Wednesday, August 31, 2005

It's A Free World After All

I used to send newsletters monthly to my subscribers of my Creative Thinking and Innovation web sites. They are and For some time now, I have been kicking around the idea of doing something different with the newsletters. I wanted to do a “Video Newsletter”, a 2 minute or so video that describes one of the tools I teach in workshop or just some interesting story about Creativity and Innovation.

But I am not a technology guru (although lately I am starting to feel a little more like a nerd) so the whole video thing started to scare me a little. So I decided to do some investigation and see what I could learn. I discovered a few months earlier that editing video from a technical point of view is a whole lot easier that I thought it was. For those of you that don’t know, Windows Movie Maker II is already on your computer for free if you have Windows XP. Just look under “Programs” and “Accessories” on your computer.

Also I bought Pinnacle Studio 9 for about $70 which is really cool as well.

Now I didn’t really know anything about blogs, so I started there. I went to and set up a simple site. Ironically I picked the same template Paul uses for this Innovation Commons. My site is don’t pick on the site, it’s just a test to see if I can figure out this whole video thing.

Now here is the really cool thing. Are you ready? I found you can store all of the text, pictures, music, and VIDEOS you want on the internet for free!

Here is the story. I was doing some research on video blogging and found the web site (for the guys out there, she is not too bad on the eyes either). Rocketboom is one of the most popular videoblogs on the internet.

I asked Amanda about videoblogging and how to get started. She told me to go to and watch the tutorials. OK this guy is a little goofy, but the tutorials are a great help.

Now watching the videos I learned you can store all of you video and any other content to for free. I have been familiar with this site for a long time. The original intent of this site was to be the “Digital Library of Congress.” They go out and scan web sites and make a historical record of them.

They have a cute name for it, “The Wayback Machine”, you remember “Professor Peabody and his pet boy Sherman.”

This thing is backed by the Smithsonian, National Science Foundation, private investors and bunch of others as far as I can tell. I read that they are adding 20 Terabytes of data a month and that was a few years ago ! You can do you own research on the genesis and story behind it..

I knew you could always upload material to, but it was a major pain in the #%^%! And you had to be an IT guru, … = Nerd.

Not anymore.

This free interface called allows you to upload stuff real easy. This is their tag line “We provide free storage and free bandwidth for your videos, audio files, photos, text or software. Forever. No catches.”

So here’s the steps to build a simple web site and upload anything you want for free;

#1 Go to and watch the tutorials. Free

#2 Go to and set up a blog if you don’t have one already. It will take you 5 minutes. Free

#3 Go to and set up an account, again only a few minutes. Free

#4 Go to and set up an account. Ditto and you can use the same password. You guessed it..Free.

Now just writing this article and searching for all of the web addresses again, I found a ton of other sites that talk about the same stuff. For example, this one I haven’t even had time to look at it myself.

Got to go, I’ve got some more research to do.

p.s. Yes my spelling and grammar sucks, please let me know and I’ll fix it.

Mark L. Fox
Discover Something New

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What is an Innovation Commons?

An innovation commons is a space (physical or virtual) that enables innovation through the mutual and interdependent creativity of its members. It has the following characteristics:

  • Open system (bounded)
  • Everyone contributes
  • Everyone can use the results
  • Members who don’t contribute are excluded
  • Fluid & flexible
  • An abundant resource system
Other names that people have used to describe this type of system are open source, open innovation, democratic innovation, inclusive innovation, peer to peer (P2P), smart mobs and free agent collaboration. I think that the innovation commons concept, whatever it ends up being named, is one of the most important developments in how people work together.

Some attempts at creating an innovation commons have been successful, but most have failed. Why? What are principles of a successful innovation commons?

Currently I am conducting a survey of the values of a successful innovation commons. This survey requires thought and will take you 20 to 30 minutes to complete. I ask you to rank 125 values of a successful innovation commons. You'll find the values themselves and the process of rating the values interesting and useful. The values are general and can be applied to any organizational use. In addition, if you provide me your name and e-mail address when you take the survey, I will send you a copy of the final results. In addition, if you join the Innovation Commons Network, you'll be able to participate in all of the activities and benefits of the network including the free web conference.

To take the survey click here.

To join the network, send me an e-mail requesting to join.

What is an Innovation Commons?

An innovation commons is a space (physical or virtual) that enables innovation through the mutual and interdependent creativity of its members. It has the following characteristics:

  • Open system (bounded)
  • Everyone contributes
  • Everyone can use the results
  • Members who don’t contribute are excluded
  • Fluid & flexible
  • An abundant resource system

Other names that people have used to describe this type of system are open source, open innovation, democratic innovation, inclusive innovation, peer to peer (P2P), smart mobs and free agent collaboration. I think that the innovation commons concept, whatever it ends up being named, is one of the most important developments in how people work together.

Some attempts at creating an innovation commons have been successful, but most have failed. Why? What are principles of a successful innovation commons?

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Stranger

Strangers play important roles in our life. Sometimes they are a threat. Sometimes they provide a missing part of a puzzle we're working on. And, sometimes they become long term friends.

People who study mythology and psychology have indicated that the core of our mixed feelings about the stranger goes back to early conceptions of god. God is the ultimate stranger, the ultimate other. God's power is so immense that we must be separate from it. Is that power a threat? Will that power provide a boon? Or will I travel through life hand in hand with that power?

Tribal societies taught their children to view strangers as threats. We still do the same thing with our children. Wild rumors and myths inflame our fear of strangers, like the myth about poisoned candy at Halloween (it never happened). Nations and societies treat the other as threats and turn them into enemies. It seems our world is full of that right now.

The movie Virgin Spring had an immense impact on me as a young person. Ingmar Bergman was a master of creating lasting images, in this case of fear. In this movie, a young woman is raped and murdered by strangers who were befriended by the girl's father. In a fit of rage, he tracks them down and kills them, fighting all three at once in hand to hand combat. These kind of moral tales fill our history and exist into our present.

In the hero's journey, strangers provide the first two roles. Sometimes they are enemies to be vanquished and sometimes they are there to provide a boon - a clue, information, a linkage to someone else, a key, a magic elixir, a tool, a weapon, etc. The involvement may be very brief, or the stranger may travel with you for awhile on your quest until it becomes time for them to continue or their quest, or leave you to go your way alone. You must encounter the stranger to complete your journey.

Many of the Western movies are based on this concept. Consider The Lone Ranger, Shane and many of the Clint Eastwood movies. In "Just Plain Shane", William McIntosh wrote, "Mythic energy surrounds the stranger as a type; he might represent an entry into a higher level of consciousness, or the original state of man on earth, or the coming power of the future, or a possibility of unseen change."

Sometimes this brief meeting with a stranger is called synchronicity. In reality the opportunity for the benefit (or threat) of a stranger is always there for us, if we are on a quest and we are open to what the world is providing to us.

In a few rare cases the stranger becomes a long time friend, maybe even a lifelong friend.

Some societies consider the youth of their society strangers. In way they are. They do not know the customs, the rituals, the ways. The young stranger goes through an initiation into the society, sometimes even with sexual union being part of the process. At the fundamental level, young stranger represents new blood into the society and their initiation may end with the process of creating new life. Also, the young represent new ideas, new ways, that will be integrated in the tribe.

Nouk Bassomb, an African storyteller and student of Central African cultures reported in "The God with Two Faces", quoting an elder's response about the stranger, "when people await a cat, the stranger manifests himself as a lion, and when the village prepares for the lion, here comes a cat, or a hyena, laughing in the night." "A god, the stranger is the spirit of the world in motion," he wrote.

Mark Nepo in the "Bridge of Well-Being" wrote, "One of the great paradoxes of being is that each of us is born complete and yet we need contact with life in order to be whole. This, then, is the purpose of the stranger; to enliven what is dormant within us. It is our responsibility to maintain that newly awakened consciousness, and to integrate the fibers of hard-earned expereince into the fabric of a living spirit.

The word stranger denotes a living embodiment of that which is strange - from the Old French, estrange, extraordinary. Thus the stranger functions as an unexpected messenger who can embody or mirror what is extraordinary within us, what is possible but yet unlived."

In the "Stranger as a Pathfinder", Elaine Jahner writes that societies prove "...their continuing vigilance over processes that contemporary psychologists recognize as anxiety arising from our response to the uncanny, an anxiety all too easily projected onto the figure of the stranger or foreigner. In Strangers to Ourselves, Julia Kristeva analyzes this experience from a psychoanalytic and historical perspective. She advances her belief that we need a cosmopolitanism, which recognizes that our encounters with strangers are always bound up with how we encounter evidence from our own unconscious.

'Neither the apocalypse on the move nor the instant adversary to be eliminated for the sake of appeasing the group, [the stranger or foreigner] lives within us; he is the hidden face of our identity, the space that wrecks our abode, the time in which understanding and affinity founder. By recognizing him within ourselves, we are spared detesting him in himself.'

She engages in historical analysis to show how different societies have taught people to understand what a stranger might signify. The contemporary world, though requires that we become conscious of how we react in relation to the stranger and that we unlearn some old habits; 'by recognizing our uncanny strangeness we shall neither suffer from it nor enjoy it from the outside.' Learning how to relate to the stranger and/or foreigner is the most pressing of our contemporary concerns."

Learning how to relate to the stranger and/or foreigner is the most pressing of our contemporary concerns. We now know that the contribution of strangers to collaborative groups is essential. We've known for years that the presence of the stranger takes creativity in new directions, as the ancient knew it did our generativity. An innovation commons must be safe so that strangers can welcomed without the threat of harm. And, we have to unlearn what we've been socialized to learn, to fear the stranger.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

A Simpler Way

A Simpler Way
Margaret Wheatley & Myron Kellner-Rogers
Berrett-Koehler, 1996

This is a beautiful book with beautiful pictures and mental images. It is a hopeful book, and it is a profound book. Its mission is no less than to change our paradigm from competition to collaboration in how we perceive, think and act in all that we do. The authors' opening line is "We want life to be less arduous and more delightful. We want to be able to think differently about how to organize human activities."

They question the "survival of the fittest" paradigm for evolution and our mechanistic view of the world. "The mechanistic image of the world is a very deep image, planted at subterranean depths in most of us. But it doesn't help us any longer."

The authors pose the question, "How could we organizes human endeavor if we developed different understandings of how life organizes itself?" They have six beliefs about human organizations and the world in which they come into form:

"The universe is a living, creative, experimenting expereince of discovering what's possible at all levels of scale from microbe to cosmos.

Life's natural tendency is to organize. Life organizes into greater levels of complexity to support more diversity and greater sustainability.

Life organizes around a self. Organizing is always an act of creating an identity.

Life self-organizes. Networks, patterns, and structures emerge without external imposition or direction. Organization wants to happen.

People are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, and meaning seeking.

Organizations are living systems. They too are intelligent, creative, adaptive, self-organizing, meaning-seeking."

They argue that life has a natural and spontaneous tendency towards organization. "Whatever chaos is present at the start, when elements combine, systems of organization appear. Life is attracted to order - order gained through wandering explorations into new relationships and new possibilities."

The central part of the book is organized around a poem by A. R. Ammons:

"I look for the way
things will turn
out spiraling from a center,
the shape
things will take to come forth in

so that the birch tree white
touched black at branches
will stand out
totally its apparent self:

I look for the forms
things want to come as

from what black wells of possibility
how a thing will

not the shape on paper - though
that, too - but the
uninterfering means on paper:

not so much looking for the shape
as being available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours."

The authors write, "Life is creative. It plays itself into existence, seeking new relationships, new capacities, new traits. Life is an experiment to discover what's possible."

They believe Darwinism has led us to believe that life wasn't supposed to happen, that it was an accident, and that life has to fight to continue to exist. In their view, "Life is about invention, not survival. We are here to create, not defend."

They point out that all of us are trying to describe our reality to others. But reality outside of us, in an absolute sense, evades us. "We peer out through our senses, describing our experiences of what we think reality to be. We choose images to convey our expereince. We create metaphors to connect what we see. We explore new ways of understanding what seems to be happening and what we think it means."

Peering out at the world, they describe seven principles of life's process of creating:

"Everything is in a constant process of discovery and creating. Everything is changing all the time: individuals, systems, environments, the rules, the processes of evolutions. Even change changes. Every organism reinterprets the rules, creates exceptions for itself, creates new rules.

Life uses messes to get well-ordered solutions. Life doesn't seem to share our desires for efficiency or neatness. It uses redundancy, fuzziness, dense webs of relationships, unending trials and errors to find what works.

Life is intent on finding what works, not what's 'right'. It is the ability to keep finding solutions that is important; any one solution is temporary. There are no permanently right answers. The capacity to keep changing, to find what works now, is what keeps any organism alive.

Life creates more possibilities as it engages with opportunities. There are no 'windows of opportunity', narrow openings in the fabric of space-time that soon disappear forever. Possibilities beget more possibilities; they are infinite.

Life is attracted to order. It experiments until it discovers how to form a system that can support diverse members. Individuals search out a wide range of possible relationships to discover whether they can organize into life-sustaining system. These explorations continue until a system is discovered. The system then provides stability for its members, so that individuals are less buffeted by change.

Life organizes around identity. Every living thing acts to develop and preserve itself. Identity is the filter that every organism or system uses to make sense of the world. New information, new relationships, changing environments - all are interpreted through a sense of self. This tendency toward self-creation is so strong that it creates a seeming paradox. An organism will change to maintain its identity.

Everything participates in the creation and evolution of its neighbors. There are no unaffected outsiders. No one system dictates conditions to another. All participate together in creating the conditions of their interdependence."

"There is no ideal design for anything, just interesting combinations that arise as a living thing explores it space of possibilities", Wheatley and Kellner-Rogers write, a combination of words that could be used to describe how an organization innovates.

Their assertion is that "life tinkers itself into existence". "It tinkers toward order - toward systems that are more complex and effective...Almost always what begins in randomness ends in stability...generates systems that sustain diverse individuals." But they conclude, "Life seeks order in a disorderly way."

"All this messy playfulness creates relationships that make more available...," they write. "Who we become together will always be different that who we were alone. Our range of creative expression increases as we join with others. New relationships create new capacities."

"Life invites us to create not only the forms but even the process of discovery," they conclude. "The environment is invented by our presence in it. We do not parachute into a sea of turbulence, to sink or swim. We and our environments become one system, each influencing the other, each co-determining the other." Living systems they believe create more possibilities and more freedom for individuals.

In this systems behaviors emerge. "Science writer Kevin Kelly describes these systems as a 'messy cascade of interdependent events ...What emerges from the collective is not a series of critical individual actions but a multitude of simultaneous actions whose collective pattern is far more important'."

One of the important features of viable living systems is simultaneity. "Simultaneity reduces the impact of any one error. More errors matter less if the actors are not linked together sequentially. The space for experimentation increases as we involve more minds in the experiment, as long as they can operate independently. What links people together is their focus on a needed solution. But in discovering what works, they are not waiting for one another to act."

They very carefully describe the discipline of play required for success. "Playful tinkering requires consciousness. If we are not mindful, if our attention slips, then we can't notice what's available or discover what's possible. Staying present is the discipline of play. Great concentration and focus are required." As a result, "Playful enterprises are alert. They are open to information, always seeking more, yearning for surprises."

Over and over again they stress the role that diversity plays in creation. "Parallel process requires both diversity and freedom. There is more than one workable solution, and these solutions arise from many different forms of self-expression...Life is not driving us toward one solution. The world is interested in pluralism. Only in this way can it discover more about itself...The world's desire for diversity compels us to change."

Systems offer the possibility for more stability. But in a curious paradox, that stability for the system depends upon its member's ability to change. "When individuals fail to experiment or when a system refuses their offers of new ideas, then the system becomes moribund. Without constant, interior change, it sinks into the death grip of equilibrium. It no longer participates in coevolution. The system becomes vulnerable; its destruction is self-imposed...This broad paradox of stability and freedom is the stage on which coevolution dances. Life leaps forward when it can share its learnings. The dense web of systems allow information to travel in all directions, speeding recovery and adaptation."

If systems of life are self-organizing then we don't have to design how they will organize. We live in a universe where we get order for free. "If order is for free, we don't have to be the organizers. We don't have to design the world. We don't have to structure its existence."

And, in a prescription for systems that has a lot to do with an innovation commons, "As we organize, we need to keep inquiring into the quality of our relationships. How much access do we have to one another? How much trust exists among us? Who else needs to be in the room?"

"Stability is found in freedom - not in conformity and compliance. We may have thought that our organization's survival was guaranteed by finding the right form and insisting that everyone fit into it. But sameness is not stability. It is individual freedom that creates stable systems. It is diffferentness that enables us to thrive," they propose.

In writing about self, they suggest, "Life wants to happen. It calls itself into existence. Out of all information and all possibilities, an entity comes into form. An identity emerges. A self has created itself...No externally imposed plans or designs are required. The process of invention always takes place around an identity. There is a self that seeks to organize and make its presence known. The desires of self set a self-organizing world into motion."

Research suggests that we perceive the world based on who we have decided to be, " any moment, what we see is most influenced by who we have decided to be...At least 80 percent of the information that the brain works with is information already in the brain." The corollary to this is that "We will change our self if we believe that the change will preserve the self."

In answering the question about what conditions will allow self-organization to flourish, they state "We need to trust that we are self organizing...We live in a world where attraction is ubiquitous. Organization wants to happen. People want their lives to mean something. We seek one another to develop new capacities. With all these wonderful and innate desires calling us to organize, we can stop worrying about designing perfect structures or rules. We need to become intrigued by how we create a clear and coherent identity, a self that we can organize around...Identity includes such dimensions as history, values, actions, core beliefs, competencies, principles, purpose, mission...Identity is the source of organizations. Every organization is an identity in motion, moving through the world, trying to make a difference."

In search of that illusive concept of emergence, they write, "Emergence is the surprising capacity we discover only when we join together. New systems have properties that appear suddenly and mysteriously. These properties cannot be predicted. They do not exist in the individuals who compose the system. What we know about the individuals, no matter how rich the details, will never give us the ability to predict how they will behave as a system. Once individuals link together they become something different.

One of the current quandaries facing free, open collaboratives is compensation. It is very clear that participants benefit in many other tangible and intangible ways from the collaboration. However, in our present form of capitalism, no standard form of monetary compensation has emerged. The authors don't provide much hope of one being developed, "Once systems are called into the world by our individual explorations, it becomes impossible to work backwards. Systems cannot be deconstructed. We can't figure out cause and effect or who contributed what. There are no heroes or permanent leaders in an emergent, systems creating world. There are too many simultaneous connection; individual contributions evolve too rapidly into group efforts."

We often talk about synergy in a group, where 1 + 1 > 2. Their paradigm revolutionizes the way to think about a system, "A system is an inseparable whole. It is not the sum of its parts. It is not greater than the sum of its parts. There is nothing to sum. There are no parts. The system is a new and different and unique contribution to its members and the world. To search backwards in time for its parts is to deny the self transforming nature of systems. A system is knowable only as itself. It is irreducible. We can't disentangle the effects of so many relationships. The connections never end. They are impossible to understand by analysis."

In amplifying their concept that self-organizing systems merge through trust, they write, "Every act of organizing is an experiment. We begin with desire, with a sense of purpose and direction. But we enter the expereince vulnerable, unprotected by the illusionary cloak of prediction. We acknowledge that we don't know how this work will actually unfold. We discover what we are capable of as we go along. We engage others in the experiment. We are willing to commit to a systems whose effectiveness cannot be seen until it is in systems of trust, people are free to create the relationships they need. Trust enables the system to open. The system expands to include those it had excluded. More conversations - more diverse and diverging views - become important. People decide to work with those from whom they have been separate."

We long for meaning in our lives. "Each of us embodies the boundless energies of life. We are creating, systems-seeking, self-organizing, meaning-seeking beings. We are identities in motion, searching for the relationships that will evoke more from us."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I just recently read the book by James Billington, Russia: In Search of Itself. This is a great book, very readable with wonderful insights into Russia's past, present and potential futures.

This is not a book review for this short piece could not do justice to this important book. Rather this essay develops just one line of thought from the book about the concept of sobornost' - an idea that may have some bearing on the innovation commons.

In the 1920s, Vladimir Vernadsky developed "his increasingly visionary idea that man was not only an organic part of the biosphere but also an immaterial force in the 'noosphere', where everything is determined by the interaction between the human mind and the material world. Multiple conferences and even special institutes have arisen in post Soviet Russia to discuss the moral and spiritual implications of living in the noosphere. The discussion has involved more people more deeply in Russia than did the earlier consideration of the similar ideas of Teilhard de Chardin in the West."

Later, Billington writes, "Ivanov sees in the concept of the noosphere the key to global collaboration both in solving common problems and in restoring the imbalance in modern culture between the two hemispheres of the brain. 'The current high status of the left side of the brain' results from the written, alphabetized means of communication that supplanted humanity's earlier oral and pictorial ways of communicating. The new audiovisual culture of the late twentieth century opens up the possibility of restoring the right side of the brain to a co-equal role. Harmony within the individual could facilitate harmony in the noosphere."

He continues, "In the later Soviet era, V. V. Ivanov had helped pioneer the innovative movement of humanistic scholarship called semiotics (the science of signs). Seeking to apply the discipline of linguistics to other forms of human thought and expression, this informal school met in the relatively free atmosphere of Tartu, Estonia... Semiotics was seen as a means of unifying knowledge, and of rendering the noosphere intelligible as a 'semiosphere'."

In March 2002 Alexander Dugin, in describing his new Eurasia political party, believed that "Intensive scientific development in this Union will lead Eurasia both forward to economic modernization and back to traditional village values. And the Internet will permit economic activity to return from decadent cities to healthy rural locations."

In writing about Russia's travails in search of a democratic identity, Billington writes, Some advocates of a democratic rather than an authoritarian future for Russia buttress their case with new theories about the 'noosphere'. The prolific economist Yury Yahovets argues that all past theories about inevitable conflicts and the rise and fall of civilizations are now obsolete. The broad cycles in human affairs (the sociosphere) and in the natural world (the biosphere) are being superceded by the interaction of the human mind with the cosmos (the noosphere). All of mankind is now reaching 'through the storms to the stars'.

The ecological crisis has become global and cannot be resolved by either arrogant central planners or the 'uncontrollable randomness of the market'. Nor can one rely on the naive 'eco-centrism' of those who see science and technology as part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Questions must now be resolved collaboratively between nations and disciplines in the noosphere, 'the sphere that determines the influences of human thought and activity on biospheric processes'.

...Russia has the resources and talent to replicate this model on a larger scale and validate it for multiethnic countries - and perhaps even for the world as a whole."

Later, he introduces the concept of sobornost', "The spirit of togetherness engendered by local, cooperative activity was seen by many Russians as the expression of an indigenous tradition that they call sobornost'. This is a Slavophile-originated term derived from the word sobor, a word with multiple meanings of cathedral, council, and the simple gathering in of people or of things that had previously been scattered. It expresses a desire to find a measure of common purpose for a people and a culture long rent with splits and schisms. It provides a post-Soviet generation with a social ideal that is different from either Eastern collectivism or Western individualism. And it suggests that there is a spiritual dimension to nonpolitical, small-scale human community.

The basic human embodiment of the sobornost' ideal is the family. Family happiness was the ideal of much nineteenth-century Russian literature. The persistent integrity of the family throughout the twentieth century protected the Russian people from some of the intrusive inhumanity of the Soviet system. But sobernost' is thought to be exemplified in a wide variety of communal undertakings ranging from the camaraderie of pioneering construction work in harsh climates to the intense discussion of proscribed ideals in small urban circles.

Semion Frank, one of the most important neglected thinkers of the late imperial period, argued in the emigration that sobornost', 'the choral principle in Russian life', was not just an ideal from the past but a force for the future. Sobornost' overcame the potential hostility between the I and Thou with a kind of organic, spiritual unity that differed from 'sociality' (obshchestvernost') in which isolated individuals are aggregated into materialistic interest groups.

...sobornost' describes the kind of communion with others that is open to an individual seeking to discover what St. Augustine described as that which is within me which is deeper than myself. For others seeking a 'third way' between socialism and capitalism, sobornost' represents an indigenous communitarian ideal on which to base a humane, social democratic future."

In his conclusion, Billington writes, "Frank's belief that sobornost' begins with spiritual transformation within individuals rather than material changes in society...All of these Russian thinkers - and many others yet to be discovered - contribute not just to their own, but also to European and world civilization."

Russia: In Search of Itself
James H. Billington
Woodrow Wilson Press, 2004

Friday, August 19, 2005

Inclusive Innovation

Posted by Jeff De Cagna in Fast Company

If I'm not "personally brilliant," is there a role for me to play in the work of innovation?

I certainly hope and believe the answer is yes. If we're going to talk about distributed, collaborative "open innovation" that transcends the old-school proprietary R&D approach, then we need to think about how to make innovation as inclusive as possible, allowing everyone to connect to the work in ways that feel personally authentic to those individuals. I don't believe that we should try to limit involvement in innovation (intentionally or otherwise) to only the select few people who possess the "right" combination of genetic traits, personal attributes or learned skills.

As I wrote in a post yesterday, not everyone working on innovation needs to be a wild-eyed, right-brain creative power-brainstomer/prototyper. Innovation demands all kinds of talents, and I think we should look for ways to capitalize on all of them. Our organizations truly cannot afford to waste any brain cells.

Friday, August 12, 2005

P2P and Human Evolution

P2P and Human Evolution: Peer to Peer as the Premise of a New Mode of Civilization
Michel Bauwens

"The following essay describes the emergence, or expansion, of a specific type of relational dynamic, which I call peer to peer. It’s a form of human network-based organization which rests upon the free participation of equipotent partners, engaged in the production of common resources, without recourse to monetary compensation as key motivating factor, and not organized according to hierarchical methods of command and control. This format is emerging throughout the social field: as a format of technology (the point to point internet, file sharing, grid computing, the Writeable Web initiatives, blogs), as a third mode of production which is also called Commons-based peer production (neither centrally planned nor profit-driven), producing hardware, software (often called Free Libre Open Sources Software or FLOSS) and intellectual and cultural resources (wetware) that are of great value to humanity (GNU/Linux, Wikipedia), and as a general mode of knowledge exchange and collective learning which is massively practiced on the internet. It also emerges as new organizational formats in politics, spirituality; as a new ‘culture of work’. This essay thus traces the expansion of this format, seen as a "isomorphism" (= having the same format), in as many fields as possible. But it does more than that: it tries to provide an explanatory framework of why it is emerging now, and how it fits in a wider evolutionary framework."

This is the first paragraph of an extraordinary essay written by Michel Bauwens. He considers P2P as the technological framework of what he calls "Cognitive Capitalism", a new evolutionary form of capitalism (the first two being merchant capitalism and industrial capitalism), P2P in the economic sphere, P2P in the political sphere, P2P in the cosmic sphere, P2P in the sphere of culture and self, and P2P and social change. The essay is 44 pages loaded with new thoughts. Ideas and networks of ideas spin fluidly from his writing. At this point, I have no way of knowing whether is right or not, but his ideas are provocative and certainly worth learning and discussing.

He makes the bold assertion that "P2P is nothing less than a premise of a new type of civilization that is not exclusively geared towards the profit motive."

The framework he uses is based on Ken Wilber's four quadrant system - subjective (evolution of self and subjectivity), materiality of a single organism (objectivity), intersubjective (the interaction of groups of subjectivities and the worldviews and cultures they create), and interobjective (behaviors of groups).

"My modified form of the four-quadrant system starts with the 'exterior-individual', i.e. single objects in space and time, i.e. the evolution of the material basis of the universe, life, and mind (the evolution from atoms to molecules to cells etc..), but in my personal modification, this quadrant includes technological evolution, as I (and others such as McLuhan) can legitimately see technology as an extension of the human body. Second, we will look at the systems (exterior-collective) quadrant: the evolution of natural, political, economic, social and organizational systems. Third, we will look at the exterior-collective quadrant: human culture, spiritualities, philosophies, worldviews. In the fourth quadrant we will be discussing the interior-individual aspects, and we look at changes occurring within the sphere of the self. However, in practice, despite my stated intention, I have found it difficult to separate individual and collective aspects of subjectivity and they are provisionally treated in one section. That this is so is not surprising, since one of the aspects of peer to peer is it participative nature, which sees the individual always-already embedded in social processes."

He defines peer to peer in this way. " It is a specific form of relational dynamic, is based on the assumed equipotency of its participants, organized through the free cooperation of equals in view of the performance of a common task, for the creation of a common good. P2P is a network, not a hierarchy; it is decentralized; it a specific form of network using distributive intelligence: intelligence is located at any center, but everywhere within the system. Assumed equipotency means that P2P systems start from the premise that 'it doesn't know where the needed resource will be located', it assumes that 'everybody' can cooperate, and does not use formal rules in advance to determine its participating members. Equipotency, i.e. the capacity to cooperate, is verified in the process of cooperation itself. Validation of knowledge, acceptance of processes, are determined by the collective. Cooperation must be free, not forced, and not based on neutrality (i.e. the buying of cooperation in a monetary system). It exists to produce something. These are a number of characteristics that we can use to describe P2P systems 'in general', and in particular as it emerges in the human lifeworld. To have a good understanding of P2P, I suggest the following mental exercise, think about these characteristics, then about their opposites. So doing, the radical innovative nature of P2P springs to mind. Though P2P is related to earlier social modes, those were most in evidence in the early tribal era, and it now emerges in an entirely new context, enabled by technologies which go beyond the barriers of time and space. After the dominance during the last several millennia, of centralized and hierarchical modes of social organization, it is thus in many ways now a radically innovative emergence, and also reflects a very deep change in the epistemological and ontological paradigms that determine behavior and worldviews."

His conclusion is that "P2P networks are the key format of the technological infrastructure that supports the current economic, political and social systems."

He explains that P2P is a result of abundance - the abundance of information and its flow. Hierarchical systems create bottlenecks in the flow of abundant information. "Hierarchy only works with scarcity, and in a situation where the control of scarce resources determines the end result of the zero-sum power games being conducted. In a situation of abundance, centralized nodes cannot possible cope. Information, I probably do not need to remind the reader of this, is different from material goods, in that its sharing does not diminish its value, but on the contrary augments it."

He makes the key point that with an abundance of information and its relationship to complexity, P2P systems are the most effective and efficient means of solving problems. "Abundance is again both a cause and a consequence of complexity. In a situation of a multiplication of flows, flows that no longer follow predetermined routes, it cannot possible be predicted, where the 'solution' for any problem lies. Expertise comes out of a precise combination of experience, which is unpredictable in advance. Thus, systems are needed that allow expertise to unexpectedly announce itself, when it learns that it is needed. This is precisely what P2P systems allow to an unprecedented degree."

Later, Bauwens describes the work of Benkler and Krowne providing background for the emergence of P2P:

"Yochai Benkler, in a famous essay, 'Coase's Penguin', has given a rationale for the emergence of P2P production methodologies, based on the ideas of 'transaction cost'. In the physical world, the cost of bringing together thousands of participants may be very high, and so it may be cheaper to have centralized firms than an open market. This is why earlier experiences with collectivized economies could not work. But in the immaterial sphere used for the production of informational goods, the transaction goods are near-zero and therefore, open source production methods are cheaper and more efficient.

Aaron Krowne, writing for Free Software magazine, has proposed a set of laws to explain the higher efficiency of CBPP (= Commons-based peer production) models:

(Law 1.) When positive contributions exceed negative contributions by a sufficient factor in a CBPP project, the project will be successful.
This means that for every contributor that can 'mess things up', there have to be at least 10 others who can correct these mistakes. But in most projects the ration is 1 to 100 or 1 to 1000, so that quality can be maintained and improved over time.

(Law 2.) Cohesion quality is the quality of the presentation of the concepts in a collaborative component (such as an encyclopedia entry). Assuming the success criterion of Law 1 is met, cohesion quality of a component will overall rise. However, it may temporarily decline. The declines are by small amounts and the rises are by large amounts.

Individual contributions which may be useful by themselves but diminish the overall balance of the project, will always be discovered, so that decline can only be temporary.

(Corollary.) Laws 1 and 2 explain why cohesion quality of the entire collection (or project) increases over time: the uncoordinated temporary declines in cohesion quality cancel out with small rises in other components, and the less frequent jumps in cohesion quality accumulate to nudge the bulk average upwards. This is without even taking into account coverage quality, which counts any conceptual addition as positive, regardless of the elegance of its integration.

Krowne has also done useful work to define the authority models at work in such projects. The models define access and the workflow, and whether there is any quality control. The free-form model, which Wikipedia employs, allows anyone to edit any entry at any time. But in the owner-centric model, entries can only be modified with the permission of a specific 'owner' who has to defend the integrity of his module."

The author's view is that the owner-centric model is better for quality, but takes more time, while the free-form model increases the scope of coverage and is very fast.

He makes the point that scarcity is a construct of people. " We should also see that scarcity is in many ways a social construction. Nature was abundant to the tribal peoples, but when it was transformed into land that counted as property, land became scarce and a resource to be fought for. The enclosures movement in England was designed to precisely that. Out of land, previously plentiful resources were taken, and transformed into the form of property known as capital. Capital became scarce and to be fought for. Similarly today, the plentiful information commons that we produce, is being fought, so that it can turn into intellectual property, that can artificially be rendered scarce."

To explain the evolution of cooperation, he uses Edward Haskell's model - adversarial, neutral and synergistic cooperation. He points out that premodern imperial and feudal forms of society were based on adversarial form of cooperation. Cooperation was obtained by use of force. It was win-lose and the sum of 1 + 1 is always less than 2 in this type of cooperation. Capitalism introduced the neutral form of cooperation - the exchange of labor for fair compensation and a fair price for goods. At best capitalism is average. "Participants give just their money's worth. Neither participant in a neutral exchange gets better, 1 plus 1 equals 2."

However, P2P can result in synergistic cooperation, where 1 + 1> 2. "By definition, peer to peer processes are mobilized for common projects that are of greater use value to the wider community (since monetized exchange value falls away). True and authentic P2P therefore logically transforms into a win-win-win model, whereby not only the parties gain, but the wider community and social field as well. It is, in Edward Haskell's definition, a true synergetic cooperation. It is very important to see the 'energetic' effects of these different forms of cooperation, as I indicated above: 1) forced cooperation yields very low quality contributions; 2) the neutral cooperation format of the marketplace generates average quality contributions; 3) but freely given synergistic cooperation generates passion. Participants are automatically drawn to what they do best, at the moments at which they are most passionate and energetic about it. This is one of the fundamental reasons of the superior quality which is eventually, over time, created through open source projects."

Bauwens introduces the concept of rapport. "Arthur Coulter, author of a book on synergetics, adds a further twist explaining the superiority of P2P. He adds to the objective definition of Haskell, the subjective definition of 'rapport' based on the attitudes of the participants. Rapport is the state of persons who are in full agreement, and is determined by synergy (S), empathy (E), and communication (C). Synergy refers to interactions that promote the goals and efforts of the participants; empathy to the mutual understanding of the goals; and communication to the effective interchange of the data. His "Principle of Equivalence" states that the flow of S + E + C are optimal when they have equivalent status to each other." From this, he concludes that an egalitarian-supportive attitude is congenial to the success of P2P.

The author succinctly describes the difference between a market and P2P. "A market is based on the exchange of scarce goods, through a monetary mechanism. This is not the case for P2P products, which can be downloaded for free. They are not made for the profit obtained from the exchange value, but for their use value and acceptance by a user community."

In discussing freedom, he writes, "P2P is predicated on the maximum freedom. The freedom to join and participate, to fully express oneself and one's potential, the freedom to change course at any point in time, the freedom to quit. Within the common projects, freedom is constrained through communal validation and consensus (i.e. the freedom of others). But individuals can always leave, fork to a new project, create their own. The challenge is to find affinities, to create a common sphere with at least a few others and to create effective use value. Unlike in representative democracy, it is not a model based on a majority imposing its will on a minority."

He asserts that there is an emergence of a new form of power. "With the emergence of the Internet and peer to peer processes, yet a new form of power emerges, and Kumon calls it the Wisdom Game. In order to have influence, one must give quality knowledge away, and thus build reputation, through the demonstration of one's 'Wisdom'. The more one shares, the more this material is used by others, the higher one's reputation, the bigger one's influence."

He considers P2P as a new form of social exchange, "...what it reflects is an expansion of ethics: the desire to create and share, to produce something useful. The individual who joins a P2P project, puts his being, unadulterated, in the service of the construction of a common resource. Implicit is not just a concern for the narrow group, not just intersubjective relations, but the whole social field surrounding it.

Imagine a successful meeting of minds: individual ideas are confronted, but also changed in the process, through the free association born of the encounter with other intelligences. Thus eventually a common idea emerges, that has integrated the differences, not subsumed them. The participants do not feel they have made concessions or compromises, but feel that the new common integration is based on their ideas. There has been no minority, which has succumbed to the majority. There has been no 'representation', or loss of difference. Such is the true process of peer to peer.

An important philosophical change has been the abandonment of the unifying universalism of the Enlightenment project. Universality was to be attained by striving to unity, by the transcendence of representation of political power. But this unity meant sacrifice of difference. Today, the new epistemological and ontological requirement that P2P reflects, is not abstract universalism, but the concrete universality of a commons which has not sacrificed difference. This is the truth that the new concept of multitude, developed by Toni Negri and inspired by Spinoza, expresses. P2P is not predicated on representation and unity, but of the full expression of difference."

To read the entire essay, click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

A Gaudier Future that Almost Blinds the Eye

A review of Lawrence Lessig's book The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World by Daphne Keller in the Duke Law Journal

" In The Future of Ideas, Professor Lawrence Lessig argues compellingly that the Internet has proven value as a commons for innovation, and that we are in the process of destroying that value. In a sort of reverse tragedy of the commons, he argues, extending private property rights over the Internet's constituent parts will stifle -- or outlaw -- the very creativity that built "cyberspace" in the first place. Lessig, a preeminent legal scholar and attorney, here follows up on the foundation laid in his important first book, Code.

The Internet's potential as a platform for innovation, Lessig argues, ultimately depends on how free access and private control over the network's underlying resources are configured. Lessig outlines actual and possible property regimes in Internet resources using Professor Yochai Benkler's three-layer model. He conceptually divides the Internet into a layer of physical infrastructure, a layer of logical coordinating protocols or code, and a layer of content conveyed over the Internet. The Internet's potential as a platform for continuing innovation, he argues, depends on the balance of public access and private control over each of these three layers. The property regime that we have known so far, Lessig says, has preserved sufficient access to ensure a space for innovation. A regime that upsets the balance by expanding property rights and private control at the expense of the commons, though, will stifle innovation. We are rapidly moving, Lessig argues, toward a regime that sacrifices opportunities for innovation in favor of private control.

The Future of Ideas is timely, disturbing, and persuasive. Lessig convincingly illustrates the danger of applying economic lessons learned from real property or widgets to the novel communications resource that is the Internet. He synthesizes the traditional concerns of communications law (who has access to the communications infrastructure?) with those of intellectual property law (to what extent can forms of information themselves be owned?), and demonstrates that the two fields are converging significantly with respect to the Internet. His argument for preserving the innovation commons suggests that, as a matter of resource management and property theory, the two sets of questions have been closely connected all along. In both fields, the law accounts for the unusual characteristics of communications resources by adjusting the usual rules of private property.

At times, however, Lessig's argument is snarled by the complexity of the Internet's underlying resources. The Internet includes both resources that are nonrivalrous (meaning that they are capable of being shared by all without depletion) and resources that are rivalrous (meaning that they are congestible or exhaustible by overuse). The property law that best takes advantage of nonrivalrousness may be inappropriate for rivalrous resources, and vice versa. Similarly, lawmakers might arrive at different optimal property regimes for the Internet, depending on whether they prioritize the network's role as a platform for human communication or its foundation in physical components built by costly private investment. The three-layer model for the Internet would seem to resolve these tensions by allowing different property rules for different constitutive resources: economic-value-maximizing rules for finite physical layer resources and participation-maximizing rules for those nonrivalrous resources at the code and content layer which are more directly linked to speech and democratic participation. Yet the neat division set forth at the start of The Future of Ideas, in which physical resources such as wires and cables are controlled private property while resources at the Internet's code layer are commonly accessible, does not quite play out in the book's more detailed discussions. Lessig ultimately defines the code layer so expansively that he undermines any fully independent property regime in the physical layer.


"According to Lessig, some resources are most valuable when held in common such that all people have equal access, while other resources are best managed as private property. The Internet, he argues, contains resources of both kinds, and has been a source of valuable innovation because of a property regime that combined common access to some resources (such as technical protocols) with private control over others (including part or all of the Internet's physical infrastructure). The Future of Ideas develops a careful model of this mixed, innovation-maximizing property regime, using a three-layer model. The book's aim, Lessig writes, "is to understand how this mix produced the innovation that we have seen so far and why the changes to this mix will kill what we have seen so far." "


"Lessig's definitions of the terms "free" and "commons" are distinct from some more economically conventional uses of the same terms. In The Future of Ideas, a commons may be a paid-access resource, so long as the terms of access are neutrally imposed; this varies from the widely used definition of the commons as a regime of pure privilege, in which the resource may be used by any person free of charge. Similarly, for Lessig, "free" resources include both those which are available without payment and those which are available subject to liability rules, under which some form of collective valuation determines a fair and neutrally imposed price. As Professor James Boyle has pointed out, this focus on "freedom from the will of another, not freedom from the background constraints of the economic system," diverges from other accounts of the Internet's commons as requiring costless access to some resources."


"If a software developer wants to build a new application for the Internet, she will need a computer, access to the Internet, and skills. But she will not need anyone's permission, because the network is incapable of excluding any compatible application. If she builds it, it will run. This, to Lessig, is part of the genius of the Internet and perhaps the single most important factor accounting for its success. The code layer of the Internet, the protocols which set terms and conditions for content to flow across the network, could have been architected to permit exclusion (by keeping certain users or applications off the network) or discrimination (by giving certain users or applications slower or more expensive service, for example). Instead, the original code layer established the Internet as a commons open to any who wish to use it.

This technical inability to exclude or discriminate was a conscious design choice by the Internet's earliest developers, Lessig claims, implementing a design principle now known as end-to-end. Following end-to-end design, the "dumb" machines at the center of the network, such as routers, perform only the minimal, simple functions necessary to transfer data between "smart" machines. Complex functionality is relegated to the edge of the network -- to machines that serve web content, for example, or reassemble that content in a browser window. The simplicity and flexibility of the underlying Internet protocol for "dumb" data transmission has important consequences for innovation, Lessig argues. New applications, including applications unforeseen by the Internet's earliest developers, can run without any adjustment to the machines making up the network's center. And, crucially, the end-to-end Internet is a neutral platform -- it cannot exclude or discriminate against any application built to run on the Internet. Anyone -- from a highly paid programmer in Redmond to a child at her parents' computer in Jakarta -- can try something new and share it with the rest of the network. The productivity of this innovation commons has been nothing short of astonishing, as decentralized crews of technological, cultural, and economic innovators have converged online to create everything from Apache server software to ebay. End-to-end design "renders the Internet an innovation commons, where innovators can develop and deploy new applications or content without the permission of anyone else . . . . The system is built -- constituted -- to remain open to whatever innovation comes along."

Code layer end-to-end principles, as embodied in the Internet, provide Lessig's model for innovation commons on an open network. He has a countermodel, too -- an innovation graveyard on a closed network, as it were. This model is the telephone system as administered by AT&T for much of the last century. While its monopoly lasted, AT&T had legal authority to accept or reject any devices added to the telephone network. The company's own labs were responsible for remarkable developments, but at the same time AT&T was a bottleneck for all evolution of the telephone system. As Lessig notes, "there was nothing one could do with one's innovation unless AT&T bought it." In fact, one innovation rejected by AT&T was a proposed digital packet-switching technology much like that eventually made successful by the Internet. These two models, the Internet and the AT&T phone system, respectively represent extremes of freedom and control at the code layer.

Comparing innovation in the two systems, Lessig draws a lesson: we may expect more productive innovation from systems that lack centralized control over creative tinkering. Thus, if we expect a resource to be most valuable as a platform for innovative new uses, as is the case when future uses of a technology are uncertain, then the most productive property regime is one of open access. "Plasticity -- the ability of a system to evolve easily in a number of ways -- is optimal in a world of uncertainty." Moreover, entities interested in preserving the status quo should not be given control over a resource most useful as a platform for new developments.

Read the entire book review.

The End of Innovation?

On, Richard Koman interviewed Lawrence Lessig on his talk "Preserving the Innovation Commons".

"The Internet under its original design built a platform that induced lots of innovation in applications and content. And it did this by embracing an end-to-end principle, which meant that the network would remain as simple as possible and push all of the intelligence and, therefore, innovation to the end. This is the vision that is now enabled by a peer-to-peer architecture, and it's the environment that has inspired the greatest amount of innovation around the Internet in its history.

Now this architecture threatens existing interests, business interests and Hollywood interests, and in response to that threat there have been a number of changes that have occurred in both the technical and legal environment, aiming to undermine this platform for innovation, aiming to change it into a platform where it's easier for certain interests to exercise control over innovation on that platform. And the changes at the technical level include changes to the architecture, enabling network owners to exercise more control or discrimination over content that flows across their network or for applications that run on the network. And in the legal environment, the change is brought about by changes in copyright law essentially -- also patent law, but let's start with copyright law -- that radically increase the extent to which copyright holders can exercise control over their content."

Read the entire interview.

Teilhard de Chardin and the Noosphere

De Chardin was a Jesuit Priest and a paleontologist/biologist. He was born in 1885 and died in 1955. He spent his life attempting to rationalize his religious beliefs and his acceptance of evolution. Unfortunately he was censored by the church and not allowed to publish or teach about his thoughts for most of his life.

He saw the earth as having three spheres - geosphere, biosphere and the noosphere. He posited that the earth evolved through the geosphere to the biosphere and predicted that it would be moving to the noosphere long before anyone else thought about the Gaia hypotheses or before the Internet.

Rev. Phillip J. Cunningham writes (

In the seeming myriad of entities around us, Teilhard perceives a unity: "My starting point is the fundamental initial fact that each one of us is perforce linked by all the material, organic and psychic strands of his being to all that surrounds him." Moreover, that unity reaches back in time and continues into the future: "If we look far enough back in the depths of time, the disordered anthill of living beings suddenly, for an informed observer, arranges itself in long files that make their way by various paths towards greater consciousness."


In 1925, Teilhard wrote in an essay entitled Hominization: "And this amounts to imagining, in one way or another, above the animal biosphere human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious invention, of conscious souls (the noosphere, if you will)" It was a neologism employing the Greek word noos for "mind."


Teilhard maintains that evolution has a definite direction, an "Ariadne's Thread" as he calls it. That "thread" is the increasing complexity of living beings, the focus of which is their nervous systems, more precisely, their brains. Following the growth in "cerebralization" we are led to the mammals and, among them, the anthropoids. The complexity of their brains is paralleled by the complexity of their socialized behaviour. Recent studies of the great apes has only increased our appreciation of their remarkable acuity. Yet, though we are not a radical departure physically or genetically from these marvelous creatures, we nevertheless transcend them in some essential manner.

And just what is the source of this transcendence? For Teilhard, it is "thought" or "reflection." He describes it as "the power acquired by a consciousness to turn it upon itself, to take possession of itself as of an object endowed with its own particular consistence and value: no longer merely to know, but to know oneself; no longer merely to know but to know that one knows."

Now the same question rises which confronted us in discussing biogenesis: Does noogenesis have a direction? In The Phenomenon of Man, Teilhard posits: "In truth, a neo-humanity has been germinating round the Mediterranean for the last six thousand years" He thought that a "new layer of the noosphere" would soon be formed. "The proof of this lies in the fact that from one end of the world to the other, all peoples, to remain human or to become more so, are inexorably led to formulate the hopes and problems of the modern earth in the very same terms in which the West has formulated them." Teilhard was convinced that the shape of the noosphere's future would be determined by those developments he saw taking place in the Europe and the U.S.

It was his opinion: "We are, at this very moment, passing through a change of age. Beneath a change of age lies a change of thought." That hidden change would at first influence only a few but it would continue to expand. "I know of no more moving story nor any more revealing of the biological reality of a noogenesis than that of intelligence struggling step by step from the beginning to overcome the illusion of proximity." Humanity had lived (and many still did) in a narrow world, unaware of the true dimensions of time and space. Moreover these dimension bore no relationship to each other. Now a new realization arose: "Time and space are organically joined again so as to weave, together, the stuff of the universe." What brought this transformation about?

Teilhard attributes it to the rise of an evolutionary point of view:

"Is evolution a theory, a system or a hypothesis? It is much more: it is a general condition to which all theories, all hypotheses, as systems must bow and which they must satisfy henceforth if they are to be thinkable and true. Evolution is a light illuminating all facts, a curve that all lines must follow."


Teilhard was convinced that geogenesis moved in the direction of an ever increasing conscious that brought about a biogenesis that evolved in the same direction. The process then led to the advent of though/reflection. However, the process did not cease there. "Man discovers that he is nothing else than evolution become conscious of itself. The consciousness of each of us is evolution looking at itself and reflecting upon itself." The direction then was toward such a growth in consciousness.

Teilhard was also convinced that a further and even more profound change had taken place. On the one hand we could see humanity simply swept along in a evolutionary stream into the future over which he had no control. Or, we could see that an evolution conscious of itself could also direct itself. "Not only do we read in our slightest acts the secrets of [evolutions] proceedings; but for an elementary part we hold it in our hands, responsible for its past to its future." Noogenesis moves ever more clearly toward self-direction; it is now something we determine.


It was Teilhard's conviction that should humanity lose hope for the future, the hope of transcending the barriers to human unity and peace, noogenesis would cease. "Between these two alternatives of absolute optimism or absolute pessimism, there is no middle way because by its very nature progress is all or nothing." Yet, does not evolution itself offer hope. It has gone from geogenesis to biogenesis and has entered up noogenesis. Will it now be frustrated at this stage and fail to evolve further into the future? Teilhard clings to hope, "there is for us, in the future, under some form or another, a least collective, not only survival but also super-life." In 1950, Teilhard made what was a final attempt to get his observations published. He wrote a short work, Man's Place in Nature, which summarized what he felt was his scientific position.


Crucial to the process of human evolution, i.e. to progress is, in Teilhard's view, scientific research. In the past such investigations were isolated, sometimes no more than the hobbies of individuals. "Today we find the reverse: research students are numbered in the hundreds of thousands-soon to be millions-and they are no longer distributed superficially and at random over the globe, but are functionally linked together in a vast organic system that will remain in the future indispensable to the life of the community." One can't but think of today's "Internet," yet this was written forty-six years ago.

Anodea Judith writes (

...he suggested that the Earth in its evolutionary unfolding, was growing a new organ of consciousness, called the noosphere. The noosphere is analogous on a planetary level to the evolution of the cerebral cortex in humans. The noosphere is a "planetary thinking network" -- an interlinked system of consciousness and information, a global net of self-awareness, instantaneous feedback, and planetary communication. At the time of his writing, computers of any merit were the size of a city block, and the Internet was, if anything, an element of speculative science fiction. Yet this evolution is indeed coming to pass, and with a rapidity, that in Gaia time, is but a mere passage of seconds. In these precious moments, the planet is developing her cerebral cortex, and emerging into self-conscious awakening. We are indeed approaching the Omega point that Teilhard de Chardin was so excited about


"It is not our heads or our bodies which we must bring together, but our hearts. . . . Humanity. . . is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart, without which the ultimate wholeness of its power of unification can never be achieved?"

And, the Noosphere web site comments (

The Noosphere Website monitors and aims to inspire the transition of mankind from the secondary into the tertiary evolutionary stage. Whereas the secondary stage is characterized by an organization, based upon power (of the Rulers over the Multitude) exerted by military, monetary and/or moral coercion, the tertiary stage is organized by intellectual and factual cooperation of conscious and creative individuals, aiming at developing constructive systems where the largest number of individuals are healthy and happy. From their intellectual integration and Peer to Peer cooperation, the Noosphere is emerging.

Is the innovation commons a step in the direction envisioned by de Chardin?

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Second Life

If You Virtually Build It, They Will Virtually Check It Out

Second Life is a 3-D online virtual world with a program called "Campus Second Life," which encourages professors to teach courses inside Second Life's confines.

The program provides free semester long access for the teacher and students as well as virtual land for the class to "build" any structures they choose.

In a spring 2004 class an urban planning, Brockett Davidson, then a fourth year architecture student, was given an assignment to create an object, space or event in the virtual world that would foster interaction. Interested in the role of religion and spiritually, he decided to build a "sacred space" where denizens could come to discuss such issues.

Mr. Davidson chose has site - a serene virtual nature preserve - carefully, and spent 16 hours using the program's built-in tools to construct an attractive domed and pillared open-air space. He then organized an event to discuss spirituality in Second Life, drawing a dozen or so participants.

The space worked just as he had hoped, first fostering a group discussion in the central, circular chamber, and later on one-one exchanges in the alcoves he had built expressly for the purpose - a kind of direct feedback not available with drawings restricted to pencil and paper, Mr. Davidson noted.

"In my other classes, I'll make digital models, but none of those designs get built," he said. "Here, the exercise is itself a building that will actually affect people "

Ethan Todras-Whitehill
New York Times, 8/3/05

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century
By Thomas Friedman

This book is a must read for anyone interested in an innovation commons. Much of the book revolves around and depends upon the successful creation of innovation commons in many different forms. The following are some excerpts from the book that seem to me to be most directly related to the subject of the innovation commons.

"…Satyam Cherukuri, of Sarnoff, an American research and development firm, has called ‘the globalization of innovation" and an end to the old model…" p29-30

His premise is that the "world is now flat", i.e. the global competitive playing field is being leveled. The world is being flattened. He identifies ten driving forces for leveling of the competitive playing field. The first three are events that marked the change:

  1. When the walls came down and the windows went up
  2. When Netscape went public
  3. Work flow software

The next six represent the new forms of collaboration, which the new platform created by the first three forces made possible:

  1. Self organizing collaborative communities
  2. Outsourcing Y2K
  3. Offshoring
  4. Supply chaining
  5. Insourcing
  6. In-forming

The last force is an enabler:

  1. The steroids: Digital, mobile, personal and virtual

Quoting Irving Wladawsky-Berger of IBM, "This emerging era is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working together in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius." p93

In discussing some of the problems of an innovation commons, he raises the following question:

"If everyone contributes his or her intellectual capital for free, where will the resources for innovation come from? And won’t we end up with in endless legal wrangles over which part of any innovation was made by the community for free, and meant to stay that way, and which part was added on by some company for profit and has to be paid for so that the company can make money to drive further innovation." p96

"How do you push innovation forward if everyone is working for free and giving away their work?…if innovators are not going to be rewarded for their innovations, the incentive for path-breaking innovation will dry up and so will the money for the really deep R&D that is required to drive progress in this increasingly complex field." (Paraphrasing Microsoft) p100

"Open source is an important flattener because it makes available for free many tools, from software to encyclopedias, that millions of people around the world would have had to buy in order to use, and because open source network associations – with their open borders and come-one-come-all approach – can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a growing number of areas." p102

Writing about the power of search engines for collaboration: "How does searching fit into the concept of collaboration? I call it ‘in-forming’. In-forming is the individual’s’ personal analog to open sourcing, outsourcing, insourcing, supply chaining and offshoring. In-forming is the ability to build and deploy your own personal supply chain – a supply chain of information, knowledge and entertainment. In-forming is about self collaboration…" p153

"…this tenth flattener - the steroids – is going to amplify and further empower all the other forms of collaboration. These steroids should make open-source innovation that much more open, because they will enable more individuals to collaborate with one another in more ways and from more places than ever before." p 170-171

He then introduces the concept of the triple convergence: "First, right around the year 2000, all ten flatteners…started to converge and work together in ways that created a new, flatter, global playing field. As this new playing field became established, both businesses and individuals began to adopt new habits, skills and processes to get the most out of it. They moved from largely vertical means of creating value to more horizontal one. The merger of this new playing field for doing business with the new ways of doing business was the second convergence, and it actually helped to flatten the world even further. Finally, just when all this flattening was happening, a whole new group of people, several billion in fact, walked on the playing field from China, India and the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the new flat world, and its new tools, some of them were able to collaborate and compete directly with everyone else. This was the third convergence." p175

Writing about the parallel between the work of economists of the impact of major technologies on productivity, he stated: "The same thing is happening today with the flattening of the world. Many of the ten flatteners have been around for years. But for the full flattening effects to be felt, we needed not only the ten flatteners to converge, but also something else. We needed the emergence of a large cadre of managers, innovators, business consultant, business schools, designers, IT specialists, CEOs and workers to get comfortable with, and develop, the sorts of horizontal collaboration and value creation processes and habits that could take advantage of this new, flatter playing field. In short, the convergence of the ten flatteners begat the convergence of a set of business practices and skills that would get the most out of the flat world. And then the two began to mutually reinforce each other." p178

"In the future globalization is going to be increasingly driven by individuals who understand the flat world, adapt themselves quickly to its processes and technologies, and then start to march forward…They will be of every color of the rainbow and from every corner of the world." p183

"The flatter the world gets, the more we are going to need a system of global governance that keeps up with all the new legal and illegal forms of collaboration." p217

"In the flat world, the division of labor is steadily becoming more and more complex, with a lot more people interacting with a lot of other people they don’t know and may never meet. If you want to have a modern complex division of labor, you have to put more trust in strangers." p326


In times of general economic expansion based upon population growth and the extension of mature technologies, many fundamental future realities are forecastable with reasonable certainty. Moreover, the imperatives and opportunities arising from these realities are also largely extensions of past experience, and are thus fairly straightforward to anticipate. In such times, the essence of strategy is to "exploit the inevitable", and it is purposeful to engage in long range planning.

In tines of multi-variable change, on the other hand, many long-term realities are obscured and their consequences made less certain by short term turbulence arising from society’s largely unpredictable adaptation to change. In such times, the essence of strategy is to make order of confusion, a task for which long-range planning has proven fruitless and counter-productive. Instead of a plan, to lead an institution or a community through times of uncertainty and change, a group’s decision makers must establish a "creative commons" – a shared set of expectations about future external realities and the diverse range of plausible possibilities which these realties pose – that they, the decision-makers, agree they must address, exploit, forestall or otherwise deal with.

…the futurist/facilitator/leader must help each organization or community evolve its own "creative commons", a conceptual space within which all stakeholders can envision the potential realization of outcomes that will be both publicly and personally desirable.

From "Rhetoric: The Language and Logic of Leadership"
By David Pearce Snyder and Gregg Edwards, Snyder Family Enterprises

Innovation Commons Definition

A network of thought and truth.

Workable Design Criteria for Use when Competing Ideologies Collaborate

(Suggested for use, either where strongly competing ideologies or turfs exist, or where chronic problems involving communication and decision-making lead to suspicion and low trust.)

  1. Agreement regarding the nature of outcome
    Although they disagree on many of the factors that will shape the outcome (such as the underlying values, the types of data that are seen as most relevant or the relative weight given to conflicting evidence), it is important that participants agree on what their collective efforts will lead to – e.g., a report, a management policy, etc. This can include things as "simple" as deciding how to manage issues such as the question "who decides who decides" in any given situation.
  2. Personal commitment to successful outcome
    Each participant needs to have a personal stake in the successful reaching of the outcome noted above. Otherwise, it becomes easy to subvert or sabotage the efforts of the group, even if done surreptitiously.
  3. Limited time
    If interminable debates regarding ideologically based differences are to be avoided, it is important that the agreed upon outcome be required within a reasonable short time frame.
  4. Agreed upon method(s) of conflict management
    Note that the phrase conflict "management" rather than resolution. It is useful to have various methods, each of which work well in differing situations, and a facilitator who can focus on both:
    - Covert conflicts that are as yet unrecognized, but whose management is critical to a successful outcome; and
    - Overt conflicts that are using up time, but are relatively trivial and should be ignored.

By Oliver Markley, Inward Bound