MIT Media Lab Colloquium series: Yochai Benkler on Cooperation and Human Systems Design

MIT Media Lab Colloquium series
Yochai Benkler
Cooperation and Human Systems Design

Monday November 5, 2007
Bartos Theater
4:00-5:30 pm

Globalization and rapid innovation cycles make the social and economic environment more complex and harder to characterize for planning or pricing. In response, we see adoption of loosely-bound, permeable human systems — technical platforms, business processes, and institutional devices — that enable pervasive experimentation and learning through decentralization of practical capacity and authority to act. Providing such practical freedom for human agency creates new challenges in design for cooperation. Doing so requires attention to work in social and biological sciences, political science and business management, that diverges from dominant interpretations of human action as selfishly motivated, and developes a more cooperative view of human nature, human interaction, or both. Observed heterogeneity of motivational profiles and practices of sustained cooperation suggests the potential for design aimed not at aligning individual selfish incentives, but at enabling the dynamics of self-reinforcing, cooperative social-psycological processes.

Bio: Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School, he was Joseph M. Field ’55 Professor of Law at Yale. His books include The Wealth of Networks: How social production transforms markets and freedom (2006), which received the Don K. Price award from the American Political Science Association for best book on science, technology, and politics, the Donald McGannon award for best book on social and ethical relevance in communications policy research, was named best business book about the future by Stategy & Business, and otherwise enjoyed the gentle breath of Fortuna. His articles include Overcoming Agoraphobia (1997/98, initiating the debate over spectrum commons); Commons as Neglected Factor of Information Production (1998) and Free as the Air to Common Use (1998, characterizing the role of the commons in information production and its relation to freedom); From Consumers to Users (2000, characterizing the need to preserve commons as a core policy goal, across all layers of the information environment); Coase’s Penguin, or Linux and the Nature of the Firm (characterizing peer production as a basic phenomenon of the networked economy) and Sharing Nicely (2002, characterizing shareable goods and explaining sharing of material resources online). His work can be freely accessed at benkler.org. Benkler received the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award in 2007, and the Public Knowledge IP3 Award in 2006.