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I think nontraditional research organizations like YC Research and Google's Project Zero can solve this problem.


Open source basic infrastructure -- everything from Sage to OpenSSL -- suffers from a market failure.

We rely on these foundational projects for billions of dollars a year in commerce, but they often get minimal funding and are supported by semi-broke volunteers working in anonymity.

* GPG is maintained by one guy, who was about to give up before a few people threw coins in his tip jar after this story a year ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9003791

* OpenSSL was comically underfunded and underappreciated until Heartbleed happened and people remembered how much it matters

Stein's story is powerful and shows how neither traditional companies nor universities help here. In the world of math software:

* The companies created a bunch of closed-source walled gardens (Mathematica, Matlab, etc).

* The universities were unwilling to support free and open tools. They gave tenure and support only for authors of research papers, not tools, no matter how useful or widely deployed.

Even the guy who made NumPy and SciPy didn't get recognition for it---wtf.

I think that these new, independent organizations with rich patrons can fill in the gap. Organizations like YC Research, Project Zero, and Canonical.

We need more of them.

These projects are a crucial part of the infrastructure of the modern information society. The solution to a lack of funding for these things is not charity from rich patrons, but governmental investment based on taxes.

I tend to disagree. The government incentives are aligned toward large long term investments, not individual DaVincis or Galileos

But that's exactly my point. Software development and maintenance requires long-term investments.

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