Entry #10- Wrapping Up

I came into this semester very unsure of what “open-source design” was and why a company or individual would ever choose it over patents or trademarks. After all, how could a company ever benefit or turn a profit from a design that is made available to everyone? This is the skepticism with which I entered the course.

I first began seeing OSD benefits in our study of the Tesla model: how they were able to capitalize on shared designs and blueprints, how they were able to work with companies all around the world to create the best possible electric car and yet still turn a profit, how they managed to create a market for electric cars by generating interest after their designs went public. I started to understand the ways that OSD could be incredibly productive and helpful to companies and inventors.

The values and actions that characterize the steps of OSD felt counter-intuitive at first to the profit-driven, capitalist mindset of our society. Yet once I understood that OSD is a business strategy that focuses on maximizing profit, value, and innovation in the long run, I was able to truly appreciate the genius of its structure. I especially witnessed this firsthand with our hydroponics system. We would not have been able to build the systems that we did without the help of dozens of other hydroponics designers and agriculturalists out there. But because the design is open-sourced, we were able to join in the global collaborative project to create the best, most efficient hydroponics systems in an effort to bring food and value to impoverished areas such as refugee camps.

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4 thoughts on “Entry #10- Wrapping Up

  1. I agree. I was also very confused at first. However, the words of the “legendary” Professor Kemp rang in my head: “Business is about creating value!…and so forth” OSD is truly a great way to maximize value for the consumer. And, often when the consumers value is maximized, the producers can increase, as well.

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  2. I feel the same way about what I learned in the course as well. I came in with a decent understanding of how open source worked in the software world being a computer science major, but this class really did help me see how it could be really beneficial for society, like you so nicely put, in the long run. Like you, I thought the Tesla case study was indeed really fascinating because it showed how Elon Musk was able to generate greater interest in electric vehicles and encourage other people to build on the design of electric cars by making his patents public. Of course, he needed to generate interest to expand the market for electric vehicles and ultimately make Tesla a greater brand, but still the fact that it encourages collaboration is exciting. It really shows how important open source can be when it comes to solving the greater world problems. I love that we also got to experience this personally with our blogs and hydroponic project. Overall, I did take away a lot from this class and have come to really appreciate the way open source is changing the world.

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  3. Emily, it was very intriguing reading about how in just a few short months your perspective of intellectual property has grown to more appreciate open source. I similarly came into this class with limited knowledge of open source design and thus was highly skeptical. Being an economics major, I have become accustomed to analyzing profit maximization in business models that favor intellectual property. However, it seems that by protecting intellectual property, overall efficiency is often lost due to the speed in which technology develops in today’s age. I cannot imagine having designed our hydroponics system without the plethora of previous designs and information made available to us through open source. I’m just glad that by using other’s designs we were able to contribute our own findings back into the hydroponic community.

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  4. I agree that Open Source Design can provide value to a business in the long run. However, I also think that this benefit heavily depends upon the industry of the business, as well as the character of the business. For hydroponics, for instance, it would have been a better choice to leave it open sourced, as more people can have an access to something with potentially altruistic goals.

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