Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Internet Driven Improvement of Human Nature

The Internet makes us better. I am serious. You say it makes us stupid? Yes, maybe we tend to be more stupid, our brains get slower and lazier, but anyway at that we become better. The Internet just bites off part of our personality, and we happen to lose not the best part of ourselves.

One of the main impacts of the Internet upon human being is that the Web denudes people of privacy, not totally, but substantially. If you are a hermit, and nobody knows you, and no one has ever contacted with you, then you may keep your privacy, otherwise your appearance in the Internet is just a matter of time. The Internet is open, and it is really populated, so as soon as you appear in it, your privacy begins shrinking like Balzac’s shagreen leather as more and more information about you is posted in the Web.

Each of us wants to look better than –as he/she knows – he/she* really is. It’s so human like! Our combined Internet-images that can be collected from social networks, blogs, forums, and dating sites lack quite a number of rather unpleasant or even ugly traits we own in our off-line lives.

It is well known nowadays that not only our emotions effect our facial expression, but vice versa facial expression effects our emotions: if you are in low spirits, keep smiling, and you are on the way to good mood. It is very similar in the Internet: A human being cannot pretend always, so keeping “good picture” of him for the Web he has to really change himself for better.

If we become better in the Internet, than maybe it is possible to change a business paradigm for a more human like? At least for the Internet business?

As we have found out, people in the Internet tend to be better than outside of it. It means in particular that while doing business in the Internet we do not need to protect ourselves like crazy. We already see definite signs of “another business model” in the Web: I mean freeware and shareware products. More and more often we see button “Donate” at the Web sites of software developers or service providers.

My idea is to move forward - software developer fully focuses on the following business model: he produces software product, makes it available for download without any limitations and places a “Pay” (not “Donate”!) button near “Download”. Details about payment are discussable, for instance there can be combinations of “Pay if you like my software or remove it from your computer” and “I price my software at $ XX, however you may pay as much as you think my software costs”. There should be one indispensable condition: A developer who does business this way shall not earn any money doing business in a common way. So, a visitor who downloads the developer’s software has a clear picture: If the visitor does not pay for a downloaded piece of software, the developer will not have enough money for his life.

Though I believe in humanity firmly, this model still looks rather odd and risky. Who would venture to begin doing business this way? I would suggest young entrepreneurs not burdened with family and with responsibilities to try such a model. Anyway, sooner or later this taraadin** business model will be widely used, and those in the first line usually get great benefits.


* Not to overload this text with he/she, his/her, etc. ratios, I will use just masculine grammar forms below. Feminine grammar forms are certainly meant as well.

** Taraadin (noun) : [tah-rah'den] [arabic] - a happy solution for everyone, a win-win compromise (used primarily in cases where the avoidance of loss of face is important).

Taraadin (Arabic) - Arabic has no word for "compromise" in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement. But a much happier concept, taraadin, exists in Arabic. It implies a happy solution for everyone, an "I win, you win". It's a way of resolving a problem without anyone losing face.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Business Model Change Required

Basically business is about exchanging something for something: grain for meet, food for clothes, trinkets for gold or for Manhattan, gold for banknotes, services for money, etc. Simplest possible way of organizing business is implemented in robbery: You save your life for giving to your business partner all valuable things you have with you at the moment you are arranged in this deal. It’s really simple: no printed agreement, no multipage requirements, no long lasting relationships – just a knife or a gun being exposed, and that’s it, deal is done. However, very few of us agree to be involved in such a business, so for centuries people have been designing and implementing more and more detailed and sophisticated means of regulating business relationships. All these rules and requirements about how business should be done, which documents should be singed between parties, what kind of reports should be provided to the state authorities, etc., are intended to make business relationships as safe as possible – safe from fraud, from inadequate behavior, from unjustified risks, etc.

Is it good or bad? It depends. If we compare it to robbery – current mechanisms look very good, but as soon as we recall Enron and Lehman Brothers cases, we understand that all these mechanisms are rather weak.

What’s wrong with rules and regulations? Maybe if we do them stricter and more sophisticated, Enron-like cases will be impossible? No, nobody can guarantee this.

The main obstacle to reshaping current business rules so that they become ideal is the nature of these rules. Let us recall that initially the rules appeared to develop robbery-like and warlike business relationships to make them wider applicable, safer and more effective. We see that from the very beginning business parties were considered enemies, and nothing has changed since then, all the rules still protect parties from each other and society from the parties. This struggling and defensive nature of business relationships prevents us from really improving them.

Times have changed; at least I believe they have. Now there is no need to totally beat down your business partner to gain more profit for yourself. Almost all of us understand now that it is much better to find consensus with business partners and with state authorities to ensure wealthy future for our families. In mathematical terms it means that, considering business relationships a game, we should move from zero-sum to positive-sum paradigm.

Can the Internet help us make steps in this direction? Fortunately yes, it can, and I’ll try to show it in my next post.