“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” (Socrates)
“It is our moral duty to share the scientific, intellectual, spiritual and creative wisdom of man with all of humanity so that every single person on the planet has the same opportunity to explore, expand, become enlightened by, or simply to experience, the collective gifts of humankind.” (JPS)
All knowledge, all science, all education and even all creative works should be “free” (as in speech and beer) to all of mankind in perpetuity. To limit and control access, to ascribe economic “value” to such creations, to turn these creative manifestations of our uniquely human capacity for complex thought, divergent thinking and creativity into “intellectual property“, is unethical and ultimately self-defeating. To subjugate the global and humanitarian value of human knowledge, wisdom and creativity into economic or intellectual “property” is profoundly immoral. Access, and the ability to contribute, to knowledge, wisdom and creativity should be a fundamental global human right.
Although this is a topic I intend to write about in more detail in the future (open movement, open access), I thought I would simply raise the idea here as a start to future articles. Briefly, the world is changing. Our definition of, and means to access, science, knowledge and education are undergoing a paradigm shift which may leave in it’s wake, those institutions which failed to recognize the technological, philosophical and social-media trends which are threatening their very own existence. “Open” is the new paradigm and it is possible that the success of an institution in the future will be determined by how well they recognize, embrace and leverage these new trends in education, knowledge, access and social-media. One need only look to institutions like MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, UC Irvine, Cambridge and Udacity to get some idea as to what the future of education may look like – open, inclusive and participatory – anyone can have access, everyone can contribute. Although only one aspect of “open-knowledge” open-access can change the world and for the 6th year in row, in locations and institutions around the world, Open Access Week provides resources, case-studies, research and presentations to “…the academic and research community to continue to learn about the potential benefits of Open Access.“
“Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.“
( John Holt)
I have often tried to explain to people who have asked, or when I thought an explanation was necessary, why I moved into technology full-time after leaving a previous graduate program in psychology and statistics back in 2001. I have often paraphrased that reason as “philosophical” or “ideological” and I can tell you that nobody has ever responded in acknowledgement that they had any idea what I meant. This blog entry is my first attempt to try and explain the reasons why I chose to focus on Linux and open-source technologies as a career for the past decade.
I was an early user of the Linux operating system and had already been following technology trends for many years by the time I was facing those educational and career choices in 2001. I had already read Eric Raymond’s definitive book on the open-source development philosophy titled The Cathedral and the Bazaar and so had a pretty good understanding of the philosophy/model. Basically, the model/philosophy is very simple. Sharing knowledge, and allowing everyone to add to and build on that knowledge – and then re-sharing back to the community – creates an open and collaborative environment for the exponential growth of innovation, knowledge, wisdom and community where far more people can contribute to, and benefit from, that knowledge.
I believed with all my heart that this notion of openly sharing knowledge and allowing the community to access, extend and subsequently re-share that knowledge, had profound potential far beyond becoming the foundation for the single greatest paradigm-shift in software and technology – open-source software. How significant has the open-source software movement been? Well, it would be impossible today to use the Internet (itself built on open-source), mobile technologies (smart phones, tablets), streaming media players (Apple TV, Roku, Boxee etc), super-computers or other mission-critical services (on-line banking, stock markets, space technology), without open-source software and in some cases the Linux operating system. Open-source software and the Linux operating system are pervasive and often hidden technologies which power, or support, the vast majority of communications, technological, security and educational software and tools we use today – you just don’t see them since they are working behind the scenes (Google, YouTube, email, web servers, content management systems) or have been embedded into other tools or devices you use on a regular basis like your smart phone, cable box or media server. We would not have the Internet, or many of the other technologies we take for granted today, if not for Linux and open-source software.
Fortunately, I am pleased to say that the philosophical and ideological foundations behind the open-source movement which led me to a 10+ year technology career, were well founded and today we can see many examples of the “open movement” showing up across the world and across disciplines. We now see trends towards open-science, open-access, open-publications, open-government and my favourite open-education. I believe these trends will continue and many of the ways in which we currently create a “business” around knowledge and education will change fundamentally, and hopefully, for the better.
Where I believe this open-movement may have its greatest impact, where it may have the highest probability of truly uniting the planet and creating a more informed, engaged, collaborative and most of all, informed and knowledgeable civilization, is through open-access and open-education. Ultimately, when you look at what all these “open” movements have in common it is the sharing of knowledge, simple as that. And where do we typically create an environment of learning and knowledge? In our schools and institution’s of higher learning of course. I am of the opinion that this is where the greatest push towards open-knowledge needs to take place and I am so convinced that this is the future of learning and knowledge, that the institutions which succeed or fail in the future will be determine by how quickly and thoroughly they embrace these trends towards open and shared knowledge today.
I believe ALL knowledge, ALL science and ALL creative works should be freely available to the world. Of course this begs the question of an educational institution who may ask “ok, great ideology but how the hell can we survive if we give away our main product (knowledge) for free?” Seems like a valid and reasonable question. But when you consider that the commercial and close-source proprietary software industries asked the exact same question over a decade ago when faced with the open-source movement, yet we now have billion dollar open-source software companies, it would appear that there is a way to do both – give away and share (most or some) of your commercial assets (intellectual property, knowledge etc) and still make a profit. What does it take? An open mind, a desire to embrace rather than fear new technologies and to find ways to utilize these tools and new social-models of knowledge-sharing, for the sake of mankind as well as your bottom-line. To all you educational institutions out there who are still running expensive, outdated and closed-source software for your infrastructure, and who may be ignoring these (cost saving and morally superior) trends towards open-access, open-science, open-education and open-knowledge, and who may even still fear or have not yet embraced social-media, it was nice knowing you. You may be supplanted by those institutions who are already leveraging not only the significant cost-savings associated with open-source software, but who have embraced the new models of open-education, open-knowledge and social-media. One need only look to institutions like MIT, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Yale, UC Irvine, Cambridge and Udacity to get some idea as to the future of education.
I say this to all institutions of higher-learning. The world is changing, many technological, educational and social trends may at first appear to be insignificant, possibly even disruptive in a negative way. But with suitable leadership, adequate research and a sincere desire to explore opportunities to improve and expand your educational philosophies and model, both you and the communities you serve, will benefit immensely. Personally, I am also looking for opportunities to contribute my own education, knowledge of technology as well as open-education and social-media trends, towards any institution that is looking to embrace these educational trends towards open-learning, open-access or just improving their delivery of on-line educational resources. I am very passionate about education and improving how students, educators and institutions can leverage these new technologies based on openness, collaboration and knowledge-sharing. It would be an honour for me, actually a dream come true, to play a small part in facilitating any institution of higher-learning, towards leveraging these open and inclusive models of learning and the delivery of educational resources. If you think I can help, check out my LinkedIn profile (which is only partially complete), and drop me line.
“In open source, students are active initiators. It all sounds too undisciplined, I know, but life beyond schooling is exactly like that. You either write your own script, or you become an actor in somebody else’s script.” (John Taylor Gatto)
“Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common.” (Albert Einstein)
“Education: Being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know; and it’s knowing how to use the information once you get it.” (William A. Feather )
“Do not train children to learning by force and harshness, but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of the genius of each.” (Plato)
“It is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant; aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.” (Albert Einstein)
“The purpose of education is not to produce mere scholars, technicians and job hunters, but integrated men and women who are free of fear; for only between such human beings can there be enduring peace.” (J. Krishnamurti)
“Consider… the university professor. What is his function? Simply to pass on to fresh generations of numskulls a body of so-called knowledge that is fragmentary, unimportant, and, in large part, untrue. His whole professional activity is circumscribed by the prejudices, vanities and avarices of his university trustees, i.e., a committee of soap-boilers, nail manufacturers, bank-directors and politicians. The moment he offends these vermin he is undone. He cannot so much as think aloud without running a risk of having them fan his pantaloons.” (H. L. Mencken)
“A fool’s brain digests philosophy into folly, science into superstition, and art into pedantry. Hence University education.” (George Bernard Shaw)