Criteria for the design and implementation of the next generation of post-Enlightenment institutions

John Clippinger has a landmark book out, A Crowd of One: The Future of Individual Identity, which examines what kind of institutions would be appropriate for the new era of cooperative individuals.

As he himself explains the rationale for his book:

“In contrast to well-entrenched economic and organizational models that operate on the assumption that human beings are selfish, individualistic, rational actors, the new sciences are showing the human beings are also innately cooperative, with highly evolved and highly adaptive strategies of collaboration, trust and reciprocity. By understanding how such innate human social competencies function, it becomes possible to design and implement the next generation of post-Enlightenment institutions.”

It is getting lots of positive reviews, such as the one by Mike Neuenschwander at the Burton Group Identity blog:

The book, he writes, is:

“an eloquently written, ambitious, and timely work relating social theory to digital identity. John masterfully draws on intellectual insights from a wide range of disciplines (including social science, political science, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and history) to weave a narrative that’s accessible to a general audience. The message is simple: highly evolved trust frameworks are wired into the biology of all living things; so why do we persist in reinventing primitive (aka authoritarian) strategies for cooperation? John argues that it’s mostly our collective lack of appreciation for natural trust mechanisms—even though we’re all familiar with them from everyday experience. Signals of health, wealth, and competence are extant in human society, but are usually exchanged subconsciously. John points to the Enlightenment as the era of emergent self-awareness that established many of our existing presumptions on the nature of identity. Now, with recent advancements in the fields of evolutionary biology and neuroscience, science is beginning to unravel the relation between self-awareness and social-awareness. John is among the writers constructing a new narrative on trust and cooperation based on this scientific evidence.”

David Bollier is enthusiastic on the book because one of its main focuses is on the relationship between Identity and the Commons:

“In many respects, how we form our identities is a critical ingredient in how we form commons. A commons is not a venue for impersonal transactions, as the market is, but rather a site for actualizing ourselves while managing shared resources. A commons is a social system that integrates our personal needs and identities with a larger community of people. It is a social structure that honors that complex interdependence of individuals and a larger collective.

Drawing upon leading anthropologists, evolutionary scientists and linguists, Clippinger argues that language is an important tool by which we form ourselves into communities. Language enables us to build and leverage trust among members of a group. It is a “signaling system” for describing and enforcing social reputations, which in turn helps us construct social and political institutions. By having a group means of establishing a person’s reputation and identity, we can socially pressure people to live up to consensus standards and expectations. We can also identify “free riders” and cheaters, and punish or ostracize them. These capacities are all critical to forming functional commons.”

This is a good starting point to find out more about Identity developments.

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