Thursday, May 19, 2005

Smart Mobs

This book review is long. So if you don’t want to read a long review of the book and its implications, let me tell you in the first paragraph, “This is a must read book!” It’s well written, exciting and scary. The technologies that the book is about have many potentially positive and negative outcomes. If you believe that society will still be dominated in the future by “zero sum” philosophies, at the individual, corporate and governmental level, then the outcome looks very scary. If you believe that society is ready to adopt “non-zero sum” games then the outlook is exciting and enormous changes will result that are positive.

Non-zero sum games are behaviors that include “the unique human power and pleasure that comes from doing something that enriches everyone, a game where nobody has to lose for everyone to win.” Zero sum games are best typified by our sports. There is a winner and there is a loser. When the rules are bent or broken, then tragic results can occur, i.e. Enron, which is zero-sum corporate behavior personified. Or, a present nemesis, spam. Spam is where one person wins and everyone else looses.

Robert Write wrote in “Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny”, “New technologies arise that permit or encourage new, richer forms of non-zero-sum interaction; then (for intelligible reasons grounded ultimately in human nature*) social structures evolve that realize this rich potential – that convert nonzero-sum situations into positive sums. Thus does social complexity grow in scope and size.”

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution
Howard Rheingold, Basic Books, 2002, Paper Back,
266 pages

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