Barriers to OSPD

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Barriers to Open Source Product Development

Currently, open source development is mainstream in the world of software. Open source product development in hardware is currently either unheard of, or insignificant, in that only about 1 millionth of the hardware goods economy is based on open source design.


The potential outcome of open development is great. It is assumed that open source product development affords the only sustainable way to do software (see Awesome Economics of Open Source), and by extension, the same should apply to hardware. For the hardware case, sustainability must include environmental soundness and social justice - paving the way for regenerative development.

Barriers to OSPD

In summary, the barriers to OSPD are largely mental and spiritual, as opposed to material.

  • Historical evolution - software started open source in the 1970s, went proprietary, and now is open source again. Hardware has started closed source 200 years ago, and remains proprietary. There is a significant cultural barrier to transitioning from a proprietary mindset, though in principle, this should be possible within one generation. Given that most of global institutions support proprietary development, the only way that we can eradicate the proprietary mindset disease is by - concurrently - changing many of the world's institutions. This would be a full time job for a large number of people, and this is precisely within the purview of Open Source Ecology's work: mass creation of right livelihood towards movement entrepreneurship to address all the world's institutional mis-design.
  • Clarity on the Status Quo - rationally, what works and what doesn't? There may be many opinions on what institutions of society work well and which are broken, and cutting through the noise to arrive at a general consensus may be difficult.
  • Survival - surviving is a central issue that cause people both in the developing world and the 'advanced' world a lot of trouble. Most people scramble to make a living, and only a small percentage of people have enough liberty in their lives to pursue self-determination. Most people are on the treadmill, keeping up with the Joneses, 80% dislike their work - but people are forced to work or otherwise they would not have the resources to keep food on the table and a roof over their head. Naturally a question should be asked, What would the world be like if people did what they wanted to do in their lives - not what they were forced to by necessity?This applies to both rich and poor people. In practice, that means that very few people have the liberty or attention span to contribute to public economic development (open source economic development, and this role is relegated to governments, which are not particularly efficient. See Efficiency of Government.
  • Lack of Vision - many people call this greed. Perhaps a more accurate description is lack of 'enlightened self-interest'. Enlightened self-interest culminates in care not only for oneself, but also the utmost care that nobody is left behind - as we are not free until everyone is free. Recent science supports that 'everything is connected' - and thus even the purely rational perspective indicates that we should care for others. So when a person is self-centered, greedy, or has no interest in public-interest development - that is simply a lack of clarity regarding one's place in the universe. For this reason - it is useful to refer to lack of vision, not greed. For vision can be expanded by education - whereas one cannot point to a clear solution for greed. As such - it is useful to frame this type of barrier as 'lack of vision' - as a solution is actionable.
  • Collaborative Literacy - Collaborative literacy is a profound understanding that cooperation yields improved results over pure competition. It is in our interest to cooperate for the sake of ethics - not when it is convenient to cooperate on some parts, leaving all else to war. Collaboration and cooperation are an expanded state of mind which draws boundaries outside of oneself or outside of one's immediate group. Because we are all in it together. Collaborative literacy also refers to the tools for cooperation. A conviction to cooperate has limited effect if one does not know how to use the tools for such cooperation. In the internet age - those tools are abundant - so a true collaborator needs to step in and pick up certain technical skills that enable seamless collaboration. These tools include online collaborative platforms such as wikis or open source versions of Google Presentations, online conferencing software, FreeCAD and other open source productivity software. These tools also include organizational tools: running incentive challenge prizes such as HeroX; starting communities with forums, blogs, and wikis; and many others. For open source product development, one must be familiar with a product development process and release cycles. One must have a general understanding of the steps in a product development process, and how these steps can be effected using open source platforms.
  • Crowd Development Literacy - this is a big one in terms of workflow design in open source product development. Crowd development literacy refers to the principles where masses - as opposed to rare superheroes - are leveraged to produce results more significant that any Two Pizza Rule teams. This means that the design of projects and their execution assumes that many people are going to work on the project. Thus, we focus on completely open source toolchains, immediate upload of results and in-process work logging, simplicity and low cost of design that allows anyone to build or produce the artifact or prototype, relying on large available potential developer communities, and using open source tooling and machines for low cost access. This is coupled with crowd support infrastructure such as crowd-funded incentive prizes and corporate sponsorship. The main philosophical point of Crowd Development Literacy must be that the ends are economically significant - otherwise there is no real-life incentive towards meeting one's material needs. The assumption here is that the world in general has not escaped an artificial scarcity orientation - and such orientation must be eradicated. OSE's assumption is that artificial scarcity is eradicated most effectively by material means, not spiritual means. It is easier to think about a better world once survival needs are met, and not while one is hungry or cold.
  • Scientific Literacy - the most salient point in physics related to human prosperity is understanding the amount of energy that is available for human survival on earth. That energy, if clean and sustainable (for another 5 billion years) - can come only from the sun. Thus the central question to society's prosperity is 'how much solar energy is available.' Solar energy created all the fossil fuels and provides all of our renewable energy. Unless we go to nuclear power, the sun is all we have. The critical number here - is the Solar Fraction.