Monday, December 27, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation

What if everyone in the world got hyper-networked? Meaning, not only is the person able to get on the Internet and use email, but also participates in online community and socializing? We are not far away from seeing what the effects of this will be in the future. A substantial fraction of the population of the United States is now participating on Internet social networking sites at least once per month.

What will this be like? It may be like knowing what kinship relationship you have with everyone you know or interact with. In hunter-gatherer societies, this was the case. Everyone you knew, was some kind of cousin, uncle or aunt. This was a great aid to knowing what kind of behavior you owe to that person. The question is whether this is a good or a bad thing for human freedom and satisfaction. I'm sure hunter-gatherer tribes had varying social structures that I might or might not like. But the general principle has to have a positive effect. The Golden Rule is more likely to be observed when you know how you are related to each person. It gives you a concept of how your behavior toward that person might return to you in kind (through a chain of relatives).

We don't need to know the genetic kinship relationship we have with every other brother and sister on the planet. Once we establish a connection with another person, that person is part of our network. If we are all literally connected through the Internet, then anyone we connect with in one way, can later connect to us (or try to) in any other way, for any other purpose. All of our history is available for a small fee; unless we really try to hide, we can be found by practically anyone you have ever met.

That's enough of the abstract picture. Theoretically, you are connected to everyone. Perennial mysticism  says, "All is One," but I don't need to go that far. I don't think it will be long before groupings of people who have connected and interacted over a long period become stable and start providing identity to their members. These will be like-minded people, who share many things in common. They will have a shared value-system. They will have begun to integrate themselves together economically. This will happen just because they know and trust each other. Inside the group, people will cooperate and share much more than physical neighbors generally do now in the United States.

The groups will be both local and international. You will be able to gather into your network people who think like you and whom you can trust. This will be greatly to the advantage of people who are naturally better at cooperating. This will lead to an expansion of peace and health - though we may not see this wave overcoming the weight of negative forces in the social environment for many years.

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