[Vision2020] Open source and related concepts

Paul Rumelhart godshatter at yahoo.com
Mon Apr 7 22:18:01 PDT 2008

One of the great things that has come about because of the internet is
the concept of "open source".   This is great for programming, because
you can collaborate with others to produce applications that are free in
every sense of the word.  Firefox, linux, the apache web server that
powers many websites, free replacements for standard software like gaim
for internet messaging (now "pidgin"), open office for spreadsheets and
word processing, and many, many other programs in various stages of
development are testaments to the power of the "open source" movement.

This concept is amazingly refreshing to me, because it brings people
together to create things for others just because they can.

This concept isn't just for geeks anymore.  We now have projects like
wikipedia and various other wiki-like concepts (such as wikibooks,
wiktionary, and others).  People can take what knowledge they have
accumulated and use it to help everybody.  You have wikileaks, which
aims to be a place where whistle blowers can expose wrongdoing
anonymously, and you have the creative commons, where people place their
works of art where they can be used to create other pieces of art.

The reason I love these concepts is because they are good examples of
what I consider "true" anarchy.  The term "anarchy" has a bad rep,
because it usually denotes chaos and the destruction of the
establishment.  However, what it is supposed to mean is rule by the 
people without authoritarian oversight and without disorder.  These 
kinds of applications are a great example of how anarchy can actually 
work.  There isn't one guy at the top of most open source projects that 
can act like a dictator.  Even Linus Torvalds, the person who started 
the linux operating system, isn't in that position.  He can accept 
patches into his source tree, but anyone can fork the code at any time 
if they don't like what he does with his kernel, thanks to the GPL license.

In some cases, there are literally thousands of people working on these
projects, to one degree or another.  Yet there is no authoritarian power
structure that controls things.  People have to learn to do their part
as a member of the project, wherever they best think they can help.  The
projects sort of organically grow, and shape themselves into what people

So why do I bring this up here?

Because I have just learned of another similar initiative to take this
idea of "open source" and extend it into an area where it doesn't at
first seem as if it would fit.  That area is government.  There is a
site called metagovernment (http://www.metagovernment.org) which is
starting to ramp up that aims to garner community involvement in every
aspect of governing ourselves.  I don't know a lot about it yet, but I'm
excited about the idea.  From what I gather, you basically band together
into small communities based on geographical area (presumably Moscow
would be one such area), and you work as a group to write the laws as
you want them to be.  There is a mechanism where the best ideas float to
the top, and there are forums where every aspect of the law is hammered
out.  The idea is that these laws, and the discussions that are involved
in them, can be held up as a template for our legislatures to use to
create local laws.  There is no real power there, all there is is an
example that in all likelihood will be a much "better" law than that
which our politicians would come up with, since it was developed by
those who would be most affected by and who are most knowledgeable of
the topics.

It's also a way for those of us who wish to be more involved to actually
help to make a difference.

When this project gets off the ground, I'm going to follow it and see if
it works.  My gut instinct tells me that it will.  It's the same reason
that Firefox the browser is better than Internet Explorer (at least in
my opinion) - the community knows what they want and that drives the
design.  A monolithic company, just like a monolithic government, is
limited - whereas a group of intelligent individuals with like interests
and whole ranges of expertise to draw on can be nigh unstoppable.  It's
the difference between having to accept what is shoved down your throat,
and choosing to use what others have built together for you to use as
you see fit.

If this takes off, I'll be hoping to get some of the people on this list
involved in the project.  It is basically what Vision2020 purports to
want to be - a place where our vision of the future of our town can be
expressed in a positive way.

Any thoughts?


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