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.

Jun 9, 2012

Social Media does Count in Business

A few weeks ago, after the group research presentation, I was asked a question about whether the traceability system in a food supply chain made financial sense. And the answer was yes not only because it could minimize negative impacts of food safety issues, but also because data collated through the system would be utilized so that more efficient coordination could be achieved. In either aspects, the key were shared information and relationships among the chain participants. Given the time constraint, Hamish (our lecturer) didn’t go further about ‘How?’, but I was prepared to touch on social media.

According to Kimball and Rheingold, when we encounter a problem, basically we need to first:
  1. Find out ‘who knows who knows what’ in order to ask questions.
  2. and then,
  3. Prepare a legitimate reason for the people who know the answer to share it.
These are where the value of our social capital is to be tested. If we share norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness in a given network, we will find solutions quickly. The richer our social capital, the more efficient problem-solvings.

Remember, the central thesis of social capital theory is ‘relationships matter’. And what we do with various social media is all about connections/relationships. Therefore, online social networks, which are inherently worldwide and more sophisticated means of networking, can globalize and accelerate both processes in problem solving. This is just an example of why social media does matter for businesses, but tells us a very strong bearing.

Jun 7, 2012

Technology as an Agent of Change

The title is one of my favorite statements Niall Cook made in his ‘Enterprise 2.0’. He went on saying,
Did people have videos cluttering up their hard drives just waiting to be free before YouTube came along? No. YouTube was the catalyst for an explosion in amateur video production amongst the masses.
Very true. Definitely not the other way around. Especially, in the age where markets are empowered by the Internet, we're not allowed to just expect technology to support the changes we are instilling if we hope to stay in business because:
markets are getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies
The Cluetrain Manifesto
Thus, we should use technology as a driver of change; otherwise, “innovations” would become obsolete as soon as they reach maturity.

Last few months, I have a co-worker on a couple of projects. She & I have different backgrounds from other students, and a bit older I mean maturer. Nonetheless I'm a reasonably ordinary guy, I suppose. However, no one could understand before actually observing her days how she's been social-networking in the real world. That's a phenomenon indeed.

She can’t help going to a birthday party in the very evening when a massive co-project is due in order to increase her most valuable asset – social capital. Regardless of situations I have to spend certain time as a share & currency trader to make a living, and as a technology advocate to catch up with a fast evolving domain.

These are our markets. We are no longer in the ivory tower, rather in the midst of real societies as students. So, every jobs need to be done more quickly. But we've got ample spirit of inquiry at the same time. We do want to learn.

As one of the solutions, Google Docs has been a tool, through which we can see how the other constructs arguments in real time; i.e. we can directly learn from on-going processes without explanations at a later time. This is far more efficient. This is a modern form of collaboration. This is the means whereby we learn in the era.

Google Docs is a dead simple but powerful collaborative application, way ahead of a conventional wiki. I guess when we first used the tool she probably didn’t have much experience. But she just used it, collaborated with me, and learned much. This was a manifestation of the old notion – a good tool is simple then changes our behavior.

Technology has already revolutionized the world but I firmly believe the biggest time hasn’t come yet.