Posted by: ilaksh | June 2, 2010

I am not just talking about open source windowing systems that have proper time investment in contemporary protocols and frameworks, I am talking about open source everything — hardware, potatoes, corn, meat, housing, videos

After reading the recent article on the X protocol “Thoughts and rambling on the X protocol – It’s Time to Die” my response is that he is right on target.

I also have an explanation for why we have this situation with X: its just not profitable for individuals or individual groups to correct those underlying flaws.
Profit is a short-term proposition that is related only to the individual person or group making the effort. Someone looks at a task like redesigning or cleaning up X and estimates the amount of effort required and what they will get out of it and makes the correct decision that they just will not gain as much as they put in.

Effort of individual group required for complete modernization and overhaul of X: 23,192 somethings

Estimated business gained by individual group because of complete modernization and overhaul of X: 2,154 somethings

Estimated net loss: 21,038 somethings

This is just one crystal clear example of where profit is not an acceptable motivating force for a society and is in fact holding back technology.

On the other hand, if the person were to analyze that task with regards to what the entire human population would gain from completing a clean-up/design upgrade of X windows, the equation changes completely. Everyone will benefit if this is accomplished.

Effort of individual group required for complete modernization and overhaul of X: 23,192 somethings

Estimated business/productivity gained overall because of complete modernization and overhaul of X: 2,154 somethings * EVERYONE = 21,540,000 somethings

Estimated net gain overall: 21, 516, 808 somethings

The problem is that there is no individual group that is going to gain sufficiently alone to undertake it.

So what is the alternative? The alternative is cooperation. We have nearly instantaneous global communications and more computing power than we can use. But while we continue to support the competitive market model of organizing society we will be hindered by the constant need to chisel out enough advantage over our competitors and consumers that we can “make a living”.

So not only do people not have the time available to cooperate as much as necessarily or have a profit motive, they are spending all of their time just trying to survive. And the competitive nature of our capitalist society means that it is vital to keep one’s most valuable information secret in order to be profitable.

Food is one area where these particular problems with capitalism cause quite a lot of suffering. This is why I suggest open source potatoes. Agricultural technology should be freely exchanged, produce locally grown, etc. Instead, our ridiculous system makes it more profitable to ship large quantities of food vast distances than grow it locally. And the profit motive even sets up a situation where some companies deliberately sabotage food growth in some areas in order to boost their own sales.

Open source software successes have shown that people don’t need a profit motive in order to accomplish great things. We should take that lesson to heart, because the fundamental system structure we are enduring is holding us back in all areas.


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