Sunday, September 25, 2011


Should We Share? (by: Tom Johnston- Sep. 24, 2011)

In a  period of great transformation it takes time for people’s minds to focus on the transformational issues at hand. Here, in 2011, certainly a year worthy of being called transformational, with the Jan 25 Revolution in Egypt, the Western economies in decline and technology continuing to shake things up, our culture is being ripped in two diametrically opposed directions.

Some people are passionate about using the tools of technology to share their thoughts, their creativity and their passions online; and many want to collaborate and achieve and grow in ways never before dreamed of. Any artist can now be published instantly, and can share their work for free, for the pure pleasure of sharing their human passion and creation. Humans want to share food, they want to share ideas, and they want to share their passions. I can think of no greater or nobler deed in life than engaging in the creative process, collaborating, and sharing the fruits of that effort with others with material value($) being secondary.

The other direction western culture is heading is in corporate control and ownership of everything including our genes, our water, and our creativity- Imprisoning every creative urge of humanity with lock and key only to be opened with a dollar bill($). Who was it that said: “Money is the root of all evil.”? And the attitude of this is: Anyone who got anything for free is engaging in piracy.” Remember those commercials demonizing innocent people for file sharing? (Movie Piracy)

We are emerging out of an era that has a meme (a behaviour) that is in its best, achievistic, and in its worst, narcissistic. Don Beck developed the ideas of Clare Graves with something called “Spiral Dynamics”. We develop through eras and periods and epochs and those eras can be mapped. The individualistic, achievistic era- Beck uses the colour Orange- is best represented by the recent scientific and industrial revolutions. The behaviour is the goal achiever, the industrialist, the inventor, the self made ‘man’/"woman", hence achiever and narcissist. In the documentary “The Corporation”(see link later in article) the movie compares the qualities of a corporation with that of a psychopath. It will do anything to maximize financial profit. Spiral Dymanics
Don Beck's Spiral Dynamics website

Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics

Today, in 2011, many people are reminding us that no one is self made- they had a school system, a town system, a water system, etc. around them. “Ubuntu”, a free open source platform that replaces Windows (and extremely well I might add), took that word from an African worldview: “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (translated by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee).

The Spiral Dynamic eras we are moving into are called: Green and Yellow (in that order). Green has us coming out of our individualistic, narcissistic stupors and realizing that we are destroying the earth in our hyper consumer obsession with wealth and ownership at all costs. Green is letting us know that it is in fact at all costs. As the polar icecaps melt we will see exactly what those costs will amount to. Perhaps, instead of taxing the corporate rich we’ll be putting them in prison for crimes against humanity. (See the documentary, The Corporation” )

Of course we are completely complicit in the destruction of the earth as long as we continue to obsessively visit those dollar stores and corporate big box stores in order to get the latest gadget.
The next level in Spiral Dynamics, Yellow, is called Systemic-Integrative. "Express self for what self desires, but to avoid harm to others so that all life, not just own life, will benefit."

Thinking globally, we can now start to get clarity on how we are inadvertently hurting others and our earth by living in our own little gasoline and all-you-can-eat-buffet lifestyle. I can think of no other symbol that better represents this Yellow era than THE INTERNET.

As we come out of our Orange narcissism, we enter Yellow Web 2.0 where the individual can see that who he/she is, is also who so many others are. We can put up our tweets and our pics, and our Facebook profiles and we can learn about our own humanity in all its strengths and weaknesses. Never before could we be virtually in touch with so many diverse cultures, ages, genders, attitudes, etc.

This culture of sharing, is really identity sharing, and it means that everyone is out of the closet. That’s right, for better or for worse, our identities live, not in the town square, or on the soap box at the park, but in a globally public domain. (and by the way there’s more of a chance of being physically assaulted in the market square than there ever will be of living online. In fact physical violence is virtually impossible online)

And so, out of the closet, we rise up by offering insightful information and opinions; we rise up by starting a Poetry blog; we rise up by respectfully disagreeing with some-one's tweet. We engage in discussions; we change our opinions because of what we are discovering, not because of mainstream information but in spite of it. We rise up by being the creative beings that we always knew we were.This is more than evolutionary; this is revolutionary.

Nothing has ever transformed society so quickly in so many aspects; Schools, Businesses, Artists, Politicians, Philosophers all have changed the way they go about their activities because of the Internet.

Some INTERNET Background and How its Nature is Sharing
The Internet began as a military tool to maintain another level of communication in case the other systems (phones etc.) went down during a war. It was then passed over to the scientific world so that scientists could share their data. Along came Unix(1969) and later Linux , Linux being one of the greatest examples of open source free software. The Internet runs mostly on free Unix operating systems.

In the 60’s M.I.T., AT&T (Bell Labs) and General Electric developed an experimental operating system and due to many problems, began to withdraw from the program. One of the scientists, Ritchie, says,

"What we wanted to preserve was not just a good environment in which to do programming, but a system around which a fellowship could form. We knew from experience that the essence of communal computing, as supplied by remote-access, time-shared machines, is not just to type programs into a terminal instead of a keypunch, but to encourage close communication."  (emphasis mine)

Today there is a curious and wonderful quality of the Internet: It’s anarchical. It can’t be controlled by government (Free Speech) and it can’t be controlled by corporations(file sharing). Now, this remains to be seen, but the very nature of the Internet will make it very difficult to put chains on. The reason for this is that the Internet is a network of nodes and roots and connections and there is no central controlling origin.

Picture: Tree of routing paths (from The Opte Project)


The Effect of the INTERNET

The result of this is a great deal of power over information placed in the hands of the masses- from old retirees to teenage hackers and hacktivists. This power is not well liked by Government and Corporations because of the loss of power and money due to the masses engaging in free speech and file sharing.

I believe that Government and Corporations will have to adapt the people and not the other way around. This process will be tumultuous. Corporatocracies will not give up wealth because the nature of a corporation is to make money at all costs (yes, even cost to humanity- especially costs to humanity)

In terms of artists getting paid, Professor Lawrence Lessig addresses the issue. Rather than declare file sharers criminals, as has been fairly successfully put over on the general public, he proposes putting in place a way of directing money from the consumers to the artists which is fair. Look at the link below specifically between minutes 8 and 18. Lessig identifies the desires of people to collaborate, share and create, and the government response. He also offers some new and innovative approaches to paying artists.

Prof. Lawrence Lessig on File Sharing and Piracy(Vimeo)

The government in its “Infinite Wisdom” creates more file sharing every time it tries to bust a network. This is the anarchical nature of the Internet. Gordon Graham on Anarchy (University of Aberdeen)

Hopefully this will mean in the future no one will become a billionaire because people like their songs. In the Yellow communal age there is no need for someone to become a billionaire. Even if they are Philanthropists, philanthropy will be a communal, group process rather than the public naively hoping the rich guy contributes.

This future is a long way away, but the Internet has given many of us a vision of a better world, a world where we are occupied with creativity and sharing, rather than producing products and consuming. Maybe a day will come when we will reminisce and feel shameful that we actually purchased bottled water.Ultimately, it is not the Corporations or the Government that will decide; it is the masses and their day to day creating and consuming behaviour. Do we want to be shoppers, or creators?