Open Source World

The question is simple: Who should control the means of production?

And the answer is: All of us.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In his Ted Talk, Alastair Pravin said:

We’re moving into this future where the factory is everywhere. And, increasingly, that means the design team is everyone. And that really is an industrial revolution. When we think that the major ideological conflicts that we inherited were all based around this question of who should control the means of production. And these technologies are coming back with the solution – actually maybe no one. All of us.

Let me reiterate- the question is: Who should control the means of production? And the answer Pravin alludes to, was hypothesized several years ago.

In 1958, Leonard E. Read published one the most famous economic essays ever written: I, Pencil. The essay, is narrated from the perspective of a seemingly ordinary #2 Pencil.

What makes the essay extraordinary is how the narration attempts to explain that simple is a matter of perspective. There are several components involved with manufacturing a pencil, and each seems to seamlessly integrate with the next… how? How can people manage to connect, communicate and collaborate for an entire supply chain — and in turn produce an object?

What’s even more beautiful is that not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make a pencil.* Do note the emphasis on ‘single’. Semantics aside, a single individual does not posses the know-how to manufacture, produce and distribute an object, but together, a group of individuals, each with a little know-how can work together and produce an object, in this case a pencil.

There is a fact still more astounding: the absence of a master mind, of anyone dictating or forcibly directing these countless actions which bring me into being. No trace of such a person can be found. Instead, we find the Invisible Hand at work. […]

I, Pencil, am a complex combination of miracles: a tree, zinc, copper, graphite, and so on. But to these miracles which manifest themselves in Nature an even more extraordinary miracle has been added: the configuration of creative human energies—millions of tiny know-hows configurating naturally and spontaneously in response to human necessity and desire and in the absence of any human master-minding! […]

The above is what I meant when writing, “If you can become aware of the miraculousness which I symbolize, you can help save the freedom mankind is so unhappily losing.” For, if one is aware that these know-hows will naturally, yes, automatically, arrange themselves into creative and productive patterns in response to human necessity and demand—that is, in the absence of governmental or any other coercive masterminding—then one will possess an absolutely essential ingredient for freedom: a faith in free people. Freedom is impossible without this faith.

The idea of an Invisible Hand, or the natural and spontaneous configuration of human energies in response to human necessity and desire in the absence of any human master mind, is the same answer that Pravin talks about in his Ted Talk: an Open Source world.

The power is not in the one, but in the collective collaboration of the many.

What an Open Source world asks for is essentially this: let us create a place (or space) where everyone and anyone can share their little sliver of know-how with everyone else; and together with our collective knowledge, and without dictated how-to’s (masterminding or corporate control), we can connect and collaborate to make this world a better place.

Now that is a revolutionizing thought.


My inspiration to synthesize this piece came from hearing Ted Radio Hour: Open Source World podcast and the Freakonomics: Who Needs Handwriting? podcast.

*Quote from Article: I, Pencil


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