Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hierarchy is here to stay

Published on DiploFoundation (http://www.diplomacy.edu)

Hierarchy is here to stay by Jovan Kurbalija

Among various ‘endisms’ associated with the Internet, the ‘end of hierarchy’ is one of the most repeated and enduring. Hundreds of articles and books have been written based on two false assumptions:

The first is that society was hierarchically organised till the invention of the Internet. This assumption ignores that – before the Internet – people used to network through schools, pubs, sports, families …. You name it, you have it.

The second is that with the arrival of the Internet, networking would replace hierarchy as the way society organised itself. This assumption is also false. In the Internet era, society has remained hierarchical. Hierarchy is not a retrograde or bureaucratic invention, but rather a core functional principle of nature and society as was elaborated in the works of Herbert Simon, a famous cognitive scientist and Nobel prize winner. Hierarchical structures run physical, biological, psychological, and social worlds.

Even simple observations can show that hierarchies not only exist, but are even stronger on the Internet than in the traditional world (note the dominant position of Silicon Valley in the Internet industry, leading bloggers, the number of likes as indicators of social acceptability, as well as the number of followers on Twitter).

Instead of proclaiming the 'end of hierarchy', we need to make hierarchies more transparent, more responsible, and more effective.

Elevators in these hierarchies should stop at as many levels of society as possible, moving people both up and down according to their merits.

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