Monday, July 18, 2005

SCORE: LinkedIn: 0, Al Qaeda: 3

One of the key strengths of Al Qaeda is the principle of covert agency: it operates in total secrecy. It specializes in darkness beyond darkness.

One of the key strengths of LinkedIn is the principle of voluntary transparency: it works by encouraging people to voluntarily disclose social connections and professional history.

Now I read George Friedman's book, America's Secret War, and I'm beginning to understand why Osama Bin Laden did what he did. I mean, here's a chap who graduated in economics and public administration from a Saudi university, and managed to accumulate a personal fortune of 300 million dollars from family businesses. Why the heck would he leave everything and risk everything by challenging the world's preeminent superpower?

I don't know.

What I do know is that the only way to stop terrorism in the long term, is for us to make sure that our system (democracy, capitalism, institutions, etc.) actually works and is inclusive and fair and upholds principles and practices of transparency.

I've read many profiles of the most connected people on LinkedIn, and often, I felt a sense of pride in belonging to a community like LinkedIn. I mean, I see all these men and women who voluntarily display their profile, their professional achievements, their endorsements, etc. and I can't help but think that this is the right way to work and live: by being transparent and honest and, most importantly, by being there for other people.

LinkedIn might very well open the doors to a sort of reformed capitalism, where we go beyond the self-interest imperative that Adam Smith talked about, to reach a kind of communal and collaborative econonomic environment where the more you help other people, the more you help yourself.

This is more than the baker selling a loaf of bread, because that would merely be the self-interested behavior Adam Smith wrote about.

Rather, it's one person displaying his/her skills, professional achievements and social connections in order to be useful to friends and colleagues, and help them be successful.

In conclusion, I would say that the game has only begun, and although the official score puts Al Qaeda in the lead, I have every hope that if we use LinkedIn carefully and conscientiously, it might very well turn out to be an unexpected blessing that will save capitalism by mixing self-interested behavior with selfless collaboration and sharing.