Power of Example (and the Long View)
Power of exampleMy mama said it and I heardShe says one ounce of actionBeats a ton of words.— Martin Sexton, “Hallelujah”
[…] I didn’t write a whole free operating system, either. I wrote some pieces and invited other people to join me by writing other pieces. So I set an example. I said, “I’m going in this direction. Join me and we’ll get there.” And enough people joined in that we got there. So if you think in terms of, how am I going to get this whole gigantic job done, it can be daunting. So the point is, don’t look at it that way. Think in terms of taking a step and realizing that after you’ve taken a step, other people will take more steps and, together, it will get the job done eventually.
Assuming that humanity doesn’t wipe itself out, the work we do today to produce the free educational infrastructure, the free learning resource for the world, will be useful for as long as humanity exists. If it takes 20 years to get it done, so what? So don’t think in terms of the size of the whole job; think in terms of the piece that you’re going to do. That will show people it can be done, so others will do other pieces.
We are at the very beginning of time for the human race. It is not unreasonable that we grapple with problems. But there are tens of thousands of years in the future. Our responsibility is to do what we can, learn what we can, improve the solutions, and pass them on.
The Long Way Home
Taking the longer view of humanity’s future, it seems obvious that we should be pursuing free software development and sharing knowledge freely. With proprietary software, we’re always going to have this exclusionary scab over everything that can’t be picked. (Although that’s not a good metaphor because a scab is actually a good thing.) People will spend a lot of time recreating things that aren’t available for free use, instead of taking what’s already there and improving it.
With free software, the solutions are available for everyone to improve.
How much better if we collaboratively build things from which everybody can benefit, immediately. Because even if all things eventually pass into the public domain, they won’t be available for free use and sharing when it really matters. Sure, many things that enter the public domain (a long, long, long time from now) will still be valuable, but much will be lost, and much software technology will be moot.
We’ve had a long time to learn how to deal with a world of scarce goods, and that’s what most people understand. Scarcity. But I think our solutions will come more slowly until it’s widely understood that we shouldn’t try to create artificial scarcity for information (including software), knowledge, and ideas.
We’ll get there. A growing number of people understand. We’re slowly building up the free world. It’s great advice to not get overwhelmed by the job ahead, but just take steps toward the goal. Set that example. Improve those solutions.
Please share your solutions freely!