Sunday, March 06, 2005

Jefferson in "The Economy of Ideas"

history :: open source

I was checking out Ian Bicking's recent additions (that's
not stalking!), and I got high on hypertext crack... yeah, I couldn't
stop. Finally, I hit the wall here:

The Economy of Ideas.

And the intro to the article is a thought-provoking quote by Thomas
Jefferson. It's been ages since I read this, and its eloquence (though
the phrasing is dated, i.e., not PC) is still enough to take the breath

"If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of
exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an
idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps
it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the
possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of
it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less,
because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea
from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who
lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That
ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the
moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition,
seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when
she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening
their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move,
and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive
appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of

- Thomas Jefferson

I have been and continue to be involved in many open source projects;
as developer, contributer, user, etc. I have also been involved in many
closed-source, proprietary projects. There are trade secrets and code I
will take to the grave with me, but this is from a sense of honor and
ethics; of agreements between entities. Given my preference, though, I
would love for all software to be open source... the idealist beauty of
Jefferson's words makes promises too sweet to resist.

No comments:

Post a Comment