Some pundits exclamations about “but what are their demands” when it comes to Occupy protesters betrays a crucially uninformed mindset. The world has been and still is radically changing around us. It no longer matters that Wall Street consultants or apologists for cynics continue to say “it won’t work”, or “there is no alternative” in the face of phenomena like Wikipedia or Linux that have broken the industrialists model of selfish humans all out to get as much as they can. Their hidden suggestion has always been “oh, but you’re as greedy as us when it comes to it” which betrays a deep cynicism about human nature and the hope for a better, less cynical or tight, world.
Yochai Benkler appears to have caught on to the momentous changes that we are seeing around us. Unhampered by the cynics silence in the face of phenomena that don’t suit their agenda, he just says it. How refreshing !
This professor of law at the Harvard Law School spoke at the recent Wikmania conference in Israel.
Wikipedia presents a basic economic puzzle: why do tens of thousands of users contribute their time and expertise for no financial compensation and little to no outside recognition? Altruism? Community? Boredom? As part of The Atlantic‘s celebration of 10 years of the collaborative encyclopedia last January, Yochai Benkler, a professor at Harvard Law School, suggested that the “biggest gift Wikipedia has given us” is “a way of looking at the world around us and seeing the possibility of effective human cooperation, on really complex, large projects, without relying on either market or government processes.” ( Source )
Wall Street ? Can you hear the creaking of 200 year old economic models ? The future ? What about a way to replace the greedy and corrupt economic models of this planet ? The cynics can no longer shout down protesters and activists now Wikipedia and Linux as well as other cooperative models (remember, with no government or cash driven participation) have triumphed. As with Wikipedia the trick is put the idea into practice. Theorising is really a dead end here apart from publicising some possibilities. It has been said that “Wikipedia does not work in theory, only in practice”. We have reached the times where cooperative economic models need to be put into practice regardless of any “necessary” selfish model that is pushed by Wall street dino’s.
After tracing macroeconomic history from pre-nineteenth century European monarchies through the industrial revolution, the New Deal, and the Washington Consensus, Benkler writes, “If neither the command-control systems dictated by the Leviathan nor the Invisible Hand of the free market can effectively govern society, where shall we turn? Can the Penguin [Linux mascot / symbol of cooperative model] deliver us more robust, working social and economic systems that break us out of this vicious cycle? I believe that he can”.
Cynics may stay snugly wrapped up in their duvets !
Ten years ago, when Jimmy Wales put a few hundred stubs on a web platform to which anyone could write, and which anyone could edit, but no one was paid to do either of these, it was doomed to failure. Or so then-conventional wisdom would have said. Anyone who would have proposed that within five years Nature would claim that Wikipedia’s science articles are not fundamentally worse than those of Britannica; or that by the end of a decade it would become the standard reference online would have been laughed out of the room. Wikipedia was impossible. So, by the way, were free or open source software, Yelp, or Tripadvisor. They were all impossible because the dominant model of human behavior said that we were all fundamentally self-interested, and that without systems to reward good behavior and punish or constrain bad behavior, human enterprise cannot flourish. Without law or markets, we would simply devolved to mutual shirking and abuse.
And yet, it moves… (Source)
I would encourage Occupy protesters to study what Benkler highlights and realise our extraordinary future.
Internet philosopher: Wikipedia a social model beyond market or state
A new book by Yochai Benkler – Internet scholar, Harvard University lecturer, and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society – sets out to demolish the widely held notion that humans are motivated primarily by narrowly construed self-interest. (Source)