unFailing Massive Collaboration: Open-Sourcing Everything

I’d like to lead a session on unfailing massive collaboration by “open-sourcing everything”. I started in Economics at Reed College and later was a student in Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Science and Technology. My thesis was a minimalist theory of infrastructures for collaboratively producing our world, with ethical orientation toward radical demographic inclusion: how we can live in a society much like ours but where the neurosurgeon and the toilet-cleaner have equal power and participation.

After spending the last couple years dreaming through the more basic features of this problem at an intensive Zen monastery, I decided that my mission now is to grow a robust meta-culture of open-sourcing everything. LOTE people seem like the right ones to work with on this very unknown problem. Open-sourcing everything allows us to fail more, fail faster, and fail together.

The social forms and mechanics of the open-source mindset make it easy to trace failures, learn from them, and design more robust iterations. I think the really expensive failures, the ones that are most destructive, are the ones that are ambiguous or invisible. Cultivating a culture of open-source everything familiarizes us with common patterns of failure and omission by their repeated appearance.

The culture of an open-source world is fundamentally a culture of rational experimentation and lightweight solutions. It’s a method for getting peer-reviewed solutions to any conceivable problem and refining that solution into a reusable working part to be inherited by other systems. But as much as it excels in finding “optimal” solutions, it also aids us all in embracing diversity by letting us clearly see how different tribes do things differently for their own good reasons.

I would like to give LOTE participants some simple masscollab/open-source thinking tools and demonstrate practical forms of contribution to an open-source world. I want this session to be a collective realization both of practical forms of open-sourcing in the domains and communities to which we each belong, and of the general principles necessary to responsibly translate the tools and mediums of open-source to the rest of the world.

Here’s how the session might unfold:

I’ll demonstrate how “open-sourcing” anything is the same as “networking” it, and I’ll convey intuitive proofs of the efficiency and accompanying societal wealth inherent in dot-connecting “network effects”. I’ll frame open-sourcing as a big-minded creative labor that teaches collectivity-consciousness while producing social facilities that increase in value exponentially. Although participants need not have any experience with software development, I will use metaphorical analogies to APIs, protocols, “forking”/versioning, and long-term interoperability best practices.

I’ll show how to perform this craft of networking the world in forms granular enough and in mediums organic enough to remain usable across time and free from technological provincialization. I’ll teach that anyone can “open source” what they’re familiar with by documenting it in forms and mediums that are “friendly” to networked collaboration. And I’ll stimulate the imagination to consider open-sourcing places, communities, social forms, materials, learning, and collaboration tools themselves in ways that the largest cross-section of humanity can replicate, localize, and own as both users and designers.

I’ll give a simple theory of projects, examining the sources and barriers of expertise, funding, momentum, and localization, as a microcosm of mass collaboration. I’ll explore the philosophy of patterns, replication, and the creation of new categories of things in the world by analogy to genomics and ecosystems, and “impossible scenarios” that are made possible by radically shrinking the “transaction overhead costs” of high-N coordination problems. Finally I’ll point out some statistical and imaginative arguments that demonstrate the potential of massive open collaboration to eliminate the causes of myriad exploitative systems by enabling widespread local self-sufficiency.

Anyone with similar interests or a strong intuition about this session please get in touch with me ASAP to help tailor it deeply to the needs of LOTE participants. Ideally this session can hold value to every other social innovation at LOTE since it aims to generalize (or commoditize!) social innovation itself.

I’ll reference the work of Bruno Latour, Christopher Alexander, Yochai Benkler, and Alexander Galloway for further reading.

Date: 2016-02-26 08:00:00 - 2016-02-26 08:00:00, America/Los_Angeles Time.


How about picking an ongoing massive challenge?

Hello and welcome to Edgeryders :slight_smile:

I was hoping someone would tackle this theme in one of the sessions and will definitely be attending this. The reason being that I believe it is key to our ability to tackle very messy problems like the ones I pointed out after the International Mayor’s conference on the “refugee crisis” (see writeup here).

My feeling is that one obstacle to engage with discussions about new ways of doing things is the sense that “aaarrgh I cannot cope, not another thing”. Perhaps going through the tools and methods with the explicit aim of identifying some small things they can do to make their everyday work reality better?

Right now one obvious context where people need help, but are already struggling to cope, is grassroots ngos and others where there is a lot of chaos and self organisation. I met a couple of people working in Vienna who expressed interest in getting better at documentation and institutional memory, because of high volunteer turnover and the need to constantly repeat the same information over and over again which is exhausting…

big networking theory, simple habits

@Nadia Thank you for the tips! I agree; getting buy-in on simple habits that attendees can start using immediately is my personal wish for this session. I do want to also stimulate ongoing engagement with the big picture problem of efficient mass collaboration: not reinventing wheels, making serendipitous network connections, enabling all social innovation projects to benefit from each others’ work. In developing this session so far I’ve repeatedly found that it’s nearly impossible to make it coherent without spending some time on theory. I’m trying to pair each part of the theory down to a couple sticky sentences so that it doesn’t consume too much time. I want to leave attendees with big ideas to keep in mind, in addition to the simple habits I’ll demonstrate. Part of my theory is about how we can start “networking” peoples’ existing documentation/institutional memory habits rather than trying to get them to adopt new ones.