Jun 29, 2012

Grandfather Didn't Know This Socialism

Don Tapscott kicked off TED Global 2012: Radical Openness with a great talk.

Especially touching was the last part of starling murmuration as an analogy to collective power accelerated by radical openness. I clearly saw the brighter future brought about by a higher level of human intelligence.


It's safe to guess that Tapscott used the starling murmuration as a correspondence with the notion from Biz Stone – a co-founder of Twitter Inc. He likened Twitter activity to a flock of birds with saying,
A flock of birds flying around an object in flight has no leader yet this beautiful, seemingly choreographed movement is the very embodiment of change. Rudimentary communication among individuals in real time allows many to move together as one--suddenly uniting everyone in a common goal.

Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine calls such a system ‘digital socialism’ and even associates it with a new engine of American innovation. It sounds bold enough to use the word ‘socialism’ in order to describe any aspects of Americans. But how is this time different? More than 150 years ago, Karl Marx had already made half the world dream of the utopia. To get the most, we need to be fully convinced that it is fundamentally different from the grandfather's socialism.


Given the positively shared name of ‘socialism’, benefits are considered to be the same. There are more efficient and secure production and distribution – knowledge creation and dissemination in the new mechanism. Therefore, the difference should lie in disadvantage.


Old-school socialism forced people to give up the nobility of individuality. We are not going to sacrifice it this time. While benefiting from collective power, we will also continue to enjoy our uniqueness, appreciate others’ specialities, and accept a certain level of inequality. So, how is this achieved?


In the old form, by definition, the means of production was owned and regulated by the central authority. But, we no longer need a centralized system for collective production over the Internet. Rather, peripherality is the nature of it. Every single activity happens on the edge. Interaction from edge to edge is the fundamental characteristic of the Internet. We are edglings. Moreover, although this is another big topic, no particular entity should own and control the Internet. I share the serious concern about the governance of the Internet discussed every so often. I believe human being has already been intelligent enough not to eliminate the revolutionary intelligent system.


Openness is another, much bigger factor. According to Tapscott, openness has four principles: collaboration, transparency, sharing, and empowerment. Each of these brings different advantages. The concept of openness itself is by no means exclusive to the Internet; instead, it is ancient value. I don’t think Marxism, in theory, required any closed systems; rather, centralization should have been compatible with openness. But, unfortunately such harmonization was far beyond the reality of human nature and they eventually ended up with detrimental isolations. But, this time is different; we are open to be united. As Stone indicated above, rudimentary communication over social media enables spontaneous, real-time, but temporary collaboration. Yes, it is a weak bond in a sense. But, I think it should be weak and flexible to avoid undesired lock-in and to retain individualism.


We are standing on a turning point of human evolution. At our disposal is whether to build a better world. What an exciting time we live in! Let's do this.

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