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Reflection on Open Source

Prior to taking this course, I had no idea what Open source development was. My familiarity with open source was in the context of software development. Specifically, I was only exposed to code repositories such as GitHub and BitBash. The idea of sharing knowledge and resources for a project, in my mind, was limited to the software industry.

Over the duration of this course, I have learned that the sharing of knowledge and resources can go beyond software. Open source development can revolutionize the way modern engineering – for both software AND hardware (http://openbuilds.com).

But OSD is more than tools, objects, and designs. OSD can actually bring about social change for local communities. Prior to this class, I always thought the reason local communities struggled to advance was a lack of resources. In other words, people in foreign nations were at a disadvantage simply because they were in a different geographic location with poorer institutions. Perhaps my identification of a problem was correct, but my solution was not. While the intuitive answer to solving this problem is to provide those communities with more resources, my discovery of OSD has altered this view. While raw resources are important, perhaps what is more crucial to development is the strategy to using those resources. I look at case studies such as the African farmers who built an app to control their irrigation systems, or the cool sidewalks of Abu Dhabi, and see that these advancements were not made through the abundance of resources, but rather through the maximized innovation techniques.

OSD’s solutions don’t stop on the local level. There’s really no problem OSD can’t help solve. I think of large-scale world problems such as climate change and food & agriculture. Even our simple food computer project demonstrates that OSD is able to provide real, practical solutions to these large-scale problems. OSD eliminates dependence on large organizations and restrictive institutions, and puts the power in the hands of the individual. OSD doesn’t require expensive parts, immense labor, or legal red tape. Instead, OSD encourages thinkers and problem solvers and only requires passion and cooperation. By pooling these people together, solutions are easy to find and well-refined.

Whether on large scale “doomsday” projects such as food or climate change, or on the personal “neck of the woods” level, OSD can help people improve the environment they live in. Open source development gives a way for people to change and adapt their communities for the benefit of all. In other words, open source development is for the greater good. 

What I enjoy most about open source is that it’s creative and flexible. If you want to create something, perhaps a small tool for your personal project, or an innovative way to tackle a nation’s infrastructure, OSD can meet your needs. You can customize any project  and apply it to what fits you best. In turn, you exchange your knowledge for the joy and advancement of someone else’s project and passion.

Yes, this is the beauty of open source, it’s knowledge driven. People enjoy it because they can pool their resources together and innovate together. They can work toward causes they care about and are passionate for. However, this relies on the assumption that people are altruistic and are truly “in it” for the common good. While I know and believe that open source can solve many of the issues at hand today, my lack of faith lies not in its concept, but the users of the concept. It takes a lot of faith in humanity to believe that this concept can be used for the greater good. Ultimately, open source will only go as far as people care about the joy in others’ lives more than the money in their pocket. Until then, IP will always have a hold. IP will probably never go away because people are self-interested, but OSD will fine new ways to be both profitable and revolutionary.

Perhaps the answer to our questions about OSD’s viability leads us to the same junction Martin Luther King Jr. addresses:

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.” -Martin Luther King Jr.

Edit 5/2: One final reflection to add. Today was the last day of class and through the course project, I learned a little bit more about what open source means. For one step in building the electronics, our group didn’t have the proper tools to make a perfect sized hole. I was so caught up in not having the tool that I thought we were stuck. Professor Bevin simply decided to improvise, and instead of using the right tool he just used a jigsaw and made the circle by hand. The whole time he kept saying “this is open source! We’re not sending anyone to the moon, we can make this project however we like.” Although I found this hilarious, that we can just set our own boundaries and limitations in the name of open source, I also find it very fascinating. The point of open source isn’t restriction or following a set of rules. Instead, it’s about creativity and getting the final product done with all the resources available to you. At the end of the day, what is more valuable is  knowledge gained and the completion of the project, more important than the path that you took to get there.

Sources
My OSD Experience

Post #9: IP vs. OSD – Climate Change

Today, Professor Bateman came in and lead a discussion on climate change. We started by watching “Climate of Doubt” a Frontline documentary about climate change denial.

The documentary was very interesting on a personal level because I know several people who doubt the existence of man-caused climate change, or have no opinion at all. At a fairly liberal university such as UVA, I think many students are surrounded by people with like-minds. We can’t assume things that may be “obvious” for us are given for others  (outside of the university) as well.

From what I can tell, the heart behind the opposition of man-caused climate change is IP. In my opinion, contrarian organizations such as the Heartland Institute are not fighting climate change because they care about science. Instead, they seek their own self interest. Many of these organizations have close ties with major manufacturing corporations that suffer from cap and cut policies. In the same manner, I think politicians are afraid to take a stand on this issue because these fringe organizations have done such a good job of associating negative ideas such as “higher taxes”, “less jobs”, and “economic downfall” with climate change. Thus the stagnancy of this issue is ultimately lack of knowledge, a weakness of IP.

Instead, OSD can provide a variety of advantages. First, it would provide better scientific evidence and research. It boggles my mind that there are still scientists who disagree with the 97% of experts who claim man-caused climate change is real. Do they deny this science just to be difficult? Are they being sponsored by corporations to oppose? Are they seeking attention? OSD will consolidate information, data, and conclusions, which will allow for a greater scientific conclusion, not politically charged opinion. Because scientists can build off of one another’s work, refutation of poor scientific procedure, such as the “going down the up escalator” model, can be classified as invalid.

Secondly, because OSD is collaborative, it will be more apt at gathering people behind the movement. For example, Al Gore was not a good leader for climate change because the opposition refuted his message by destroying his personal character. The media and contrarians portrayed him as someone who cared about political agenda, whereas the movement was supposed to be an advancement in society/environment.

Thirdly, OSD will help this movement withstand external influences such as economic recession and local selfishness. While coastal areas care a lot about this topic, other geographic areas are simply not concerned because this issue isn’t pertinent to them yet. However, OSD helps inform the public on a broader scale, creating altruistic mindsets.

All of this to say, OSD can help provide solutions to climate change. Even our simple food computer project is one small stepping stone to solving the larger problem. As Professor Bevin stated in class, even small things like our food computer are interconnected to the greater issues in the world. Perhaps OSD will pioneer the advancement of geoengineering, a solution we have yet to fully utilize.

Sources
Climate of Doubt

Post #8: IP vs. OSD – Health

The topic of health is one that is very complex. The health industry encompasses a lot of different fields ranging from diet/food to exercise, to pharmaceuticals, to medical treatment. Thus, it is hard to analyze OSD’s impact on the industry as a whole, however when broken down into smaller parts, it may be easier to analyze.

Diet/Food
The benefits of OSD in the food industry were touched in a previous blog post that you can find here: Post 5. However, regarding diet – this is an area in the health industry that has already adopted an open source methodology. Most diets available today found on the internet are free to find and free to use. While some are designed and created by professionals, many are published by people who have simply invented diets that worked for them. In this way, OSD is beneficial in that everyone can reap of the benefits and knowledge of a few passionate individuals.

Exercise
In terms of the knowledge part of exercise, OSD functions similarly to diets. Workout plans and regimens are available on the internet and people can find an exercise program that works for them. The harder part for OSD in this sub-field of health is the equipment to perform exercise. This is not a problem for outdoor running, but when it comes to gyms, often times the equipment needed for exercise can only be found at local businesses. The only foreseeable way I can envision OSD helping here would be a machine with a lot of modular parts that could be rearranged to be a “10 in 1” type machine for the average household. This “base” structure machine could be manipulated simply by ordering parts online to fit the specific exercises that the user wants to do.

Pharmaceuticals
This could be the best area for OSD to help in the health industry. Right now, there is a lot of corruption in the pharmaceutical industry directly causes by IP. For example, Martin Shkreli, the 32-year-old founder and CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical made headlines in September for raising the price of Daraprim, often used to treat HIV and AIDS patients, from $13.50 per pill to $750 per pill after buying the rights to the drug.

Because Martin was able to obtain intellectual property, he was able to manipulate the price of a drug that literally affected people’s lives. This is the interesting dilemma that we live in today. Morally, we as a society should be somewhat altruistic when it comes to medicine. We need to be able to help those who are sick and make it affordable. But on the other hand, we are also bound by the need for profit. How can researchers be encouraged to find new solutions and drugs if they do not have the security of adequate funding?

I believe the solution here is clearly OSD. In open source, there are no intellectual property rights that cause corruption, yet financial income and revenue are still abundant. In this way, OSD helps maintain altruistic societal benefit while also being profitable.

Medical Treatment
My experience with this last category comes from one of my classes here at UVA. In one of my entrepreneurship classes, I learned about a student who came up with a product that changed the way doctors were trained.

It all started when he noticed that doctors didn’t have a good way to practice moving body parts back into place after they had been dislocated. To solve this, the student created a model arm that feels and behaves like a real arm. The purpose of this fake arm is to help doctors practice their job before having to perform it on a live person.

I believe this is a great example of what OSD can do. OSD allows the public, who know what the problems are in the medical field, to collectively identify the problem and the solution to it. This doesn’t require 12 years of schooling and a M.D. But rather, all that is needed is a problem and a desire to solve that problem. Who knows what other small gadgets and treatments can come from OSD?

Conclusion
All this to say, OSD can be applied to the health industry. In fact, OSD should be applied because in all the sub-fields of health that I could think of: food/diet, exercise, pharmaceuticals, and treatment, OSD is useful. Perhaps the focus of our politicians moving forward should not be on the allocation of finances in the health industry, but rather the methodology through which we advance our health knowledge. Perhaps increased investment in the latter can actually decrease the cost of the former.

Sources
Enterprise Open Source Strategy
Open Source as an Element of Corporate Strategy

Post #7: IP vs. OSD – Infrastructure

Infrastructure is so important and definitely an area that OSD can help improve. Infrastructure is a subject that is especially near to my heart because I see so much deficiency in America’s infrastructure.

Today in class, we watched a video on a revolutionary plan to design and build Abu Dhabi. The video discussed all the ways that Abu Dhabi would implement new, innovative strategies to build an extremely solid infrastructure. To be honest, the video sold me.

I saw so many cool things, ranging from pollution control to transportation efficiency to education reform. They talked about strategies on how to eliminate typical fossil fuel transportation and a strategy to start a University dedicated to educating students purely on sustainability. But in the end, what impressed me most, was the design to provide shade on every street. By creating narrower streets (large motor vehicles were not needed), the city would be able to maintain and average temperature 20 degrees cooler than usual.

Although this city may be somewhat romanticized, I still think it is incredible. Specifically, the ability to change the climate of the city purely through infrastructure is amazing. I think this is the most impressive because in essence, it allows humans to occupy and manipulate our environment in ways that were previously impossible. Thinking specifically about Abu Dhabi, the city is literally in the desert. 1000 years ago, it would have been virtually impossible to inhabit this geographic area. 10 years ago, living in the area is possible, but not ideal due to the hot temperatures. Today, not only is it possible to live there, but it is comfortable and enjoyable.

That’s the essence of infrastructure, infrastructure gives humans the ability to do things with our environment that we previously thought were impossible.

And what’s frustrating about America is that we don’t invest as much into this. One topic that I especially care about is our road system.

Today in class, Professor Bevin said something along the lines of “knowledge driven development is the key for innovation and infrastructure”. I couldn’t agree more. Knowledge, not just knowing about our environment, but also learning from our past, is so important for infrastructure.

When looking at the greater transportation market, all infrastructure has been revolutionized in the last 100 years. Our train and metro systems are faster, planes exist, and our vehicles are more powerful. What’s the one thing that hasn’t changed? Our road system.

Our classic traffic and road systems have been the same for 100 years. Sure we have MORE roads, and perhaps the materials and designs of the roads are better, but in general, we still follow the same method of transportation. I don’t understand why our roads are so deficient in so many ways. For example, why are they so hard to replace? Why don’t we have modular roadways? Or, why can’t our roads be made out of materials that have heating capabilities to melt snow and ice? Or why can’t our roads actively communicate with our cars such as an IoT system? Or why can’t we install LED systems to alert drivers of oncoming hazards?

A lot of the questions I just posed will be irrelevant in the coming future with the surge of self-driving cars. It’s just my opinion that the roadways in America are extremely deficient considering the day and age, and that serious investment is needed. If we’ve learned anything from our past, it should be that transportation innovation is crucial – I don’t know why our roadways are excluded. Perhaps OSD is the answer we have been looking for all our infrastructure needs.

Sources
Open Source Hardware Business Model
Proof of Concept 21
Oggun – Open Source Tractor for Cuban farms

Post #6: IP vs. OSD – Communication

The relevance of communication cannot be understated. Often times, those in the business world can often minimize the extent of communication. Because business practices have long been established, many people cannot conceive the true breadth, depth, and width of communication. For the business world, communication may simply mean emails, faxes, and face-to-face verbal contact.

However, communication is so much more than that. As a society, we are not only working on communicating between people, but also between people and our environment. Specifically, the internet of things (IoT) defines the communication between our environment, objects within our environment, data about these objects, and people.

As a computer science major, the internet of things is extremely consequential and exciting. Last semester, I actually took a course at UVA in the computer science department where I was able to build my own IoT system and write a tutorial on how to do so. (IoT Tutorial)

Open source development is going to be huge for IoT. It is going to help IoT reach farther and affect deeper. For example, in looking at the “kaa” IoT platform, I see that there are many different IoT use cases that kaa has already implemented. One specific area that is of interest to me is automotive cloud services.

In the future, the way we interact with our cars will be solely dependent on IoT systems. We are going to have sensors that can actively monitor the effectiveness of each part. Using predictive analysis, we will be able to circumvent part deficiency and proactively replace broken or damaged parts before they cause problems for our cars. In addition, the IoT platforms will be crucial in not only identifying a problem, but also working with our environment to find a solution. Imagine that your car gets a flat tire. An IoT system will not only be able to tell you that you need to replace your tire, but also be able to suggest several locations around you that can immediately service your vehicle.

And I think this summarizes the future of IoT. We as a society are going to be faster and more predictive. I imagine a world where you are sitting on the toilet and you realize you’re on your last roll of toilet paper. Through the innovation of IoT and OSD development, Amazon will already have known that you only had 1 roll left, and they will deliver a new 12 pack of toilet paper rolls to your doorstep that very day, even before you yourself knew you were about to run out.

Or, I imagine a world where you walk into the room and your house already knows what kind of music you like, turns on the lights in the rooms you’re walking into, and preheats the oven for the meal you’re about to cook.

Unfortunately, the innovation and progress of IoT also yields new problems: IoT data security. For example, on October 21 2016, there was a major data hack by the Mirai malware on major corporations such as Twitter, Amazon, Tumblr, and Reddit. The attack occurred by hacking into IoT devices – primarily DVRs and IP cameras. This hack resulted in the loss a lot of data, and it is believed that there are more than 515,000 devices with vulnerable hardware. This is just one example of the growing threats to come. All innovation comes at a cost. For IoT, that cost is the need for improved data security.

Despite these threats, IoT is worth it because the possibilities of communication are endless. Who knows how we will innovate our communication with the living and communicable world? To be honest, the only way we will be able to truly harness the power of IoT’s effectiveness, is by testing. Open Source is the only way we can we invent solutions that meet every communication need. Our world is an amazing place, let’s work on communicating with it.

Sources
Digital Fabrication of Open-Source Consumer Electronic Products

Post #5: IP vs. OSD – Food & Agriculture

To analyze the usefulness of OSD in the food & agriculture industry, I will use the business model canvas as a framework for analysis. For each element in the business model canvas, I will analyze OSD’s ability to meet that need in comparison to IP’s ability to meet that same need.

Key Partners
OSD agriculture can obtain the same partnerships as IP agriculture. The primary partners needed for OSD agriculture are land and raw material providers, equipment providers, transportation providers, distributors, and energy providers. One additional partnership OSD would need that IP doesn’t need is the partnership with people who will develop the OSD agricultural methods. IP farming standards have been implemented for so many years and so the R&D partnerships aren’t as necessary.

Key Activities
Key activities are the same as IP agriculture: cultivating crops, distributing  crops to desired customers, and maintaining long-term farming capability and infrastructure. Perhaps one key activity included specifically for OSD farming would be constant innovation for more efficient and smarter techniques.

Key Resources
The key resources for OSD farming are identical to IP farming except for the need for intellectual resources (OSD development). The resources of raw materials, equipment, land, rain, etc. will be constant, but the defining factor of OSD farming will be its ability to be revolutionary and sustainable compared to standard techniques. An example of a good implementation is foodtank, linked below.

Value Propositions
The value proposition model for OSD agriculture is the same as typical IP agricultural systems. The primary value from agriculture comes from providing crops that can be ultimately converted into edible foods, whether in the home or restaurant kitchens. Consumers are willing to pay for this value. OSD not only matches IP’s value proposition, but also extends it to create more value because OSD provides more sustainable crops.

Customer Relationships
The customer relationships for OSD farming would be slightly different than modern day standard agriculture because  OSD farming would have a more targeted customer based. Rather than all supermarkets, OSD would target the organic, more eco-friendly market. Farmers’ markets and local venues would be more attractive for OSD farming.

Channels
The channels used by OSD would still require physical transportation of crops through trucks to desired customers. The venues through which the customers retrieve the crops of OSD farming may smaller than typical IP farming.

Cost Structure
The primary costs would be the raw materials, labor, knowledge, and equipment. Perhaps one difference in costs for OSD would be the reluctance of some people to buy the product simply because it tastes a little bit different. In class, we discussed how there is a notable difference in taste and texture between OSD crops and IP crops. This may turn some customers away. This isn’t a direct cost/expense, but I have included it in this heading because it is a detriment to the overall profit of the OSD method.

Revenue Streams
The revenue streams for OSD agriculture would be greater than typical agricultural techniques. Although the volume wouldn’t be comparable, the per unit price would be greater because OSD crop development would be more exclusive and premiere. More research is needed to make OSD the sole provider of agriculture over IP, but at some point, the United States farming industry may be able to fund itself entirely on OSD development rather than traditional methods.

Overall, OSD agriculture could become mainstream if we as a society got used to it and accepted it as we do current day IP crops. In every aspect of the business model canvas, I see potential for OSD agriculture to meet the needs of the farming business.

Sources
Open Source Ecology
Open Source Economy
Open Source Green House
FoodTank Sustainable Agriculture

Post #4: IP vs. OSD – Education

Of all the topics we have thus covered so far in the open source world, none other than the topic of education do I feel is most applicable for OSD. As I further discuss the concepts, benefits, and practical implementations of OSD in the education sector in comparison to IP development, there are some things that I will need to define before providing my opinion.

First, when mentioning the IP system for education, I am primarily referring to the current model of education in America. The education system in America begins with early and secondary public education followed by institutionalized higher education. When I refer to IP in the following blog, it can synonymous with institutions that are mandated through strict government or private regulations, such as UVA.

Secondly, when referring to OSD solutions, I am referring to OSD education systems as discussed in the article cited at the end of this blog. Some OSD education projects already implemented in the world today include websites such as Khan Academy.

Raw Content of Education
When analyzing IP vs. OSD education in terms of the actual knowledge obtained from the systems, OSD is definitely comparable. Especially because I am a computer science major, I have personally seen the benefits of OSD design in courses. Many CS majors and students simply pick up CS by going through online classes and tutorials. I think OSD solutions can provide almost as much knowledge as regular institutions considering many institutions implement learning methods that simply teach from a textbook anyway. Perhaps the one biggest concern for OSD in this field would be the testing and applying of the knowledge, considering there is minimal instruction assistance.

Broad Variety of Topics
While it is true that Universities offer a wide array of classes that cover every academic area, OSD can match this attribute too. Because OSD is largely put together by individuals who have passion and expertise in a given field, and because resources are pulled together, OSD can provide education for any subject imaginable.

External Factors Other than Education
Perhaps the biggest weakness of OSD are other benefits of institutional education other than knowledge. For example, tradition, community, and recreation outside of class are all elements of the University life that students desire and enjoy at college. OSD education would not be able to provide these factors, but on the other hand, OSD may be able to more quickly mobilize students to go into the workforce. For example, while institutions for education encourage and require students to take a wide variety of classes, OSD education could help a student master one single craft more rapidly by not requiring other classes. This can better prepare a student for the workforce. Perhaps one way education will move in the future will be corporate sponsored education, where companies will pay for schools to specifically train students for the needs of that company with the benefit of guaranteed employment after graduation.

In the end, I can conclude that OSD education is a very attractive field. However, the major danger lies in the absence of other extracurriculars that universities have, that ultimately OSD cannot provide. Also, I believe OSD is better suited for more technical majors such as computer science, because the information is more factual and requires less teacher instruction compared to liberal arts subjects. Overall, the biggest enemy to OSD education is tradition. If we can somehow manage to change the culture of our country, then OSD education will become a much bigger reality. I sincerely believe that a CS major taught purely though OSD education can be more technical skilled and crafted, than one taught through traditional systems.

Sources
The Future of Open Systems Solutions, Now