Peer Production, Virtue, and Buidling a More Virtuous Society

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From Humanitarian-FOSS Project Development Site

What does it mean in ethical terms that many individuals can find themselves cooperating productively with strangers and acquaintances on a scope never before seen?

For a short answer, it means a lot. However, ethics is a deep and complex academic area that has a lot say to about any situation in life. But when applied to peer production, the ethical terms shine a positive light on humans, it really says a lot. In general, there are two ways to view mankind, inherently good or inherently evil. With all of the bad press that we give each other, through the news, rumors, etc., it is easy to think of mankind as inherently evil, always tempted to choose the wrong choice first. But peer production puts a good case against this. Benkler and Nissenbaum highlight this through the four clusters of virtues: I. Autonomy, independence, and Liberation II. Creativity, Productivity, and Industry III. Benevolence, Charity, Generosity, and Altruism and IV. Sociability, Camaraderie, Friendship, Cooperation, and Civic Virtue. In ethical terms, and lack for a better word, when people find themselves cooperating productively with strangers and acquaintances on a scope never before seen they can be deemed virtuous people. In the dictionary there are multiple terms that are listed as synonyms for virtuous: blameless, celibate, chaste, clean-living, effective, effectual, efficient, excellent, exemplary, faithful, guiltless, high-principled, honest, honorable, incorruptible, inculpable, innocent, irreprehensible, kosher*, legit*, moral, moralistic, noble, praiseworthy, principled, pure, regular, right-minded, righteous, spotless, square, straight, true blue, unsullied, untainted, untarnished, wholesome, without reproach, worthy. As that might be too much, I think it is easier to describe virtuous people in terms with they are not: bad, sinful, unethical, wicked, corrupt, dishonest, dishonorable, immoral, unrighteous.

Do peer-production enterprises such as Wikipedia and Linux help build a more virtuous society?

To continue an idea from above, people can be inherently good or inherently bad. Does the majority of the population think the mankind is inherently good? It is nice to think that the answer is yes, but it is highly likely that this is not the case. But I think we can build a virtuous society and help change the minds of some people that think mankind is inherently bad. The best way to do this is through real examples, like Wikipedia and Linux. We could talk all we want, preach the good word, but a lot might feel it is too good too be true. In this class, we noted several other open source projects that can support this claim For example: Open Source Food, The Synaptic Leap, Project Gutenburg, Open Architecture Network, Open Source Medicine, and the RODS Open Source Project to name a few.

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