While I’ve used open source products like Arduino micro-controllers and Raspberry Pi computers I never really thought about the great impact that a more broad OSD policy could provide to the world. Our in class discussions on OSD showed me that open source makes resources available to everyone. It encourages a culture that thrives on desire for knowledge rather than money and can help bring change to communities of lower income.
As a computer science major, I was well aware of open-source software and I’ve often used a lot of open source code from Github. However, I was not cognizant of the incredibly profound impact of open source hardware. As stated in previous blog posts, open source hardware plays a huge role in creating clean energy around the world. Open source also has a growing positive impact on communication, infrastructure, and education. The importance of OSD is something that cannot be ignored any longer.
Recently, some colleges have been working to make the textbooks used for courses open source so they can be more affordable to students. This is just a small change that has saved thousands of dollars to students around the U.S.. Similar small steps could dramatically change every day life and positively influence the economy.
One great concern I had in the beginning of the semester related to OSD was that it is not economically feasible to make everything open source because of the relationship between supply and demand. In economics, money is really what determines behavior and I didn’t think that open source would lead to any money exchange. While part of open source does not involve any monetary exchange (like github), there are partially open source designs which do allow producers to see profits from their developments. Learning about this played a significant role in changing my opinion on OSD and I believe that OSD could be introduced into any industry but not the same way in all industries.
The greed of man will not allow IP to go away without a fight but it is possible and quite likely that OSD will gain a foothold in public policy soon. While IP does encourage innovation with money, OSD will allow a greater number of people to contribute to the common good. Politicians will indubitably be hesitant to push OSD policy because their wealthy constituents will be fighting for IP but as OSD industries like the software industry continues to grow, I believe the desire and interest for OSD will grow as well.
Personally I came to realize that OSD really does allow anyone to make a difference. In class we are working on a food computer and although none of the class members are engineers, we have made good progress in the product. There are definitely some resources that we have as college students that lower-income individuals do not have but our project can help others and send the message that it is possible for anyone to make a difference through OSD.