Reflection on OSD

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.

Climate Change Migration and Adaptation

After class with Professor Bateman and the video about climate change denial, I was able to reflect on how I can see the effects of climate change and the seriousness of it in my daily life.

In 2006, Al Gore gave a talk called the “Inconvenient Truth.” He talked about how the environment was being negatively affected by human activity and how the world will face serious issues if climate change is not taken seriously. However, even to this day, many politicians deny climate change and there have not been significant changes implemented to address this pressing topic.

I feel that personally, it is hard to really understand climate change because the data does not affect my day to day life yet.  I understand that eventually, climate change will drastically change how I live, but because I don’t see its impact, I neglect the importance of it. I know that sea levels are rising and polar ice caps have lost a tremendous amount of area, but because it hasn’t affected me in a tangible way, I forget about it. Although I am not proud of this mindset, it is playing a huge role in politics. Politicians are not in any hurry to push new policy regarding climate change because their constituents do not really care that much.

Because of the apathy that I can relate to, I definitely believe that the first step to change has to be with me and people like me. We need to act on the quickly changing climate before it affects our day to day lives or it will be too late.

To relate the topic of climate change to the course’s topic of OSD, I believe that IP has played a significant role in the changing climate. There is no incentive for companies to try to find environmentally friendly methods of production or changing their products to become more environmentally friendly. Companies will research what will net them the greatest margins of profit and there is no reason for them not to.

Implementing all the forms of OSD that we have discussed in class would be beneficial on many different levels. The volume of research would increase tremendously along with the education. Younger generations should be more aware of the topic and danger of climate change and that should push profits away from potentially harmful products. This would also affect politics and lead to policies that would alleviate pressure on the environment.

The earth is so important because it’s something that every plant and animal shares and depends on. It’s an essential thing that life depends on and there’s only one; however, humans are constantly neglecting its health. Hopefully solutions can be found in using OSD policy and as a class we can make a difference. Even with our seemingly trivial food computer, we will be able to raise awareness and a make a difference in the world.

Health

The health industry is one where money rules. Because of this, implementing OSD would be very difficult because corporations would have to give up their rights to the patents of pharmaceuticals. However, if some sort of OSD policy could be implemented, the world would be changed for the better.

Currently, drugs to cure deadly illnesses, like Daraprim, have been making the news because of unreasonable markups because of the inelasticity of the demand. It is immoral for such actions to happen and because of the current IP policy, there is little that people who cannot afford the drug can do about it. While I understand that corporations want to create the most revenue they can, they do this at the stake of millions of people who cannot afford the drug.

However, there is the defense that the margins in selling the drug are justified in that the revenue will go to more research to develop more life-saving drugs. While I do understand that, I believe that this is something that must be addressed. There is no reason for millions of people to be dying from diseases when cures exist.

Although pharmaceuticals are the main topic that comes to mind when discussing health, there are countless others that are under the vast umbrella of health. Another aspect of health is diet and nutrition. Exercise plans and healthy open source food policies could be implemented to give more people easy access to organic foods.

Personally, when I go to the store I avoid the organic food sections because they are marked up. However, if open source policy was implemented and food became cheaper, it would become much easier to decide to purchase organic products. If this change is implemented, America could perhaps begin to win the war against obesity.

Additionally, if workout plans or exercise materials became open source in a way where the studies were available to everyone, this would be beneficial as well. Many people are not aware of the best way to achieve their fitness goals and are discouraged when they do not seem results. In my own experience I feel like one of the hardest parts of working out is figuring what I am supposed to do and what my goals should be. Just making this field a little more open would be a tremendous help where purchasing incredibly expensive workout materials would not be necessary.

I firmly believe that health would benefit tremendously from the implementation of an OSD policy. While softwares and hardwares might not benefit as much, the pros in an OSD health industry far outweight the cons.

Infrastructure: IP and OSD solutions compared

One important thing that was discussed in class this past week was the difference between hardware and software open source infrastructure designs. Some of the differences were that the marginal cost for producing new software is relatively low, supply chains are difficult to manage, and there must be stricter quality and safety standards.

Different Open Source models were also discussed with one being essentially an open source community. The models will be designed by a community for distribution managed by a foundation to make ensure the products meet quality and safety standards. This kind of expertise and experience based model gives users the experience of making their own products and teaches how everything works. This also cuts some costs of the provider as they do not necessarily have to build or provide the materials.

There is also a manufacturing centric model where industrial efficiency is the key component. Along with a partially open product design that relies on products being under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial license so only their creators can commercialize them.

Personally, I have used Arduino and Raspberry Pi in the past and they are incredibly reliable and good at what they do respectively. However, I feel that they are more of a niche market. In Macroeconomics, we are discussing the modern growth theory which emphasizes private property rights as an institution needed for economic growth. I feel that although certain Open Source Hardware’s have found success in the economy, it might be a stretch to implement Open Source for every form of hardware and expect to maintain economic growth.

I do not deny the good that Open Source Hardware provides by any means, but I still believe that it succeeds in niche markets with strong communities that contribute to the furthering of products and services.

Communication

Communication is such a vital part in a quickly growing society. In order to know how to use the newest information, one must have the means to obtain the information first. In class, it was mentioned that in hospitals it would be essential to have an efficient form a communication so doctors can be most effective. However, there are many hospitals that cannot afford to improve their methods of communication due to low funds. Thus, an OSD approach to communication would prove very effective.

In wealthier countries, smart phones and computers are ubiquitous. Although teachers might not approve of this fact, it is undeniable that younger generations are getting access to more information than what was previously possible. However, there remains a great contrast between wealthy and less fortunate societies in terms of this access to communication and thus information.

In many aspects, this issue could be alleviated or even eliminated with the implementation of an Open Source Design. As stated in my previous blog post about education, this change to communication policy would make information more widely available and help bridge the education gap.

Additionally, if more individuals are allowed to work on methods of communication, then there will be a more rapid improvement as more individuals are able to contribute.

Essentially, open source policy should be implemented to make communication better for the whole world and make the world a more unified place. If everyone in the world becomes mroe aware of other cultures, perhaps much conflict could be avoided.

Food and Agriculture: IP and OSD solutions compared

 

Some students from HackCville has recently been working with the University of Virginia to introduce hydrotonic “gardens” in various buildings on grounds as a cheap, environmentally friendly way to grow food. If this project is successful, it will show how a cheap form of agriculture can be developed in an urbanized environment.

In class, we discussed how the world has been experiencing large amounts of rural-urban migration. This leads to fewer people in areas where large-scale agriculture is possible but the demands for agriculture have not fallen. Thus, a possible solution is to create a source of agriculture that has been redesigned for the urban environment.

Possible open source designs have led to cheap greenhouses that can be created in workshops. The products of these kinds of designs can produce products to be sold in various revenue streams or for personal use (ex. the gardens on UVA grounds).

To compare OSD vs IP in this context, there are a variety of different variables that must be considered. I will discuss supply, wealth redistribution and the business canvas.

Firstly, to address the issue of rural-urban migration and steady demand, OSD would help tremendously by giving individuals in urban areas the ability to contribute to the overall supply. IP generally does not provide this opportunity because of the restrictions placed on useful technologies. This will shift the supply curve right and reduce the cost of agricultural products for the consumers which will result in benefits on many levels.

A second impact of implementing a more OSD is on wealth redistribution affecting the wealth gap.  If a cheaper form of agricultural growth can become more available, then more people will have the means to enter the agriculture industry and produce products that can be sold in places like farmers markets.

In class, we discussed how the business canvas model and how it does not discriminate between IP vs OSD. The 9 components of the model are key partners, key activities, key resources, value propositions, customer relationships, channels, customer segments, cost structure, and revenue streams. It was discussed the the value of a product is created by the consumers who decide to make purchases and create the revenue stream. Whether or not the product was made as a result of OSD or IP does not make an impact on the decisions of consumers.

All in all, OSD in agriculture will create more overall value than IP would. Without even considering the impact OSD agriculture could have on lower income areas, it can be seen that OSD will result in tremendous benefit in urban areas. Because of these positive benefits, I strongly believe that the agricultural industry is one that should definitely implement a more OSD policy.

Sources

Business Canvas Model

Open Source Ecology

Education and the Control of Knowledge

In this blog post I would like to go into a key part of open source design, which is the definition of “open.” Stephen Kovats, in The Future of Open System Solutions, Now covers the definition in 11 different conditions. Some of the components I would like to highlight and discuss that are related to education and the control of knowledge are: absence of technological restriction,  no discrimination against persons or groups, and no discrimination against fields of endeavor.

The first aspect of absence of technological restriction is vital because it means that anyone will have the means to access the work. If this is violated, issues arise where individuals cannot afford access to certain information and creates a knowledge gap across rich and poor societies and cultures.

The next two are similar in that the knowledge cannot be kept from any groups of people or kept because of what they might do with the knowledge. This creates great flexibility in the availability of knowledge and allows the knowledge to be used in new creative ways. Restricting discrimination is key in furthering education as it allows all groups to have a more equal opportunity to learn.

Granted, one issue could be that the quality of education might be hindered if instructors do not have as much of an incentive to produce valuable resources (ie. textbooks) because they cannot profit off of them. However, students will have access to unlimited amounts of information and be able to choose what to learn and how to learn.

I feel that all in all, open source policy cannot possibly have negative effects on education. There is so much room for improvement in the field of education; making information open will give all groups the opportunity to do whatever they want and if the information is properly documented, there is no limit to what can be accomplished.

Sources

The Future of Open System Solutions, Now