Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What Happens to Envy in the Future?

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Tonight in class, I was inspired by my classmate Zdravko's presentation on "Shift Happens: A Brief History of the Future." He was influenced by The Power of Identity by Manuel Castells and the scholars Jane Mansbridge and Michel Bauwens and Yochai Benkler and James Surowiecki among others.

Zdravko told us, "If I give you this bottle, I no longer have it. If I give you information, we both have it." Information is not a finite product to be given away or sold, or shouldn't be, was what he meant, I think.

McKenzie Wark, author of The Hacker Manifesto, Zdravko said, writes of the class struggle now between hackers, e.g., creators of software, knowledge and music, and the "vectoralists," who create a sense of artificial scarcity, and who try to control the vectors in which the product is realized, and who try to charge for the products of the creative hackers.

In the terrific Peer-to-Peer (P2P) future, Zdravko explained, all of us will participate. We'll have a panarchy, or government by all, along with sousveillance, where all of us will be recording what is said and done in the midst of our own participation.

We will be more open. We will be more generous. We will have a decentralized, even distributed, network and we will succeed together. OK. Zdravko didn't say the messages in this particular paragraph explicitly, but that's what I walked away hoping, until I had to acknowledge: I was jealous of Zdravko's presentation tonight.

In Zdravko's and all of those scholars' future, what happens when someone is clearly head and shoulders above the rest? How can I evolve to where I'm purely admiring and no longer feeling envy?

Envy produces in me a scarcity mentality, when what I need, always, is an abundance mentality. Zdravko's brilliance can inspire me in the creation of my presentation, which I need to deliver in two weeks.

God, if only I were as passionate about war's and trade's influence on the shaping of American politics as Zdravko is about P2P's potential! No excuses. I need to help the rest of the class care about the new direction of the field of American Political Development (APD), since that was the topic I was assigned based on my having told Professor Youngblood after the first class that I have faith in great corporations (like IBM) that they can affect positive social change faster than governments sometimes.

"I have just the book for you!" she responded.

Tonight, I went to Professor Youngblood's office hours before class and we had a spirited discussion about my impressions of the book, and then I saw Zdravko on fire and felt anxious, competitive and jealous. Stop. Be inspired by his messages, not paralyzed.

In fact, stop blogging and come back to 3-D life, where your suitcase is still waiting to be filled. I hope I'm able to blog while in my Coaching class on Wednesday and Thursday.

Will humans evolve to envylessness in the future? Will we stop being competitive? Will I? Can I? Will you? Can you?


Zdravko said...

i am honored and flattered that an expert facilitator/trainer like you got jealous at my presentation. by sharing your feeling of envy in your blog, you just confirmed some of the themes of the brave new world i was trying to share with you the other night: openness and transparency.

you asked:

“What happens when someone is clearly head and shoulders above the rest?”

that person will take charge and initiate a p2p project in the area where she is so much better than everyone else, and others will join in the project in order to learn, network and contribute to the greater good. nobody is better than the rest in _everything_.

you also asked:

“Will humans evolve to envylessness in the future? Will we stop being competitive? Will I? Can I? Will you? Can you?”

we all get 'unholy' impulses, lot of which come from our pre-human structures (remember the triune brain: lizard, mammalian, human?). the measure of our humanity is not what comes to us from inside, but what we do with it on the outside. critical self-reflection, as jack mezirow tells us, is the key tool that we can use to facilitate our adult evolution, and sarah is doing a great job in that respect.

competition and cooperation are the flip sides of the same coin. richard dawkins in his book “the selfish gene” makes a very convincing argument for this. see the brief wikipedia article on the book, and if you find it interesting, i can lend you the book. its implications for who we are and what life is are staggering!

competition can be good. sports and the market are two obvious examples. in his book “guns, germs and steel”, jared diamond points out that one of the reasons why the peoples from euroasia came to dominate the world today is because they lived close to each other, without significant geographical barriers, which made it possible for them not only to cooperate (mainly through trade), but also to compete with each other.

but, what is envy? we might differ slightly in our particular definitions, but whatever envy is, it is a human trait. as such, it is a product of two factors: nature (dna) and nurture (upbringing). most of humans raise their children not to be selfish and envious. however, our nature often gets the better of us. but, that might change soon. natural evolution is a ridiculously slow process, at least from our perspective. but, soon we won’t need to rely only on natural evolution. we have recently mapped the whole human genome, and sooner or later (and it might be sooner than we think), we will identify the gene for envy (ok, i’m simplifying, it’s not that there is a single gene for anything, genes work together, switching each other on or off to produce a certain effect, but we will understand this mechanism). then it’s just a matter of technological development before we’re able to do away with it, as we are beginning to do that today with some heridatery diseases using gene therapy.

Sarah Siegel said...

God, wouldn't I love for humans to evolve out of our envy. I cannot think of one constructive thing that has ever resulted from mine or anyone else's.