I have just returned from an event that I have been going to each year for several years now. It is a regional version of the Burning Man Festival, and these events happen all around the country. For those not familiar with Burning Man -- well, it is difficult to explain because it means many things to different people, but it is essentially a camping event that has quite a few rules associated with it.
Most of those rules are about how to behave, such as leave no trace, and are built on a set of premises such as total acceptance.
I am not a believer in everything Burning Man stands for, but to me it presents one very important thing. It is about transforming society, even just for a few days, from one in which we base everything on commercialism and, instead, make it all about giving things and services for free. There is no money at these events -- there are no sales of any kind. People give what they can to anyone who needs something, and they expect nothing in return.
You give food, water, shelter, a helping hand, your time -- anything you are able to give. Some people have less than others, and during this type of event everyone basically finishes up with what they need.
Now, I know that this kind of society could not exist long-term, because it is not really stable, and there are too many loop holes that enable abuse. But it is a nice ideal, and to even participate in it for a few days is very rewarding. As I think about this, I also think about how it may apply in our lives, our jobs, and to the EDA and semiconductor industries.
I hear many executives complain about decisions that have been made that adversely affect everyone else. I hear about issues that make business difficult because of events that happened in the past. I hear about the ever-increasing security, protection, and litigation issues that are building up in our industries, and then I think back to how it used to be.
We used to help each other a lot more, to spread ideas, to cooperate on solving issues. We had such organizations as AT&T Bell Labs, IBM, Xerox, and others that gave back to the industry through their research. Sure, they commercialized some of their successes, but they also enabled others to use what they had no use for. They helped everyone advance.
So, I was wondering what I would change to make EDA or the semiconductor industry more like Burning Man -- in principle. What would enable competing companies to help each other out? What would improve the culture of the industry? It is quite easy to generalize about removing commercialization and greed, but that has no value long-term.
I would like to suggest that all patents that relate to design -- be they for hardware or software -- have a lifetime of only five years. If a company cannot innovate faster than this, it doesn't deserve to hold onto a lead created by protection. Five years is a lifetime in high-tech, so maybe the term should be reduced even further. In my mind this provides sufficient protection, but also inspires innovation.
What changes would you suggest?