On my morning drive I listened to an NPR rebroadcast of a Ted talk on Collaborative Consumption. The talk was a long string of sound bites whose theme was how Internet Technology is leveraging our hard-wired desire to share and how that change will transform the consumption model of our daily lives.
Yes, redistribution, shared usage, and reputation as currency are all powerful changes. Shifting from a hyper-consumption to collaborative consumption model are real trends with huge physical and social benefits. But there is a bigger picture that is never mentioned or considered in the promotional puff piece mentioned above. The bigger picture outside the lives of the Internet Vanguard: Poverty and Governance.
Before Internet Technology coined reputation indexes we already had a key tool in our hands that fostered trust and cooperation among strangers (most of us anyway). That tool is called "money".
Money was and still is the greatest force for good in the world Today. The value of Money lies purely in its ability to foster cooperation and collaboration between people. If strangers won't give me stuff for my money, the money has no value.... unless I need to pay taxes. Kindhearted workers in Peru and China send me apples and electronic pleasures. They send them not for my trust reputation or because they are good Christians. They do these good deeds for Money.
There was a time when I wondered why the US Dollar had not collapsed? The Fed is printing trillions that can never be redeemed.... hyperinflation seems inevitable. But there is a cornerstone and bedrock to the US dollar: property taxes. Chickens, Internet Reputation, Euros, Icelandic Kronor, and Promissory notes are not accepted. US dollars only. (Why the Chinese and Japanese keep buying US bonds I do not understand).
Everybody has to live somewhere, and almost every place we live has a property tax attached to it. In the US you must have US Dollars to live here. Everyone living in the US needs Dollars. A common ground we all share (literally and figuratively). Just as sex is the engine of evolution, just as human minds and conversation are the Petri dish of human culture and ideas, taxes are the pump that keeps money moving between people.
Destroy the money and you destroy the trust and collaboration between people. The Internet web of trust may be or become a backup safety net for that social fabric, but it is not and will not replace Money. No more than wind and geothermal power can replace oil.
Trust between strangers, reputation or not, works better in a climate of plenty and peace. When no one has money or food, trust degrades, reputation or not. Keeping that plenty and peace takes both a sound currency and a single coercive government with the sole ownership of violence ('Governance' == 'coercion'). Crave an absence of government? Move to Baghdad. Baghdad is the libertarian nightmare come true.
Until poverty is eliminated, until the digital divide is closed, a durable, total transformation of human society to a Utopian collaborative culture will not and can not be achieved.
In the mean time, Money is your friend... Also say a prayer for a sound fiscal policy out of Washington. If they destroy the money they destroy the United States.