Open source leaders belong on the (En)Rich List

I love the Post Growth Institute’s latest project: The (En)Rich List, with the byline “A Wealth of Inspiration!”

This is a brilliant insight – paying attention to people who have helped show the way to sustainable paths is so much more important and urgent than talking about “Rich Lists” that measure individual success.

That’s not to say I’m equally enthusiastic about all the choices on the list, but that’s okay – the (En)Rich List is a conversation starter rather than an authorititative list. The listmakers state: “it makes no claims of objectivity”. In the same spirit, I’ll make some nominations below, for next time.

The commons is rightly recognized in the (En)Rich list, notably through Elinor Ostrom (commons researcher and Nobel laureate) and Michel Bauwens (the P2P Foundation). But what of those who have made the commons possible, in software, spreading knowledge, and in cultural works?

Being a wikiholic, I’ll start by nominating Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia) and Ward Cunningham (inventor of wiki software, to radically open up the development of knowledge and ideas on a website). Their revolution is a social one – by enabling learning and connections of knowledge on an unprecedented scale, they’ve expanded the opportunities for potential future leaders, and future pioneers and innovators in sustainable paths. And of course the wiki provides the model and platform used by Appropedia, enabling sustainable paths in our own way: as a sustainability wiki, an open database of solutions.

Before wikis came Richard Stallman, who stands out for his work in the software commons pioneering “Free Software” (that’s free as in freedom… also called “open source,” though Stallman hates that term). Crucially, he also wrote the first open license, that said in effect: I’ll share this with you, if you agree to share what you do with it. Linus Torvalds added a missing piece to the coding work of Stallman’s GNU project, and kicked off Linux, an important, very secure operating system; he also licensed it under Stallman’s “copyleft” license.

And finally, Lawrence Lessig applied these principles to all kinds of creative works, through Creative Commons licenses. These are easier to understand and use than Stallman’s original license, and are used on this blog, on the Appropedia wiki, on Wikipedia, on many published works by the Australian and other governments, on vast numbers of photos and other creative works on Flickr and elsewhere across the web.

I have more thoughts on the list which I’ll share soon, on the contrast between the pessimists on the list (including Paul Ehrlich and Ted Trainer) and the optimists (notably E.F. Schumacher and Jean Russell).

Again, thanks and kudos to the Post Growth Institute – a great and provocative idea, well executed.