Building a Sustainable Economy - the Wikipedia Model

<p>Recently I traded some emails on whether the Internet is a device that gives more power to the rational mind, or is its democratic nature destined to "stampede us further into the world of delusion"?</p>
<p>Moving beyond the suggestion that there are those who will deliberately seek to use any communication vehicle for their own nefarious ends, I think it is fair to say that overall the digital revolution is a recipe for unparalleled chaos, creativity and dialogue.</p>
<p>Not only does this help us rise to our fullest potential, it also creates a mechanism for least-common-denominator discourse as well. The same Internet that gives the world access to highly credible information such as Wikipedia (which effectively uses community-policing to ensure or encourage accuracy) provides web sites designed to amuse, prevent the flow of information and, in some cases, control and encourage hate and anger. These range from those offering ridiculous conspiracy theories to those that espouse dangerous and deliberately misleading information.</p>
<p>At the same time, for every intelligent, thoughtful and important web page, there is (at least) one dedicated to the latest celebrity who somehow didn't manage to get fully dressed before going out. While not deliberately designed to pursue a negative agenda, those web sites at best lower the level of the dialogue and at worst reduce the credibility of everything on the Internet - including the credible sources.</p>
<p>As we move forward in the digital age, I hope and think that we will see a 'split' between those who use it for the former and those who use it for the later. I believe that the future is brighter that many people think. Never before in history have so many people had access to information. We are increasingly exposed to new thoughts, ideas and cultures with a freedom that would astound people only a generation ago.</p>
<p>From the freedom of ideas comes the natural tendency toward the desire to do more and the unfettering of restraints (despite the efforts of some to hold back the tide). I see the 'people power' revolutions in East Germany and the Philippines as a model for continued social advancement and self-determination. There will be some 'messiness' that comes from all this. But in the chaos of personal, intellectual and artistic expression - the world moves forward. It is notable that more of us are moving forward - together - than before. We must do our best to ensure that more and more people have the opportunities that the future offers.</p>
<p>How does this apply to sustainability? If one accepts the fundamental premise that any system will produce the outcome(s) that it was designed to produce (no matter what the intention) then we must take heed that the economic systems in place are creating "bubbles" of increasingly alarming size at an increasingly alarming rate - from the tech boom to the escalation of real estate prices and, apparently stock markets around the world.</p>
<p>Economic systems that create "bubbles" rather than real value are not sustainable. When trillions of dollars in value evaporate overnight, it is fair to say that the value didn't exist to begin with. Clearly the system needs to be adjusted if we are to change the outcome. We cannot be satisfied if we continue to patch the holes in the levees and hope that we get out before the next flood.</p>
<p>Sadly it gets wrapped up in political agendas so that when one talks about reinventing markets it gets translated as anti-American, anti-Capitalist or anti-Freedom.</p>
<p>As we move forward, then, we must follow the model of Wikipedia (and other sites, but that is the most well known) to develop the forum, mechanisms, tools and discipline necessary to leverage the power of the Internet for idea-sharing and provide the people-powered economic revolution that focuses on social and environmental as well as economic recovery in 2009 and beyond.</p>