Yochai Benkler: The Wealth of Networks
By bblfish on Dec 06, 2007
This afternoon I attended a teleconference at the University of Sao Paulo where Yochai Benkler talked from the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard, about his now famous book "The Wealth of Networks" (available online) and answered questions from the audience. Yochai talked about the impact of open source and peer to peer modes of co-operative production on economics, politics, arts and education. The book has many excellent and illuminating examples on how massively parallel and distributed use of human resources can outperform large centrally organised tayloristics production methods. He does point out that this won't work in every field of endeavour, but more naturally in knowledge based ones, where the cost of reproduction is close to zero. More details in the freely available book.
The conference was organised by Imre Simon from the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of Sao Paulo. A web site in portuguese is dedicated to this talk, and it was broadcast live on the web.
At the end of the talk, as the last question from the floor, I asked about what research had been done into applying Metcalf's law to networks as powerful as the Semantic Web, and so how this would affect questions on the wealth of networks. Yochai seemed to think that the Semantic Web was too much about data, and not about people. Of course Beatnik, the semantic address book I am working on right now, is going to show how this dichotomy is completely illusory, and how the distributed, decentralised world of hyperdata should fit perfectly into the central thesis of the book. :-)