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The Historical Mandate for the Open-Source Community

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 4

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Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


Tejita Rajbhandari Gannon University

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The author is a student of the Gannon University Computer Science program. She is the VP of STEM Outreach for GUBotDev, an independent company made up of Gannon University students and faculty. She is heavily involved in the use and promotion of Open-Source technology and its benefits to STEM outreach to young up-and-coming engineers. She has also been involved in promoting gender equality in the engineering fields.

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Mark Blair Gannon University Orcid 16x16

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The co-author is an instructor at Gannon University Department of Computer and Information Science. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 2000-2004 as intelligence specialist. He graduated from Mercyhurst University earning a BA in Intelligence Studies and Psychology (2008). Additionally, he earned a MS in Software Engineering from Gannon University in 2013.

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There is a tech coup brewing. The Open-Source community (OSC) has gone from chasing high technology to driving it. How the OSC will affect our future is still unclear, but could it be just the latest incarnation of the ebb and flow of a historic tidal power system that transitions power between the few and the many? This research starts with a simple thesis when societies believe that knowledge is the right of all people who seek it, societies thrive, and those societies will develop the means to promulgate that knowledge. To test this thesis, we create a model of two prototype attitudes and we codify the psychosocial environment implicit to the above model components. Supercilious attitude: the common person cannot assimilate sensational information without fear or being given to wild extrapolations; cannot discern fact from fiction; can be led astray by philosophy and/or science and technology; can be corrupted by corrupt persons for corrupt ends. Populist attitude: ignorance is what makes people susceptible to corruption; all knowledge should be available to all who seek it; people can learn anything; when people work together they can figure out any unknown. We posit that the difference in the psychosocial environments of these two attitudes is likely marked by the placement in society and the intellectual gap between the aristocracy and the laity, particularly along the economic strata. These models produce qualitative metrics that can be used to evaluate the writings and quotes of historical thinkers. We take a trip through the rabbit hole of history to investigate these attitudes by surveying the world’s thinkers from the Platonic and Aristotelian traditions to the dark ages and through the renaissance; thinkers of the Golden Age of Islam in the Arab world; to examples in the modern era. We take a personalistic view of history but reveal a naturalistic history. To be sure, by reviewing historical intellectual and philosophic eponyms, a fluid zeitgeist emerges that pushes attitudes toward knowledge and the common person like ocean tides. We will make the argument that the Polybian model of society –including that which is infused in the American form of government- is driven by the engine of technology and more importantly by those who understand and drive that technology. We investigate the premise that Polybian tyranny is not characterized by wealth gaps, but in reality, it is the intellectual or knowledge gap that provides the opportunity for tyranny. Finally, we take a close look at the emergence of the OSC and its growing dominance over technology. We leave the reader with a question: “Is the OSC a new emerging Polybian Aristocracy that is changing the dynamics of power and influence, overthrowing the old guard technologists?”

Rajbhandari, T., & Blair, M. (2019, June), The Historical Mandate for the Open-Source Community Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33393

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