Sunday, July 13, 2014

Value for Society versus Economic Value

As I read about the smallest banking trojan in circulation, I was pleased that I will soon be converting one of our neighbours to Linux. I managed to fix her Windows problem. I also installed the open source Clam anti-virus after removing a commercial product which kept scaring and nagging her to pay for renewal.

However, she said that she wanted me to install Linux on her free partition as I had mentioned that I have never needed to use an anti-virus software!

The entire anti-virus industry would not have appeared had it not been for Windows. Obviously a loss to the economy, but would it have been a loss to the society?

Since I do not have to make effort to make money, I can spend my time learning. Thanks to open source, I can, without having to spend anything over and above my internet connection, learn OpenStack, Hadoop, Zotonic(an Erlang based Web framework), and whatever my mind decides is exciting or useful to know this week or month! My experimentation does not add any value to the economy. I like to think that the open source universe does add value to the society as it makes it possible for anyone to learn.

There is little doubt that windows has created a lot of economic wealth. I am not so sure it would be even a fraction of the social wealth created by Linux and open source software. That is, if we could find a way to measure social wealth! E.g. see or read "The Clothesline Paradox" though I would like to think that we can find a way to measure wealth without resorting to money.

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