Is the world now an open source society?

Is the world now an open source society?

Summary: The Industrial Revolution wasn't built in a day. The same is true for the Post-Industrial Revolution.

TOPICS: Open Source

I have long argued, here and elsewhere, that open source and the Internet values on which it is based has a political dimension.

They make it possible for great changes to occur from the bottom up, organically, transparently. They enable collaboration across continents.

It has lately become fashionable to believe my spiel. The Obama election and the Iranian "Twitter" revolution seem to argue for its reality.

But the Industrial Revolution wasn't built in a day. The same is true for the Post-Industrial Revolution.

In business, I have learned, there is a price cheaper than free. The subsidies needed to move goods through the channel argue for proprietary models and strict protection of Intellectual Property.

The same is true for politics. The Obama campaign, in computing terms, was a much more top-down affair than the Dean campaign which preceded it. The Obama people bypassed the blogs just as they did media gatekeepers. The online environment they built, in the end, was proprietary.

It's the ability to harness trends which leads to success, not the trends themselves. This harnessing would seem to contradict the open source ideal. But does it?

Again, I would argue that it does not. Open source is an accelerant of change. The Internet is the rocket fuel of change. Harnessing that power, directing that rocket, these remain tasks for leadership.

The way in which leadership works changes in an open source world, but the need for it remains. Even after the open source revolution is complete we will need leaders in politics, in business, and entertainment.

The question becomes, as it was yesterday, how far are we along this path?

I tend to date such things from the standpoint of Moore's Law. Moore published his article in 1965. The integrated circuit is the steam engine of this revolution.

That revolution was sparked by James Watt (above, by Van Breda, from Wikipedia). Watt's revolution, like America's, is dated from 1776. This puts Moore's revolution, relative to that one, at about 1820 or so.

Since there is no Moore's Law of Training, I would say this revolution has a long, long way to go. And so do the changes deriving from it. So while we are evolving toward an open source society, we're no closer to it than Beau Brummel was to Henry Ford.

I find that comforting. Do you?

Topic: Open Source

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  • The world of computing started as open source

    Closed source only came around when companies started earning money and wanted to guard secrets. Of course profit is what drives capitalism but there are places where open source is of a greater benefit to society and technology. Open source used wisely can also create profit although it is more challenging when you don't have "secrete ingredients."
    • That's not what the government thought

      Actions arising from the 1956 IBM decree were all
      about IBM's efforts to maintain a monopoly on its
      designs and prevent the emergence of even a "plug
      compatible" market from the BUNCH -- Burroughs,
      Univac, NCR, Control Data, Honeywell

      • RE: Is the world now an open source society?

        Spoken like a true old-school hacker!
  • the tv was a larger force than the internet

    the main difference is that you can have more selections. for most people the internet is (WAS) a way to avoid advertising, and have a larger content selection. I suppose that in some way that choice circumvents the established media, but it has a new set of talking heads, which may lead to more choice, but the google search results still rule the roost.

    There is an opportunity for independence from that as any url can be sent via e-mail or twittered or whatever, but the opportunity has always been there for a second opinion. The internet has just become the latest focus. People still are not thinking for themselves, caring about change, or for that matter even knowing what they want. If the internet offers any opportunity for change, it is the ease that one can find information on any subject, so perhaps knowledge will overtake the sheep mentality that has pervaded our society, and then again, maybe not.
    sparkle farkle
    • I disagree

      TV was evolutionary, never revolutionary. It did more than radio, but not much more. It allowed people to see what was happening on the other side of the planet, in real time, but that was its limit. Like radio, it was a one-way system.

      The power of the internet is that it's a two way street with a number of cross roads and intersections. That's what makes it even more significant than TV.

      Many years back, before public internet access was available, I was a member of FIDOnet, an international network working over phone lines at what was as fast as a modem could go at the time (1200bps). Back then, I realized the temendous potential and possbile future impact that computers combined with global area networks would have. I was able to communicate, share ideas, and even collaborate on projects with people on the other side of the planet, something I would never have been able to do otherwise.

      I might have been able to communicate and collaborate over the phone before, if I knew who to talk to, but that was a one-to-one communication, and it required that I know the other person's phone number.

      With the computer network, I don't need to know the other person in any way. If they're interested in a topic that I'm also interested in, I'll meet them online, as I have many others. We'll communicate with each other, bounce ideas back and forth, have someone we never heard of before tell us we're doing it wrong and offer their own opinions, and collaborate amongst a bunch of people we otherwise know very little about.

      You could never do that with TV.

      And this is what is so revolutionary about the internet. TV let us see the world, but the internet makes us part of it. No longer do we just watch the images rolling in from Iran. Now we can twitter with the people who are living through it, get their first hand opinions, offer them support and comfort. The internet has truly turned the world into a global village.

      I always like the example of the Debian development community. I'm not sure if it is still true, but at one time, it was geographically the largest collabarative volunteer project in the world, with people at the south pole, in Siberia, and at Alert Station in Canada. It had developpers on every continent. And most of all, the vast majority of them had never met each other face to face, and only knew each other online because they shared a common interest in Debian. To join, all you had to do was ask.

      TV never had the ability and it still doesn't.

      The power of the internet is in its ability to allow like-minded individuals to come together and to share ideas and collaborate no matter where they are in the world.

      TV never had that.
  • RE: Is the world now an open source society?

    Open Source is information set free. To the very wealthy and to the very powerful, it represents an extremely disruptive force and therefore will always find resistance.

    To the rest of us, it is an enabler. It allows us to do things we could never imagine doing before because we could not afford it or it wasn't avaiable.

    Because of open source and the internet, in the next 10 years we will start to see the emergence of a "Super Engineer". Most of them will come from places like India, where highly technical information is being published on the web every day and they can get access to it for free (or almost free).

    These people will be highly motivated and will simply not stop learning. They will set a much higher standard with regards to what is considered intelligence and knowledge.

    I'm not even remotely concerned about open source. I know it will succeed. I much more interested in seeing where it take us.

    It's going to be a very interesting ride.
  • RE: Is the world now an open source society?

    Watts revolution, like Americas, is dated from 1776. This puts Moores revolution, relative to that one, at about 1820 or so.<a href=""><font color="white"> k</font></a>