Are we human?

03May12

Berners-Lee reminds us that the purpose of the web is to enhance our humanity; as Dr. Milberry underscored, he and other web heroes are altruistic at their very core and do what they do because they believe that the web and the opportunities it presents for collaboration and interface and interaction are humanity’s best hope for a better future. I love the goodness that seems to radiate; it has a brilliant innocence mixed with practicality and a belief in our human potential.

There is a psychological imperative the underscores our human need to network – the need to feel safe and the need to share (Kadushin, C., Understanding Social Networks, 2011). Social networks are not new and may even be very old and perhaps integral to our humanness (New study of hunter-gatherers suggests social networks sparked evolution of cooperation).

What the web has done, however, is lower the transaction cost of our interactions. For those of us fortunate to have access, we can be more altruistic, donate more easily, and care more often (if less deeply). While Malcolm Gladwell says that the revolution will not be tweeted ( Small change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted), quieter and more thoughtful acts of kindness and caring may result, even if they are less noticeable. However, if they do grow in an internet mediated world, they may yet result in a more profound revolution than we could imagine.

In 2003, Shirky said “We have historically overestimated the value of network access to computers, and underestimated the value of network access to other people, so we have spent much more time on the technical rather than social problems of software used by groups” (http://shirky.com/writings/group_politics.html). We seem to have gotten beyond that now – we are coming to understand that it’s about people accessing people and ideas and information.

Or maybe that’s only where the money lies.

Nah. I choose to believe that the glass is half full.

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3 Responses to “Are we human?”

  1. Nice post Judith. Berners-Lee is truly a “giver”. It would be hard not to go to the land of Giants and hang out with Bill and Mark and the rest of the club. Lucky for us!

  2. I agree – I will choose to believe in kindness and goodness as well!

  3. 3 Andrea

    I like your truly philosophical thoughts on all three important articles. You weave together the heart (and the crux) of social networking from today’s readings very well ~ are we losing touch of the most important things by adopting new (and I argue, desensitizing) technology.


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