The meeting comprised four panels: Business, Technical, Legal, and Social and Ethical, each of which featured an introduction of the issues and follow-up with an interactive discussion between the speakers and the audience. The aim was to capture and publish the issues discussed in order to raise the industry awareness of the benefits of Open Source.
Q. From a technical perspective, what was wrong with UNIX that Linux emerged?
Bruce Perens stated that there was nothing wrong with UNIX from a technical perspective. Andras Szakal countered that UNIX was often slow. Bruce Perens came back with an assessment of what went awry for UNIX. There would have been a lower cost, and higher performance and quality if there were good competition.
Participation in Open Standards development
Q. How can we standardize Open Source?
Multiple responses supported the notion that anyone, even individuals, could participate with little or no hard costs in the open standards process. From certain standards (or specification) development groups that allow online participation to actual meeting attendance with voting rights, the opportunities run the gamut.
Amy Marasco, ANSI General Counsel, highlighted the different points of view that define “open.” There are the process, legal, and technical points of view. The process issue involves the ability of all stakeholders to participate. Someone with legal issues at the forefront might define “open” in terms of IP, considering a standard open if it is royalty-free and unencumbered by IPR claims. Technically, an open standard allows for unrestrained exchange of technical information in developing a standard.
The Social and Ethical Panel Moderator: Dr. Bill Estrem, Professor, College of Business, University of St. Thomas Panelists: Dr. Ken Goodpaster, University of St. Thomas Dr. Peter Vaill, University of St. Thomas Malcolm Reid, Medtronic Tony Stanco, The Center for Open Source & Government, and Cyber Security Policy and Research Institute, The George Washington University
Bill Estrem, a member of The Open Group’s Governing Board, prepared the audience to “plow new ground” by exploring the social and ethical dimensions of Open Source and open standards.
Further differentiating this panel from the others, Bill described his group as facilitators of discussion about the overarching topic, rather than experts about specifics of Open Source. He posed the primary questions about open standards: ? Who benefits from standards? ? What motivates participation in standards efforts? ? What is the value of social capital in the current economic milieu? ? How do we deal with the dual tragedies of o Tragedy of the Commons o Tragedy of the Anticommons? Explaining the latter, Bill harkened back to village controversies over access to common property, or “the commons.” If there were no fences, then the animals could graze there alongside the people who were enjoying the commons, and that would ultimately destroy it. Fences preserved the commons, but kept out a lot of people. The current conflict over royalty-free versus RAND, he felt, are analogous; that is, whether open standards should be unencumbered by IPR that embed cost in the use of the standards, or whether Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory use agreements may be acceptable.
Bill moved to topics for the open source discussion, first considering the human organization aspect of open source. “When we look at the human organization, we see something that is far more difficult to manage than the diverse technical elements.” He posited that doing technology development and innovation in a hierarchical environment is hard enough, but coordinating such an effort in a virtual community with people of disparate cultures who don’t know each other is a daunting challenge. And how can companies of different sizes that want to enter that community and contribute something go about it effectively?
Before turning the floor over to the panel, Bill asked an important question: “How applicable is what we are doing with Open Source to other activities?”
Dr. Ken Goodpaster is a moral philosopher on the faculty of University of St. Thomas, and formerly a faculty member at Harvard’s Business School. Moral philosophers and ethics experts rely on the “moral point of view” and Golden Rule in discussing issues, and Ken suggested that they might be applicable in this technical arena of an Open Source conference.
He cautioned that ethics should not be confused with altruism. Ethics is not about altruism; it is about the pursuit of self-interest. Ken also said that ethics is about being partial, and then breaking open that partiality and generalizing it to others. In chiding him for some selfish behavior, a friend of Ken’s once told him, “You’re special, but you’re no damn different!” That optimizes the essence of ethics and the moral point of view. How is it possible to live one’s life with the awareness that one is special and unique, and that one is no different at the same time? He said it’s not just a personal problem, but also an organizational one.
He focused on the clusters of theories of “logics”—the four forms of sorting out relationships in terms of moral reasoning: ? Interest-based – This is a cost-benefit analysis centered on determining the greatest good for the greatest number of people. ? Rights-based – The rights-based thinker has claims anchored in nature, not convention. Rights-based thinking gave the United States the Bill of Rights. ? Duty-based – The duty-based thinker criticizes the first two for being too focused on the micro-relationships between people. This kind of ethicist emphasizes subordinating personal interests and rights to something larger. ? Virtue-based – A virtue-based thinker accuses the others of making ethics too complicated. The emphasis is on habits or character traits that guide choices.
Ken suggested looking at the moral credentials of the two paradigms of “Open Source” and “proprietary.” He proffered that the differences might be summarized as follows:
Applied to persons, organizations and social systems