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April 23, 2009

Tracking the Tech Transformation, Part Three

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old technology
Photo by crabchick via Creative Commons

In this three part series I outlined ways that the information revolution that began at the end of the 20th century caused a fundamental shift in our expectations of the world, each other, and the ways that we communicate.

The first part focused on how the Web as a cloud enables us to collect our knowledge outside of our brain, accepting referred memory as part of ourselves. Part two was about our transition to a paperless society and how books and print media will be relegated to the world of nostalgia. Finally I want to consider our new appetite for free or low-priced goods and services in an open, global marketplace.

Rocking in the Free World

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Photo by greefus gone fishin via Creative Commons

Is it any surprise that businesses reported that a quarter of the software they currently use is open source? Open source software (OSS) is almost always free and is usually as good, if not better, than its paid counterpart. As CNET puts it, “unlike proprietary software, open source actively de-risks the IT purchasing decision by enabling you to try before you buy, buy on subscription (i.e., no long-term commitment), and pay a lot less for equal or greater value.”

Forrester Consulting evaluated the upcoming shift to OSS adoption and found that open source is now the backbone of the software industry — not only providing dramatic cost reduction, but also paving the way for a more inventive and adaptable IT department equipped to quickly take advantage of emerging opportunities. And while 56 percent of companies are adopting open source technology to cut external costs, companies are often witnessing an internal metamorphosis as well.

Very interestingly, the survey also shows that the principles of Open Source are transferred to corporate best practices. The free sharing of source code (46%) or the way of forming communities of contributors and consumers (42%), which are typical to public Open Source projects, is now transferred to the corporate microcosm. The creation of corporate software frameworks and reusable business services as well as new business logic moves to a kind of corporate Open Source community.

As the print media world will attest, our society has become accustomed to getting quality goods for next to nothing. And while an open information society could boost knowledge, understanding, cooperation and acceptance, no matter how full your brain is, you can’t pay the bills with an empty wallet.

There is a lot of analysis out there about how technology is changing our lives. And it’s not a superficial change. We are being altered from the inside out. I didn’t attempt to address how these changes will affect our emotions, our sense of self, or if they might be considered “good” or “bad”. But ways of life are becoming obsolete faster than ever before, and there’s every indication that this is just the beginning.

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