Monday, March 16, 2009

Got Whuffie?

This article in Forbes has haunted me for a few days now. It suggests the ways in which the interwebs are becoming a social nervous system of sorts, connecting us, alerting us of world needs, and driving our actions.

I was doing some thinking last week about the concept of justice; its distinction from social equality more specifically- and Rawls came to mind.

Anyway, what happened, was that I was talking to myself loudly on Twitter when one of my peeps, Ed Webb, chimed in and agreed that maybe this, the notion of rational, self-interested behavior which social justice modifies in Rawls, isn't really workable. In fact, some time earlier, another one of my peeps, Sam Ladner, remarked that recent studies by George Lakoff show that rationality, what we may call rational behavior isn't rational at all-- at least not in the Descartian sense. Reason is in fact shot through with emotion, with images, with metaphors; conceptual blends. In fact new scientific studies show that-- an emotional response to others--kindness is hardwired in our "brains, bodies, genes and social practices":

As Dacher Keltner says in this interview, we are born to be good:" “Born to be good” for me means that our mammalian and hominid evolution have crafted a species—us—with remarkable tendencies toward kindness, play, generosity, reverence and self-sacrifice, which are vital to the classic tasks of evolution—survival, gene replication and smooth functioning groups. These tendencies are felt in the wonderful realm of emotion—emotions such as compassion, gratitude, awe, embarrassment and mirth. These emotions were of interest to Darwin, and Darwin-inspired studies have revealed that our capacity for caring, for play, for reverence and modesty are built into our brains, bodies, genes and social practices."

I read the interview with Keltner and I was floored. But the evidence of this everywhere.

Let me give you one example: Just last week, Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) tweeted this at 7.15 pm. An hour later there were over 20 responses to The Coldest Story Ever Told.

Remarkable! I can't imagine many of those writing and stretching out a comforting hand over the interwebs even know Madness in real life.

It's irrefutable that we've come of age in ways unrecognizable to many of my generation, nor to many in my profession.

The new generation Generation G is repulsed by corporate greed and is all about generosity. In the current economy where money seems to be all but "a figment of our imagination" the new currency is the Whuffie: It's all about building friendships, supporting others in their projects and creating something useful or beautiful that others too can enjoy.

Tara Hunt's The Whuffie Factor is recommended reading.

UPDATE: I think Madness felt all that love. Take a look here. Sweet!