Originally Published: Wednesday, 25 August 1999 Author: Maurice Entwistle
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Printable]

GNU/Linux - The Genius Among

The lonely misunderstood programmer is a thing of the past. The future belongs to the genius created among us. GNU/Linux is the foremost example of this type of collaborative effort: a community of individuals, each contributing according to his own ability, and sharing the results. This model can create far beyond what anyone alone can do. The individual genius, whether of literature or code, will always be a human fact; but a community of genius is the true future of the world....

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The lonely misunderstood programmer is a thing of the past. The future belongs to the genius created among us. GNU/Linux is the foremost example of this type of collaborative effort: a community of individuals, each contributing according to his own ability, and sharing the results. This model can create far beyond what anyone alone can do. The individual genius, whether of literature or code, will always be a human fact; but a community of genius is the true future of the world.

Can you imagine if the Internet had been around at the time of Frederick Nietzsche? Would he have died a lonely misunderstood genius? If there were only one in a hundred thousand that could have understood him, at least a few would have found him. They would have heard him, consoled him, and shared ideas at his level. If that had happened, perhaps he would not have died insane. A community would have helped him and his work mature.

Did the crowd of Microsoft users ever understand Linux? Did they care? No. But, because of the Internet, the GNU/Linux programmers didn't die alone with their code. The Internet made it deliverable, shareable, and amendable. There is no doubt that there were and are individual programmers of genius behind GNU/Linux. But where would they be if they had not shared, or been prevented from sharing either by law or lack of connection?

Certain things only become available through technology. Without the Internet, where would Linux be now? Would it have even happened? But the Internet came, and Linus came. A few responded and the kernel grew. The GNU worked and shared. The isolated passions of a few became the passion of many, and the genius among was greater than the genius alone. A community was born!

That community went IPO with Red Hat. It was an acclaimed success. The task of blending the spirit of the GNU/Linux community with a business model falls heavily upon them. There has been some flaming about that. Some of it is healthy. This is a democracy after all. However, the spirit of Red Hat seems to be in line with the community. I believe they will serve it well. Their effort to bring contributor programmers into the IPO attests to that.

How the Red Hat IPO and future GNU/Linux IPO's will turn out remains to be seen. Some already moan about the sell-out of the community. I think that is a little premature. GNU/Linux is becoming a world commodity. But, it is a goat among the sheep. It's not going to stall and it's not going to stop. There will be some adjustments. Some will have to give up fixed ideas of what the community is and what it stands for, but the goat will lead the way.

It seems to me that both Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds are not opposed to making money. They are not anti-business, though they may fight for business to be more people-friendly. Both Stallman and Torvalds have publicly wished for better business ethics. The GNU/Linux community and its success may bring better ethics to business, and the world. Their motto: make money, but keep the source code free (free as in freedom, not free beer). It reminds me of my favorite J. Krishnamurti quote, "Luxury without austerity is violence."

Maurice L. Entwistle, maurice@linux.com





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