TED Conversations

Sven Verleyen

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How far will technology drive us to an 'open-data' economy?

How do you think technology would further force organizations to share knowledge, and enable our economy to become completely open-source?

Currently, competitors in the pharmaceutical industry are already collaboratively sharing their data-sets to improve research for each participant:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2014/04/08/big-pharma-opens-new-chapter-on-big-data-collaboration/

Will technology eventually make any institutional boundaries dissapear, where everyone is collaborating with everyone; no vertical structures like Philip Evans argues in his TED talk? Are we heading to a patent-free, open-source economy where organizations initially exist to solve social problems and not to make profit like Michael Porter argues in his TED talk?

For instance, 3D printing technology, combined with open-source food projects like Soylent, combined with data-sets of gut health and DNA, could eventually enable anyone to print his or her own personalized healthy food. Diabetes and heart diseases, two big cash cows of the pharmaceutical industry, would become rare diseases. No more hunger in the world because the ingredients are cheap and can be printed by anyone. Just this example could completely transform the food industry (food retail, fast-food,..) and potentially collapse the pharmaceutical and meat industry. Cows and pigs would approve.

But this is only possible when organizations make their data-sets accessible to everyone. For free. No discrimination or research bias. So other organizations or even individuals can combine different data-sets to derive patterns that will further drive growth and innovation. However, to me, this idealistic argument does not seem to be a good incentive for a profit-driven company to share its data-sets to the public and thus also (potential) competitors..

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  • Jun 3 2014: Sven

    Very altruistic and voids out individual motivation to excel. I think that history demonstrates, quite well, what happens to a society where the profit motivation, whether for the individual or company disappears. What you are saying, I think, is that achievement should simply be rewarded with the idea that we have helped somebody else?
    I hold, held-expired some years ago, two US Patents. I built a company around those patents and employed people in the process. I used profit from the company to expand and innovate new products for the hospital industry. One of the highlights of my adventure here was the knowledge that I had helped people I did not know and would never meet. Without patent protection however, there would have been no company, no employment and no innovation for other products.
    I was a small company, but the profits generated allowed me to expand and to form another company, unrelated to the patents and employ more people, everyone benefited.
    There is no question that the multinationals have the power to manipulate and do so, as power corrupts. I am stuck with a sentiment from Winston Churchill (?) that if a company goes bad some will suffer, but if a country goes bad, everyone suffers. There can be no bad corporation if you have a good government. I would think that a bad company is spawned from a corrupt government whose intent is to control the corporation which results in a very bad situation. It is akin to the marriage of government and religion and we called that the Dark Ages, which, from a business perspective may also be referred to as Fascism or Marxism.
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    Jun 3 2014: The more we share, the more we have. It is a really simple principle that has always worked better than possession and greed.