Archive for ideology

Open source – open society

On of the main parts of the open society is freedom of information. And why it’s such a good thing is shown by the open source movement.

Open source is when the code behind software is available to everyone. It’s total information sharing. There are many variatie of open source licensing, in some cases you can do whatever you want with the source, in some cases you can do whatever you want on the condition that whatever you make with it also is open source, in some cases you are not allowed to charge for what you do with it, and tons of variants on this. There has been a lot of discussion on these variations and which is “best”, but it turns out that it’s the openness that is important.

Open source means we can work together. You don’t need one company with a lot of money that hires lots of programmers to make a software. Instead you get many programmers from all over the world that works together on software. Internet of today runs for the most part on that type of software. The typical web server today runs Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, all of which are open source softwares. The software itself is developed on machines running a variation on Linux, with open source editors like Emacs, and versioning controls like Subversion. All open source. The only software I have on any of my computers that is not open source is games or software related for making music. And I do have several open source games, and the open source music-making software is also getting better fast.

Open source is based on you creating or improving software you need, and giving it to everybody else that needs it. If “you” are a developer, you do it yourself and pay with time and effort. If “you” are a company, you sponsor somebody to do the development. But since it’s open source, the company or developer does not have to do all of the work himself or itself, something that would take a long time or a lot of money. Instead, they do the part they need best. And by giving it away to everybody else who also needs it, the others can spend their time and money on what they need secondarily. There is much less re-inventing of the wheels, because the first guy who invented it gives the invention to everybody.

Open source means that we now in the software community can share ideas and information, and build on it. Since an open source developer of today starts with a lot of open source tools, you are already standing on the shoulder of many other developers. And when you make an open source software, others that need or like your idea, will help you improve it. Hence, they start out being lifted by your effort. But by improving your work, they lift you up.

We who today are building the web are not standing on the shoulders of gigants. It looks like we are, but we are not. We are instead standing on each others shoulders, constantly lifting each other up higher and higher. The foundation we stand on is one big gigant we have made of each others code. I would not have been able to sit here and use all the fantastic software I’m using today if it wasn’t for open source. With closed source, I would have had to pay for every bit of it (and I did, fifteen years ago) and hence I would not have been able to use one tenth of these tools. Information sharing, open source and collaboration has made todays world wide web possible.

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Who is preventing the future? Part 1.

There is no doubt that we can with an open society stop poverty, famine and opression. But if it is so easy in theory, why hasn’t this happened already? The answer is of course that there are people preventing this from happening. There are people who fear or despise the open society and thus help keeping the world in the current state of misery and war.

The open society can be scary. No poverty and no oppression sounds great, whoever could fear that? But the open society means that people share knowledge and information, and has the freedom to act on this knowledge. But freedom to act comes with the responsibility for your actions. And responsibility is a scary thing, especially if you think you can’t handle it.

Many people think they are failures. We all grow up with grand ideas of what we will do when we grow up. We read stories about heroes and princesses, we learn about inventors and explorers, and we dream about being a rock stars or presidents. But only a few can ever be famous, becoming rich usually means giving up friends and family in a never ending quest for more riches, and the time of the inventors and explorers are long since over. So many people harbour this nagging suspicion that they are losers, and that the choices they did was the incorrect ones. And if you don’t trust your ability to choose, then you will fear responsibility. If you don’t trust your own choices, the fact that others made other choices than you did makes you worried. Maybe your choice wasn’t the right one? It’s easier if a higher authority, be it the party, the church or the state, tells you that the other choices are wrong. If you don’t trust your own ability to choose, you will look for a higher authority to choose for you, and you will claim that these choices are the correct choices for everyone, so that you no longer have to doubt that you did the right choice. Thus, the desire to control others life often comes from a deep seated fear that you are not living your own life correctly.

This fear of your own choices and the desire to impose controls on others is one of the forces that prevent the open society, as these people will tend to fear and desire control over all that to them is unknown and unusual. So these people will want to stop immigration from cultures they are not familiar with, outlaw any new technologies they do not understand and generally stop the openness of a society as it will lead to complexity and new choices. Choices they think they are incapable of making. They may be wrong or they may be right about this (they are usually wrong), but the result is the same: A strong force against the open society.

On the other hand, people who are confident in their choices, people who know they are on the right path, will on the other hand welcome the open society, the new choices and challanges that it brings, secure in the knowledge that they can handle it. They may also be wrong or right, but they are of cours eusually right. Most people can handle their choices in life. Humanity consists of people quite capable of choosing their lifes path. But we are not always willing to do so.

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What is an open society?

The open society is a society based on open exchanges. Open borders for immigration. An open state that doesn’t keep information to itself, and does not control or supervise it’s citizens. Open exchange of information and inventions. An open economy, and open politics.

It’s based on collaboration and liberty.

It’s open to people, ideas and trade.

In an open society you have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of thought. You have the freedom to stand for election and the freedom to vote for whoever you want. You have freedom of information, and the freedom to act on it. You have the freedom to collaborate, improve and share.

It’s society where you do not need to hide from your neighbours, run from wars or flee from starvation.

You may think this sounds utopian? Maybe it is. But think about how much humanity has done the last thousands of years, and remember then that only a small part of humanity has been involved in all those miracles. And think then what we can do if we release the creative force of all of humanity!

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A better world is possible.

The power of humanity is immense. We invent things that previous generations could not dream of, make art of unimaginable beauty and put forward ideas and insights that bring our minds to soaring heights. But we also invent things that surpass the worst nightmare, commit acts of unimaginable horror and create ideas and insights designed to bring out the monsters within.

The result of this disparity is ever more evident on our earth. Life for humanity has during the last ten thousand years gone from the simple hardship of the daily struggle for food that is common for any animal to a world where beauty, freedom and wealth shares the planet with horrors, oppression and poverty unimaginable and unworthy even of animals.

But this does not have to be so. A better world is possible. A world without atrocities, without opresson and where the full power of humanity working together can be realized. A world where we open our arms towards each other, towards ideas and towards innovation.

Togethether we can grow an open society. And that is what I hope this blog should be about.

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