be an easy decision to make next time. I just have to remember that, I too, can enjoy the freedom of thought.


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