Luis Falcon

Physician. Computer Scientist. Project leader of GNU Health

May 2021

Luis makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from May 12th to 19th. Thank you, Luis!

Please tell us about yourself

I’m a physician and computer scientist. I am passionate about Social Medicine, Animal Rights and Free/Libre Software.

I founded GNU Solidario, a non-for-profit organization for the advancement of Social Medicine. I am the author and project leader of GNU Health, the libre digital health ecosystem used by governments, health professionals and research institutions around the world.

What are you working on right now?

I lead the GNU Health project. At this point, we’re working on the beta version of MyGNUHealth, the GNU Health Personal Health Record for libre desktops and mobile phones and devices (e.g., the PinePhone).

What is most interesting about that?

MyGNUHealth is Personal Health Record and tracker that puts the person in the driver’s seat, as an active member of the system of health. It’s a KDE Plasma application with an holistic approach to health (bio-psycho-social), from the socioeconomic determinants of health, to the molecular basis of disease.

It also allows the user to integrate themselves in the GNU Health Federation, and share with their doctors their health relevant information in real-time.

Because MyGNUHealth is Libre software, everyone will be able to use it, without worrying about privacy concerns from the closed-sourced applications.

We’re excited to finally see a Free/Libre Personal Health Record application in all our computers.

How did you first discover FOSS?

Back in the early nineties, using the modem and the telephone wire to download the Linux kernel and a year later, in 1993, with Slackware from SunSite and FreeBSD.

Until that point, most operating systems were private, so the idea about sharing code was way more that just the source. It was about community, freedom and privacy.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

Our computing was ruled by private companies. The operating systems were private, so the compilers. We were slaves from the corporations. Free Software generated community. We shared code, but also, we created a friendly community. In Bulletin Boards (BBS) and newsgroups, in the weekly meetings at Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles, or in the initial Def Con I in Las Vegas (1993). We shared, as individuals and as members of the society, the need of freedom and privacy in computing, and we were also creating solutions. It was a wonderful period.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

Because we need freedom in computing in our society. Free/Libre software is about values. I work in healthcare. Without Libre software, many people would be excluded from health informatics, and it would be impossible to have public health systems that respect the privacy of the individual and the society. It is a contradiction to use private software in public health and public administration.

We can not conceive Open Science without Free/Libre software and hardware. We could not advance in Social Medicine, medical genetics and science in general without freedom in computing.

How should they get started?

The first step would be talk to people in the Free/Libre Software community. Read about the philosophy and how it can help them. Get a Olimex board with GNU/Linux installed and play with it.

There are many areas of contribution besides coding. Documentation, translation, outreach, conferences … Free Software is way more than just code.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

In my opinion, the main threat comes from corporate interests that try to make a business from an social movement. The Free/Libre software community should be about ethics and not about money.

How can they be solved?

That is a good question. Should communities such as the Free Software Foundation, GNU Solidario or KDE accept money from corporations? Should they accept donations and memberships only from individuals?

When contributions from corporations turn into control and manipulation, the free software movement is no longer libre, but becomes an appendix of the corporation. That said, there are private companies that contribute ethically to the Free Software movement, acting in good faith. Those companies should be welcomed.

We need more individuals, academic institutions and governments to invest in the Free/Libre community to keep the original spirit and philosophy alive and thriving.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

Many people still does not understand the key role that Free/Libre software plays in our society. That makes that free software won’t be in the agenda of our governments and legislators.

Free Software is crucial for equity and for social justice. Contributing to Free/Libre software means contributing to the advancement of our current and upcoming generations. It’s investing in cooperation and moving away from individualism and competition.

If we are able to send a clear message about all the benefits of Libre software in our societies, contribution would rise exponentially.

What does a perfect day off look like?

Enjoy nature with my human and non-human family members and friends.

Do you want to tell us something else we didn’t ask?

Thank you for having me! As some final thoughts, COVID-19 has taught the arrogant human being a humbling lesson. If we want to avoid future pandemics and save our planet, we must stop the enslaving, torture and killing of millions of sentient beings. We must put an end to factory farming.

Finally, as scientists, we must stop animal experimentation and move towards a human-focused, effective, cruelty free medical research.