Should Everything be Open Source?

#Should Everything be Open Source?

‘Open Source’ is a licensing and development model which allows its inner-workings to be open to the public, and even potentially expanded upon. Popular open source software includes: Wordpress, Bitcoin, BitTorrent, and Apache to name a few. But what about Open Sourcing other technologies? On this week’s episode of Idea Channel, Mike explores the world of open source, copyright violation, Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the “maker’s movement”.

What do you think?

  • Is our technology too locked down?
  • Should everything be open sourced?
  • Let us know what you think!
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No, I don’t think everything should be open source. The will of the inventor (or the inventor’s employer) should take precedence. If people wish to buy open source devices, then the market will drive producers to adopt the “maker” ideals and open their development. Like Arduino and littleBits. I know that I prefer open source stuff for the most part, but many things I have (Macintosh computer, iPod, Kia Soul, etc.) are not open source, but I use and like them none-the-less. Also I wonder, if they were developed in an open source environment, would they still be the thing they are?

After watching the video, I became curious about an invention that is the linchpin of the entire electronics world: the transistor. It’s a fascinating story - three men worked closely for a period of years to figure it out and make one. William Shockley, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain, of Bell Laboratories, shared the 1956 Nobel Prize for inventing it, as well as the underlying quantum mechanics. The patents however all left off Shockley’s name (for somewhat complicated legal reasons), which angered him. He spent the early 1950s - fueled by his anger - inventing the modern ‘bipolar junction transistor’ in secret. Because of this, Bardeen and Brattain left the transistor project. Shockley eventually left Bell labs and becoming increasingly isolated, racist and arrogant. When he died in the 1980s, he was friendless, and most of his family had abandoned him.

I wonder how much of his decline was caused by the secrecy and scheming to ‘get one over’ on his former colleagues. The invention of the transistor was one of the most ‘closed source’ inventions ever. Would professional transparency have saved William Shockley from himself? Would we have the quantum electronics of tomorrow already if the original team had been an open and ‘free’ collaboration?

I don’t know. I wonder if that is the ‘unspoken’ goal of the Maker movement - to move technology beyond where one mind (or a small group) can take it. Or is it necessary to allow individual genius to hold all the keys during development?

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