An Elephant Never Forgets

by Dan Robles on 12/21/2008

The opportunity for America reminds me of the elephant that is convinced since birth that the slender rope tying him to the fence post is stronger than he.  When the elephant grows up, he still believes the rope is stronger even though the elephant now has gained the strength to pull the whole building down.  Americans are the 8000 pound elephant in the middle of the room.  The question on everyone’s mind is: what will the elephant do next?

Throughout history, economists have determined the structure of business, enterprise, and commerce and wisely the government complies.  With remarkable success over the last 150 years,  corporations had been the source of most innovation sufficient to support the value of a currency.  Fortunately, the corporation had become the center of economic policy while the knowledge inventory within them have been fenced inside the accounting term: “intangible assets”.  Unfortunately, our corporations can no longer innovate efficiently enough to support the debt. Witnessing GM facing up to this very question, while the government manufactures money like taffy, seems a lot like feeding sugar calories to an elephant that is too big to fit out the door, dead or alive.

What the economists and many of the great visionaries of out time do not anticipate is the emergence of computer enabled society and the tangibility of knowledge outside the corporate structure through developments of social media.  Web 3.0 is supposed to bring us a semantic web – a computer program will be able to read the elephant story above and determine whether it is about education, zoology, macramé, Interior decorating, taxidermy, building demolition, or cliché old business metaphors.   Perhaps this is our little rope tied to the post as we wait for Mother Corpora to provide solutions.  Get a grip, the only computer that can read, classify, and extract a thousand words for any photograph is between our collective big floppy ears.  Web 3.0 will be semantic alright, except by the integration and capitalization of human knowledge through social media.

We spend billions on a human genome project to inventory our DNA, but nothing to inventory the knowledge as it exists naturally in society.  We will build statistical models to forecast weather, elections, click-throughs, insurance, demographics, and mortgage risk; but nothing to predict the value of various combination of social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital in society.  We have search engines that match most worthy blog to most worthy keyword, but little to match most worthy mentor to most worthy apprentice.  The top reasons why start-ups, businesses, innovations, and markets fail are due to the wrong knowledge in the wrong place at the wrong time. It seems that if we solve the knowledge inventory problem, then we can solve the innovation risk problem.  That, in turn, will solve the money problem which solves the elephant problem.  We need to release the great “intangible asset” into the wild world of tangibility and trust that it knows where to go.

Sometimes it just takes someone to give us permission to do things differently.  So here I go: human knowledge is the most perfect, predictable, flexible, and valuable capital asset in our world.  Knowledge can become far more tangible than anyone could have ever imagined. Information, knowledge, and innovation are profoundly related – separated they are useless, integrated they are wisdom.  Everyone on earth innovates every day, period. The vast majority of people will do the right thing given the right incentives.  With the next development of the Internet, we will have the tools to organize ourselves in a far more efficient manner than the command and control structure of a traditional corporation.  Management can be outsourced too. Corporations respond to corporate priorities, social networks respond to social priorities.  Which one sounds like a business case to curb global warming?

The Ingenesist Project specifies three web applications which if developed and deployed to social media will allow social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital to become tangible outside the construct of the traditional corporation and inside social networks.  Just because people have never organized themselves in an open sourced innovation economy before, does not mean that they never will.  But once they do, well, let’s just say that an elephant never forgets.

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