30 October 2006

A closed mind about an open world [Financial Times]

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Open Source
People are not only risk averse but also openness averse, writes James Boyle in his Financial Times column.

“We are likely to undervalue the importance, viability and productive power of open systems, open networks and non-proprietary production.”

Boyle asks his readers to test themselves on a series of questions, which assume it is 1991 and you have no knowledge of the past 15 years. In this thought exercise most people would choose for closed systems when asked on how best to develop an internet, software or an encyclopedia.

“Partly this is because we still do not understand the kind of property that exists on networks. Most of our experience is with tangible property; fields that can be overgrazed if outsiders cannot be excluded. For that kind of property, control makes more sense. We still do not intuitively grasp the kind of property that cannot be exhausted by overuse (think of a piece of software) and that can become more valuable to us the more it is used by others (think of a communications standard). There the threats are different, but so are the opportunities for productive sharing. Our intuitions, policies and business models misidentify both.”

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