The rapid growth of the internet is a compelling and fascinating study for anyone interested in building a cooperative system that works. Today’s internet has its roots in a military project called Arpanet. The system was designed so that if any part of the network becomes disabled, the system adapts and still function as a whole. (Our brain works in a similar fashion.)
The value of this redundancy is illustrated in the journey your email takes as it hops across the internet to its destination.
Your email is sliced into small packets of information each packet tagged with the destination address. Your message packets are sent across the internet by cooperating internet routers and mail servers. If a packet is mishandled or lost at any point, it is resent automatically along another route. The intelligence and utility of the internet emerges from the cooperative abilities of these components.
Cooperative systems in nature, like the beehive and ant colony, work in the same way. You won’t find a worker ant that insists that he alone bring coordinates of some juicy food to the “boss” ant. He broadcasts the message to every ant he meets. In this way, if some ants don’t survive the journey home, the message will still get through.
Does your business work this way? Is information freely and unselfishly shared or is it hoarded for individual benefit? In the industrial age, competitive behavior was the primary model for business. A belief in scarcity gave rise to competition as the primary operative model. Trade secrets and proprietary systems ruled the day. As our world economy becomes more interconnected, cooperative behavior becomes more critical. If your system won’t talk to others in the network, you will find yourself missing all the value gained by open communications and shared information and knowledge.
A movement to create software cooperatively has taken the world by surprise. This model, called open source, yields robust results because continous enhancements, contributed by the community of developers, are folded back into the software system. How might this open model of communication and cooperation change your business? How might it change the way we build automobiles, airplanes, or sattelite launch systems? I foresee a future where our technologies becomes too important to be entrusted to proprietary interests.
I believe we’re on a path towards a more sustainable, sane future. While we have trashed our planet to an embarrassing level during our industrial age. We have a chance to begin a new way cooperating and cocreating a future. This new shift toward interconnectivity and openness is breaking down proprietary systems that no longer work. I see this trend towards open communication as a signal of the wonderful things to come in the next millennium.
About Tony Cecala
Tony is a business strategist. He publishes the Holistic Networker and produces the Wellness Expo. In his spare time he reads about technology and the mind.