Us Power

There’s this interesting story in Business Week about how technology is enabling mass collaboration and an emerging phenomenon of group intelligence:

The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide — along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more — are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. For the first time in human history, mass cooperation across time and space is suddenly economical. “There’s a fundamental shift in power happening,” says Pierre M. Omidyar, founder and chairman of the online marketplace eBay Inc. (EBAY ) “Everywhere, people are getting together and, using the Internet, disrupting whatever activities they’re involved in.”

At first I say, “Right On.” I’m a bottom-up, participatory kind of guy. And the second author that came to my mind reading this article was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This sounds right down his alley. In fact, the connection is so obvious it’s kind of tired.

But the first author I thought of was Charles Dickens and his disdain for crowds and mobs. He often portrayed mobs as tyrannical and irrational. Indeed, how do we use this incredibly powerful technology in a way that that does not amplify groupthink and reject the inspired eccentric geniuses that have sparked humanity’s progress over the centuries? We need to preserve room for the dissenters, the deviants, and the iconoclasts even as We The People claim the world for collaboration and cooperation.

I’d love to see the world singing in perfect harmony. But without a bit of dissonance now and then, you have little more than elevator music.

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