Age of Unreason

Yesterday, Doc Searls admired wisdom from G.B. Shaw:

Quote du jour 2
“The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” — George Bernard Shaw

Not sure I ever heard that before. Sounds familiar. But Chris Heuer just brought it up in the “Economics of Free” discussion. And it sank in.

Even if he saw it 4–1/2 years ago, Doc could hardly remember my praise for Age of Unreason, a business book based totally on Shaw’s praise of unreason. I extended the book’s premise as praise for open source software:

Open Source – the Impossible Dream

Open source software is an economic anomaly: it shouldn’t be possible. But then, neither should soccer moms. According to economists, all work must be compensated through a managed accounting system or it doesn’t count as real work. Twelve years ago, this point was questioned by Charles Handy, Britain’s foremost business writer, in The Age of Unreason. He pointed out that an immense portion of the useful work in a society doesn’t show up in the GDP, performed by people who aren’t paid for what they do.

Handy’s point is that we need to be purposely unreasonable in order to do the most-needed things. For support he cites Shaw:

George Bernard Shaw once observed that all progress depends on the unreasonable man. His argument was that the reasonable man adapts himself to the world, while the unreasonable persists in trying to adapt the world to himself; therefore for any change of consequence we must look to the unreasonable man, or, as I must add, to the unreasonable woman.

Unreasonably, not only is Linux gaining ground against capitalism’s poster boy, Windows, and a patchy open source web server (Apache) delivers 66% of the world’s web pages, one of the world’s great software architects, Mitch Kapor, formed the Open Source Applications Foundation last week. Its purpose is to spend no less than $5,000,000 to give away a first class Personal Information Manager.

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