Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Big Man

Sun's announcement that they are opening up 1,600 patents, coupled with I.B.M. announcing that they are opening up 500, reminds me of an anthropology class in college where we learned about the "Big Man" social organization structure. In the Big Man system (practiced in some isolated islands in the SouthWestern Pacific), leaders vie for popularity and influence by outdoing each other throwing feasts and giving gifts.

The Big Man - almost always a male - is an elaborate version of a village leader, but unlike a village leader, he often has supporters in several villages and is a somewhat more effective regulator of regional political organization. Big Men combine a small amount of interest in their group's welfare with a great deal of self-interested entrepreneurialship for personal gain.


Is this what Sun and IBM are doing?