Invest in toothpicks

There’s a lot of talk, here and elsewhere, about how Internet collaboration is going to revolutionize business and politics. Just add some Internet collaboration, they say, and your business will suddenly start working better and smarter—and cheaper, as well. But the Internet is not this magic pixie dust you can sprinkle on anything. In the States, the back of every ketchup bottle now has a notice explaining that you can now create your own advertisements for the ketchup company. In return, well, in return they might use your ad. This is magic pixie dust thinking at work: people are not going to suddenly start designing your ad campaigns for you just because you asked them to.

We have to remember that these things are done by real people, not magical abstractions. The rhetoric often suggests that some magical force of “peer production” or “mass collaboration” has written an encyclopedia or created a video library. Such forces do not exist; instead there are only individual people, the same kind of people who drive everything else.

The power is that these people are collaborating. But they are collaborating because they have come together to form a community. And a community works because it has shared values. But here’s the thing: these shared values are profoundly anti-business. [Laughs from the audience.] I mean, look at Wikipedia. This is a group who wakes up every day and tries to put the encyclopedia publishers out of business by providing a collection of world knowledge they can give away to everyone for free.

If you want someone to do your company’s work for you, finding a well-organized online community with strong anti-business values seems like a bad idea. [Laughs.]

So what do you do? I have a friend who is even more brash than I am and when anyone asks her for business advice she tells them simply: Well, in the future, your servants are going to rise up and eat you. So, invest in toothpicks.

Aaron Swartz, Banff, 6 marzo 2008.

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Un passo indietro

La realtà politica degli ultimi giorni è talmente complicata (assurda, miserabile, divertente) che forse l’unica soluzione è davvero smettere di seguirla. Leggevo Aaron, in questi giorni, e lui va oltre: smettere di leggere il giornale, perchè l’ossessione del real time ha poco senso e ci fa male. Oserei: è anche quello che vogliono, stordirci di […]

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Abolire il Codice Urbani

Francesca, alla fine di un lungo e dettagliato articolo sullo stato della cultura in Italia su Tropico del Libro, chiede delle proposte. Io ho in mente una cosa piccola ma concreta: l’eliminazione/completa revisione del Codice Urbani. Con questa legge scellerata (quantomeno nelle conseguenze), ad esempio, non è possibile fare fotografie del patrimonio culturale italiano e […]

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Larry, Aaron

Se c’è una persona che volevamo prendesse su di sè il fardello dell’eredità di Aaron Swartz, questa è Larry Lessig.
Lessig (per chi non lo sapesse) è stato il creatore delle licenze Creative Commons, uno degli eroi di quest’era digitale. E’ stato mentore, amico, discepolo di Aaron, e forse uno di quelli che di più ha subito il colpo del suo suicidio. La lezione che vedete qui sotto (dedicata al caso di Aaron, ma non solo) è uno straordinario esempio di intelligenza e cuore. Si vede un Lessig letteralmente fiaccato dal dolore (personale, comunitario), per la perdita di una persona importante. Ma che reagisce nell’unico modo sensato, cioè con la testa e con il cuore: cercando di capire cause, meccasmi e conseguenze,  e cercando di elaborare soluzioni, senza speranza ma anche senza paura. E’ un video di un’ora e quaranta (un’ora e venti senza domande), in inglese, difficile, ma credo valga la pena ogni momento. Anche le domande finali, in cui Larry quasi si mette a piangere, lasciandosi andare a fondo, in apnea, discendendo alle ragioni ultime per cui facciamo le cose, con una lucidità straordinaria e commovente. Qui c’è anche la trascrizione, con tanto di slides e domande finali. (Secondo me si piange, io ve lo dico).

So why do I spend all of my time working on this issue? [audience laughter] So this is a story I’ve told a bunch of times. Let me just tell it one last time, and then… So, I write about this in my book. I was speaking at Dartmouth. A woman said to me, “Professor, you’ve convinced me. You’ve convinced me. This is completely hopeless. There’s nothing we can do.” And as I wrote in my book, when she said that, I had an image in my head of my kid, who then was about 6. And I thought, what if a doctor came to me and said, “Your son has terminal brain cancer and there’s nothing you can do.” Would I do nothing? You know, obviously no. You’d do everything. You’d do everything. You know, and that is what love means. Right? That’s what love means. It means working, acting fiercely against the odds. And then my next thought was, you know, even we liberals love our country. [audience laughter] And so this observation of the impossibility of this challenge is irrelevant, because we love. And we love means we act regardless of how impossible this is. But because of this – and that is, I think, the – that is the emotion that we need to find here. And for me, it really is deeply tied up with love, not just a country of us, kids, you look at these kids, three of them, in my life, handing over a world that is miles below the world that I inherited from my parents. And no hope for fixing this until we fix this problem. So, yeah, it’s hopeless. It’s just the only fight we have. Only fight we have.

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How to exploit academics

I have an ingenious idea for a company. My company will be in the business of selling computer games. But, unlike other computer game companies, mine will never have to hire a single programmer, game designer, or graphic artist. Instead I’ll simply find people who know how to make games, and ask them to donate their games to […]

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Non è una cosa che (mi) dico spesso, ma quel paio di settimane spese in Romania, per un paio di estati, qualche paio di anni fa (e anche un paio di settimane per un paio di inverni (che poi le estati erano 3 e gli inverni 2, dal 2005 al 2007)), quel paio di settimane […]

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