Is there a way categorize how ethical an open collaboration system is? There a number of moral development schemes out there with which could potentially categorize open collaborations – Kohlberg’s moral development scheme, spiral dynamics, Ken Wilber’s integral theory.
One of the methodologies that Ken Wilber uses is the idea that a system can move through different ethical stages of egocentric, sociocentric, worldcentric, and kosmocentric.
An egocentric system would be one which is serving the wants of one person’s ego.
A sociocentric system is one which is serving the wants of a particular segment of the demographic or a particular subculture without taking into account the wants of other demographics, subcultures. A sociocentric system may also be a society which serves the needs of its members but which is not aware or does not care about the impact it is having on the environment.
A worldcentric system is one which serves the wants across the spectrum of different cultures, and which is in harmony with the environment. A worldcentric system may be one which has found a role it can play in helping the evolution of the whole world as opposed to just one of its parts while having a detrimental effect on other parts.
A kosmocentric system is one which is able to integrate the different cultures and demographics with each other in a healthy and harmonious way and also which is able to listen to spirit and let spirit guide its behavior. A kosmocentric system taps into the field of collective consciousness to guide the unfolding of activities within the system.
Lets look at a number of examples to see how this ethical chart applies to open collaborations beginning with low sociocentric and then moving to higher ethical levels.
GoldCorp – Goldcorp is a goldmining company that has learnt to crowdsource i.e. tap into the knowledge of the collective to help it own purposes. It opens up its own databanks and knowledge about geographical areas, and host competitions where it awards prizes for the best methodologies and estimates of where the gold is using its data. In order to categorize its ethical level one has to look at its effect on society. The mining of the gold is helpful to a certain segment of the population and at the same time is also harmful to the earth’s environments. I would say it working at a low sociocentric level.
Open source software Linux – Linux is an operating system that has been created in an open, participatory, emergent and gift economy manner by over 100,000 volunteer programmers worldwide. Its role to model on a large scale how a gift-economy can produce something important and its role in modelling mass collaboration helps play an important role in humanity’s evolution and thus adds to Linux’s worldcentric characteristics. At the same time the ethical level of Linux is tied intimately to that of computers and the internet and how they are being used currently. That’s because Linux is further enabling such behavior. What ethical level the internet is rather complex subject to judge. I offer here my humble ranking of it which the reader is free to ponder and disagree with. I would say in large part the material on the internet is egocentric or sociocentric in character. At the same time the ability of the internet to allow so many different voices and cultures to communicate with each other is a worldcentric characteristic. The internet is also enabling to an incredible extent the speeding up and coordination of the economy – an economy that currently is having a devastating momentum towards destroying the environment. So I would say the internet is probably at a high sociocentric overall. And because Linux is so tied into the ethical level of the internet I would say it is also at about the same level.
Burning Man is a yearly festival in the middle of the Nevada desert where people are given the liberty to be very creative and use diverse forms of expression not seen in ‘common’ society. The events and attractions are created by the participants themselves who self-organize themselves and self-regulate themselves to a high degree. The ability of Burning Man to be permissive and allow co-existence of different forms of expression is a conduit that helps people tap into their creativity, and a powerful outlet and emotional release valve for society. Its ability to model how a physical gift economy is important to helping the world to build a more caring and sharing society. These qualities are worldcentric in level. At the same time it is viewed as somewhat of a fringe festival by many in society, and is too extereme for most to come to , and so one might say in that sense it has qualities that are sociocentric. I would categorise it thus as being a high sociocentric, low worldcentric level.
Transition towns are a grass-roots non-hierarchical movement that allows towns, cities, and local communities to self-organize towards becoming more sustainable , environmentally friendly, and community minded. In just a couple of years it has spread to hundreds of towns and cities worldwide forming a mycelial network that communicates with each other best practices discovered in local area to help other geographical locales. Transition towns work at a worldcentric level as they are very socially and environmentally aware.
The United Religions Initiative is a movement made of a network of organized circles and groups that allows different religions in a local area to come together to learn about, understand, and accept each other. The network is non-hierarchical in the sense that each circle has autonomy in what they do as long as they conform to the larger vision. The circles use facilitation and deep listening to bring different religions together. In places where there is conflict between different religious groups it works to help to lessen the tensions. At times these circles tap into the power of spirit to mediate between people of different religious background. I would say the United Religions Iniative works in general at a high worldcentric level, low kosmocentric level.
Gaia University is a university dedicated to world change, creating community and social captial, and working to balance humanitys relationship with the environment. It is self-organizing to a large degree, the students/associates are relatively autonomous – they choose their own projects, and learn by doing their projects. They are no professors per se, and associates use a network of advisors and peers to help them further their projects. The network of people in the university reach with its myclelial strands into many local communities to affect change. Amongst its members there is a general awareness of spirit and the deeper levels of reality. It works at a high worldcentric level, low kosmocentric level.
Indigenous networks – There are indigenous networks of people with a deep wisdom of the connection of humanity and the earth, who have not forgotten the many ways we are intertwined with nature. There are shamans who are able to work with the energies of earth, water, and sky and bring us back into deeper relationship. These indigeous networks self-organize through word of mouth, psychic fields, and the internet meeting for ceremony and council to help bring back the world into alignment. I personally do not have a full understanding of all these networks, I can only speak from more intuitive sense, some experience of them and limited knowledge. Sometimes there have a more parochical sociocentric view without a total understanding of the ‘modern’ world, at times they have a deeper grasp of world issues, and at times they are able to connect to the kosmocentric level. My guess is that some of the wisest indigenous networks are working at a kosmocentric level.