Friday, November 5, 2010

Symbionomics Themes

What follows is a synopsis of the major themes we are exploring with the Symbionomics project (see kickstarter link on the right). Obviously, this is just a starting point. We are open to these concepts growing and evolving as this process unfolds.

With each theme, we are seeding an online video discussion (as linked to in the titles). Ultimately, we will have video forums for each theme.

  1. New Media: In the last twenty years, a wave of new tools has transformed the way we communicate. As Clay Shirky points out in his seminal book Here Comes Everybody, 20th century media tools took the form of one-to-many. Today, with the advent of social media, we can, for the first time, communicate on a large scale in a many-to-many pattern. What’s more, this new ability has profoundly affected how the economy is organized. We will explore how tools like blogs, social media, and Wikipedia have transformed the way people live and work.
  2. Networks: These new forms of communication have enabled the geometry of our organizations to evolve from pyramidal to networked. In the past we needed top-down hierarchical organizations to organize on any scale larger than a village. Today, we are seeing organizations become more effective as they have embraced networked culture. We will explore how living in a networked world changes the incentives for economic interaction.
  3. Letting Go of Control: As we have transformed into a networked culture, we have developed new ways of deriving value from our work. We used to depend on capturing value through the ownership of assets and the control of production. Now that access to information is only ever a few connections away, many people are loosening control over their property in favor of sharing amongst their networks. We will explore how new social contracts of ownership and control have gained traction in an age of hyper-connectivity.
  4. Open Production: As individuals and organizations have loosened their grasp on their products, an entirely new form of production has emerged. In contrast to the industrial production models of the 20th century, today, open source software, Wikipedia, and Creative Commons have proven that open production is both viable and effective. We will explore the success and future possibilities of this new mode of production.
  5. Motivation: With new modes of production come new motivations for participation and value creation. Since both monetary reward and power over others are largely non-existent in the open production model, motivation has shifted from extrinsic to intrinsic. What’s more, as Daniel Pink points out in his book Drive, intrinsic motivation is far more successful at educing creative problem solving in individuals. We will explore this new motivational landscape and find out exactly why people do contribute at such large scales to Wikipedia and other such projects.
  6. Post-Scarcity Economics: In the old economy, the surest way to profit was to be controlling a scarce resource. However, many of the products of the digital age are virtually free to reproduce and distribute. Industries such as newspapers and music have been slow to embrace this new reality, and have fallen into decline. We will explore the economic logic of a world where the primary driver of the economy is no longer scarce.
  7. The Future Work: Our new communications tools have also changed the way we organize at the workplace. The rise of co-working environments such as The Hub has brought into question whether the 20th century conception of employment is still a necessary foundation to the economy. Agile developer teams that spontaneously arise to build open source software have proven that successful teamwork no longer depends on an employer. We will explore this shifting landscape around how we organize ourselves into effective teams.
  8. Social Gaming: The recent explosion of smart phone technology has also seen an unprecedented integration of gaming into everyday life. Services such as Foursquare, SCVNGR, and CheckPoints, have provided new ways of coordinating economic activity, supporting local businesses in the process. What’s more, thought leaders such as Jane McGonigal and Jessie Schell have emphasized using game dynamics for social benefit. We will explore the power and potential of social gaming.
  9. Collaborative Consumption: In addition to new modes of production emerging in the economy, we are also seeing the rise of new forms of consumption. Rachel Botsman in her recent book, What’s Mine Is Yours, has documented a massive surge in services such as Zip Car, CouchSurfing, and NeighborGoods which use information technology to make more efficient use of physical resources. We will explore how this new trend in consumption is affecting the broader economic landscape.
  10. Making and Growing: New economic patterns of the information age are no longer limited to the Internet as the rise of maker communities and DIY demonstrates. The rise of 3D printing has made decentralized manufacturing a real possibility, with designs shared in a global knowledge commons. On the agricultural side, gardening has surged in popularity as the economy continues to languish. We will explore how we can use the same patterns Wikipedia has proved so successful in the broader economy.
  11. The Future of Currency: As our economy transforms, conventional forms of money may no longer be serving our needs. In many cases, online reputation systems have reduced people’s dependency on money to facilitate transactions. Much of the new economy is outside of the market entirely, which begs the question, what will replace money as an economic coordinating system? We will explore how 21st century information systems are beginning to reduce the need for conventional money to get things done.
  12. Collective Intelligence: As our civilization goes through this massive transformation, we are also seeing the intelligence of organizations rising to meet 21st century challenges. Where the 20th century was about smart individuals, the 21st century will be about creating smart organizations on all scales. We will explore the power and future possibilities of collective organization.