Remember Aaron Swartz

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James Grimmelman

The last time I saw Aaron in person was over dinner in Cambridge. He was late, of course. We didn’t talk about his trial, or about any of his other data liberation exploits. Instead, we talked about puzzles, and teamwork, and coding, and politics. I was up for tenure that spring, and facing the prospect that for the first time in years I would be simply free to choose my projects, without any deadlines or institutions telling me what I ought to be doing. So I asked him, in essence, what I should do with my life, because Aaron seemed to have answered that same question for himself, with greater courage, in the face of greater uncertainty, and with greater success than anyone else I knew. He was 25.