Bruce Sterling's Contrarian View of Open Source

· Required Reading

More required reading here for keeping up with the ongoing dialogue in blogspace. It doesn’t surprise me that science fiction writers like Sterling and Cory are playing such a big role in shaping the emerging philosophy of this internetworked world we’re building.
I’ve always felt that my hypergeek years of reading sci-fi from Bradbury, Asimov, and Heinlein, to the Niven/Zelazny generation, through the cyberpunk era (everyone still genuflects to William Gibson) and lately the more literary fiction of Iain Banks (not forgetting genre-splitters from Philip Dick to Doris Lessing) gave me a bit of head start into the future or, more importantly, a way to project forward current social and tech trends and imagine where they might lead.
I said to one of my writer friends last year “We’re all science fiction writers now.” That is, unless you’re writing historical work, just writing about the present involves narrating an sharp evolving edge of technological and cultural change.
Funny now that I often get the same thrill I used to reading sci-fi from reading brilliant reconstructions of earlier time period (so, in fact, historical writing is just as much as way of commenting on humanity-through-time-including-now as futuristic writing), such as the completely realized Aubrey/Maturin world of the late lamented Patrick O’Brian and Alan Furst’s brilliant WWII espionage thrillers.
Back to open source, here are a few choice quotations to tempt you into reading Sterling’s whole talk:

Open Source, basically, is about hanging out with the cool guys.

It’s very tribal, and it’s very fraternal. It’s all about Eric, and Linus, and RMS, and Tim and Bruce and Tom and Larry. These are guru charisma guys. They’re like artists, like guys running an art movement. Guys who dress up with halos and wear wizard hats.

(Funny, I pitched a project to my agent last year that would have been a profile of the leading personalities in the open source movement. My working title was Open Sorcerers.)
And, here, some choice words about a few industries with which I’m somewhat familiar:

Given that there is a ferocious triple dominance of Microsoft on operating systems, Intel in chips and Dell in hardware, the computer industry is finally getting boring. Almost as boring as my own business, the book business. It’s still pretending to innovate, but its glamour routine has gotten all ritualized. The machines are slow, the programs are bloated, the changes are cosmetic, just like the heyday of Detroit’s Big Three carmakers, so many years ago.