Is Open Source the opening shot in a Revolution

Stephen Webber
U of C Berkley, PolySci

  • apple 1984 ad  Orwellian theme. Now Apple is using the propietary software on proprietary hardware. And IBM is open sourcing everything.
  • Open source applicable in other areas other than software?  Other areas of collaboration.
  • If you have infinate free copies of something, and it costs you nothing to give it away, then why not give it away?
  • Napster free riding phenomonin… most people look it as a trade. While some people did free ride, free riding didn’t matter much.  Same thing happens in open source. Lots of people use software without contributing much back to the community.
  • Volunteerism – Wikipedia is an example. Modern day barn raising. Works in some areas but not in others… for example Volunteer ism poetry. How do you govern what is put into open source projects? Must have good mechanisms.
  • How do we manage distributed innovation?
  • “The mythical man month” As programmers are added to a project the work done scales linerally, but the complications increase geometrically. – Brooke’s law
  • Open Source has crated a system that get’s around Brooke’s law; or at least manages the worst parts of it better.

  • Open source does not address a traditional commons problem. Open Source is a massive experiment with alternative property rights. Property right around distribution rather than exclusion. They created a production process that rests on distributed innovation, tather than a traditional division of labour. Challenging the notion that the Fordist industrial organization is either an inevitable or the best way to produce complex knowledge goods.
  • Toyota JIT system from 1985… People said that It just works in Automotive, It only works for the japanese, It’s magic. 
  • Now Open source: It just works in software, long haired geeks writing for long haired geeks, Linus is a Magician.
  • A simple model of organized open systems
  • The foundation: Property as the right to distributed Micromotives
  • Macro organizations: Parallel distributed innovation and costly exclusion from cooperation. Innovation emerges at the edges and gets incorporated into more complex systems when and if it improves the performance of the whole.
  • Some lessons from Open Source:
  • The GPL is not just a licences, it’s a constitutional statement.
  • Clear expectations that defectors will be shunned. You may end up working on a problem alone that other’s are cooperating on.
  • Constant communication, in ‘public’ spaces. The openess of the records of conversations makes open fights less likely… people focus on problems.
  • No black holes
  • No battle between open and closed systems, but rather a co -evolution.
  • Creative Commons vs. Mickey Mouse.
  • Patented drugs vs. generics.
  • These images are wrong. We don’t want either side to win. The vibrant economies exist where the two join. Eg. In New York