The day breaks and I, a data scientist at Lytics, get ready to start my work day. It is almost inevitable that I, even before my tea has cooled down, type into a terminal: python. What follows is the opening of a gate to a realm whose vastness I couldn't have imagined a year earlier, when I first started the transition from working mainly with MATLAB (proprietary) to working almost exclusively in python (open source).
So from where did this world emerge? It is so large and complex that one almost forgets it is not a part of the natural world. A child might fail to understand the difference of origin between a building and a tree, and in the same way I sometimes fail to realize and really awarely experience these wonders of human creation. What is so interesting about python and its libraries, in contrast to many other computational wonders, is that it is created by people without much of a profit motive.
Passion and a love for the craft plays a large part in the motivation for putting effort into it, I imagine. Nevertheless, it has to be more than a passion to create, as developers could both create and acquire monetary wealth for work like this, through a steady salary. But python would not have become as big as it has become, and therefor not as useful, had the libraries been licensed software. The developers get to feel part of something much bigger, and create value, immense value, even if they themselves in most cases don't see much of it in terms of a financial gain. Perhaps the sense of siblinghood is what keeps the community going, in combination with a personal need for whatever module it is developing.
The kindness of strangers doesn't end with the tools that are free for everyone to use; whenever you get an error while programming, you can be sure that someone on the Internet has provided guidance to someone else in the matter. The anonymity of the Internet makes this help all the more kind, unconditional and impressive. It may seem that you lose some independence when your tool isn't perfectly sharp and ready to use as it comes, but because of the sheer number of people like yourself, you can depend on that there will be at least some useful discussions available, regarding whatever it is you need to know. There is a profound beauty in this, when what one might think of as something chaotic becomes organized and fulfills a meaningful function.
But python isn't an end in itself. What creates the final value is what other people do with it: industries providing pharmaceutical research, financial services, weather analysis and software solutions has seen great use of python. As one American engineer put it:
“I use Python to help build the kind of world I want to live in.”
And that quote sums part of how I feel while I sip my tea and start to investigate solutions for our clients. All while I know that there is some freedom in dependence.