Linux as example of the beginning of a new economic system

Published on January 6, 2013 in Blog, Services with 6 Comments
capitalism is over
Does a bumper year for Linux show us that a collaborative meta narrative for the economy is starting to replace the out dated free market competitive one. A quick and rather narrow review of Microsoft versus Linux will provide some insight as to why and how this new collaborative meta narrative is appearing.

 

When we think of software many of us think of operating systems for desktops and when we think of open source operating systems we likely think of Linux. In a world dominated by Windows and Mac, linux has a meagre 1% share of the desktop market. Hardly disrupting the market…. but when you factor in smart phones and tablets, we start to realise that Android, which is an open source operating system based on Linux, in countries like UK and USA, is now the leading operating system.

Factoring the complete ‘computer market’ a recent Goldman Sachs’s report says that Microsoft’s share of the computer market has gone from 97% in year 2000 to just 20% in 2012. See this Forbes article for quite a balanced view of those numbers but still very damming for Microsoft. What gets interesting is the stats for super computers, the worlds largest computers, taking on some of the most important and risk averse tasks, where linux has 94% of the market share.

All in all 2012 has been an amazing year for Linux with momentum in loads of fields such as virtual clouds and car computer systems.

 

Now we can start to see that open source is truly disruptive within the operating system world but if we take a wider systems view of the software world (i.e. including web applications and machine operating systems etc) we see that proprietary software is actually one part of an open source ecosystem and not the other way round.

The closed proprietary world is one of the pillars of the ‘free’ market competitive system but has become a less collaborative element of broader collaborative systems. However, there’s still loads of competition within this collaborative ecosystem. This shift in meta narratives is not an eradication of competition. But now we see that in the old survival of the fittest adage, the fittest are actually those who can collaborate the best.

Dogs don’t eat dogs very often. In fact they work best in packs. There’s also lots of profits and money changing hands. This is not an argument for the eradication of profits either. In fact arguments about the pro’s and con’s of profits are secondary at this point. It’s an evolution of the current system rather than a shift to socialism for example.

This inversion between the collaborative and competitive world of software systems is the kind of inversion that we’re about to see in the economy as whole. It’s the creation of a new collaborative meta narrative to replace the free market competitive narrative that dominates today.

If you take a broader view still, looking at the wider knowledge based economy (apparently we’re in the knowledge economy era) you then see that through facebook, youtube, blogging etc that openness and sharing, which are deep routed forms of collaboration, have become the very backbone of the information economy rather than a niche or naive idea. Commercialisation through ownership is now becoming smaller part of the large system. Welcome to the beginnings of the new economy.

 

 

Quite frankly if this new meta narrative does not address climate change, peak oil and the potential for economic crisis, then it is by and large useless. But, in short, we at REconomy are seeing the same collaborative meta narrative appearing in the new economic microcosms developed in local communities by the Transition movement and beyond to the Occupy Camps etc.

Granted that the approaches that these change-maker groups are using are by and large less commercialised but the collaborative or community dynamic is fundamentally aligned.  Moreover, i think its the mix of commercialised and non commercialised that gives this shift real appeal to mainstream and alternative groups alike. In fact, because the collaboratively we’re stronger and fitter the shift will happen as it as performance logic not just mainstream of alternative appeal.

 

Credits: Capitalism is over : IAN RANSLEY DESIGN + ILLUSTRATION’s

 

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  1. Just have to give a quick chuckle about the spelling of deep rooted before going on to my serious points!

    I’ve just finished reading You Are Not A Gadget, and have reviewed it on my blog. The book includes many criticisms of the free and open culture present in Silicon Valley, and maintains that we will only get the kind of quality of service that we desire if the intellectual property that makes up those services is paid for.

    I tend to agree. How is the next generation of intelligent people going to sustain their livelihoods if there is no mechanism to get paid for the work that they do.

    However, I think there is an important distinction between free and open, which Jaron Lanier (the author) does not really appreciate in the context of the book. As you point out, proprietary software sits within an open source world, not the other way round. Lanier’s criticism of open source software is that intense development that may require the employment of many minds, especially where the solution ends up being quite simple, will never be a viable project under an open source business model. It requires the guarantee that those who set their minds to it will be rewarded for their efforts.

    A useful analogy is the one of all the boats on a body of water rising on a high tide, the water, in this case, being the open and freely available software, and the ships being proprietary software. It is not useful to have an ocean liner sat in a puddle (which you could call the Microsoft model of business), but nor is it useful to have an ocean with no boats, and therefore no useful application. What we really want is a solid base of open functions, freely available to all and paid for communally, on which to build the specific functions that will be paid for by the specific users who want to use those tools.

    I disagree, therefore, with the idea of Open Everything. If everyone shared all their intellectual property, their thoughts and ideas for free, then we impoverish those with intelligence, whilst those with the resources to do so will make a quick buck by stealing other people’s ideas and monetising them. In the end, this would just lead to fewer good ideas, or those with the best ideas would be even more selfish than they already are, for fear that their ideas will be stolen and used by others.

    Having said all that, Up With Collaboration!!

    P.S. Who wrote this article? I can’t seem to find a by-line.

    • jdaviescoates says:

      Hey Simeon

      “we will only get the kind of quality of service that we desire if the intellectual property that makes up those services is paid for.”

      This is the sort of argument Britannia Encyclopaedi used to wheel out all the time, but it simply isn’t true. If it were true how would you explain how vastly superior Wikipedia is compared to Briannia?

      “How is the next generation of intelligent people going to sustain their livelihoods if there is no mechanism to get paid for the work that they do.”

      Who says there is no mechanism or that charging for info is the only workable mechanism?

      Why could people not say (as more and more forward thinking intelligent people now do): pay me x amount of money now, and I’ll write this book/ make this film and then freely share it.

      Given the widespread poliferation of crowdfunding platforms etc this is easier than ever.

      “Lanier’s criticism of open source software is that intense development that may require the employment of many minds, especially where the solution ends up being quite simple, will never be a viable project under an open source business model. It requires the guarantee that those who set their minds to it will be rewarded for their efforts.”

      You are seemingly not aware that about 70% of linux has been written by people employed by the likes of IBM etc (beacuse they realise it is an ocean that lifts their boat ;) )

      “If everyone shared all their intellectual property, their thoughts and ideas for free, then we impoverish those with intelligence”

      What evidence can you point to that supports that ascertion?

      Have a look at this TED talk about Arduino? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoBUXOOdLXY

      Do that look and sound like impoverishment to you?

      “those with the best ideas would be even more selfish than they already are”

      Go spend some time over at http://opensourceecology.org/ and see if you still hold that view :)

      Smiles,

      Josef.

      PS I didn’t write the article (I think Shane Hughes did)

  2. Admin (Shane Hughes) says:

    Simone,

    thanks for your points and their pretty traditional arguments but it just doesn’t hold true. in some cases, like wordpress for example, the software comes with the most amazing support. A second point which we have to get our heads round is that, in the previously land and material based economic era, scarcity added value. but in the information era sharing creates value. it’s a whole new set of rules.

    There’s one point that i think i need to correct. I’ve stated that ” collaborative meta narrative for the economy is starting to replace the out dated free market competitive one.” well that’s not exactly true. Many of the successes of the collaborative movement are because collaborative businesses perform better than the non collaborative business and so they, to a certain extent, excel under free market conditions.

    So i think that the new collaborative meta narrative is like another layer on top rather than a replacement of free market principles.

    Thanks
    Shane (i did write this article rather hastily)

  3. That’s weird – I never seemed to get emails notifying me of further comments, even though I subscribed.

    Anyway, thanks to both of you for you responses to my comment. I think that much of the time, although it may not seem like it, we’re arguing for the same things – I love the idea of crowd-funding and I am very aware that intelligent employed people contribute to open source software because it is the ocean that lifts their boats, and that’s great, and beautifully collaborative!

    That doesn’t negate my concerns, though. Lanier has better arguments than mine, and therefore I would suggest that you read his book, rather than me interpret and regurgitate them here, but I’ll just cover one point:

    You mentioned that these open source developers are employed. But how are they employed? Because they have an end product that someone was willing to pay a load of money for. Their logic, rightly, is that it doesn’t matter if they give away a small proportion of the basic parts of their work, because the bits that are specialist to where they are getting their money from are not free. But there are risks associated with this. WordPress is a great example, because it’s good, but at the same time, it’s not the perfect solution for many everyone who uses it. It’s not the ideal model for my own website, but since it would be way too much work to build a new CMS than just compromise and use WordPress, I use it. It’s making the internet less imaginative, since it stops becoming worthwhile for someone to design something ideal for their application, whilst there is something which will work, even though it is not ideal.

    What’s more, it gives those who are developing the platforms a large degree of control over what is and is not possible, and can use that control to manipulate the market for certain products that they do get their money from. For example, Google has APIs for maps. If someone is going to develop a simple maps project, it makes no sense to write your own when Google has an API for it, but then, that means that when someone wants to develop something a bit more specific to their application, but that Google maps doesn’t currently do, then there’s no “sea of mapping” to base it on, because Google have a monopoly on how their API is configured, and only they can decide on the new functionality to be added.

    As you may be able to tell, this is an argument more against “free” software than “open”, but I said that in the original post. Lanier lumps them together. I don’t. But that’s why we should be aware of the differences between the two and the wider implications of offering things for free. It might cost us less in the meantime, but it also costs us our freedom.

    “Many of the successes of the collaborative movement are because collaborative businesses perform better than the non collaborative business and so they, to a certain extent, excel under free market conditions.” Agreed.

  4. I was a little unfair to WordPress in that post – I’m just annoyed when I can’t do exactly what I want to with it. If I was getting paid for writing my blog though, I’d be able to afford to develop it better, as well as give myself a much needed income! But no one seems willing to pay for journalism today, even professional journalism.

  5. Admin (Shane Hughes) says:

    Hi Simone,

    i don’t think we’re a million miles away from each other and there’s loads of opensource stuff that has no support and lacks quality etc

    You have an interesting conundrum. Both publishing and software are impacted heavily by the open everything, sharing, DIY culture. I’m really curious if there is less paid journalism or if it is just more dispersed? That’s not a loaded question, i really have no idea and would love to know.

    You seem to be saying that given your lack of funds you can’t afford to build a perfect site, so you have to compromise with wordpress. I think that’s a false choice.

    I’d still say that wordpress would be a good option for the perfect site. I’ve got a few wordpress sites that i run and all of them have, at some point, had some work done by the significant community that make their living by supplying professional services to wordpress users. They’ve built modules and refined templates and functionality etc. I can’t help but think that this hybrid of free (as in beer) as well as open source and professionally paid for work helps me get a far superior product at far reduced cost.

    There is a mass mixing of open source given for free and propriety and paid business ecosystems. i feel that by and large its the collaborative stuff that is lowering the bar in terms of access. Even if you paid a top designer to build your site. you can bet your bottom dollar that he’ll be cutting pasting code from loads of different sources. sharing makes that possible and saves every single coder having to write every single line. what a waste of time that would be.

    curious to know if you’ve received notification of follow up comments?

    thanks loads….

    Shane

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