OSCON 2004: Freeman and George Dyson


This morning's key note was Freeman and George Dyson. Esther was supposed to be here as well, but she's stuck in Dallas. No wonder, I heard on CNN this morning that Dallas got 12 inches of rain in 3 hours. Yikes! The format was Tim O'Reilly moderating and asking questions of Freeman and George. Here are a few things that struck me as interesting:

With regards to possibly dangerous technical advances (specifically the topic was bioengineering), Freeman says there are three questions to ask:

  1. Is it possible to put a stop to is?
  2. Is is desirable to put a stop to it?
  3. If you want to control it, what's the appropriate mechanism for doing that?

George makes talks about being a "maker." He says we went through a period where children didn't take apart things. They were too complicated and we've lost something in that. This is a great observation. My son just went to a "invention camp" at his school and took a bunch of stuff to take apart. I think it significantly changed his outlook on how things work and made him much more interested in how things work.

Freeman talks about the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry being that it doesn't work on a small scale. Open source software is about doing large scale things in a decentralized way. The small scale nature of any individual contribution is its strength.

Scientists are discoverers or explainers. Discoverers are makers and tool builders. There's an analogy about birds who look down from the sky and frogs who look up from the pond.