Applying technology to provide easy access for societal dialog has the promise of peer-to-peer co-creation of knowledge and rapid consensus solution-building. Today's technology holds the promise of quickly connecting problem solvers with problems, converting actionable knowledge into value that transforms the world.
Back in October 1971, an engineer (who I knew when we both went to a small high school in Upstate New York during the late 1950s) named Ray Tomlinson chose the '@' symbol for email addresses and wrote software to send the first network email. At the time, it must not have seemed very important because Ray didn't bother to save that first message or even record the exact date. Ray Tomlinson has been called the father of email because he invented the software that allowed messages to be sent between computers. Ray made it possible to swap messages between machines in different locations; between universities, across continents, and oceans. At the time, he was working for Boston-based Bolt, Beranek and Newman, which was helping to develop Arpanet, the forerunner of the modern Internet.
Now, over thirty years later email messages are a large part of our lives in today's network society and I bet you can't remember the first e-mail message you ever sent either?
While email and the Internet have "changed everything" in the way we work and communicate, many are finding that reading and answering email messages can consume too much time; time we would rather spend doing something else.Wouldn't it be great if we could harness the good parts of email communication and do away with the bad parts?
"One of the most potent of the weapons of influence around us is the rule for reciprocation. The rule says that we should try to repay, in kind, what another person has provided us." Robert B. Cialdini, author of The Psychology of Persuasion (William Morrow, 1993)
Reciprocity flows from the law of love which is "the gift of giving" without the "hope of reward or pay," or serving others. This 'law of love' is identified in many different ways--for example, in Wayne Baker's business bestseller, "Achieving Success Through Social Capital" (Jossey-Bass), this law of love in the workplace is described as the "law of reciprocity."
The law of reciprocity is not what can best be described as "transactional reciprocity."
Baker says that, "Many people conceive of their business dealings as spot market exchanges--value given for value received, period. Nothing more, nothing less. This tit-for-tat mode of operation can produce success, but it doesn't invoke the power of reciprocity and so fails to yield extraordinary success."
Baker explains, "The lesson is that we cannot pursue the power of reciprocity. When we try to invoke reciprocity directly, we lose sight of the reason for it: helping others. Paradoxically, it is in helping others without expecting reciprocity in return that we invoke the power of reciprocity. The path to reciprocity is indirect: reciprocity ensues from the social capital built by making contributions to others.
The deliberate pursuit of reciprocity fails, just like the pursuit of happiness. Acts of contribution, big and small, build your fund of social capital, creating a vast network of reciprocity. And so those who help you may not be those you help. The help you receive may come from distant corners of your network."