Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Thoughts of Time and Space

Imagine yourself as an observer in a universe but not part of the universe. This universe contains no created objects or even energy that you can sense. No mater which way you turn or move through this universe, you sense no change. In this universe you would have no perception of space. Any place you were would seem like any other place and you would have no reference between places. You would have no perception of time either, because nothing is changing. It’s always the same.

Now imagine objects and energy beginning to emerge from the nothingness. As they became perceptible to you, you would begin to develop the perception of space. This place is different that that place over there. The rate of emergence would then lead to the development of the perception of time. Now is different than before. And, perhaps later will be different than now. Without change there is no perception of time.

Imagine now that you are early man on the created earth. Your perception of time is driven by natural events. Daylight and dark repeat in endless procession. The position and appearance of the moon changes more slowly. Seasons cycle even more slowly. Things come to life and die. Your perception of change is slow and so is your perception of time. Mystery surrounds events that do not follow your perception of time.

Now fast forward to the present time. Imagine now that your mind has developed so that ideas get created in your mind. Some of these ideas get transferred to other minds. And, other minds transfer their ideas to yours. Some of the ideas come into being as objects. The rate of change has increased both inside and outside of your mind, and your perception of time has as well. Add tools to that image and imagine that all the minds of the earth are interconnected almost simultaneously. You and every other person are at the center of the rapidly changing world in time and space. Unexpected events abound and you live in a world of mystery.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How Is America Going to End?

In August 2009 Slate Magazine conducted a weeklong thought experiment on the United States' demise. Josh Levin was listed as the author. The study was composed of several articles during the week, a survey of readers, and some analysis of the survey data. The survey consisted of 144 scenarios of how America could end drawn from research done by Levin. Participants were asked to read brief descriptions of the 144 scenarios and to select the five scenarios they believe will contribute to the country's dissolution, then find out instantly what kind of death scene they’ve envisioned—a bloodbath or a nonviolent end, an end wrought by man or by nature—and compare their choices with those of other Slate readers.

The articles covered the topics of:

Climate Change - We could be crushed by a climate strongman. Levin writes, “In a Weekly Standard piece on ‘The Icarus Syndrome,’ Jim Manzi notes the parallels between Britain's 1860s ‘Coal Panic’ and the modern disaster scenarios of peak oil and climate doom.” He continues, “Manzi argues that, given the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimate of a 3-degree increase in global temperature by 2100, ‘the United States is expected to experience no net material economic costs [from anthropogenic global warming] … through the end of this century.’ At the other extreme is the specter of swift weather cataclysm. Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, who wrote a brief on ‘abrupt climate change’ for the Department of Defense, argue that climate chaos will be nonlinear—that ‘clear signs of environmental catastrophe will be evident in a few decades, not centuries’."

Preservation of Civilization - The Catholic Church helped preserve Roman civilization. Can Mormonism do the same for America? Levin comments, “When America disappears 100 or 500 or 1,000 years from now, it will be gone but not forgotten. As the world's leading military, economic, and cultural power since World War II, the United States will linger in the global gene pool and influence whatever comes next. But how exactly will Americanness get transmitted to the civilizations that replace us?

The physical structures we've built won't be our legacy. Our houses, schools, and stadiums will eventually crumble; in The World Without Us, Alan Weisman even imagines the Statue of Liberty getting knocked into the ocean by a glacier, leaving the real world in a similar state as Planet of the Apes. The ideas, art forms, and inventions that we've transmitted around the world will outlast our monuments' inevitable decay, and not just because our national backlog of McRib sandwiches may never biodegrade. While the current financial crisis has cast doubt on free-market capitalism, I'd wager that American-style economics will outlast this country's run as a political entity. The global rise of basketball, a game surpassed in worldwide popularity only by soccer, ensures that at least one artifact of American leisure will persist. America's native musical forms—jazz, rock 'n' roll, and hip-hop music—also seem like good possibilities to serve as cultural carriers.

But for America's intangible qualities to get preserved—our shared history, our ideals, our passions—someone needs to do the preserving.”

Totalitarianism - Five steps to totalitarian rule. “As Hitler and Mussolini prepared to storm Europe, fascism began to generate interest in the United States. In Sinclair Lewis' 1935 novel, It Can't Happen Here, an American president uses an economic crisis as a pretense to take over the media, imprison dissenters, and build his own private army (the Minute Men) into an indomitable force,” writes Levin. He enumerates five phases to totalitarianism:

o Phase 1: Create a perpetual enemy.
o Phase 2: Be savvier than George W. Bush.
o Phase 3: Come to power as America slips in stature.
o Phase 4: Beef up the military and the secret police.

States Rights - Who’s most likely to secede? Levin comments, “In the American end times, our government will take one of two forms. One possibility is that federalism will give way to an all-powerful central government. (In yesterday's global-warming thought experiment, this was the climate strongman scenario.) The other option is decentralization—in the absence of a unifying national interest, the United States of America will fragment and be supplanted by regional governance.”

Futurists’ Views - The world’s leading futurologists have four theories. “The Global Business Network answers the same question for all its corporate and government clients: What happens next? GBN handles a lot of different whats, and even the occasional what-in-the-hell. In 2003, the group's chairman, Peter Schwartz, and his colleague Doug Randall whipped up a not-so-rosy, 22-page report on "abrupt climate change" for the Department of Defense ("The United States and Australia are likely to build defensive fortresses around their countries"). Last year, the municipality of Amsterdam asked the firm to help figure out how it might deal with immigration. GBN has also loaned out its brainpower to Hollywood, advising Minority Report director Steven Spielberg on whether Congress and the Constitution would still exist in 2054. (The answer: yes, with a few buts.),” writes Levin. Using GBN’s typical methodology, they describe four different scenarios for the end of America (quoting from the article):

o Collapse: In this scenario, the country has devolved after a series of catastrophes: unchecked climate change, a pandemic, nuclear war—the stuff that Jared Diamond books and disaster movies are made of. A catastrophe that breeds internal division, Schwartz argues, is more likely to eradicate America than any kind of external threat. A country is like a family, he theorizes. If you feel threatened from the outside, you band together—rather than tear the United States apart, 9/11 galvanized us against a common enemy. The laggard response to Hurricane Katrina, on the other hand, meant that our own government became the common enemy. A long, uninterrupted series of nationwide Katrinas—and a concomitant series of bungled federal responses—is the recipe for collapse.

o Friendly breakup: In future No. 2, the country dissolves peacefully because the overhead of running a large nation becomes unmanageable. Schwartz likens this to the breakup of the Soviet Union, a case where the cost of holding the country together proved too great and the advantages too small.

o Global governance: In our third future, the national government declines in importance relative to the world community. Barack Obama's recent brief in defense of American exceptionalism is just one indicator among many that the United States is nowhere near willing to cede its position as the greatest of the world's great powers. But Slate contributor Robert Wright argues in his book Nonzero that humankind must come together to head off the challenges of the "non-zero-sum," globalized world: climate change, biological weapons, pandemics. While Wright tells me that "you wouldn't need something so centralized" as a souped-up United Nations, he believes that if in the next 100 years "America's identity has not dissolved into some sort of larger body of global governance, then chaos will reign."

o Global conquest: The final scenario and the grimmest of all: a figure described variously as a "global Napoleon," "a much more empowered Hitler," and "a super-Mao" conquers America and the rest of the world via brute force. This idea, which Schwartz classifies as the least likely of the four, leads us to debate whether it's harder to subjugate the world than it used to be—Schwartz believes it is, as there are "more people with military competence spread across the world." That's followed by a discussion of the best method to exercise dominion over the globe. "I think the way you conquer the world these days is from space," he says. "You can put weapons up there and shut down the world."

As a study of the future the survey was flawed, but nevertheless produced some interesting results. In setting up the survey, Levin writes, “If and when America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect every theory ever given for why Rome fell. The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness.

In tribute to Demandt, I've gone looking for every possible reason why America could fall. I've paged through the work of scholars who have studied the characteristics of declining and failed societies. I also collected theories from futurists, doomsayers, separatists, economists, political scientists, national security experts, climatologists, geologists, astronomers, and a few miscellaneous crazy people. The result: a collection of 144 potential causes of America's future death.”

The survey itself took advantage of web site capabilities. The 144 scenarios were each assigned an icon and the icons were arranged in a dense 12 by 12 matrix. (I’m not sure why, but the popular song of the 1970s by Paul Simon popped into my head as I read these scenarios – There Are 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.)Mousing over the icon produced the name of the scenario and its brief description. When you found one of your top five, you could either drag the icon to a vote box, or click on a link to cast your vote.

Over 60,000 people participated, many from outside the US. Even though this is a large number of people, the results may not be statistically significant. The problem with an opt in survey of this type is that is is difficult to know whether the respondents are representative or not. It certainly isn’t representative of the US as over 15% of the responses came from Russia alone among other countries. And, we don’t know if this type of survey attracts people who are interested in apocalyptic scenarios. Moreover, it certainly eliminates people who would never take surveys over the Internet and those incapable of comprehending 144 different scenarios and comparing and contrasting them in their minds. I don’t remember reading anywhere that the order of the icons in the matrix were randomly scrambled for each participant to reduce any bias due to order. Also, the scenarios were not distinctly different. There were many overlaps, and sometimes the description of the scenario could bias the response.

The real puzzle for me was trying to interpret the results. On its face, it can’t be interpreted as a futures study. The question presupposed an apocalyptic end. (It’s like the proverbial “When did you stop beating your wife?”) My key to understanding the results was the realization that what the survey elicited was a reflection of the respondents fears, if the respondent was American, and perhaps hopes if an enemy of America.

In attempting to understand potential futures of a system, there are at least four questions that must be answered:

1. What are the present strengths and weaknesses of the system’s capabilities?
2. What are the opportunities and threats faced by the system over the time frame?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the system’s capacity to change over the time frame?
4. What are the hopes and fears of stakeholders of the system?

This survey addressed partially half of the fourth question. However, if we assume that the results of the survey are not biased too badly by respondents who are stakeholders but outside of the US, that we can interpret the results as a mirror of our fears.

The top five scenarios were:

1. Loose Nukes: Taliban fighters wrest nuclear weapons from a destabilized Pakistan. Or al-Qaida acquires a small arsenal of nukes from a disintegrating Russia. The nonstate actors launch against the United States in an attack exponentially worse than 9/11.

2. Peak Oil: Petroleum production reaches terminal decline. Oil becomes too expensive to extract, and alternative energies can't maintain our fossil-fuel-dependent lifestyle. The developed world goes kaput, with gas-happy America leading the way to the gutter.

3. Antibiotic Resistance: As a result of factory farming and spiking sales of antibacterial hand soap, superstrains of bacteria develop that are resistant to medicine. Public health officials can do nothing but throw up their hands.

4. China Unloads U.S. Treasurys: Unwilling to finance any more of America's debt, China dumps its investment in American Treasury securities and buys up gold. With America a lousy investment, there aren't any other buyers out there. The country goes bankrupt.

5. Israel-Arab War: All-out mayhem in the Middle East as Egypt, Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and more go to war. The United States moves to protect Israel and gets sucked into a generation-long conflict that saps the national will and treasury.

The most interesting analysis the author did was to create a network map of the 82 scenarios that were chosen together with at least one other scenario. The network map is shown below:

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute film that takes viewers on a provocative and eye-opening tour of the real costs of our consumer driven culture—from resource extraction to iPod incineration.

Annie Leonard, an activist who has spent the past 10 years traveling the globe fighting environmental threats, narrates the Story of Stuff, delivering a rapid-fire, often humorous and always engaging story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.”

Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began. The Story of Stuff examines how economic policies of the post-World War II era ushered in notions of “planned obsolescence” and “perceived obsolescence” —and how these notions are still driving much of the U.S. and global economies today. Leonard’s inspiration for the film began as a personal musing over the question, “Where does all the stuff we buy come from, and where does it go when we throw it out?” She traveled the world in pursuit of the answer to this seemingly innocent question, and what she found along the way were some very guilty participants and their unfortunate victims.

Written by Leonard, the film was produced by Free Range Studios, the makers of other highly popular web-based films such as “The Meatrix” and “Grocery Store Wars.” Funding for the project came from The Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption and Tides Foundation.

View the Video

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Science as an Innovation Commons

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants" -- Isaac Newton in: Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675/1676*

Science has more or less successfully had an innovation commons for years. The development of the "scientific method" is credited to Roger Bacon. At times the commons has been limited to specific countries, or regions or alliances. And, at various times threats like trade imbalances, wars, the Cold War, military threats or terrorism have placed limitations upon who can participate and what types of sharing can occur. However, the trend seems to be to expand the science commons to the whole earth.

I've been thinking about this while working on the idea of an innovation commons. I have not researched this issue, I'm just drawing on past knowledge and experience, but there seems to be several principles that one can derive from science:

* The very strong culture of referencing and footnoting contributions.
* A strong culture against plagiarism
* Mechanisms for contributions to exist for a very long time.
* Mechanisms to index and file contributions
* Libraries with low barriers to entry that provide access
* Cultures and enablers that incent participation
* Reputation systems
* An inherent belief in the system not only by participants but by those who administer participants as well
* Institutions that foster the creation of knowledge
* Professional associations that facilitate the commons and help participants to develop
* In some cases, government funding

* See for more information. This quote, which I've used before, is not nearly as impressive when you understand the context. But, out of context, it makes a good point.

Markets as an Innovation Commons

A market is a type of commons as well, and in some cases may even be considered an "innovation commons".

I have read about mythology, anthropology and history, but I am by no means expert. Over the years I've developed a sense of the development of markets that I want to share. Much of this has been developed through conversations with people, especially my partner, Donna Prestwood. It is not rigorous research, but I do want to share the story I've developed. I've put this Italics, because it is a story, not a history.

During times when our ancient ancestors were hunter/gatherers and lived in tribes, the concept of territory was developed (See I told you it was a story. I started with "once upon a time".) Knowledge of what existed outside the territory was limited. The "other" who lived outside your territory was either enemies or strangers. Both were feared. An incursion into your territory was almost surely to provoke an attack, even if the incursion was not an attack itself.

As the boundaries of the territory became established and known or even marked, the "other" avoided incursion unless intent upon an attack. Paths of travel began to be developed along the boundaries of the territories. The first paths bypassed the territories of the tribes.

Sometime during this development people got the idea of bringing gifts to the boundary of their own territory, to the edge of the known. The gifts were left a s a peace offering. Among some tribes this led to the development of concept of potlatch. The tribes brought gifts to the boundary in a type of asynchronous exchange. Potlatch cultures developed when winning meant giving the better gift. Either as peace offerings or potlatch, the practice did reduce the amount of physical conflicts.

Since strangers passed along these boundaries in transit around the territories, it was only natural that somehow they began to enter into the mix. The resulting development led to the creation of markets along these boundary/paths. And, eventually this led to the concentration of villages around the markets, especially at crossroads.

Early in our development, humans developed the sense of having to bring gifts to the edge of the known. In some cultures this ended up as sacrifices. In others, it was food or precious goods. We carry that tradition on now in the form of gifts brought to the altar of our religion. The altar representing symbolically the boundary between what is known and the unknowable.

As a result, the original concept of a market was that it was held on "sacred" ground; it was safe. The boundary was not a place for war. It was a place of peace. Markets today should be "sacred" in that sense. This may be why we are so incensed when someone violates the trust of the market and cheats, lies, or steals.

In some cultures the concept of exchanging gifts at the borders, (Still celebrated by the way every Friday evening in the fall at Texas high school football games with the students of the two schools exchanging gifts at the 50 yard line before the start of the game. Apparently the gifts don't work to bring peace and hostilities have to be undertaken however ritual the hostilities are.) led to the development of a bartering system. From that came the concept of the development of value for different types of goods. Note that adding strangers into the mix brought different types of goods into the market not indigenous to the tribes.

In what sense is a market an innovation commons? Goods produced or manufactured are the embodiment of knowledge. In the ancient market, an individual skilled in making axes could teach the "other" how to make the ax. But, it's more efficient and rewarding to exchange the ax for other things needed or money. Even if the goods are grown, harvested, hunted or extracted, their presence at the market embodies the application of knowledge. Information was also exchanged at a market as well, in a loose bartering sense.

One of the things that makes a market work is the mechanism of valuing goods and services. Another is the trust and safety. Others? I welcome comments.

Are we now at a point in the development of civilization where an innovation commons would work? If so, what are conditions or principles that would assure its success? What can we learn from successful markets?

What can we learn from e-Bay? I don't know enough about it to comment, so I would welcome other comments. One element of e-Bay I do know about is the rating system. Buyers and sellers rate each other after the transaction. A bad reputation prevents you from further participation in the market.

Communication : Knowledge and Values

Communication between and among people is very complex. There are many channels and nuances. However, for the purpose of innovation, I have found the following simple model useful. It is based on knowledge and values.

If people seeking to communicate have the same knowledge and the same values, communication is very easy. This is what happens between friends. It's comfortable. However, if you really have exactly the same knowledge and values, the transactions carry no real meaning. Nothing new can be created.

If the people have the same knowledge but different values, when communication is attempted, an argument usually results. Operating on the same knowledge with different values results in different interpretation and prioritization of the knowledge. This quite often happens in politics and religion. (And, it may be going on in America right now.)

If people have different knowledge and values, not much communication can take place. If an attempt at communication is made, a lack of understanding results, or at best a misunderstanding occurs.

If people have different knowledge but the same values, a conversation can result. In a conversation, innovation can occur.

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?

Note: The phone number and e-mail given this recording are wrong. Correct are 512.632.6586 and

The Use of MBTI in Online Facilitation

Nancy White, the moderator of the Online Facilitation Forum, posted this item:

Author: Tony Di Petta
Date: 1988

I indirectly found this article this morning while reading about an online facilitate challenge in a private community. Tony was mentioned so I googled and found this article. It seems to be another way in to the archetype issue without using the sort of labels like Gahran did in her piece.

Digging down, it is about finding ways to understand each other enough to have successful communications or do things together. We generalize as a way of making sense, but in the labels we use generate end up creating more misunderstanding. Quite the opposite of the intent, I suppose. Finding ways to "hear" the other person without being triggered by their style or language choice is a key goal in an online facilitation practice. Di Petta points out one really key part of the practice: knowing your own style/self first.

The article on this site is an abridged version of a paper published in
Cranton, P. (ed.) (1998). Psychological Type in Action. Sneedville, TN:
Psychological Type Press.


This paper examines the use of psychological type as a group process "tool" for moderators of on-line discussion groups. In February of 1997, The Personal Effectiveness through Type (PET) Inventory ®, was provided as an on-line tool to ten computer conference moderators working for the Education Network of Ontario (ENO). The ENO is a Canadian telecommunications service that provides internet access and computer conferencing services to the kindergarten through secondary school education community, in the province of Ontario.

Ten ENO conference moderators volunteered to use the P.E.T. inventory to determine their personal type "preferences", that is, their most ingrained and frequently used strategies and methods for making sense of, and interacting with, the world around them. The volunteers then participated in an on-line discussion forum that focussed on how their newly acquired type awareness might be used in their professional work as on-line conference moderators. The discussions about type and its use in facilitating on-line discussion groups led to a set of recommendations and suggestions for using type data to facilitate the on-line leadership and interaction efforts of computer conference moderators.

"One of the greatest concerns of the on-line moderators who considered
using type theory in their work was that type should not be used to "label" people, that is, to limit or judge others, or to suggest what they can and cannot do well. Type information can and should, however, be used to identify the kind of moderator leadership that is required by specific on-line situations and groups. Knowing what is needed in terms of leadership helps moderators plan or adapt strategy to help individuals or on-line groups meet their goals. By understanding their own preferences, moderators reduce the chances of letting those preferences dictate how to work on-line or relate to other members in the on-line group. "

Nancy White - Full Circle Associates - - 206-517-4754,

Claire Brooks posted this comment:

"Digging down, it is about finding ways to understand each other enough to have successful communications or do things together. We generalize as a way of making sense, but in the labels we use generate end up creating more misunderstanding. Quite the opposite of the intent, I suppose. Finding ways to "hear" the other person without being triggered by their style or language choice is a key goal in an online facilitation practice. DiPetta points out one really key part of the practice: knowing your own style/self first."

This discussion of type reminded me of when I first came across *Choconancy* in an online group space, later taken over by yahoo groups, I think. When joining up participants were invited to fill out a *type* quiz that returned a description of how people of that type would make pumpkin soup. It was light hearted and gave an insight into oneself and at the same time served as a reminder that other people would approach the same task completely differently. I still use version of the technique, depending on the type of online group. For example in formal learning situations it can be useful to people to complete a learning preferences quiz, and that can also be a way for some safe self disclosure to take place. In other groups it might be a modified MBTI quiz (, or simply a fun thing from tickle

In Gahan's article it is possible that the sci fi clash was an interaction between someone who valued rationality above feelings a T rather than an F in MBTI terms, and being able to *label* differences in that way can be helpful. ( Still doesn't deal with all the issues tho' because this approach assumes that everyone has a reasonably good intent and unfortunately that is not always the case , so I am still looking forward to the next instalment on dealing with Trolls)..{aside} is that a barb? am I really a porcupine?:-). A big difference is that these activities are about self labelling....maybe there needs to be a quiz that allows people to reveal their self perceived tendencies towards to conflict, control, power relationships and other sensitive topics even if it is only for personal consumption/self awareness.
Claire ( ~sort of INFP/INTP)

Dianna A. said...

I believe the make up of the group is critical to its ultimate success or value to each participant. For example, if I have a fledgling idea to develop, there's no point in hearing from a bunch of people who think like me. The best solution or evolution will come from hearing from people with a different perspective or way of thinking than mine. So I believe it's critical to welcome a wide variety of people of different backgrounds and personalities to "the party" in order to get the most out of the process. That said, I also belive it's critical to weed out people who have an inability to listen well, or who cannot offer constructive feedback. Thinking of Daniel Goleman's work on Emotional Intelligence, it would seem to me that strong "scoring" or development in that area would be far more important than specific academic, business, or level of intelligence details.

Chris T said...

Interesting point Paul. I'd say the role is to be different in as many dimensions as possible. Contradict me, take me to a higher / different plane, enhance me, add weight to my point etc.

No matter how much effort I put into thinking about a particular issue, I can guarantee that as soon as I start talking to someone else they will open up new lines of thought.

The tragedy of the commons is a phenomenon of finite resources, however we have the "problem" of infinite resources in innovation related opportunities - this is where I think we can add value to the innovation commons.

Inventing the Innovation Commons

"The Internet is both the result of and the enabling infrastructure for new ways of organizing collective action via communication technology. This new social contract enables the creation and maintenance of public goods, a commons for knowledge resources."

"Before the word "hacker" was misappropriated to describe people who break into computer systems, the term was coined (in the early 1960s) to describe people who create computer systems. The first people to call themselves hackers were loyal to an informal social contract called "the hacker ethic." As Steven Levy described it, this ethic include these principles:

  • Access to computers should be unlimited and total.
  • Always yield to the Hands-On Imperative
  • All information should be free.
  • Mistrust authority - promote decentralization."

Howard Rheingold
Smart Mobs
Basic Books, 2002

Open Sourcing: Self Organizing Collaborative Communities

Flattener # 4: Open Sourcing – Self-Organizing Collaborative Communities
From The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman

For anyone interested in the concept of an innovation commons, The World is Flat is a must read. Here are a few quotes from this section of the book:

“…I discovered it was an amazing universe of its own, with communities of online, come as you are volunteers who share their insights with one another and then offer it to the public for nothing. They do it because they want something the market doesn’t offer them; they do it for the psychic buzz that comes from creating a collective product that can beat something produced by giants like Microsoft or IBM, and – even more important – to earn the respect of their intellectual peers. Indeed, these guys and gals are one of the most interesting and controversial new forms of collaboration that have been facilitated by the flat world and are flattening it even more.” p83

Quoting Bellendorf who was talking about the development of Apache: “We had a software project, but the coordination and direction were an emergent behavior based on whoever showed up and wanted to write code.” p 88

Concurrent Versions System used to keep track of the software and its revisions. p88

Still quoting Bellendorf, “We started with eight people who really trusted each other, and as new people showed up at the discussion forum and offered patch files posted to the discussion forum, we would gain trust in others, and that eight grew to over one thousand.” p88

“The Apache collaborators did not set out to make free software. They set out to solve a common problem – web serving – and found that collaborating for free was the best way to assemble the best brains for the job that needed to be doe.” p90

Quoting Swainson about the involvement of IBM in the project: “The Apache people were not interested in payment of cash. Thye wanted contribution to the base.” p90

Quoting Irving Wladawsky-Berger from IBM: “This emerging era is characterized by the collaborative innovation of many people working in gifted communities, just as innovation in the industrial era was characterized by individual genius.” p 93

“The striking thing about the intellectual commons form of open sourcing is how quickly it has morphed into other spheres and spawned other self organizing collaborative communities, which are flattening hierarchies in their areas.” p93

Talking about an open commons: “These bloggers have created their own online commons, with no barriers to entry. That open commons often has many rumors and wild allegations swirling in it. Because no one is in charge, standards of practice vary wildly, and some are downright irresponsible. But, because no one is in charge, information flows with total freedom.” p 93-94

“If everyone contributes his or her intellectual capital for free, where will the resources for new innovation come from?” p96

“How do you push innovation forward if everyone is working for free and giving away their work?” p 100

“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 to buy in order to use, and because open source network associations – with their open borders and come as you are approach – can challenge hierarchical structures with a horizontal model of innovation that is clearly working in a number of areas…This movement is not going away. Indeed, it may just be getting started – with a huge, growing appetite that could apply to many industries. As The Economist mused (June 10, 2004), ‘some zealots even argue that the open source approach represents a new post-capitalist model of production.’

That may prove true. But if it does, then we have some huge global governance issues to sort out over who owns what and how individuals and companies will profit form their creations.” p 102-103

Open Source as a Model for an Innovation Commons

Wide Open: Open source methods and their future potential, Geoff Mulgan and Tom Steinberg, with Omar Salem, Demos

1. Transparency
2. Vetting of participants only after they've gotten involved
3. Low cost and ease of engagement
4. A legal structure and enforcement mechanism
5. Leadership
6. Common standards
7. Peer feedback loops
8. A shared conception of goals
9. Incrementalist - small players can still make useful contributions
10. Powerful non-monetary incentives

You can get a copy of the book here

Wide Open - Open Source Principles

Transparency - Visibility and transparency are central to the most well known open source initiatives. While the standard approach to ensuring innovation in competitive industries has been to keep ideas secret as long as possible, and then copyrighted or patented thereafter, the open source model turns this on its head.

Vetting of participants only after they've gotten involved - Traditional organizations erect sophisticated barriers to involvement; systems of recruitment, appraisal and promotion are designed to ensure that only people with adequate qualifications and experience get to work on important projects, or to exercise power. Open source projects work on a very different principle. They allow absolutely anyone to get involved; all that matters is whether or not they deliver high quality work.

Low cost and ease of engagement - Genuine openness in any activity depends on cheap and easy ways of taking part. The opportunities for time-rich people with access to the internet are enormous – all the information you could possibly require to teach yourself anything about how to make computers and software work is available for free, and the best documentation often surrounds the most open projects.

A legal structure and enforcement mechanism - Open source does not mean a free-for-all. Instead it depends on a clearly defined legal framework which shapes the incentives for participation. If open source licenses were not legally enforceable, especially with regard to derivatives, then companies would more or less be able to appropriate the code that was produced and give back nothing in return. This would hugely dent the incentive for programmers to get involved. All open source projects release their data for free, but control its use through licenses that ensure that the improved work remains available for public use.

Leadership - Most open source software has some centralized element of leadership or control. This concentration of power may be around an individual, such as Linus Torvalds, or an organization, such as the Apache Foundation. Whatever the particular structure there is usually a leadership that sets the general direction and ethos, assigns tasks and acts as an editor, approving changes to the source code. It is important that the leadership maintains the trust of contributors in order that they remain involved in the project.

Common standards - Common standards have always been an essential part of successful projects. Successful open source projects like Linux and Wikipedia deal with standards in two successful ways. They rely on open, free-to-use standards, and they create new, open, free-to-use standards for their users.

Peer review and feedback loops - The principle by which the open source collaborative approach manages to produce such high quality work is most famously summed up in the words of coder Eric Raymond: "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." By this Raymond means that even complex code, millions of lines in length and of huge complexity, can be debugged reasonably quickly when there are enough people looking at different bits of it.

Incrementalist - small players can make useful contributions - Improvements to the source code of Linux or to a Wikipedia page can be modest, but still be valuable. In many other fields of development, the minimum threshold above which it is possible to make any valid contribution is very high – years of background work, gaining of a PhD or other advanced qualifications, and/or high capital costs. Both Linux and Wikipedia get a bit better every time someone makes a tiny change – and tiny changes are therefore sought and accepted, alongside major contributions.

Powerful non-monetary incentives - The baseline assumption of most major projects, technological or otherwise, is that in order to get lots of work done, you must pay lots of money to the participants. Even this most basic assumption seems to be challenged by the new methods of working. For all the characteristics listed above contribute to an economic phenomenon – the ability of open source methods to replace traditional cash incentives with non-monetary ones. People working on Wikipedia and Linux do so almost entirely for non-monetary reasons. Some may be operating indirectly out of economic self-interest – open source programming allows a developer to signal their abilities to peers and potential employers. But programmers are more commonly driven by motives of social or personal fulfillment including the desire to be respected for their work.

This is a rich book to study if you're interested in an innovation commons.

From Steven List:

"Wow! What a huge topic. One of the best written pieces on this is "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" by Eric Raymond (

I believe that there are two primary reasons that Open Source works: pride and the opportunity to make a difference. I speak not only from experience as a recipient of this benefit, but also as an early contributor.

Pride: There come moments when I realize that there's something that I can do that few other people can do. I can create a beautiful user interface, an elegant bit of code, or I can contribute to an architecture in some significant way. I don't use "pride" in the sinful sense, but in the sense of "pride of competence" or "pride of creativity" or "I'm proud that I can do this and contribute". There's a powerful communal pride in the Open Source community that is also a pride of cooperation.

And let's not forget that there's a certain joy in being able to do something *because I want to, because I can, and not for money*.

Opportunity to make a difference: in this particular community (Innovation Commons), I think that there are more people than in the average population who have the opportunity to make a difference. But imagine yourself an average programmer in some little, out of the way place, working on your small part of a large project for a decent salary. The odds are that you will never experience the pleasure of knowing that your bit of work has made a difference to someone - to anyone.

In the Open Source community, you know that what you've done has made a difference, and frequently to many thousands, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of people. You can point to one thing and say "I did that!"

The sense of community and contribution, of collaboration and communication, is powerful. "

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Law, Custom and the Commons

Law, Custom, and the Commons
by Randy T. Simmons

Dr. Simmons heads the political science department of Utah State University and is a senior associate of PERC (Political Economy Research Center) in Bozeman, Montana.

"Free and unregulated access to scarce resources has long been recognized as a serious problem. Two thousand years ago Aristotle wrote: What belongs in common to the most people is accorded the least care: they take thought for their own things above all.

More recently, the biologist and human ecologist Garrett Hardin argued: Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society which believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

Fortunately, however, there are ways to avoid such ruin.

Hardin used an example of a pasture to illustrate how the commons can produce tragedy. As long as grazing on the commonly owned pasture is below carrying capacity, each herdsman may add another cow without harming any cows—they all still have enough to eat. But once carrying capacity is reached, adding the additional cow has negative consequences for all users of the common pasture.

The rational herdsman faced with adding the extra cow calculates his share of the benefits of an additional cow. It is 100 percent. He also calculates his share of the cost. It is 1/n herdsmen; that is, it is the cost divided by the number of herdsmen. So he adds another cow. And another . . . as do all the other herdsmen. Each may care for what is common but can do nothing about it, since one person exercising restraint only assures himself a smaller herd, not a stable, preserved commons.

Thus, the commons is a trap—an individual acting in his self-interest makes himself, along with everyone else, worse off in the long run. Yet acting in the group interest cannot stop the inevitable ruin.

If the commons inevitably leads to tragedy, humans should have killed themselves off thousands of years ago. Instead, people developed ways of making individuals responsible for their own actions.

Responsibility is created by moving people out of a system of open access and creating rights of access and use. Creating such use-rights, therefore, means that a resource is no longer everybody’s property. But use-rights are meaningless unless they are protected or enforced with some degree of legal or customary agreement. The most effective system of responsibility is private property rights because owners are responsible for their own costs and benefits. If you degrade your own property, you suffer the consequences because your wealth is reduced.

If, instead, you improve the property, your wealth is increased. You capture the benefits of your actions and pay the costs of them as well. The only exception is when you create costs to others by what you do on your own property, such as damming a stream or polluting the air. Legal institutions not only protect people’s rights to do what they want with their property but also protect the rights of others (third parties) to be free from harm caused by others. "

Complete document found at

Meta Collaborative Wiki

Meta Collab is an open research, meta collaboration (a collaboration on collaboration) with the aim to explore the similarities and differences in the nature, methods and motivations of collaboration across any and every field of human endeavour.

Meta Collab’s primary objectives are to:

* create a continuously developing repository of knowledge surrounding collaboration;
* develop a community of researchers and individuals interested in furthering an understanding of collaboration; and to
* work towards the development of a general theory of collaboration.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Genes, Memes and the Innovation Commons

To make the next step in our organizations and societies, we need to develop cooperation within ever widening systems. And, if we are ever to develop "innovation commons", we must master cooperation and trust. An "innovation commons", calling on the old idea of a common pasture for a town where all the residents could graze their animals, is a place where ideas can exist, like the early molecules in the primeval sea, free to combine and reproduce to create even more complex ideas. A place where the stability of the complex ideas can be tested and their survival gauged. "Innovation commons" will be required to foster the trans-disciplinary innovation necessary for the merging of information, biological and nanometric technologies on our horizon. "Innovation commons" are needed now to handle the sociopolitical, economic and demographic problems we face amidst growing partisanship and yes, even hatreds. And, we must assure that we don’t fall prey to the "failure of the commons" where an individual or entity exploits the commons to the detriment of all others, and eventually themselves.

In the Selfish Gene, Dawkins writes, "In the beginning was simplicity. It is difficult enough explaining how even a simple universe began. I take it as agreed that it would be even harder to explain the sudden springing up, fully armed, of complex order – life, or being capable of creating life. Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is satisfying because it shows us a way in which simplicity could change into complexity, how unordered atoms could group themselves into ever more complex patterns until they end up manufacturing people."

Dawkins uses the phrase "selfish gene" not in the sense that the gene has a motive or emotion, but in the sense that it is convenient to express the actions of genes in human terms. Genes behave as though they were selfish. His perspective is that we humans are "survival machines" for our genes. His revolutionary concept is that genes use our bodies for reproduction and not the other way around. Dawkins asks the question, is there a general principle of all life, even radical life forms unknown now? He answers his own question writing, "…all life evolves by the differential survival of replicating machines."

If our bodies are survival machines for the genes within us, that does explain a lot of human behavior. Some individuals kill, steal, rape, dominate and otherwise consider only their own survival and well being. But, on the surface it does not seem to explain other, higher forms of human behavior – altruism, care for others, cooperation, collaboration and other humanistic traits we have.

The Selfish Gene, The Moral Animal and The Origins of Virtue address this issue from various viewpoints and offer at least two different perspectives. In addition they provide an insightful look at human behavior in general, and worthy of your study.

"Think of it: zillions and zillions of organisms running around, each under the hypnotic spell of a single truth, all these truths identical, and all logically incompatible with one another: ‘My hereditary material is the most important on earth; its survival justifies your frustration, pain and even death’. And, you are one of these organisms, living your life in the thrall of a logical absurdity" comments Robert Wright, The Moral Animal.

The basis for cooperation according to Wright and Matt Ridley, The Orgins of Virtue, depends upon our awareness of with whom we share genes. Clearly we share genes with our children and it is advantageous to the survival of our genes that we care for our children and assure their survival. But we do not share genes with our mates. We care for them because they can help in the survival of our own genes through our children. We also share genes with our extended families and likewise will help them survive because it increases the probability of the survival of some of our genes.

I’ve done a lot of consulting work with small towns and I often hear the same phrase, "I like it in a small town because people care for one another. You don’t get that in big cities." In a small town "everyone is related." This is of course not strictly true, but is largely true. People in a small town do share a lot of the same genes. It’s in the gene’s interest to help assure the survival of people who share some of the same genes. This is not true of large cities.

The next factor that comes into play is that our genes dictate cooperation when it is beneficial to the survival of our genes if the group survives. "If a creature puts the greater good ahead of its individual interests, it is because its fate is inextricably tied to that of the group: it shares the group’s fate," writes Ridley. He continues, "A sterile ant’s best hope of immortality is vicarious reproduction through the breeding of the queen, just as an aeroplane passenger’s best hope of life is through the survival of the pilot." This also explains cooperative behavior in families and small towns. And, it is useful in understanding why people come together under threat or attack.

One of the more successful of the "innovation commons" experiments is Open Source. Open Source is a project to collaboratively develop software operating systems and applications that are free, available to anyone and not controlled by Microsoft. It has been successful in part probably because the group that joined together to create these programs felt threatened.

The more that you perceive that you as an individual are part of an interconnected web of life, the more likely you are to act selflessly. Random acts of kindness, heroic loss of life in a cause and ecological mindedness are all examples of this enhanced sense of interconnectedness and dependence.

"Our minds have been built by selfish genes," writes Ridley, "but they have been built to be social, trustworthy and cooperative. That is the paradox that this book has tried to explain. Human beings have social instincts. They come into the world equipped with the predisposition to learn how to cooperate, to discriminate the trustworthy from the treacherous, to commit themselves to be trustworthy, to earn good reputations, to exchange goods and information, and to divide labor. In this we are on our own. No other species has been so far down this evolutionary path before us, for no species has built a truly integrated society except among the inbred relatives of a large family such as an ant colony. We owe our success as a species to our social instincts; they have enabled us to reap undreamt benefits from the division of labor for our masters – the genes. They are responsible for the rapid expansion of our brains in the past two million years and thence our inventiveness. Our societies and our minds have evolved together, each reinforcing trends in the other."

These thoughts lead to two conditions for a successful "innovation commons". Participants must perceive that cooperation in the commons – the exchange of ideas and information – helps the individuals assure their genes thrive, and their own genes' survival depends upon the group’s survival. Secondly, a system of trust must exist within the network of participants. The development of workable trust systems will be an essential building block to a successful "innovation commons".

Game theory plays an important role in understanding the types of trust systems that will work. Several different people have proven that the "tit for tat" game survives best in computer simulations. "Tit for tat" says that everyone starts with trust in the participants. Sharing occurs until there is demonstration that an individual is not giving back the equivalent to what they are taking. When this occurs, the person taking more than they are giving is no longer trusted. This is exactly how it worked in a real commons. If someone overgrazed the common meadow, he or she was shunned by the community cutting them off from the benefits of the community and possibly imperiling they ability to survive.

Dawkins writes, "What has all this to do with altruism and selflessness? I am trying to build up the idea that animal behavior, altruistic or selfish, is under the control of genes in only an indirect, but still very powerful sense. By dictating the way survival machines and their nervous systems are built, genes exert ultimate power over our behavior. But the moment to moment decisions about what to do next are taken by the nervous system. Genes are primary policy makers; brains are the executive."

The basis for cooperation according to Dawkins goes beyond. Dawkins introduces the concept of "meme", an idea replicator. Memes are the thought equivalents of genes. Genes last only a few generations before individual gene combinations that make up a characteristic of a person are lost. J. S. Bach’s genes, as prolific as he was (he had 20 children) are no longer present in any recognizable way. But his music continues to exist. Not only does it exist, it continues to replicate itself through all composers that have ever studied his music even after over 300 years. And, even a Bach music lover, has some of his melodies embedded like a virus in their brains ready to spring forth when prompted. Whether this is immortality or not is inconsequential. The point is that memes, the creations of our minds, once released from our minds, join in the generative dance of replicators in the primordial sea of memes awash in the world.

Dawkins writes, "But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong."

"Once the genes have provided their survival machines with brains that are capable of rapid imitation, the memes will automatically take over," Dawkins remarks. He stops short of concluding that the sharing of ideas is the equivalent of the sharing of our genes through sexual reproduction in order to secure their survival, but it does not seem much of a stretch to postulate that. We have many cases where individuals were so driven to spread their memes into the world that they gave up their lives to do so. Artists and writers who live in poverty in order to pursue their art. Zealots who gave their lives to promote an idea. Inventors who died broke because they dedicated their lives to their invention.

The individuals who have dedicated their lives to their memes strive for their survival. They also seek to be identified with their memes. It isn’t enough just to have the meme live beyond them. An "innovation commons" must have some system for tagging the meme with the person who originated it. In the scientific world there is a strict cultural code of referencing and footnoting the work. Like a family tree, with this kind of system, the heredity of the idea can be traced. The more often a meme is referenced the more important the meme is likely to be. Plagiarism usually results in severe shunning.

Memes can bind people together. Musical pairs like Gilbert and Sullivan, and Rogers and Hammerstein created many successful meme complexes. Business partners are often held together by meme complexes that tightly bind like genes. Business and entrepreneurial teams are also held together by their memes. Musical groups like the Beatles are also bound together by their memes and the promise of the creation of many more. These teams, pairs and groups stay together as long as the magic is there (the creation of meme complexes) and there is continued trust among the members. When one or more of the members begins to feel that others are taking more than they are giving, the bond is usually broken. "Innovation commons" will hold together as long as the magic is still in the air. A successful "innovation commons" will either be one that has a known limited life or his built in mechanisms to keep it fresh.

Very powerful meme complexes can keep many people together for long periods of time. This is probably another reason why Open Source has been successful. Its vision is very grand. Think of the metaphor of the movie "The Fifth Element" where a cab driver, a young boy, a "priest" and a woman from outer space join together to bring down Zorg and his "evil empire." Other movies like Star Wars and The Ring have similar elements. The United States has been held together by a meme complex created over 200 year’s ago. Benjamin Franklin was asked by a woman upon leaving the constitutional convention what type of government we had. He replied, "A republic madam. The question is, can we keep it?" Another principle for a successful "innovation commons" is that the meme complex must be grand to achieve longevity.

Memes can also control us like genes. We are inculcated with meme complexes through our families, tribes and our cultures. These memes can unconsciously control our actions with respect to cooperation and altruism, making an "innovation commons" difficult to obtain.

An ESS (evolutionary stable strategy) in evolutionary genetics is a strategy that does well against copies of itself. There are four generally recognized conditions for ESS – longevity, fecundity and copying-fidelity. Fecundity is more important than longevity of a particular copy. If memes are like genes, then how many brains it can infect is critical to its survival. Unlike genes, that have a particulate nature and high copying-fidelity, memes seem to be quickly morphed into new forms, just as I am writing this and putting my own thoughts into the writing and shading it to make the points I wish to make. But the fundamental ideas are those of the original authors.

There are therefor then two additional principles for a successful "innovation commons". It must be a safe environment constructed with the tools and methodologies that allow individuals to breakthrough their limiting memes to become an active member of the network. And, it must provide the equivalent of the primordial sea to allow the memes to freely combine. Survival of individual memes or meme complexes will in all likelihood be governed by ESS.

"We do not have to look for conventional biological survival traits like religion, music and ritual dancing though these may also be present. Once genes provided their survival machines with brains that are capable of rapid imitation, the memes will automatically take over," writes Dawkins.

He continues, "One unique feature of man, which may or may not have evolved memically, is his capacity for conscious foresight. Selfish genes (and if you allow the speculation of this chapter, memes too) have no foresight. They are unconscious blind replicators."

This leads us to another principle of a successful "innovation commons". It has to include and foster foresight.

Later Dawkins writes, "… even if we look on the dark side and assume that individual man is fundamentally selfish, our conscious foresight – our capacity to simulate the future in imagination – could same us from the worst selfish excesses of the blind replicators. We have at least the mental equipment to foster our long-term selfish interests rather than merely our short-term selfish interests. We can see the long-tem benefits of participating in a ‘conspiracy of doves’, and we can sit down together to discuss ways of making the conspiracy work. We have the power to defy the selfish genes of our birth and, if necessary, the selfish memes of our indoctrination. We can discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism – something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our creators. We alone on earth can rebel against the tyranny of the selfish replicators."

Our problems today have a high degree of complexity. In the future, they will be even more complex. We do need "innovation commons".

The Origins of Virtue
Matt Ridley
Penguin Books, 1996, paperback, 295 pages

The Moral Animal
Robert Wright
Vintage Books, 1994, paperback, 466 pages

The Selfish Gene
Richard Dawkins
Oxford University Press, 1976 (1990), 368 pages

The Wealth of Networks

Lawrence Lessig recommends that we read Yochai Benkler's 'The Wealth of Networks': How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom.


From Publishers Weekly
In this thick academic book, Yale law professor Benkler offers a comprehensive catalog of flashpoints in the conflict between old and new information creators. In Benkler's view, the new "networked information economy" allows individuals and groups to be more productive than profit-seeking ventures. New types of collaboration, such as Wikipedia or SETI@Home, "offer defined improvements in autonomy, democratic discourse, cultural creation, and justice"-as long as government regulation aimed at protecting old-school information monoliths (such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act) doesn't succeed. Non-market innovation is a good thing in itself and doesn't even have to threaten entrenched interests, Benkler argues; rather, "social production" can use resources that the industrial information economy leaves behind. Where Benkler excels is in bringing together disparate strands of the new information economy, from the democratization of the newsmedia via blogs to the online effort publicizing weaknesses in Diebold voting machines. Though Benkler doesn't really present any new ideas here, and sometimes draws simplistic distinctions, his defense of the Internet's power to enrich people's lives is often stirring.

"'An ambitious attempt to understand how the internet is changing society... The book draws on a staggering array of disciplines: from graph theory to economics, law to political science. But Benkler's breadth is not at the expense of depth. He never falls for easy, superficial conclusions. His writing is clear and readable... This is an important book." Paul Miller, Financial Times Magazine 'New networks offer a glimpse of the new polity and the ancient regime is struggling to prevent its birth. The Wealth of Networks is a reveille for netizens... Few are unaware that this sector is undergoing transformation, and Benkler's identification of major forces at work is important and enlightening.' Paul Duguid, Times Literary Supplement 'That the internet is changing society is understood. Less appreciated is how society is changing the internet. In this respect, Benkler's work masterfully explains the political and economic forces at play, their promises and their threats. Ultimately, his contribution is to shift our view of the network from the individual to the ad-hoc group. For this, his book is of lasting significance.' New Statesman"

A Failure of Collaboration

Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat.

"Who will plant this?" she asked.

"Not I," said the cat.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the rat.

"Then I will," said Little Red Hen.

So she buried the wheat in the ground. After a while it grew up yellow and ripe.

"The wheat is ripe now," said Little Red Hen. "Who will cut and thresh it?"

"Not I," said the cat.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the rat.

"Then I will," said Little Red Hen.

So she cut it with her bill and threshed it with her wings.

Then she asked, "Who will take this wheat to the mill?"

"Not I," said the cat.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the rat.

"Then I will," said Little Red Hen.

So she took the wheat to the mill, where it was ground.

Then she carried the flour home.

"Who will make me some bread from this flour?" she asked.

"Not I," said the cat.

"Not I," said the goose.

"Not I," said the rat.

"Then I will," said Little Red Hen.

So she made and baked the bread.

Then she said, "Now we shall see who will eat this bread."

"We will," said cat, goose, and rat.

"I am quite sure you would," said Little Red Hen, "if you could get it."

Then she called her chicks, and they ate up all the bread.

There was none left at all for the cat, or the goose, or the rat.

Open Source Economics

Yochai Benkler explains how collaborative projects like Wikipedia and Linux represent the next stage of human organization.


Howard Rheingold talks about the coming world of collaboration, participatory media and collective action -- and how Wikipedia is really an outgrowth of our natural human instinct to work as a group.

The Real Answer to the Tragedy of the Commons?

This the actual real answer to the tragedy of the commons. Is it the answer to the economic problem introduced in the Reingold talk? Is it the real model for an innovation commons?