Usemonopoly and Open Source

Lethem's piece in Harpers speaks to a very problematic tendency within consumer society - a desire for ownership. Ownership is by definition exclusionary, so treating art, science, and technology like private property will always be at odds with collaboration and growth. The more we begin to value the potential of the commons, the better our community becomes.

I know this sounds a bit precious, but I don't think it has to be. If we accept Lethem's assumption that all art and speach is derivative, and that ideas are living organisms that are shaped and reshaped by a viewer's imagination and subsequent reimagination, then human ingenuity is a historical and iterative process that is constant and unavoidable. Any restrictions on the access, usage, and reimagination of previous work is contrary to Lethem's vision of human progress. This is a powerful idea, and one that I can get behind.

For instance, the power of open source code has enabled huge amounts of people to become producers of technology who otherwise would not. From Arduino to the almost tiresome arrays of Javascript libraries, a new generation of creative programmers now have the potential to produce meaningful work without a computer science degree and a neckbeard. If all programming languages were propriatary and all code was vaulted, the implications would be severe: producers of technology wouldn't represent the population as a whole. Obviously this is still the case, there are not nearly enough women or people of color in the industry, but the potential for that to change is due to open source.

With that said I thoroughly enjoyed reading the dualing perspectives of the Molotov Man. Though reapproproation can be used to further a conversation, there is a human element that need not be forgotten.

So I guess i'm saying, cite your sources, comment your code, give credit where credit is due, understand context, and let others iterate on your ideas.

Written on September 20, 2015