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In a World Without Open Source

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In the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” we see a graphic example of how small initial changes can lead to monumental consequences over a fairly short time. In the episode the possible consequences of rapidly-reproducing tribbles were contained and managed, leading to awareness of the effects of “new” species on established societies. A similar story can be seen in the rise of open source software — from Linus Torvalds’ first release of source code in 1991, Linux has spread by allowing users to modify, improve and share software. Open source software is now a massive force in technology today. Yet many of us aren’t aware of the reach and influence open source has on our personal and professional lives.

Steven Johnson, author of the seminal book Interface Culture, said it best in his recent article about the power of collaboration in spurring innovation. Johnson references how ubiquitous open source software has become in every aspect of our lives, and asks us to imagine what would happen — cue the announcer voice — in a world without open source. He paints a stunning picture:

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