I work "with" Apple. I don’t work "for" Apple. My title — independent contractor — reflects this distinction. My main work at Apple or at the Oxford University Press is, actually, introducing them to works from the open source society, and people who reached out to me from those organizations — such as Socialtext — were already friends that I trusted. They are fellows in the open source and free software movements.
Their position was exactly like how I worked with Taiwan’s Nationalist Party government in the past year. Everybody expects the Nationalist Party in Taiwan to lose in this election, but still, over the past year, we worked with the administration to make sure that they could do crowd-source and open-data, in a proper way for informing the public about how the government works.
This is not just to make transition to the new administration easier. Because when everybody knows what the issues are, and how the government worked, we don’t actually switch from one overlord to another overlord. Instead, we convinced this particular overlord to make public of their ways of doing things, and learned about taking in input from the society.
This is the same with Apple. Apple has invented their own programming language; it’s called Swift. There was a lot of petitions from the technical communities that says Apple should open source this programming language, so that in the future when people write stuff for iPad or for iPhone, their software can be automatically ported to run on Android Linux, or other operating systems.
Through open sourcing Swift and working with the civil society, the researchers who joined Apple — like Chris Lattner — not just participated in open source movement, but did it in a very good way. You see, there are two ways of open sourcing. There’s “token open sourcing” which means throwing out the code but without doing anything else, it’s just putting a checkmark.
The right way is to be open to new inputs. Apple took a year’s time and did it the right way. They published the entire history — back from when Swift was just an idea, until it grew into a whole language, with years of history. This entire history included discussions, the back and forth, and they published it in a way that it made clear for innovators to see why the current decisions were made.
They took also the community proposals, ideas for all the Swift-using community, so that they could, together, decide for the language’s future.
All this takes enormous trust at the beginning, between people who had to tolerate Apple for taking so much time to prepare, and for the people inside Apple to prepare to engage with the language’s real users. Without such mutual trust, there’s no way for them to start working with each other, and Apple would — perhaps forever — be the same secretive company that we all remembered.
It’s the same as with the government. There has to be one or two people in the administration believing in the wisdom of the crowd. Then, you establish just one link and then more links, both within the government and within the civil society, to prove with each iteration that they actually go through with their promises — including their promise to respond timely, and the promise to publish things. When they actually do that, we can scale out the trust.
I don’t see any issues working with governments, Apple, other entities, as long as it’s on equivalent terms. The principle of “Symmetry of Attention" means people must respect and not dominate each other’s time. This is what Anarchy is all about — It’s saying that governments may be a useful abstraction sometimes, but we don’t have to rely on that abstraction to solve global problems. We can use other forms of organization — namely, the civil society working with people in the public sectors and private sectors, in ways that is fundamentally symmetric between the three sectors.