Saturday, April 21, 2007

Internet means the revolution came 'virtually'

My eldest son Michael would be shocked if he knew I was writing this week's column about the internet since he knows how little I know about the subject. I'm the kind of person that Microsoft makes its money from: I have no patience with computers, do not want to learn how to use them or take courses on them, I just want to get to a website and download stuff. No participation, no understanding how it works, just do it.

Being as how Michael was installing my software for me, he kind of tilted me in favour of using “Open Source” software. I didn't know what it was. I would have been happy with Microsoft, but adolescent minds work in diabolical ways.

Microsoft is a giant corporation that sells “proprietary software.” They hire computer programmers who work together to produce code that is kept secret from everybody else. They do this in order to make lots of money selling their software like “Windows” and “Vista”.

Open Source software is the opposite of microsoft. Open source code is published on the internet and made available to everyone. Anyone can copy, modify, and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees. Open Source software like the “ Wiki” webpages invites participation, active involvement, the sharing of knowledge and knowhow and editing skills, all for no monetary gain.

Why would rational people do all this for no money? I say it's communism. All those nerdy “hackers” sharing programming information, it's a lot like this fellow Karl Marx once said, “ From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs.”
My son installed a version of Linux on my computer. Linux, A giant collective of minds sharing their knowledge in order to build an operating system that rivals Microsoft's “Windows” but, unlike “Windows”, they offer it for free. I didn't know any better. I certainly wasn't going to be a part of all that collaborating and sharing stuff. And then he showed me

“Wikipedia”, the world's first open source encyclopedia. An encyclopedia that's created by anybody who wants to write about anything. It was launched on the world wide web in 1999. As of Febuary 2007, it has more than one and a half million entries in English, and that's not counting all the other languages. the word “Wiki” , is Hawaiian for “quick”. A “Wiki” is a web site that allows multiple users to create and edit pages. Wikipedia, is an encyclopedia that allows people to read it's entries and edit them and even to create their own entries, which are then subject to the editing process.

I started looking up things, the usual: “ecology”, “permaculture”, “gaia hypothesis”. but then a funny thing happened. I started editing, the odd sentence here and there. I edited a sentence on the topic of “file sharing”. And two weeks later it's still there. It's a bit ridiculous, because I still don't understand file sharing, but I understood a better way to say one of those sentences. You can take a n entry, you can look at the editing history and see how changes have been made over time.

I tell you it's addictive. You'd think that it would be really substandard as an encyclopedia but is not. The articles are excellent and informative. And they're also literally up to date. It's ironic that the originator of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales is a follower of Ayn Rand. If she only knew Jimmy, you'd be in hot trouble. Potentially the greatest effort in collaborative knowledge gathering ever and all done on a collectivist basis. Ayn Rand should be spinning in her grave. Author of such works as The Virtue of Selfishness, and Atlas Shrugged, she espoused an extreme philosophy of egoistic individualism, of a sort popular with the Libertarian wing of the Republican party. The idea of sharing knowledge with the rest of the world for free does not appeal to these folks. And yet, in a way we all fell for it. For isn't the internet just another kind of electronic commons which people contribute to and utilize in a collective manner. It's a spontaneous order that originates and evolves without central direction. I remember studying the Austrian economists like Frederich Von Hayek who argued that the market created a spontaneous order that was superior to that of an economy run by central planning. Open source is just the means to allow such spontaneous order. but how it has turned the Austrians on their heads for it is done with sharing and collaborating not buying and selling. It's the proprietary software like Microsoft's products that leads to a creative bottleneck in the end.

From each according to his abilities to each according to his needs. The Marxist ideal. And yet big Fortune 500 Corporations like IBM, Oracle, and Intel, have embraced open source. I tell you it's already too late. The commies have taken over without a shot fired, And it's all because of that dag blasted internet.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting that people are still reading my outdated article from 2007. Especially Russians. Any Russians out there with non-cyrillic messaging? I would like to hear your opinions about the internet.