Comments on the Success Of Open Source

Just finished the book the Success Of Open Source by Steven Weber.

I am glad that people start to summarize our experiences in open source and try to understand its general implication for human society. It is about time. And this book tapped into the open source stories and tried to provide some understanding of it. In my opinion, in many ways this book does point out the direction we are heading. So I would highly recommend this book for reading, as it is very informative and give you an idea where we are going.

I am not going to list all the specifics of why this book is good. I am just going to tell what I wish this book has and what I think will provide a better understanding of open source and its implication for mankind.

The book is still based on the conventional capitalism assumption that people are basically bad. And based on that assumption, it tries to explain how the basically bad people will come together to produce something so wonderful like open source. Thus this book runs into a lot of difficulty because of its assumption. Actually people are basically good. Only a few people try to control, restrict other people and block the majority of the people from access to the playground. And if it is easy for them to do so, they will do it. But with Internet, it becomes more open. And people are empowered. Thus we see the basic goodness of human nature is able to be manifested in this new age. With this assumption, it is very easy to understand open source and the direction we are heading now. This assumption (that people are basically good), is actually not very much an assumption. It is deeply based on experience and insight into human nature.

The assumption of capitalism is needed because at that time abuse of power is hard to be visible and thus given a chance it will definitely happen and will happen on a large scale. And the minority already in power will come up with all kinds of schemes such as compulsory schooling and corporate controlled press to dump people down so they don’t easily see the abuse of power. So the assumption that people is basically bad is practical at that time. But in our time, openness makes abuse of power difficult. Thus the real power (based on professional merits) is more at functioning. So at our time, we should be happy that the basic goodness of human nature can finally emerge and be dominant.

You may think I am too optimistic. But I am optimistic only because I know people are driven by love, fun and beauty and I know what kind potential an individual can have and believe individuals can be trusted to pursue the wellbeing of their own or others if given enough space.

Nonviolence movement could work because of the basic goodness of people. Otherwise, it won’t work.

The book mentioned collective action and tried to understand open source through collective action. Yes, collective action is the key to understand the direction of human history. Economics alone doesn’t explain human history. Unfortunately, in the past, people tend to use economics alone to explain the human society. We have to look at the major forces of history.

So let me do a little analysis of the collective action here. In the past, a minority of people is able to dictate the majority of people with the raw force because people are not connected. Software, especially web, as an extension of human consciousness, by connecting people’s consciousness together, empower individuals to accomplish themselves. And thus collectively, a larger percentage of people are able to break the barrier and make themselves. When survival is not the dominant struggle anymore, to have fun and have a fulfilling life become more important to individuals. Thus money doesn’t have a strong grip on people’s ability and creativity any more. And a larger percentage of people are willing to play and create despite probably not making much money. This is the basic goodness of people. We are here to live, after all. And to live, is to grow, have fun, and create. This is the living force that is emerging in our time. This is why this a totally new beginning for mankind.

The book could have used Nature of Order as the base of his thinking. All the problems the book is trying to address can be better understood in that framework. For example, the center of life and forming of patterns of life.

What is also lacking is understanding of the essence of software. Software is an extension of human consciousness. It is a tool to work with human consciousness. As a digitalized form of human consciousness, it allows human consciousness to finally be connected and be programmed!

I wish this book could have offered more knowledge of human organization (a historic overview of all kinds of human organizations in history will be very helpful) and how the way people organize will undergo fundamental changes in the near future.

We are ushering a brand new page in human history. A better understanding of where we are headed and less confusion will help make sure we can get there.


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Filed under Grassroots, Open Project, Social Software

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