I’ve penned – well actually I’ve pecked – an article on open source software. Its not yet been accepted, so I thought I’d see if anyone wanted to read my draft and offer comments before its too late. I should have thought of this before – but there you are – I didn’t.
When I found out about open source software it really excited me and surprised me how few people really knew much – or even anything – about it. It seems to me a genuinely new form of production which as I say in the essay comes “with the additional excitement of bridging ideological divides between left and right”.
I’ve posted the prologue of the essay over the fold. If anyone wants to read on they can email me at nicholas AT gruen dot com dot au . Comments would be appreciated as the essay has not yet been accepted.
No scientific inquirer can keep what he finds to himself or turn it to merely private account without losing his scientific standing. Everything discovered belongs to the community of workers. Every new idea and theory has to be submitted to this community for confirmation and test. There is an expanding community of cooperative effort and of truth. It is true enough that these traits are now limited to small groups having a somewhat technical activity. But the existence of such small groups reveals a possibility of the present. . . . Suppose that what now happens in limited circles were extended and generalized. . . . The general adoption of the scientific attitude in human affairs would mean nothing less than a revolutionary change in morals, religion, politics and industry.
Half way through Peter Weir’s thriller “Witness” a small rural community comes together for a barn raising. As Maurice Jarre’s synthesised monotones transform themselves into a symphony, so before our eyes the lives of those we see are transmogrified in a single day into thing of simple and enduring utility, a monument to the miracle of human co-operation and endeavour.
Those viewers whose hearts have not somehow been turned to stone marvel at what they see. They have one of those moments when they wonder why life can’t be more like this. Perhaps some contemplate how to make it so. Then their reveries fade and they return once more to life in its fallen state.
The scene would be even more stirring if, once built, the barn would last forever, be freely available for anyone, indeed everyone to use and to improve upon with those improvements being likewise available to others. More stirring still if this was just the beginning, so that once the barn was raised, the resources of large profit driven corporations were somehow drawn, quite freely into the same process of maintaining, refining and extending the building for their own and the common good.
If something so extra-ordinary occurred, some suspicious souls might wonder who might try to stop it. They might expect those used to doing things the old way to use all the instruments at their disposal to defend their interests. And what better vehicle to use than the laws of the land both those that existed before the new methods proved their worth and new ones that the powers that be might be persuaded to introduce.
All this both the good and the bad is happening in the world of open source software.
Postscript: I’ve now posted the paper publicly here.