Open source software has had a broadly positive impact on society.
Its resources have provided the basis for massive value creation and played key roles as the fundamental building blocks of technological innovation. There are dozens of available examples and it isn’t necessary to address them in this piece. Needless to say, open source has left a lasting mark on the world.
But there may be potential for it to do even more.
The hypothesis here is that greater open source adoption could directly influence prevailing attitudes towards economic interaction. In the event this is correct, a change like this could impact a wide range of domain spaces outside of software itself.
Open source software projects are a collaborative effort. Individual developers and maintainers contributing their creativity and productivity towards the betterment of the project in question. In doing so, they create a shared resource that is, in most cases, broadly available for anyone to use, even those who have not directly contributed to the codebase.
This pattern opts to create value rather than capture it, or capture it in its entirety, but still manages to create collaboratively competitive markets around the resources. Individuals and entities may build on, provide support for, construct services around, or design derivatives from these projects and compete with other individuals or entities conducting similar business.
Basically, these projects create open, dynamic economic theaters while simultaneously preventing monopolies from forming; in many respects, these allow individuals to both own the productive resources and utilize the resulting product.
The general behind this hypothesis is that these open source projects induce a different mindset - one that the default is set to open collaborative competition. Each project makes available the culmination of the best ideas of its contributors for general use without squashing the ability to build many, often competing, economic business on top of them. And with a greater spread of this approach, it is likely, although not guaranteed, that it would impact other areas.
Directly adjacent domains such as hardware or licensing could be expected to adapt under this frame of thought while indirect topics like employment contracts and non-software intellectual property could begin to change as a result of the open source influence.
In summary, the thought is this: a greater open source environment would establish an open creative paradigm in which economic factors would broadly begin to focus on creators owning productive resources and the resulting outputs.
Greater individual self-direction through the influence of open source software.