LSSC12: The Penguin and the Leviathan: Cooperative Human Systems Design - Yochai Benkler

This presentation was given at the Lean Software and Systems Conference 2012 (LSSC12).

A decade ago, Wikipedia burst into a world not ready to comprehend it. Thousands of people cooperating effectively, without price signals to offer “incentives” or managerial hierarchy to direct efforts was simply impossible. And yet, it moves. And as it moved it combined with a deep shift across many disciplines, from biology and neuroscience to organizational sociology, experimental economics, and social psychology to paint a very different view of who we are as human beings. Slowly pushing back against decades of ever-refined analyses based on self-interested rationality, we begin to see that we are diverse beings; that a majority of us responds cooperatively to cooperative settings—we tend to treat well those who have treated us well, rather than take advantage of them; we tend to do what we think is right and fair, when it is clear in the setting what that is; we experience empathy, and it makes us more generous and trustworthy; we experience solidarity with others, and that makes us contributed more willingly to the group's goals. Moreover, explicit payments, the touchstone of mechanism design under universal self-interested rationality, turns out to have a much more complex relationship with motivation than simple addition. All this work in basic behavioral sciences combines with observations from organizational sociology, political science, management studies, and social software design to provide a basis on which to build a field of cooperative human systems design.


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