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Howard Rheingold talks about exploring cooperation

I recommend viewing this talk (you can do it directly if you have flash, or install miro and add a TED channel to it which is a better option Eye ). It talks about things like Prisoners Dilemma and how people are increasingly escaping it by cooperating, by turning distrust into assurance.

What impresses me the most, however, is the notion that we've just begun exploring cooperation and "technologies of cooperation". I like this notion because I occasionally feel like it's already done, blogs are everywhere, there is a saturation of forums, everyone can have a web site or a social network etc. - how can we do anything new here?

But the realization that we're just beginning and that cooperation is an universe still waiting to be explored makes for a motivating challenge. I am happy that we have this beautiful think tank developing on where exactly this kind of topic fits so well - and we will be exploring it!


Very interesting indeed. My


Very interesting indeed. My jaw dropped when he pointed out research showing that punishing wrongdoers stimulates the reward centre of the brain - I posted about experiencing exactly that in the last week simply by imagining payback.

It's early days indeed for the online evolution, most of the mass activity so far has been around more convenient ways of doing the same old things, and the novelty of self expression. There are lots of online advances for specialist groups such as software developers, but what big changes await the masses?

I think the time is ripe for a new financial paradigm. Standard and Poors gave sub-prime instruments a triple-A rating (unsurprising as they are hired by the vendors), governments are once again using taxpayers money to bail out banks who have operated recklessly while the traders and bosses keep their bonuses.

Sub-prime is a tiddler compared to the CDS (credit default swaps) market which grew from 900 Billion in 2000 to 45 Trillion today. The ratings agencies have again been giving AAA and AA ratings for these unregulated instruments, some of which are now trading at junk ratings. CDS's are supposed to be a hedge against bond defaults, but they dwarf the 4 Trillion bond market. This is a house of cards, pure gambling, and sub-prime contagion is taking out some of the cards at its base. If the CDS market starts heading south as certain insiders expect, the losses will be staggering and farewell to the last of the credit.

Central banks don't have the reserves to ease liquidity of that scale especially the Federal Reserve (which lent out it's gold - some say to depress gold and engineer a stock market bubble) will be in the thick of it, so it's print money and dump your currency. We're quite possibly facing global recession, at best.

Long before sub-prime and CDS derivatives were invented, quantitative analysis covering long periods showed that the "beat the market" strategy held up by actively managed funds is a pipe-dream, exposing Wall St. et al as nothing but a great skimming operation, you'll do just as well over the long term investing in passive exchange traded funds - stocks, how quaint.

Meanwhile, in corners of the world where bankers wouldn't risk dirtying their shoes, micro finance organisations have successfully proven that the poorest cases can actually engage in mutually beneficial banking. Often these are established and run by local people as social enterprises, the common good is their core mission, not corporate profit.

There are also bad micro finance operators, charging high interest and with poor management structures - a recipe for corruption and ineptitude. If someone gets it right in a big way though, I'd say a lot of people are ready to take some of their eggs away from the traditional institutions and deposit them with social banks, after all, online banking and paypal are second nature now. Transparent governance and rigorous risk assessment are crucial, because a glut of easy credit brings the risk of complacency - "of course you can have a loan, sure we're loaded".

It is possible to do things right instead of wrong. I'd rather finance a well or grain mill in a way that demands responsibility from the borrowers and instills pride, than give simple handouts that breed dependence and chip away at self-worth.

The misfortune of big banks who sidestepped regulation to engage in an orgy of gambling, may be the golden opportunity for smaller institutions. Even without going to third-world micro finance, local credit unions and building societies run the old-fashioned prudent way may find themselves back in favour in a big way. They are a perfect example of co-operation surviving despite competition.

I'm not as well

I'm not as well knowledgeable in banking and more complex finance issues to comment more specifically on things you said (though I feel I should explore this area further), but the notion of using the cooperative strategies on the internet to reform the way people do finances makes a lot of sense, and is actually one of the things that doesn't immediately cross my mind when I think about collaboration, but could potentially be quite exciting.

I'm most interested in how can collaboration strategies (and which ones) be used from an entrepreneurs perspective on projects which would contribute to positive change, at least as good examples of how can things be done. But I'm being a bit vague.. maybe we should start a topic about this on the forums? Smiling