On Closed Systems & Freedom

I have been a busy, busy little bee. Ok I am not that little, but I have been busy.

Part One
Catching up on this past week’s reading in Wikinomics (by Tapscott and Williams), I took note of anything that struck me as I read. On page 238 I made a notation, “Unlimited Growth?” I am not sure in re-reading that page why I wrote that, but it does raise an interesting question, but first an illustration from life.

When I was in grade nine and introduced to the wonders of Biology (by a teacher who reminded us that we should not hold hands because eventually that could lead us to do things we would be sorry about later) and the Pond Experiment. We were required to get a jar and fill it with pond water. We were to make sure we got some plant life in there and a bit of pond muck too. Punching a few holes in the lid top ensured that the only thing in or out was air. Essentially a closed system (I know technically not, but for a bunch of grade niners it was close enough). On a bi-weekly basis we began to make a log of the organism count. At first, there were a nice number of floaty things under the slides. A couple of weeks later the number was skyrocketing, then suddenly a drop off to nill. Nothing. Nada. All gone. No life at all.

Economic systems are like that. I remember hearing an Amway presentation once. What happens if all the people in the world sign up, I asked. It just does not make sense to me. We cannot grow forever. Our economies cannot grow forever. (Unless we can start mining the moon) But, this new openness, peering, sharing and acting globally (is the rest of the globe on board?) has new possibilites. I know there are all kinds of people out there ready to make their bucks, but I think it also has the potential for all kinds of social change. I fear for it though. I think it is pretty fragile yet.

Part Two
Another thing I noted was the use of all the adjectives used to tell the Geek Squad story, beginning on page 241. As a former employee at a small tech company, I was one of three females (one web site designer, two programmers) among 15 males, I have the feeling that there are not too many female Geek Squaders.

With descriptions like, “Global domination,” “special agent badge,” “black clip-on tie,” “black ops,” “James Bond,” “all play Battlefield 2 online,” and “simultaneously fighting each other,” what do you think?

Part Three
Email at the workplace sucks. On page 252 Tapscott and Willimas quote Mayfield as saying that the average Fortune 500 employee spends 4 hours in their Inbox! Wow! The upside is that apparently many employees are using wikis to communicate without approval coming from up on high first. This is a good thing and I think it is also something that some of us have achieved in this course. Hey, how about a Ning, sounds good let’s do it, and poof there it is!

Part Four
Another section where I made copious notes was in the section titled “War on the open internet.” Again I am reminded that freedom is always bought at a cost. It never comes without a fight. I don’t mean a guns and blood fight (although that is sometimes necessary…my parents were freed from dictatorial occupation by people who used guns and spilled blood to do it), but one must be ever vigilant. If we want freedom, we will have to fight for it.

Wiki Wiki or Get Left Behind

Wikinomics, and the few pages required reading for SOCS300 was thought provoking. Already the margins marked with scribblings, question and exclamation marks.

Tapscott and Williams in their 2006 book, Wikinomics, show us the differences between the old model of economics and the newer models of mass collaboration. Top down management and hierarchies versus community, peering and sharing. A “Do what I say or I’ll smack you” and a “How do you think we can solve this problem?” contradiction. Tapscott and Williams point out that the market place is changing and the change is BIG. While they don’t use the Hadron Collider as an example in their book, the project does provide another picture of mass collaboration. The Hadron Collider project’s shear scope is impossible without the ideas, money and collaboration between multiple countries, scientists, and universities. Get on board, utilize the tools or eat your fear for breakfast.

What fascinates me is the human factor. The theory behind Wikinomics is based on mass collaboration. Not of the type that goes hand in hand with communism where individuality is suppressed, but the kind that wants, respects and values your particular ideas, in order to make the end concept or commodity better. It sounds Utopian. Equality based on your unique experiences and knowledge, not your gender, pigment, country of origin, or level of education.

Meeting together with people from other parts of the globe and sharing ideas will mean that ideas about politics and culture are shared too. Good ideas as well as bad ones can flow in both directions and it’s not like the west has all the good ideas. Or the bad ones.

Importantly we must be careful that we do not remain “westcentric” in our thinking. Case in point, Massively Collaborative Direct Democracy has a web site advocating the exploration of a massively collaborative direct democracy. The problem is that the site is in English only, implying a minimum level of literacy in English. It is on a web site requiring a computer and internet connection. It is “opt-in.” While it may not occur to us in the West, in most parts of the developing world education is still a premium and don’t even talk about the education of girls. I mean have at it, but remember it will not be inclusive, but exclusive.