OPEN-SOURCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
One of the more significant developments in terms of creativity in the past decade has been the advance of open-source platforms
that permit asynchronous but real-time, mass collaboration
to occur. A phenomena that has been the subject of recent books like Frans Johansson's The Medici Effect
and Wikinomics:How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
by Don Tapscott
and Anthony Williams
; or, become a functioning business model as with Ross Mayfield's Socialtext
; or, a metaphor for the evolution of a new dynamic of warfare, as in John Robb's
book, Brave New War
. And nearly everyone with an ISP is familiar with Wikipedia and most have at least heard of Linux.
The open source concept is a very useful one because it has efficiency, in both the evolutionary and economic senses, adapting faster than closed, hierarchical, competitors and at lower transactional cost ( the price for these advantages is diminished control and focus). As with scale-free networks, it was the advent of the internet and the web that brought the potential of mass collaboration to the attention of economists and social scientists. But did mass collaboration on the cognitive level (the physical level is as old Stonehenge or the pyramids) only start with the information revolution ?
If we look back far enough in the history of great civilizations, you will find semi-mythological figures like Homer
to whom great, even foundational, works of cultural creativity are attributed. Intellects of a heroic scale who were philosophers and kings, lawgivers, prophets or poets and who produced works of timeless genius. Except that they may either not have existed or their works represent efforts of refinement by many generations of anonymous disciples ( eventually, scholars) who interpreted, polished, redacted and expanded on the teachings of the revered master.
This too was mass collaboration, over a much longer time scale and of a much more opaque character than Wikipedia. Scriptural works went through a similar process, whether it was the scribes of King James, or a medieval Ulemna favoring some teachings of the Hadith over others, or Jewish sages translating the Torah into Greek, despite occasional claims of divine inerrancy, most religious texts were shaped by a succession of human hands.
What the Web has done is to vastly accelerate and democratize the process of mass collaboration and render it more transparent than ever before.
Labels: ancient history, creativity, culture, tech, web 2.0, wikinomics