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  • The story starts in Kenya

  • in December of 2007,

  • when there was a disputed presidential election,

  • and in the immediate aftermath of that election,

  • there was an outbreak of ethnic violence.

  • And there was a lawyer in Nairobi, Ory Okolloh --

  • who some of you may know from her TEDTalk --

  • who began blogging about it on her site,

  • Kenyan Pundit.

  • And shortly after the election and the outbreak of violence,

  • the government suddenly imposed

  • a significant media blackout.

  • And so weblogs went from being

  • commentary as part of the media landscape

  • to being a critical part of the media landscape

  • in trying to understand where the violence was.

  • And Okolloh solicited

  • from her commenters

  • more information about what was going on.

  • The comments began pouring in,

  • and Okolloh would collate them. She would post them.

  • And she quickly said, "It's too much.

  • I could do this all day every day

  • and I can't keep up.

  • There is more information

  • about what's going on in Kenya right now

  • than any one person can manage.

  • If only there was a way to automate this."

  • And two programmers who read her blog

  • held their hands up and said, "We could do that,"

  • and in 72 hours, they launched Ushahidi.

  • Ushahidi -- the name means "witness"

  • or "testimony" in Swahili --

  • is a very simple way of taking reports from the field,

  • whether it's from the web or, critically,

  • via mobile phones and SMS,

  • aggregating it and putting it on a map.

  • That's all it is, but that's all that's needed

  • because what it does is it takes the tacit information

  • available to the whole population --

  • everybody knows where the violence is,

  • but no one person knows what everyone knows --

  • and it takes that tacit information

  • and it aggregates it,

  • and it maps it and it makes it public.

  • And that, that maneuver

  • called "crisis mapping,"

  • was kicked off in Kenya

  • in January of 2008.

  • And enough people looked at it and found it valuable enough

  • that the programmers who created Ushahidi

  • decided they were going to make it open source

  • and turn it into a platform.

  • It's since been deployed in Mexico

  • to track electoral fraud.

  • It's been deployed in Washington D.C. to track snow cleanup.

  • And it's been used most famously in Haiti

  • in the aftermath of the earthquake.

  • And when you look at the map

  • now posted on the Ushahidi front page,

  • you can see that the number of deployments in Ushahidi

  • has gone worldwide, all right?

  • This went from a single idea

  • and a single implementation

  • in East Africa in the beginning of 2008

  • to a global deployment

  • in less than three years.

  • Now what Okolloh did

  • would not have been possible

  • without digital technology.

  • What Okolloh did would not have been possible

  • without human generosity.

  • And the interesting moment now,

  • the number of environments

  • where the social design challenge

  • relies on both of those things being true.

  • That is the resource that I'm talking about.

  • I call it cognitive surplus.

  • And it represents the ability

  • of the world's population

  • to volunteer and to contribute and collaborate

  • on large, sometimes global, projects.

  • Cognitive surplus is made up of two things.

  • The first, obviously, is the world's free time and talents.

  • The world has over

  • a trillion hours a year

  • of free time

  • to commit to shared projects.

  • Now, that free time existed in the 20th century,

  • but we didn't get Ushahidi in the 20th century.

  • That's the second half of cognitive surplus.

  • The media landscape in the 20th century

  • was very good at helping people consume,

  • and we got, as a result,

  • very good at consuming.

  • But now that we've been given media tools --

  • the Internet, mobile phones -- that let us do more than consume,

  • what we're seeing is that people weren't couch potatoes

  • because we liked to be.

  • We were couch potatoes because that was

  • the only opportunity given to us.

  • We still like to consume, of course.

  • But it turns out we also like to create,

  • and we like to share.

  • And it's those two things together --

  • ancient human motivation

  • and the modern tools to allow that motivation

  • to be joined up in large-scale efforts --

  • that are the new design resource.

  • And using cognitive surplus,

  • we're starting to see truly incredible experiments

  • in scientific, literary,

  • artistic, political efforts.

  • Designing.

  • We're also getting, of course, a lot of LOLcats.

  • LOLcats are cute pictures of cats

  • made cuter with the addition of cute captions.

  • And they are also

  • part of the abundant media landscape we're getting now.

  • This is one of the participatory --

  • one of the participatory models

  • we see coming out of that, along with Ushahidi.

  • Now I want to stipulate, as the lawyers say,

  • that LOLcats are the stupidest possible

  • creative act.

  • There are other candidates of course,

  • but LOLcats will do as a general case.

  • But here's the thing:

  • The stupidest possible creative act

  • is still a creative act.

  • Someone who has done something like this,

  • however mediocre and throwaway,

  • has tried something, has put something forward in public.

  • And once they've done it, they can do it again,

  • and they could work on getting it better.

  • There is a spectrum between mediocre work and good work,

  • and as anybody who's worked as an artist or a creator knows,

  • it's a spectrum you're constantly

  • struggling to get on top of.

  • The gap is between

  • doing anything and doing nothing.

  • And someone who makes a LOLcat

  • has already crossed over that gap.

  • Now it's tempting to want to get the Ushahidis

  • without the LOLcats, right,

  • to get the serious stuff without the throwaway stuff.

  • But media abundance never works that way.

  • Freedom to experiment means freedom to experiment with anything.

  • Even with the sacred printing press,

  • we got erotic novels 150 years

  • before we got scientific journals.

  • So before I talk about

  • what is, I think, the critical difference

  • between LOLcats and Ushahidi,

  • I want to talk about

  • their shared source.

  • And that source is design for generosity.

  • It is one of the curiosities of our historical era

  • that even as cognitive surplus

  • is becoming a resource we can design around,

  • social sciences are also starting to explain

  • how important

  • our intrinsic motivations are to us,

  • how much we do things because we like to do them

  • rather than because our boss told us to do them,

  • or because we're being paid to do them.

  • This is a graph from a paper

  • by Uri Gneezy and Aldo Rustichini,

  • who set out to test, at the beginning of this decade,

  • what they called "deterrence theory."

  • And deterrence theory is a very simple theory of human behavior:

  • If you want somebody to do less of something,

  • add a punishment and they'll do less of it.

  • Simple, straightforward, commonsensical --

  • also, largely untested.

  • And so they went and studied

  • 10 daycare centers in Haifa, Israel.

  • They studied those daycare centers

  • at the time of highest tension,

  • which is pick-up time.

  • At pick-up time the teachers,

  • who have been with your children all day,

  • would like you to be there at the appointed hour to take your children back.

  • Meanwhile, the parents -- perhaps a little busy at work, running late, running errands --

  • want a little slack to pick the kids up late.

  • So Gneezy and Rustichini said,

  • "How many instances of late pick-ups

  • are there at these 10 daycare centers?"

  • Now they saw -- and this is what the graph is,

  • these are the number of weeks and these are the number of late arrivals --

  • that there were between six and 10

  • instances of late pick-ups

  • on average in these 10 daycare centers.

  • So they divided the daycare centers into two groups.

  • The white group there

  • is the control group; they change nothing.

  • But the group of daycare centers represented by the black line,

  • they said, "We are changing this bargain

  • as of right now.

  • If you pick your kid up more than 10 minutes late,

  • we're going to add a 10 shekel fine to your bill.

  • Boom. No ifs, ands or buts."

  • And the minute they did that,

  • the behavior in those daycare centers changed.

  • Late pick-ups went up

  • every week for the next four weeks

  • until they topped out at triple the pre-fine average,

  • and then they fluctuated

  • at between double and triple the pre-fine average

  • for the life of the fine.

  • And you can see immediately what happened, right?

  • The fine broke the culture

  • of the daycare center.

  • By adding a fine,

  • what they did was communicate to the parents

  • that their entire debt to the teachers

  • had been discharged

  • with the payment of 10 shekels,

  • and that there was no residue of guilt or social concern

  • that the parents owed the teachers.

  • And so the parents, quite sensibly, said,

  • "10 shekels to pick my kid up late?

  • What could be bad?"

  • (Laughter)

  • The explanation of human behavior

  • that we inherited in the 20th century

  • was that we are all rational, self-maximizing actors,

  • and in that explanation --

  • the daycare center had no contract --

  • should have been operating without any constraints.

  • But that's not right.

  • They were operating with social constraints

  • rather than contractual ones.

  • And critically, the social constraints

  • created a culture that was more generous

  • than the contractual constraints did.

  • So Gneezy and Rustichini run this experiment for a dozen weeks --

  • run the fine for a dozen weeks --

  • and then they say, "Okay, that's it. All done; fine."

  • And then a really interesting thing happens:

  • Nothing changes.

  • The culture that got broken by the fine

  • stayed broken when the fine was removed.

  • Not only are economic motivations

  • and intrinsic motivations

  • incompatible,

  • that incompatibility

  • can persist over long periods.

  • So the trick

  • in designing these kinds of situations

  • is to understand where you're relying on

  • the economic part of the bargain -- as with the parents paying the teachers --

  • and when you're relying on the social part of the bargain,

  • when you're really designing for generosity.

  • This brings me back to the LOLcats

  • and to Ushahidi.

  • This is, I think, the range that matters.