By Peter Kerr 08/08/2016

Every party needs a grumpy uncle…so let me be that curmudgeonly guy for the upcoming Open Source//Open Society conference.

(Early spoiler alert – I’m going to some of OS//OS. There’s too many thought provoking speakers, too much opportunity to touch base with clever people not to)

The second such OS//OS event is talking (was originally a typo, but it works!) place at Wellington’s Michael Fowler Centre on August 22 and 23.

I attended last year’s inaugural event attended by over 350 business, government and tech sector people.

This year the organisers are expecting over 400 people, and ticket prices have been increased!

So there must be a few believers in the whole concept of open. Given the look of last year’s attendees there’s going to be a swag of millenials (18-36 year olds).

Now, do they think they can change the world by expanding the notion of open source software (free for anyone to use and improve and feed back to for the greater good of all) to wider society?

When you see the possibility of Donald Trump being president of the USA, and the Brexit you wonder. Those are examples of closing down, shutting up the barriers, telling every other wo/man and their dog to f…off.

World is less free, more fearful, more worried

We’re in a world that is less free, more fearful, worried.

How does OS//OS with its peace, love and apple pie philosophy expect to counter that?

To give them credit, OS//OS attempts an answer. They have a go at the WHY? (I’m pulling out pieces from the publicity material here…the sort of answer you’d give to grumpy uncle).

“The internet has fundamentally rewritten the rules for human culture. We can transparently exchange information on a scale that we have never been able to imagine before.” (emphasis is OS//OS)

“Our individual freedom to innovate has never, ever been greater.”

“Welcome to the age of active participation.”

“Welcome to the world where being open is better for business, technology and democracy.”

Can the open source movement create a more open society?
“The internet has fundamentally rewritten the rules for human culture.” Credit: Flickr / Seth Stoll.


OK, the actuality of the internet and its rewriting of the rules is an easily observable fact. It is translating and implementing the above desire that’s the trick.

Now there’s a fair few workshops looking to challenge transparency, data commons, ownership, science. These sort of things; as can only be expected; are variable in their outputs. That’s fine, it is the unexpected outcomes that are great and that do happen at these sorts of events.

Some of the speakers are interesting too, very interesting.

Doug Rushkoff was there when the internet started. He had high hopes of its potential to help people and the planet. But something’s gone wrong he reckons – much of which is outlined in his book ‘Throwing stones at the Google bus’. He kicks off the second day.

Don Christie, open source head and advocate at Wellington-located, global-based Catalyst IT gives his take on survival and thrival in a brutual business world.

Geoffrey Palmer digs under the covers for what it would really mean to have an open Constitution.

Is it preaching to the choir?

How much though of what is being talked about around open is a case of preaching to the choir?

The believers, perhaps you’d even occasionally call them zealots, will like to think open everything is ushering in a new world of altruism.

But I’ve seen it enough that if individuals or corporations can turn a dollar by closing down people’s options rather than opening them up…then they tend to win.

OS//OS is operating on the premise of if we build it, they will come. They may be right – and certainly without people to champion such principles, and bring such thinking out of the interweb and into the physical world (such as this conference), then skeptics like me will remain that way.

But…to give the organisers their due; they’ve curated this ‘gathering of the clans’ with a strong hypothesis and will be sharing compelling stories. That appeals to my semi-scientist nature, and love of a good yarn.

And it would be great for others, more or less skeptic than me to participate in this event. It really is an interesting bunch of people.

(You can see another project of mine: ‘What I Wish My Dad Told Me’ by clicking on its link. My business, Punchline, specialises in unearthing an organisation’s first, most important story).

0 Responses to “Does open source equal open society?”

  • In regards to the science of cosmology, I have found open source to provide more answers than the main stream which is dogged by a gravity based cosmology.
    It seems in cosmology common sense lacks and imaginative concepts and advanced mathematics rule. Unfortunately this leads to outlandish notions such as black holes and ignoring the predominant force in the universe, which is electricity.
    Such a short memory we have of the history of science last century. Where science went wrong (physics).
    When asked who was the greatest physicist of last century the bulk of people say Einstein, this answer is completely wrong. If you think this switch off your electricity and your wireless devices.
    The truly informed know Nikola Tesla was the greatest physicist of last century.
    So we have idiot physics which is dictated by blackboard mathematics and whopping research budgets which blind people to hypothetical ideas, instead of natural phenomenon which is investigated and improved on, in an empirical fashion.
    When it comes to the sun we have more stupidity but thankfully there is open source science to the rescue which takes the electrical question in space seriously.
    For all your daily sun weather updates including geomagnetic sun spots and electrical flaring.