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Anonymous Cooperation

First published June-2010
last update 17-July-2010

Though cooperation is essential if we are to preserve life and humanity, cooperation need not be formal or even clearly visible.

There is a whole spectrum of cooperation, from close team work, spontaneous help, to anonymous cooperation, where one does not even know one’s collaborators.

When one does know one’s collaborators there are of course a miriad ways of organizing, if at all, the effort, depending on the situation. However, it is useful to first thoroughly think through the nature of and merits of anonymous cooperation.

Though in some situations it may be reasonable to purposefully hide one’s identity from those one is trying to cooperate with, for other projects there is essentially no other option. For instance, most people who read a book never reveal their identities to the author, and so their cooperation in thinking about and developing the ideas of the author, if not carrying them out, is completely anonymous from the authors perspective; indeed, the author may have died centuries ago. Likewise, someone who improves a trail or cleans up waste need not be known to those who use the path or enjoy less pollution. And when we think further, the vast majority of things we use on a daily basis are built by people unknown to us.

In the above cases the cooperation is one-way: one party creates something of which another benefits. In modern economics this is viewed as irrational, and so there are various attempts to correct this "flaw": property rights to enforce a royalty paid to the author of a book, tolls on paths, that waste will always increase and can only be mitigated slightly by employing waste clearing personnel (chronically understaffed as by the same reasoning the people that created the waste also do not want to pay for it to be cleaned, directly or indirectly), and the market economy as a whole.

If we assume that every person’s purpose is to simply accumulate as many things as possible through exchange, work, fraud, theft and any means where the cost-risk-profit equation is more positive than any known alternative (see Negative or Positive Competition), then it is a reasonable conclusion to assume that if intellectual property was not enforced, no one would write any books or maintain paths, and that people will always throw waste where it is most convenient to do so disregarding all consequences.

However, if we assume that a person’s purpose can be to search for truth and contribute to life and humanity, then in this case limiting the access to a book or path is irrational, as the goal is not to exchange knowledge against material wealth, but to diffuse ideas and experience to collaborate with all those valuing life. Likewise, it is possible to assume that if such people understood the consequences of reckless waste they would not only avoid creating naucif waste in the first place, but would also spontaneously contribute to cleaning what has already been created.

What is also interesting in these three cases, is that for society as a whole anonymous cooperation is far more efficient than any market based solution: the more people with access to knowledge the more knowledgeable people there will be, the less tolls on things the resources are required to enforce the toll, and not creating waste in the first place (and if so disposing of it rationally) is far cheaper than paying an army to sweep a region to remove all waste (which is why this rarely happens ).

In these above cases the cooperation is not only anonymous but open ended, the creators of the objects in question know not even the purposes of the people that may read, walk, or employ their creations. So we can note, cooperation is not even guaranteed, as if the people who use the work have an entirely different purpose, it is counter productive to publish books, clear a path, or any other action intended to benefit society as a whole. All anonymous cooperation entails this risk: someone might use the knowledge of a book for evil, or trod down a path for war.

To reduce this risk an would be creator of some useful thing may try to control access to their work. Though in some instances this maybe reasonable if the risk is overwhelming (though in a decentralized society no such objects are necessary), it seems very much less reasonable if an author demanded to interview everyone wanting to read their book.

For things where the risk is not overwhelming

Written by Eerik Wissenz.
Contact:
decent@nym.hush.com

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