Future Perfect

Steven Johnson's 2012 book Future Perfect: The Case For Progress In A Networked Age ISBN:1594488207

The key phrase of the book (why not in the title?) is "PeerProgressive"-s - a belief that Progress can accelerate through Peer Network-s (Non-Market Collaboration; see related Crowd Sourcing, Crowd Funding). The peer progressive’s faith in the positive effects of the Internet rests on this democratic principle: When you give people more control over the flow of information and decision making in their communities, their social health improves — incrementally, in fits and starts, but also inexorably.

We tend to assume that innovation and progress come from big technology breakthroughs, from new gadgets and communications technologies, most of them created by the private sector. But the positive trends in our social health are coming from a more complex network of forces: from government intervention, public service announcements, demographic changes, the shared wisdom of life experiences passed along through generations and the positive effects of rising affluence.

Hmm, how much will this book get you once you've read Wealth Of Networks and Cognitive Surplus?

I haven't read it, I'm just collecting some notes here from other glosses...

Albert Wenger liked it. Government can be a great facilitator of Network-s and peer networks are closer to the ideal of Market-s that F A Hayek described than many of the current commercial markets (which are often dominated by a few very large companies (Oligopoly)).

But peer networks, Mr. Johnson emphasizes, "are much older than the Internet." The creativity of the Renaissance, he asserts, was catalyzed by the free flow of ideas in trading centers such as Venice, Genoa and Istanbul, cities that "lacked both big government and big corporations." (cf Where Good Ideas Come From) He sees peer networks at work today in the grass-roots management style of employee-owned businesses; in schools that reward faculty members for sharing teaching ideas with each other; in "participatory budgeting" that empowers poor communities to decide how to spend tax dollars; in programs that improve the nutrition of Third World villages by disseminating diet tips culled from healthy families.

Dec09: Fire Dog Lake salon discussion with Steven. In the next day or two, Grist is going to publish a long conversation I did with Wen Stephenson there where we talked about the absence of Climate Change in the book. Or not quite “absence” — it’s even worse, because there’s a line where I say something like “peer networks aren’t going to be able to solve all our problems, like perhaps climate change.” And Wen got rightly concerned that here was this big new political worldview, and I was implying that it couldn’t tackle maybe the most pressing issue of our time. So I wish I’d worked through that in more detail, though in the Grist conversation we ended up getting to some very interesting ideas about how peer networks could be used to fight Global Warming, including JeremyRifkin’s ideas about “LateralPower,” where the power system looks much more like the Internet than the current top-down industrial model.

Tom Whimsley lists 62 things wrong with the book. First, and the reason I am writing this: Claiming that the "peer progressive worldview" stands for decentralization and egalitarianism. It will lead instead to an increasingly polarized world, with centralization of information on an unprecedented scale... Believing that struggle is unnecessary. It is not mentioned anywhere in the book. Johnson responds in the comments.

Interview: Well the funny thing about capitalism is that markets, as they talk about in the book, markets are actually beautiful examples of peer networks. You’ve got a lot of decentralized agents who are buying and selling kind of independently and there’s often a lot of kind of diversity in the market that involves a lot of open audition, there’s a lot of different people kind of working independently when you have monopolies you have another problem, but a corporation is often you know particularly modern. You know a multinational corporation (BigCo) is often very top heavy hierarchal almost bureaucratic organizational form right. So the marketplace is nice and decentralized and diverse but the corporate structure is not a peer network and so the bunch of interesting experiences of their internal corporate organization making these systems more peer network-like.

Nikki Steele: I wanted to showcase some of the most inspiring peer network models I’ve run across lately and hope that you’ll find some nuggets for thought as you browse through each of these as well.

Evgeny Morozov criticizes the book.

Some ideas/examples: real and suggested (cf Games To Play)


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