"I find good Science Fiction (Sci Fi) often uses the present or past to justify predictions about the future. Sci Fi often use literature to make observations or statements about society. This blog post attempts to predict the future of government and business practices.
Often Sci Fi shines a light on the best and worst of humanity. For example, the portrayal of the evil humans can do in Arthur C. Clarke's Rama series will surely disgust you and remind you of genocides that somehow keep occurring around the globe. Humanity's short attention span and ineffective planning for the future when acting in groups are evident in Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson's prequels & sequels to Frank Herbert's classic Dune. They are also central to Asimov's Foundation series. These themes have a natural parallel to abuses of the environment and (lack of proper) financial planning – two very important issues in society.
Currently I am reading The Star Diaries by Stanislaw Lem. Each chapter presents a voyage of the protagonist, Ljon Tichy. Tichy's eleventh voyage took him to investigate the disappearance of over one thousand agents on a planet. This planet was inhabited by an all robot society founded by a computer that apparently went rogue after consuming a psychological library including horrible details involving Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler, the Marquis de Sade and more. As a result, the robots in this society appeared to have evolved sadist tendencies, were prejudiced, abusive, violent, and more. [SPOILER WARNING: stop here if you plan to read this book and wish to avoid a spoiler for this chapter]
When I finished that chapter, I saw the elegance in what he wrote. Reminiscent of the wizard of Oz, Tichy pulled back the curtain and exposed the fact that the robots, every single one, were in fact humans in robot disguises even though none of them realized it. The fear of being exposed as a human on a planet full of sadistic robots forced for them to conform and pretend to be robots with sadist tendencies and openly practice and encourage abuse. This was all carefully orchestrated by the computer once it realized it's robots were failing without possibility of repair or replacement. Any newcomers were quickly captured, and offered death or servitude involving them pretending to be robots and exposing any infiltrators.
What does this have to do with this blog you might ask? It speaks to the importance of transparency. With effective transparency, the scenario described in Lem's Star Diaries could never happen. I like to believe most citizens would never stand for genocide. Similarly, in society today, transparency makes it far more difficult for corruption to take root and grow. The problem is lack of transparency lets these issues grow until they are beyond the means of most individuals or groups to reasonably stop them. Sound familiar? In the business world, think Enron, WorldCom, Nortel. Madoff, and many more.
This is an issue that I feel strongly about, and which draws me to open source communities and companies successfully practicing transparency as part of their business practices. There is a clear difference between keeping your strategies secret from your competitors and unethical practices.
I predict people will naturally gravitate to products, leaders, and organizations that deliver results and transparency so they can measure results for themselves. Apathy is a tough thing to overcome, but emotional motivators such as retirement savings, standard of living, and the planet we hand down to our children become involved, people will act. As I've covered at FOSSLC, emotions are very powerful motivators."
Thank you Andrew.