Friday, March 19, 2004


Visited the Merril science-fiction collection (http://www.tpl.toronto.on.ca/merril/home.htm/ ) last night for a book launch and reading by Cory Doctorow, a home-boy from Toronto doing good and doing well as a copyright reform advocate with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (http://www.eff.org/) and science fiction author. ( Personal Web site at http://craphound.com/).

Some deep thoughts and a few good laughs from the Toronto alpha-nerd audience: much talk about dynamically ordered impermanent social groups called ad-hocracies. Doctorow agreed with critics in the audience that ad-hocracies (e.g. wikis, alternative schools) provide powerful benefits but are not without and their flaws and do leave some members of the group behind. Of course, so do autocracies, democracies, theocracies and any other form of social organization.

What I like most about ad-hocracies is that their tribal loyalty is flexible and temporary rather than absolute. Nationalism is a permanent self-identification, while an ad-hocracy provides for individual choice based on the conditions set by the individual, at least a greater extent than ethnicity or national identity. For example, inside a technical standards-setting body decision-makers can change sides on a topic very easily, and in fact, as technocrats and scientists, are expected to do so depending on the evidence and arguments put before them for adopting one standard over another.

Nationalism, in contrast, is a more or less permanent state: people are American, are Japanese or are Canadian, and very rarely examine other nationalities objectively to see if they should change their identity and way of being. In fact, if they did so, they are accused of not being patriotic or " going native."

I like ad-hocracies... at the very least, the powers that be should not be allowed to crush them in the name of Commerce or the war on terror. collaborative, non-absolute forms of social organization are obviously highly creative and flexible, the kind of structure that allows rapid and extensive innovation. Copyright law would do well to maintain fair dealing rights and the public domain to provide the framework and fertilizer for the growth of these powerful innovation communities.

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