Bill Gates Claims Open Source Means Nobody Can Improve Software

from the say-what-now? dept

Wired is running an interesting article about Bill Gates' thoughts on the pharmaceutical industry, which he's increasingly focused on as he transitions out of Microsoft and into his foundation. He clearly understands the basic problem, though I think he has the wrong solution in brushing off the idea that "open sourcing" medicine is a huge opportunity. As for why... well, I'll be discussing that in a future post. Instead, for this post, I wanted to focus on a rather bizarre statement out of Gates (all the way at the end of the article) in discussing why he dislikes open source software. His complaint is that open source creates a license "so that nobody can ever improve the software." It's hard to figure out how to respond to that statement since it's the exact opposite of how open source software works. The exact point is that anyone can improve the software. It's proprietary software like Microsoft's that's limited such that only Microsoft is allowed to improve it. It's no secret that Gates isn't a fan of open source software, but it still seems odd that he would make a statement that is so obviously false, both in theory and in practice. Perhaps old FUD habits die hard, but one would hope that as he enters "retirement" he'll have a more open mind on such things.

Filed Under: bill gates, open source, pharmaceuticals


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  1. identicon
    JEDIDIAH, 23 Apr 2008 @ 12:46pm

    With Free Software, the costs of development can be shared over many people. The barriers to entry are low. This is not the case with drugs because of the stakes involved. A screwup will be much more serious.

    It's really apples and oranges.

    The notion that you can't improve free software is
    just an artifact of his Robber Baron mindset.

    Money is not the only motivator in life. While
    the notion of Open Source pharma at the individual
    doesn't make sense it could certainly work at the
    level of Nations and Universities. This is how
    science in general works.

    Perhaps it's time for Academia to take a bigger
    role in drug research (assuming their work isn't
    already being pilfered as is).

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