January 3, 2017

From DaVinci to The Avengers: Building Collective Genius

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Thomas Di Giacomo
Dr. Thomas Di Giacomo, Chief Technology Officer, SUSE, at LinuxCon Europe giving the keynote, From DaVinci to The Avengers.

The 25th anniversary of Linux was a big milestone celebrated by many of us at LinuxCon events throughout the year, and it was a theme throughout many of the presentations. Thomas Di Giacomo, Chief Technology Officer at SUSE started his LinuxCon Europe keynote with a brief clip in the style of Mr. Robot where in 2016 even Evil Corp has gone open source and we have won. He says that “open source is seen as a technology savior. That's why companies have been embracing it, because they have to, to remain viable.”

Giacomo compares the human brain at age 25 with Linux. He talks about how at 25 years old, neurologists say that our brains make a big leap in maturity when the prefrontal cortex becomes fully operational, which helps us focus, make more logical decisions, make more complex plans, be more organized, and be more disciplined. At 25, Linux is also maturing in all of these ways, which leads us to collaborate more together to achieve great things.

Going back a few centuries to around the time of Leonardo Da Vinci before science was fully mature, there were individual bright minds active in poetry, philosophy, and other arts and domains, who could cover most of their contemporary knowledge. Giacomo described them “as men who knew it all, people like Aristotle, Roger Bacon, Da Vinci, Kepler, Humboldt, and others.” 

Technology today is much too complex to be understood by a single person. “The future of open source is about contributing together more and more, so that we can achieve more and more complex challenges. We should try to scale our individual brains into a much larger collective, connected, and functional brain,” Giacomo says.

This is similar to the Avengers. Individual super heroes acting alone couldn’t save the day, so they are teaming up to be stronger together and more powerful than the sum of their parts. 
Giacomo suggests that “in our community too, we have gone from individual mighty Hulks to groups of Avengers, so ... we have to work more and more together to keep fixing more and more challenging problems. … Simply having the code available is not enough to ensure long-term viability of open source. We also need to make sure we keep working on fostering inclusive environments where everyone can contribute, so that the open source momentum continues and grows for the next decades to come.” 

This was a fun talk that can be best appreciated by watching the entire video!

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