Four Pillars: There’s a hole in my bucket, and I’m getting WeT

Just back from reboot. Fantastic conference. Truly participative. Over 20 nationalities, incredible energy. Thomas and Nikolaj and team have really made something special happen. Thanks for inviting me, guys.
I learnt some things, was exposed to different ways of looking at things I thought familiar, met some old friends, made some new ones; even met a few people I’d conversed with for a while, but only electronically. A blogger’s rite of passage.
I’ve known for some time that there are three “I” words that need resolving before I-T can become We-T, before social software  truly socialises information and infrastructure and ideas:

  • The Internet as a real “commons” infrastructure rather than a battleground (and graveyard) for dinosaurs; empowering, not restricting
  • Identity as something personal, yet allowing participation in community and collective activity; empowering, not restricting
  • Intellectual Property Rights transformed into something that enables creativity and innovation rather than stifling life; empowering, not restricting

What I realised is how much these Blefuscudian arguments have themselves morphed, to become similar to modern-day politics and elections. That they are all about memes and anchors and frames first and everything else later. That like elections and politics, hey are influenced, almost owned, by traditional media models and lobbies and incumbents.
The words we use have power. More power than we had before, because of the empowering nature of the web, the sheer impact of globalisation, the fuzzying of distinctions between production and consumption, the lowering of barriers to entry as a result of the laws of Moore and Metcalfe and even Gilder.

There’s something poetic, yet ironic, in how this battle is being fought.

Those that want the new renaissance of the digital age to happen are armed with the analogue, the grey, the weapons of words and ideas.

Those that want the status quo to remain arm themselves with the digital, the polemic and polarised debate, the black and white, the weapons of ones and zeros.

I’ll be posting something longer soon; in the meantime, it’s worth thinking about why so many good things are happening in this space in Scandinavia.

I can think of three reasons.

  • One, that affordable internet and broadband penetration and connectivity is very high in these parts;
  • two, that the lingua franca of this movement just happens to be English, and Scandinavians put us to shame with the command they show in what is essentially a second language; and
  • three, they are culturally inclined to believe in freedom of the individual and in the freedom of the community.

These are challenging times. But don’t lose heart. Good things do happen…..take a look below:
I’m currently reading an unusual book called Telegraph and Travel : A Narrative of the Formation and Development of Telegraphic Communication between England and India, Under the Orders of Her Majesty’s Government, with Incidental Notices of the Countries Traversed by The Lines. It was written by Colonel Sir Frederic John Goldsmid, CB, KCSI, in 1874 [Note to self: Don’t need to worry about copyright infringement on this one].

Fascinating book. And hidden in the Appendix, the author reveals:

The tariff in force between England and India from 1865 to the end of 1868 was £5 for a message of twenty words.

Look what happened to the telegraph, despite the way infrastructure used to be owned then. Look what happened to the telegraph, despite the nature of patent and copyright law then. Look what happened to the telegraph, despite the restrictions on personal freedom then.

Even SMS looks cheap when I allow for 140 years of inflation. £5 for 20 words. Wow.

6 thoughts on “Four Pillars: There’s a hole in my bucket, and I’m getting WeT”

  1. Hi

    Reached here through GapingVoid.

    JP, I am writing an article on Open Source Banking, not banking using open source software, but stuff like Kiva, Ripplepay, Zopa etc.

    Have you written anything about this? Any thoughts? I’d love some inputs from an investment banker/accidental technologist.

  2. I see parallels to how the concept of land has transformed over the centuries and how Internet as ‘Commons’ is evolving with the social media discourse.

    When risk of travel reduced with the evolution of physical commons, trade happened, cultural exchange took place. Everything became more vibrant. One crucial key was safety/comfort of the physical body( of the traveller).

    Likewise, safety and comfort of identy is crucial for evolution of the Internet Commons.

    In course of evolution of the physical commons, intelligent ‘Bandits’ realized that it makes sense to be hospitable to travellers that way it will create more travellers. They can make more than any ‘loot’ through hospitality itself.

    Internet commons will quickly evolve out of the stupid ‘Killing the Golden Goose’ phase soon enough to pave the way for ‘Freedom for Gen M’.

    Talking of freedom, I am not sure if any of the technological progress really contribute to freedom in a major way. One step creates freedom, another step creates restrictions, and another step removes the restrictions and expands the horizon …

    What is Freedom?

  3. JP, very good to talk with you at Reboot. Can you send me your email address? I’d like to talk further about education … Thanks.

  4. Just wanted to thank you for a great talk you had at Reboot. Your passion for the value of relationships, not the same old thing about things being our value. Very encouraging to hear.

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