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It’s fascinating to see how the world continues to change around us. And it seems like the changes are coming faster than ever. Our annual Red Hat Summit has become a forum of sorts for me to hit the pause button and reflect on how far we’ve come—and where we still want to go.
Looking back at the themes I’ve discussed over the past few years, I now recognize how we’ve been tracking the evolution in how people work. Three years ago, for example, I discussed the power of participation—about how people working together in an open, transparent way are more capable of solving problems.
Then two years ago, I focused on the impact of the individual—that participation in open source is an active sport where individuals need to take the initiative. And last year, I shared my observation that we need to rethink how we work in an era of disruption.
From where I stand today, it strikes me that we’re on the cusp of another disruptive shift—I’d call it a "movement" this time around—one that will open up all kinds of possibilities for where our society can grow and evolve in the future. But to appreciate the kind of impact this shift will have, we first need to look back to recognize that people used to work and live much differently than we do today. This isn’t the first time that a fundamental shift in how we think and work has led to an explosion of progress.
Rethinking our boundary conditions
Half a millennium ago, before we believed in science and rationality and process—before the scientific revolution—we weren’t allowed to ask questions or debate what the world meant and how it behaved.
Then a radical shift in how we acquire knowledge of the world around us began. The Scientific Method emerged, thanks to individuals whose curiosity could not be contained. Brave pioneers like Galileo—who doubted what he had been told because of what he could see above him in the night sky, even though doubting and asking could end in his imprisonment or even death—began questioning the world around them.
The more people questioned what they saw, and the better and deeper their questions became. As a result, we moved from a world where we believed what we were told by higher authorities to one where conclusions were based on observation and experimentation. As Sir Francis Bacon, who is often credited as the father of The Scientific Method, so aptly put it: “If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts. But if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties.”
At the core of The Scientiﬁc Method is an insatiable curiosity about the world we see around us. It’s a methodology for asking why things work the way they do, then learning through experimentation and trial-and-error. It’s a shift from deductive to inductive reasoning—from top-down to bottom-up thinking. It’s about freedom to explore what might be possible—beyond the limits any higher authority might try to impose.
The impact on the world around us
Adopting this kind of experiential methodology changed how we understood nearly everything we do and see. And it changed the way we think, which spurred the innovation movements that created the modern world.
When we recognized that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, we entered the Age of Enlightenment, which introduced powerful new ideas like individual liberty, constitutional government and religious tolerance. The new resolve of the inventors of key technologies like the steam engine, the telegraph and the Bessemer process for steel production led us into The Industrial Revolution. Learning about anatomical theory—from germ theory to advanced surgical techniques—spurred a Medical Revolution that has transformed our fundamental understanding of illness and our bodies.
All of these advances were a result of learning from and building on those who came earlier while continuing to ask new questions and figure out new answers.
The science of discovery continues today, including in the world of open source software. The principles of curiosity, collaboration, meritocracy and independence are at the heart of experiential methodology and the open source way. We know because we live those values every day inside our culture at Red Hat. And it’s why we have been able to develop a modern architecture that’s unlocking the potential of developers and enterprises to thrive on the cutting edge of change.
And as with Bacon and his contemporaries, we did not travel this path alone. Thousands of open source pioneers and communities have pushed open source beyond perceived limits.
Open source has become more than a methodology for creating software. It’s broadened into a philosophy, a set of beliefs. Open source, and the open source way, have come to mean thinking beyond limitations and exploring a world of infinite possibilities—together.
A transformational movement
By embracing the open source way, our community has helped transform technologies like Linux, to help make life better. Our community has also transformed human technology—the way we interact and solve problems collectively. Open source has become the next wave of how we generate true innovations with impact.
Increasingly, others are also recognizing that open source offers a better way to work. Open source as a human technology is exploding into the mainstream. Businesses, governments and nonprofits around the globe are embracing it.
I believe open source has entered a new breakthrough age and is becoming a transformational movement. So many people now ask things like: How do we imagine and make real the potential created for us by this technology? How do we do it as individuals? How do we do it as teams? How do we do it as organizations and, ultimately, society at large?
We don’t know the answers to all of these questions yet, but with experimentation and collaboration, we will continue pushing towards answers. And only by continuing to ask more questions will we also continue to expand our possibilities today, tomorrow and beyond.
I invite you to join us in dreaming big and asking what we can do next—together.