Open collaborative design/Why is this a good thing?
Open collaborative design, empowered by advanced open-source CAD software, allows anyone — not just designers and engineers — to easily create new designs of products. It provides a vast array of 'copylefted' modules and artefacts for people to make use of in their designs. This not only means that people can customise things for their own needs and tastes, but makes the design process much more efficient and helps avoid the huge duplication of effort that occurs in design and engineering currently.
These principles can apply to designing the simplest things that can be made by individuals, solutions for communities in the developing world, all the way up to complex large-scale systems of national or global infrastructure involving thousands of people. Because the designs are not closed or proprietary, people are encouraged to contribute knowing their involvement not only benefits themselves but anyone else might use the results of their efforts. It also means that designs will evolve far faster because of the huge amount of parallel development that is likely to occur.
Giving these designs physical form will become fast and easy due to emerging high-speed, flexible manufacturing techniques. As a result the open design ecosystem will effectively become an internet for physical items — and the impact on society is likely to be as great as the web has been with respect to information.
Economic realities discourage large corporations from being really innovative. Corporations are unlikely to risk spending money to develop anything for which there is not a proven market. However, enthusiasts and consumer/producers who make things for their own personal use are often highly innovative and willing to make very novel products. Music is a good example of this: corporate-produced pop music is repetitive and without imagination; innovative music only comes from amateurs who are doing it out of passion. Therefore an open collaborative economy allows faster and greater innovation than a profit-driven economy.
An open collaborative project is always a work in progress. Wikipedia, for example, is always being expanded, streamlined and improved. With a lot of different people contributing to it, it continually gets better and better in small increments. Multiple versions can be developed in parallel acting like an evolutionary system. Many experimental improvements may not turn out to be better, but those adopted with further iteration develop from promising or successful examples. The community of developers and users act as the selection mechanism.