Is open source selling out?


This post poses questions rather than positing answers. It's about the development of modern technology and asks whether it is time to stand back and take stock of where it is taking us.

If time had stopped on the day Michael Jackson did his first 'Moon Walk' we would not now have the PC which brought us word processing, electronic spreadsheets, relational databases and image manipulation software. We would not have the global communication infrastructure which created electronic trading, e-mail, mobile telephony, satellite navigation and the world wide web.

The last thirty years have been a time of 'shock and awe' as the electronic paradigm was steadily articulated. Fortunes were made, the work place changed completely, life was transformed.

But, as with all paradigms, like the Wacko Jacko story, their very articulation merely results in elaboration and corruption. What I mean by this is that a single paradigm can only mature through development of its inherent structures. It becomes essentially fractal in nature like a tree without leaves seen from a distance where its boundary is only too clear.

or example a PC GUI is unchanged in all of its essentials for the last 20 plus years, but it is still being 'developed'. At least the keyboard I am typing on now has been actually unchanged for a hundred years!

At first elaboration is fun, exciting even, then as it becomes smaller and smaller it becomes art-design driven, then hackneyed, then boring, then pointless.

The 'schlock and schmaltz' of Twitter, Instant Messaging, Smart Phone 'Apps', iPlayer and Facebook..have replaced 'shock and awe'. Predictably enough this latter phrase found its ultimate software expression embedded in drones and smart missiles.

Today's techno-paradigm is neatly encapsulated by the following:

  • For the consumer it's the iPhone
  • For the Goverments it's the database
  • For the military it's the robot

Surely nothing signals the beginning of the end of an era quite like these do?

Too nihilistic?

Read on. As a result of the above:

  • Energy use has increased exponentially
  • Malware dominates net traffic by an order of magnitude
  • The photocopier and e-mail have produced spam (official and otherwise) which combined with endless paper trails have sapped our will and destroyed productivity as bureaucrats replaced real work and with meta work
  • Databases now track and store nearly every detail and movement of our lives curtailing our freedoms
  • Automated bank trading is beyond anyone's control

Apart from that it's all tickety-boo.

But we have the iPhone so it's ok after all.

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