Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Edge; Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

Here's more about what Jaron Lanier referred to "Digital Maoism" (The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. I guess the seeds have been sown by the success of Yahoo and Google. Consider this: a group of teenagers start a directory from their garage and become millionaires overnight. This has corporates panting with tongues out like dobermans, ready to jump into the collectivist philosopy. The management gurus suggests that what you don't like to do - such as attending calls, filling forms, in short grunge work - can be outsourced to low-paid people in developing countries, as a way of conserving resources. What happens? Outsourcing is born and there are even BPOs around every street corner in far away Lucknow. Excerpts:

"What we are witnessing today is the alarming rise of the fallacy of the infallible collective. Numerous elite organizations have been swept off their feet by the idea. They are inspired by the rise of the Wikipedia, by the wealth of Google, and by the rush of entrepreneurs to be the most Meta. Government agencies, top corporate planning departments, and major universities have all gotten the bug.

"As a consultant, I used to be asked to test an idea or propose a new one to solve a problem. In the last couple of years I've often been asked to work quite differently. You might find me and the other consultants filling out survey forms or tweaking edits to a collective essay. I'm saying and doing much less than I used to, even though I'm still being paid the same amount. Maybe I shouldn't complain, but the actions of big institutions do matter, and it's time to speak out against the collectivity fad that is upon us. It's not hard to see why the fallacy of collectivism has become so popular in big organizations: If the principle is correct, then individuals should not be required to take on risks or responsibilities. We live in times of tremendous uncertainties coupled with infinite liability phobia, and we must function within institutions that are loyal to no executive...."

That's what I mean. What Lanier refers as collectivism is being implemented in outsourcing units throughout the world. The idea is to farm out work to a collective, with the result that quality and accountability, not to speak of responsibility becomes a casualty. Once the work has been outsourced, the outsourced worker is not loyal to the originator of the outsourcing work. He only works according to the whims of the executive above him, who is motivated only by his own profitability. Go read the article above.

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