In biology, the individual organism is ephemeral. Each individual is incredibly fragile, and has a built-in limited lifespans, not to mention a good chance of meeting with accidental death at any moment.

The only things that matter, that have at least a shot at longevity, are genes (and species, really).

With humans, again, the individual, while certainly extremely important, is very fragile and limited in lifespan (just ask Tolkien's Ringwraiths, "Nine for Mortal Men, doomed to die" and all that). Genes certainly matter (the importance of family). But in addition, memes (in the Dawkins sense, as ideas and units of cultural propagation) become incredibly important, and offer another venue for longevity.

To put it another way, the effect of an individual on the world is threefold: their actions during their lifetime, their propagated genes (arguably the least important), and their cultural legacy (their propagated memes, the ideas and memories they leave behind). If "cultural legacy" sounds too grand or abstract, remember that it operates on the tiniest of scales. If you have a child, how you raise it and the things that you teach it (this becomes a part of your cultural legacy, the memes that you propagate) is much more important than the genes it inherits. On a smaller scale, that book you lent to your friend's kid? You know the one, that sparked off their lifelong love of scifi and fantasy, or of problem solving, or poetry, or riding horses, or whatever? That's a part of your cultural legacy. Obviously, if you wrote that book, your legacy is even greater. But in the world of memes and ideas, curation, rebroadcasting, analysis and commentary, are almost as important as actual idea creation.

Sidenote: if one wanted to rank those three factors (actions, genes, memes) in the order of importance (a questionably useful endeavour), I would argue that an individual's cultural legacy, the ideas and memes, are of the highest import, and leave the largest influence. Certainly more important than genes (unless you're Magneto, and your kids can somehow inherit a never-before-seen genetic mutation that can save the world). And more important than individual actions. Think of history's high-impact individuals, like Margaret Thatcher, Alexander the Great, Martin Luther King or Eleanor of Acquitaine. These were no slouches, when it came to individual actions and their effect on the world. But consider how much greater the impact of their cultural legacy is. Of the ideas, laws and concepts that came into the world as a result of their actions.

Now consider the world of technology, specifically software.

As engineers and developers, we spend so much of our time involved in specific tech stacks. Endlessly debating the merits of a particular tool, programming language, framework, infrastucture components or applications.

Here's my point: individual systems, applications, and frameworks don't matter that much. But formats, standards and protocols are holy (whether de-facto or de-jure). (Similarly, the ability to export and import, is the single most important feature that your software can have). This is related to the concept of living software, though different in emphasis.

In terms of impact and longevity, the importance of standards and protocols over individual applications is the equivalent to the importance of genes and species over individual organisms, or to the importance of cultural legacy and memes over a person's genes or individual actions.

MySQL and Postgres? Yes, they're important, sort of. But only because of the ANSI SQL standard. (And because of the CSV format for importing/exporting data between them).

The Mosaic browser, Netscape, IE, Firefox or Chrome? Again, also important. But only insofar as they implement the HTTP protocol and the HTML/CSS/ECMAscript formats. (And especially important in the battle for those protocols and formats, using the usual weapons of embrace-and-extend, nonstandard features and so on).

Pay attention to these. Formats, standards and protocols are an important battleground, one that does not receive enough attention in our open source culture. Identify and stake out the crucial ones, and protect them. Get involved in their formation and implementation (again, you can have an enormous influence by just writing a useful library such as Markdown, even if you don't have a seat on a W3C standards workgroup).