03 August 2006

Open Sourcing Nanotechnology

I came to this extensive paper on open source and nanotechnology rather circuitously, via LXer and a posting from the Foresight Nanotech Institute. This could hardly be more appropriate: it was Christine Peterson, president of the Institute, who actually coined the term "open source" on 3 February 1998.

The paper is almost as old - it dates back to 2000 - but it is a measure of how forward-thinking it was that it still seems very current, what with its talk of licensing, patent pools and anti-commons. I was particularly struck by this paragraph:

One of the somewhat counterintuitive arguments for open source is that it is safer than closed source. Reliability of complex systems, security against computer viruses and other attacks, and integrity of cryptographic secrecy in communications all benefit greatly from peer review and other key elements of open source development. These advantages may also apply to nanotechnology. Talking about open sourcing nanotechnology may evoke fears about giving easier access in the future to those who might abuse the technology. Both these issues make it important to discuss the relationship between open source and safety.

Which is a good point. Well-worth reading if you're at all interested in this fascinating if rather over-hyped field.

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