I used to read a lot of books on complexity science, ranging from Sante Fe professor Stuart Kauffman, Nobel laureate Ilya Prigogine, Ralph Stacey and Mitchell Waldrop. Inspiring books ! One of the recurring topics that fascinated me (and it still does) is the right balance between top-down control/design and bottom-up self organization within all my online and offline experiences. When I read all these books (around 10-15 years ago), there was no buzz surrounding co-creation, open source, mass collaboration, wisdom of the crowds, collective intelligence and web 2.0. Funnily, these fields intersected around 2003 when I read Smart Mobs (Howard Rheingold) and when Yme Bosma showed me the importance of blogging as well as web 2.0 applications, technologies and tools (thanks again Yme !!).
My view on the future development of bottom-up structures is similar to the one conveyed in this great post by Kevin Kelly on bottom-up self organization. It will increasingly be the common modus operandi. The balance will slowly shift towards open source (see also the highly recommended books by Yochai Benkler and Don Tapscott) while still leaving room for top-down design, filtering and control.
I would like to add an additional point : we have physical, biological and social systems. In my view the whole thinking about self organization is most applicable within physical and biological systems. Social systems are behaving more biological than before (as Kelly wrote in Out of Control in 1994) BUT they are inherently more complex due to the nature of the mind. The mind (and its powers as well as limitations) makes purely bottom-up solutions and self organization less effective relative to physical and biological systems. The complexity of coordinating the individual and group minds is a daunting task. Even Wikipedia has some top-down controls built in. In my own experience right now within Mobile Monday Amsterdam we as a team are asking ourselves the same questions related to which degree open source and bottom-up structures can be applied to offline events. I believe Reboot and LIFT Conference are interesting bottom-up offline events in this respect. Our MoMo members/audience can create the whole event themselves in the near future (location, speakers, theme, etc. etc.), albeit as an experiment or not.
Below some highlighted quotes from the post by Kelly. Really looking forward to his newest release The Technium :-)
"What's new is only this: never before have we been able to make systems with as much "hive" in it as we have recently made with the web. Until this era, technology was primarily all control, all design. Now it can contain both design and no-design, or hive-ness. In fact, this Web 2.0 business is chiefly the first step in exploring all the ways in which we can combine design and the hive in innumerable permutations. We are tweaking the dial in hundreds of combos:
1) dumb writers, smart filters, no editors.
2) smart writers, dumb filters, no editors
3) smart editors, smart filters, no writers
The bottom-up hive mind will always take us much further than even seems possible. It keeps surprising us in this regard. Given enough time, dumb things can be smarter than we think. At that same time, the bottom-up hive mind will never take us to our end goal. We are too impatient. So we add design and top down control to get where we want to go.
The systems we keep will be hybrid creations. Pure plays of 100% smart mobs or 100% smart elites will be rare. The real art of business and organizations in the network economy will not be in harnessing the crowd of "everybody" (simple!) but in finding the appropriate hybrid mix of bottom and top for each niche, at the right time. The mix of control/no-control will shift as a system grows and matures.
Judged from where we start, harnessing the dumb power of the hive mind will always take us much further than we can dream. Judged from where we hope to end up, the hive mind is not enough; we need an additional top-down push. Since we are only at the start of the start, it's the hive mind all the way for now."