The open access movement for government funded research has had a groundswell of support this year and has won legislative victories in UK and Europe, with strong petitions in the US. It’s also gotten a lot of press.
Many of us have known about the related issues around open licensing for government funded software development for a long time. Open Source for America just fired a first shot with a new petition.
The open access movement tells a good story: you paid for it, so you should have access to it.
I think that we can start leveraging that victory for software, and then go so much deeper. There are strong, politically important economic reasons for government investment in open software, in terms of jobs and the economy. It also furthers the agenda of open Civic Technology, shared across multiple agencies.
It even has a budding industry lobby of open source consulting companies. Which it will need, if it is going to get any clout at all againt the MUCH, MUCH BIGGER industry lobby of proprietary software contractors the government is already locked into.
Here is an essay version of my class notes from Class 1 of CS183: Startup. Errors and omissions are my own. Credit for good stuff is Peter’s entirely.
CS183: Startup—Notes Essay—The Challenge of the Future
Purpose and Preamble
We might describe our world as having retail sanity, but wholesale madness. Details are well understood; the big picture remains unclear. A fundamental challenge—in business as in life—is to integrate the micro and macro such that all things make sense.
Humanities majors may well learn a great deal about the world. But they don’t really learn career skills through their studies. Engineering majors, conversely, learn in great technical detail. But they might not learn why, how, or where they should apply their skills in the workforce. The best students, workers, and thinkers will integrate these questions into a cohesive narrative. This course aims to facilitate that process.
I. The History of Technology
For most of recent human history—from the invention of the steam engine in the late 17th century through about the late 1960’s or so— technological process has been tremendous, perhaps even relentless. In most prior human societies, people made money by taking it from others. The industrial revolution wrought a paradigm shift in which people make money through trade, not plunder.
The importance of this shift is hard to overstate. Perhaps 100 billion people have ever lived on earth. Most of them lived in essentially stagnant societies; success involved claiming value, not creating it. So the massive technological acceleration of the past few hundred years is truly incredible.
The zenith of optimism about the future of technology might have been the 1960’s. People believed in the future. They thought about the future. Many were supremely confident that the next 50 years would be a half-century of unprecedented technological progress.
But with the exception of the computer industry, it wasn’t. Per capita incomes are still rising, but that rate is starkly decelerating. Median wages have been stagnant since 1973. People find themselves in an alarming Alice-in-Wonderland-style scenario in which they must run harder and harder—that is, work longer hours—just to stay in the same place. This deceleration is complex, and wage data alone don’t explain it. But they do support the general sense that the rapid progress of the last 200 years is slowing all too quickly.
Observe lower social organisms - bees, for example. A hive of bees is not a collection of individuals but, rather, a simple macro-organism. The beings that comprise this macro-organism are completely dependent on one another - for nutrients, defense, etc. Bees are, however, quite limited: Their ability to transfer information lacks the subtlety necessary to create a truly complex being, and they have reached a point of evolutionary stagnation. Nothing has happened on the insect front since the Jurassic. Bees are pretty stupid little shits. You can only say so much by shaking your ass.