Symbiosis in LOs LO11269

Benjamin B. Compton (
Wed, 04 Dec 1996 09:34:25 -0700

Replying to LO11239 --

William J. Hobler, Jr wrote:

> Vigdor Schreibman quoted Rol Fessenden
> >> .... I am not particularly comfortable with business driving
> >> Internet development, but I am less comfortable with the notion that
> >> someone actually thinks they know and can implement what this thing
> >> ought to look like for the good of all of us. Too paternalistic, too
> >> controlling, and too unlikely to be true -- at least for me.
> Vigdor Schneiderman replied
> > Now we both also feel no comfort from looking for that uniquely gifted
> >"someone [who] actually thinks they know and can implement what this thing
> >ought to look like," because we capitalists and the socialists and
> >communists, as well, have been down that road also, and that is really the
> >pits. So what shall we do, during the fundamental transformation of our
> >civilization, which is now under way, just throw our hands up in the air,
> >allow some sort of irrational technological imperative to wag our
> >collective tails, or take command of our destiny in the way we know works
> >the very best?
> >
> > We are planners and builders, are we not? The very best!
> >
> > Altogether we could build one utterly magnificent, democratic Global
> >Information Infrastructure (dGII), directed by shared values. With the
> >genius of John Warfield, Chris Argyris, and Peter Senge, and the
> >meaningful participation of tens of thousands of others, perhaps millions,
> >who are at our very finger tips, across the Planet Earth, we can have it
> >all!
> I am very uncomfortable with the notion that American or international
> business can build an infrastructure for civilization. The motives of
> business are not always congruent with civilization. One of the founding
> philosophies of Warfield, Argris and Senge is the open sharing of
> information -- business is not going to do that.
> I would rather turn the development of the internet to the same kind of
> community that built the first one. People who wanted to work together in
> an almost altruistic community. Some of them were not democrats, some of
> them exhibited anarchistic behavior. They collaborated where they found
> need to collaborate to attain mutual goals. In fact the money came from
> American taxes but the government pretty much stayed out of the way. It
> was not a democratic effort or even a federalistic effort -- we let a
> collaborative community do it's thing.
> The business community does not have a collaborative ethic, nor does a
> large government program that is in the public limelight. Perhaps the
> current Internet II effort underway in universities should be allowed to
> show the way to develop a more competent network resource.

Whether we like it or not, the Internet did not really explode until
business found a use for it. This gets back to the theory -- which I
accept as at least being close to legitimate -- that most meaningful
social change emerges from business.

The question that is really being discussed here, is who should design the
Internet? And for what should it be designed?

There's so much on the history of the Internet publicly available that I
see no need to recount it. I will point out, however, that the Internet is
very much a chaordic structure: There is order in the naming conventions
and directory services (which is what allows us to find each other on the
Internet), but chaos in the physical form (where and how servers are
integrated with the Internet) -- and even more chaos in the links and
connections between servers. There is a whole mish mash of links, ranging
from high-speed WAN connections, to slow telephone connections.

No one -- not even a large group of people -- has any real control over
the links and connections.

Somehow, through all this complexity, huge amounts of data get shared. The
virtue of the Internet is that you have to go out and "pull" information,
rather than having information "pushed" at you. A newspaper is an example
of an information pusher. Inherent in the "pushing" process is information
control, in that the editors get to decide what you read about. There is
no such mechanism on the Internet.

This makes the Internet a leaderless organization. No one is in control;
no one is directing its evolution; it is an emergent phenomenon of the
information age. The rich interplay between academic institutions,
business, private use, government usage are the driving forces. Business
will never control its evolution; it may have an influence, but it will
not gain control. (Perhaps the more important question is, will the
information on the Internet remain as free as it is today; or will we, in
our paranoia, clamp down on access to information, charging for nearly
everything out there?)

To me, the Internet is a metaphor for the future. It shows, I believe, how
we will organize, and interact with our environment. We can now begin to
think about our organizations in entirely new ways. The spatial
requirements, structural forms, and social interaction will be radically
different in the near future. We stand at the portal of a new era, one
which we do not fully comprehend, but one that will bring such fundamental
change that those who reject it will suffer untold misery and woe! Those
who are not moving toward the Internet (in some form, be it home, work, or
school) will yet morn their inexcusable blindness!

Ben Compton
The Accidental Learning Group                  Work: (801) 222-6178
Improving Business through Science and Art

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>