How refreshing to see a successful innovator use the term selfishness appropriately—that is, to refer not to activity that harms others, but rather to activity that advances one’s own proper, rational self-interest.

In a recent interview with BBC, Linus Torvalds, originator of the Linux operating system, explained why he regards his development of and involvement in open-source coding as rationally selfish:

In many ways, I actually think the real idea of open source is for it to allow everybody to be "selfish", not about trying to get everybody to contribute to some common good. . . . [O]pen source only really works if everybody is contributing for their own selfish reasons.

Now, those selfish reasons by no means need to be about "financial reward", though.

The early "selfish" reasons to do Linux tended to be centred about just the pleasure of tinkering. That was why I did it—programming was my hobby—passion, really—and learning how to control the hardware was my own selfish goal. And it turned out that I was not all that alone in that.

Congratulations to Torvalds for his innovations in the field of computing—and kudos to him for properly understanding his work to be rationally selfish.

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Image: Wikimedia Commons

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