A world where everything is free

Imagine a world, where everything is free. Impossible? Right now people all over the world are working on this idea. They want to create a world where you can instantly have access to free content like free music, videos or texts, free software like free operating systems, programs, computer games and even powerful search engines, free hardware like plans for computer chips and free infrastructure like local wireless mesh networks.

1983 Richard Stallman launched the GNU Project, 1996 Linus Torvalds started Linux, 1997 started Slashdot, 1999 Indymedia was started, in 2000 the first freifunk enthusiasts started experimenting in London and Berlin, in January 2001 Wikipedia went online, in July 2001 the P2P-Network BitTorrent was set up, the development of the free search engine Nutch began 2002 and the P2P search engine Yacy was first tested 2004. These are examples of projects of people who started to create free and open structures – of people who create free layers for everyone to use.

How is this possible? Why do people do this? How can they afford to work like that?

The ideas behind setting up free layers are ground shaping. They include a complete cultural and civilizational change of how we behave, work, communicate and live together. The idea behind is a new social contract where you give freely and receive freely. These people simply have fun by doing what they are doing and additionally their motivation is to do good like for example to educate and help others.

The surprise is that this system is working as a real economic system – a sharing economy, where everyone wins. What you get is always more than what you give. This is especially true in the free software community, where a person puts his work into a software program and in exchange gets back the work of sometimes hundreds of programmers, who worked on other parts of the software. This example was famously made by Rishab Ayer Ghosh: You give one hour and you get back the work of hundreds or thousands of hours of programmers around the world. It is a point where you always get back more than you give – a real win-win-situation.

Of course this example cannot be transferred exactly to the “world of things”. When you have one apple and you share it with someone, you will only have half an apple. However in a world where technology is the driving force of the economy, the knowledge of how to produce something becomes often much more valuable than the availability of natural resources which can be delivered easily anywhere in today’s world.

And in fact what we can observe is that besides the production of free software (e.g. Linux) and free content (e.g. Wikipedia) people begin to exchange knowledge of how to actually make and manipulate things like computer chips or wireless routers as well – driven by the ideas of free sharing and its personal profits or because they simply want to gain experience, get feedback or to have fun.

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