Maximum Wage
Steven Johnson

Politics has noting to do with progress. Just because a lot of silicon valley types vote for progressives doesnt mean that those values actually build the products they make or drive innovation in any way.

People on the progressive left, even very intelligent people, can be sucked into believing that their political values are driving some engine of society, when in fact they are simply participating in a free market (or as free as one can get in this country) that is propelling innovation. When you say that such and such innovation benefited from government in some way, you are excluding some important factors and dismissing the fact that innovation does not need government to happen. In fact, it could be argued that most of what governments and some non-profits can slow the speed of progress.

You suggest that AT&T benefited from a government monoply to the extent that it used its monopoly money to innovate, but when AT&T was a monopoly they produced very little in the way of innovation. In fact, up until the company were broken up and competition was allowed to thrive, people were using the same crappy phones at the same absurd prices because AT&T had no incentive to change anything at all. Why push the limits and spend a lot of money on R&D if you can make a safe dollar doing the same as usual.

You mentioned Uber at the beginning of your piece. I would like to point out that the one thing hindering Uber at every turn is government regulations and entrenched interests in the taxi business blocking them at every pass. Given the same state of technology, minus the above mentioned regulations and entrenched taxi interests, is there no doubt that Uber would have spread more quickly and its services would be even more effective?

One quick note regarding open source. Don’t confuse collaboration with some kind of egalitarian social construct. People collaborate on open source ideas because they do not have a way to commercialize them otherwise. Computer programming in the age of the open source era was largely a niche field. Ideas are easy to come by and hard to finance and not every programmer has the time to commit to finishing a project that may never yield a profit. But programmers still like to see their work come to life regardless. They may fool themselves and others into thinking they are creating Mozilla for the masses, but they are doing it to practice their skills and see their ideas come to life. Programming open source is as much an act of selfish satisfaction as creating the next iPhone. If these guys could have gotten paid for their creations, they would have, but they didn’t because they couldnt. They couldn’t get paid because they had to use a pool of other programmers who were all equally financially and temporaliy unable to complete the project in a for profit environment. Open source will always be a place for coders to go to practice their skills and good things will probably always come out of it, but as the rest of the world begins to appreciate the value of computer programming and more investors and companies are looking for good coders, more of the mature coders will be doing their work for money like the rest of the trades in the world.

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