After a really inspirational talk by Wikipedia’s Jimbo Wales, I had an interesting exchange with Paul and Patrick about the broader philosophy that lies underneath Open Source, concepts like the hive mind or the collective consciousness that moves the newer outposts of Information Technology, masterfully explained in Steven Johnson‘s Emergence: the Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. This is what makes wikis great, argues Jimbo. This is what makes them extremely dangerous, argues Edge‘s prodigious child Jaron Lanier, echoing Kevin Kelly’s Out Of Control study on social systems:
The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it? The problem is in the way the Wikipedia has come to be regarded and used; how it’s been elevated to such importance so quickly. And that is part of the larger pattern of the appeal of a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force. This is different from representative democracy, or meritocracy. This idea has had dreadful consequences when thrust upon us from the extreme Right or the extreme Left in various historical periods. The fact that it’s now being re-introduced today by prominent technologists and futurists, people who in many cases I know and like, doesn’t make it any less dangerous.
Read the whole article here. And, incidentally, if you have a spare day or two, read as many of Edge’s articles as you can possibly can, as they are absolutely brilliant!
Update: another interesting take on the subject by Ming the Mechanic’s excellent blog.