Often, when interviewing an executive with an open source software firm, I will end by asking if the concept has broader implications.
You can actually feel their eyes light up over the phone. Of course it does, they say, as though finally coming upon someone who doesn't think their visions are crazy.
Regardless of how legal cases involving open source turn out, it's obvious that it works as an economic model. Small teams can build complex services. Hierarchies can be broken down. Management books can be re-written. New markets are being opened.
Even Bill Gates now knows the value of open source collaboration. His Foundation brings experts from many intellectual silos together and achieves breakthroughs. The Foundation cooperates broadly with others, none worrying about taking credit, just solving the problem.
But if open source grows the total value of software faster than a silo model, what does this mean in other areas of intellectual endeavor? Long-standing concepts such as peer review are being challenged. Every day sites like YouTube collect thousands of new videos backed by copyrighted music.
There are even political implications. Sites like DailyKos, on the left, and RedState, on the right, are building true communities. The ideas that come from them are not just those of their founders. And when Internet issues like net neutrality are on the table, these sites band together, they stand on the same side.
In any open source endeavor consensus is necessary to achieve progress. Modeling this behavior on economics and politics gives us a different world.