There’s something wonderful about tool making. It hits the sweetspot between creativity, egineering and meaningful activity. When you create something that allows you to accomplish something that you couldn’t do before, a sense of empowerment is felt. “I’m the only person in the world who can do this!”, and then an irresistible urge to share it with the world comes.
Why would you want to share something that gives you competitive advantage? Finding pleasure in extending the natural capabilities of our kin is—I suspect—in our genes. Some people have found ways of gaining monetary and status out of it, but tool makers are not primarily driven by these incentives. The jaded person sees otherwise, but this is because he has never experienced it in flesh. If a person were to put a hundred million dollars on the table for something objectively innovative in a specific domain, it is unlikely that somebody with more passion for money than the domain itself could come up with an innovative solution.
Open source is born out of this phenomena (bias, some people would call it). Very little prestige, status or money is gained by sharing your code, in fact it’s quite the opposite: users demand features, support, updates but very little is offered in return. Some Open Source developers nothing short of modern saints: infinite talent accompanied by infinite patience, pure manifestation of divine attributes.
In ancient, prehistoric times there was a stone technology called Oldowan, it was little more than crudely but deliberately shaped rocks. We lived with this technology for more than a million years. Then a new technique gradually emerged, paleontologists call it “Achulean”. These are carefully flinted bifaces which require planning and fine motor skills to accomplish.
Looking at images of Achulean tools, their aesthetics are self evident. We can imagine one of the tool makers come upon with this solution, and his immediate desire to show it off to his mates.