Red HatŪ Center

Frequently Asked Questions

Red Hat Center's mission is to support and promote the concepts underlying the open source movement and to apply those concepts to other areas of inquiry. Because Red Hat Center is taking transparency beyond technology and into new realms, people naturally ask questions about this concept. You may submit general questions [ ] about Red Hat Center for potential inclusion in updates to this FAQ.

What is transparent technology?
Do people really need to access, explore, and manipulate the technology they use?
Is transparent technology a theory or a reality?
Why is interest in transparent technology growing?
How does society benefit from transparent technology?
Does transparent technology mean government control?
What effect will transparent technology have on competition and private industry?

What is transparent technology? (top)
Transparent technology is the general term Red Hat Center uses to describe any type of technology where the public is permitted to see, understand, and possibly improve on what's being developed.

Do people really need to access, explore, and manipulate the technology they use? (top)
Transparency is especially important when it comes to the creation of infrastructures that society will depend on. Without transparent development, consumers pay higher prices for basic technology because each private company must "reinvent the wheel", rather than just make incremental improvements on the broader group effort. When the technology is out in the open, private control over the pace of progress is eliminated, and the technology is free to advance using the best minds available worldwide.

Is transparent technology a theory or a reality? (top)
Its benefits have only recently been realized in actual applications. Even technologists who doubted the power of the theory have been silenced with the transparent creation of an operating system that powers more of the Internet's public web sites than any other operating system. (According to a Netcraft study, Linux-based operating systems power 31% of all sites, with the next most popular operating system having only 20% presence.)

Why is interest in transparent technology growing? (top)
Society's need for transparent technology has been around for centuries. But only in recent history have the tools and technology (the Internet, web, mailing lists, etc.) emerged that make open collaboration practical, easy, and economical. That's why interest is growing so rapidly.

How does society benefit from transparent technology? (top)
One way to understand how society can benefit is to consider what might have been done better if transparent technology principles had been applied to historical technology developments. Consider the case of railroads, an early transportation technology. In the US, the government left the early development of railways to the private sector. Beginning in the late 1820s, the private sector proceeded to build local railways using various gauges of track, according to unique company preferences. These independent private development efforts resulted in monopolistic strongholds within certain regions of the US. Primary beneficiaries of railway technology, such as farmers needing quick transportation of crops, were often exposed to exorbitant fees because of these monopolistic practices.

The lack of adherence to a standard track gauge by private railroads, governmental divides, and political pressures delayed the interconnection of railways across the nation-and their full societal benefits. More than 55 years after the advent of railroads in the US, a standard gauge track was finally realized, mainly because of a Federal mandate on track width for the Transcontinental Railroad. A lucrative Federal land grant program served as the incentive for the private companies to develop new territory using that standard, rather than their own private company preferences.

If the principles of transparent technology had been applied to railroad development, society could have experienced the full advantages of rail technology decades sooner at more reasonable costs. Another notable historic example of how society could have been better served by transparent technology is the VHS/Beta war. Consumers who sided with the Beta technology paid a high price for the technological war that raged in the private industry marketplace.

With transparent technology, society benefits because:

Does transparent technology mean government control? (top)
No. The technology and its direction are shaped by society as a whole, without the control of either private industry or the government. It is developed in an environment where the best minds have an opportunity to collaborate and advance the technology at an unbridled pace.

What effect will transparent technology have on competition and private industry? (top)
Transparent technology promotes more people working on an idea to stimulate quality outcomes, and thereby increases free market participation. Monopolistic practices within private industry are thwarted, because no single company is permitted to gain control of a key infrastructure. Private industry is encouraged to compete vigorously to quickly bring to market the additional services and products that help satisfy the "next round" of public wants and needs that rely on the shared infrastructure.

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