Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Open Education, Open Markets

Over on Policy Innovations, two extremely succesful innovators are making the case for open markets.

No wait. Er. Make that open education.

Jimmy Wales and Richard Baraniuk, the brains behind Wikipedia and Connexions respectively, outline their hopes for a new movement toward what they call Open Education. By applying the dynamics of open source platforms, the duo are trumpeting an approach to education that allows "anyone, anywhere [to] write, assemble, customize, and publish their own open course or textbook."

The language they use got me thinking about the dynamic cycle of "creative destruction" that underpins the economic case for capitalism. In many ways the open source application is the ultimate free-market; constantly groping for equilibrium in an environment of competition and choice.

Consider the similarities between the following quotes:

"The fundamental impulse that sets and keeps the capitalist engine in motion comes from the new consumers, goods, the new methods of production or transportation, the new markets, the new forms of industrial organization that capitalist enterprise creates." (Joseph Schumpeter, taken from Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy)

"Open Education promises to turn the current textbook production pipeline into a vast dynamic knowledge ecosystem that is in a constant state of creation, use, reuse, and improvement." (Wales and Baraniuk, taken from The Open Education Revolution in Policy Innovations)

Now, admittedly, the comparison is not perfect. But, in spirit at least, the two concepts are very closely related.

For one thing, open source and open markets are positively related in their potential to maximize gains. Didn't your mother ever tell you that two heads are better than one? Well, that's the rationale behind open source. The open source mechanism self-corrects in much the same way as the market searches for equilibrium.

On the downside, open source platforms can't guarantee accuracy any more than open markets can guarantee equity. In both cases, however, advocates claim the overall gains are worth the cost.

To some, both open source and open markets are characterized by a dangerous tilt toward anarchy. This has lead to a perception of unreliability; open markets and open source platforms must be tamed to be useful. Unsuprisingly, both deplore the interference of government regulators. "Leave us alone to do our thing!" they scream. "Don't interfere with our platform/market. You'll only ruin it."

Lastly, both open source and open markets reward innovation. Read the article by Wales and Baraniuk and try replacing every reference to Open Education with open markets. It kind of works.

Where do you come down? Do you trust open source platforms? Are you wary of free market capitalism? Do you disagree with the comparison? Let me know. According to Wales and Baraniuk, "Everyone has something to teach. Everyone has something to learn. Together, we can all help transform the way the world develops, disseminates, and uses knowledge."


photo of an open source car by fringehog

1 comment:

aditya said...

Nice post. This also shows how globalization ensures that only the best product or service survives in the market. I would like to get your views on globalization in our corporate blog (mahindrauniverse.com).