Wisdom Game

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Wisdom Game = refers to the fact that competition within the "information society" has as its primary object the obtention of wisdom (aka influence) rather than military power or economic wealth, with both becoming derivates of the former.

The concept was defined by Shumpei Kumon of Glocom:

"The new social game that begins to prevail in the era of informatization is the game of wisdom, in which the goal is to acquire and exercise wisdom or intellectual influence by disseminating and sharing information and knowledge. Some people call this the game of "reputation." This contrasts with old games of wealth and prestige." (Shumpei Kumon website)


Three phases of modernity

"the modernization process can be viewed as a process of empowerment of individuals and organizations in some sense or, in other words, a process of enhancement of instrumental power, where we should focus on what instrument is enhanced in power, depending on the phase of modernization. My hypothesis is such that military power is enhanced in the emergence phase. Then economic power is advanced in the break-through phase, and finally intellectual power is enhanced in the maturity phase. Furthermore, these phases are associated with the emergence of social entities, whether individuals or organizations, that lead the respective phases of modernization.

In the initial militarization phase, modern sovereign states emerge and compete for national prestige by trying to acquire and exercise the power of threat and coercion in what may be called a "prestige game." In the next industrialization phase, modern enterprises emerge and compete and play what may be called a "wealth game" by accumulating and displaying the power of bargaining and exploitation. In the current "informatization" phase, however, new organizations, which are very different from modern states or enterprises, may emerge in society at large. In fact, they have already been born in the form of NGOs and NPOs, and their numbers are increasing significantly in recent years, although there is no general consensus yet as to what those new organizations really mean for our society. I call those organizations "intelprises" in the sense that they try to exercise their intellectual influence, and their competition "a wisdom game."

This kind of society, namely the "information society," may be considered the final phase of modernization in a broad sense. " (http://www.glocom.org/opinions/essays/200202_aoki_kumon_ins/index.html)

"Historically, we have moved from the first phase of modernization, in which threats and coercion were widely used as socially legitimate acts, to the second phase of modernization, in which an increasing emphasis has been placed on exchange and exploitation. I predict that the advent of the third phase of modernization will be accompanied by a gradual increase in the use of persuasion and inducement.

During the first two phases of modernization, attempts were made to justify the legitimization of the prevailing forms of political acts by establishing concepts of rights and defining specific limits for those rights. The first two phases were also characterized by the development of competitive social games in which the objective was to acquire, accumulate and demonstrate the means of political acts. This was accompanied by the emergence of actors who became the main players in these games, and the formation of social systems that functioned as their arenas.

The first phase of modernization, which began around the 16th century, brought about the formation of modern sovereign states for which national sovereignty was a sacred concept. This resulted in the spread of the "prestige game," whereby states sought to enhance and express national prestige as the general and abstract means of threat and coercion. The prestige game was based on invasive wars and diplomacy in the arena of the "international society." International law was a system of rules governing the establishment, limitation and cession of the sovereign rights of states.

This was paralleled during the second phase of modernization, which began in the late 18th century, by the formation of modern industrial enterprises, for whom private property ownership was a sacred concept. The result was the spread of the "wealth game," in which enterprises used the "world marketplace" as the arena for a competitive game based on production and sales. Their goal was the accumulation and demonstration of wealth as the general and abstract means of exchange and exploitation. Commercial and civil law were developed as a framework to govern the establishment, limitation and transfer of the property rights of individual industrial enterprises.

While conflict and war have not been eliminated in the closing years of the 20th century, at least the international community has come to accept that wars of invasion are unjust wars. The implication of this is that the "prestige game" has decisively lost its social legitimacy. The competitive pursuit of profit in the "wealth game" has become the focus of criticism for various reasons, but we have not yet reached the point of totally denying the social legitimacy of this type of behavior. Although the nature of the wealth game may change, it is likely that it will continue to be played in the 2lst century. And even if we cease playing the "wealth game," the economic acts as such, namely production and distribution of goods and services, will not stop.

It seems to me that we are now about to enter the third phase of modernization, which will result in the formation of a new type of social entity, modern information intelprises, for which "information rights," rather than national sovereignty or private property rights, will be the sacred concept. We will see the spread of the "research and education game," that is the "wisdom game," in which these intelprises will compete in the "global intelplace" to acquire and demonstrate wisdom as the general and symbolic means of persuasion and inducement. In other words, we are on the brink of a change in our social paradigms for the second time in recent social history. Of course, we have not yet established a system of rules to govern the establishment, limitation and sharing of information rights by intelprises and other participants in the information society." (http://www.glocom.ac.jp/proj/kumon/paper/1992/92_11_00.html)

Conditions for the Wisdom Game to emerge

"Like other social games, however, the wisdom game must fulfill three preconditions before it can get established and start to spread in earnest. These three requirements are mental awakening, technological breakthroughs, and the establishment of a system of rules. Mental awakening will require recognition of ourselves not as "individuals" but as "contextuals" enveloped in various social contexts and relationships in which we are only relatively autonomous. This will replace the existing concept of the modern self as a self-sufficient and independent individual separate from other people, which is a prerequisite for the wealth game. Existence as a contextualist rather than as an individualist is equivalent to what Arthur Koestler referred to as self-awareness as a "holon." 9 In the words of George Lodge, it is "communitarianism." 10 It is also equivalent to recognition of oneself as a member of a network that consists of multiple relationships, or as a being that coexists with and is actually part of the environment. It also implies the awakening of wider forms of awareness, such as planetary consciousness or cosmic consciousness. In the United States this new type of consciousness is clearly present in the counter-culture movement and the networking movement, which have emerged since the mid 1960s.

Obviously, people who have achieved this awareness are extremely well qualified to become members of networks that function as social systems. They are also well qualified to become members of the intelprises that participate in wisdom games, or indeed to become intelprises in their own right. By "networks that function as a social system," I mean a social system that is formed primarily with a view to reciprocity in terms of the sharing of information and knowledge among members and the mutual granting of goods and services, and in which persuasion and inducement are the prevailing political acts. Persuasion is based on the sharing of information and knowledge, and inducement is based on the granting of goods and services. Networks that function as a social system can be categorized into "network organizations," which function as individual organizations, that is, complex actors, in their own right, and those that do not, which I refer to as "societal networks." In this context, intelprises can be regarded as network organizations that function as a social system.

The second prerequisite for the wisdom game is a technological breakthrough. By this I mean the development of computer-based information processing and communications technology and the use of that technology to create information infrastructure 11 in the form of the Internet, which is a network of computer networks for global information processing and communications.

The revolutionary progress of information technology (IT) 12 is generally regarded as the breakthrough that will lead to the informatization of industry and the industrialization of information, which will form the core of the third industrial revolution taking place since the mid 1970s. For example, there can be no doubt that the United States has adopted an industrial policy stance that is targeted toward the improvement of the international competitiveness of American industry through government-led efforts to develop information processing and communications technology in the United States. This is apparent from the passage late last year of the High-Performance Computing Act of 1991 (102P, L. 194). Of course there is nothing wrong with this approach. However, I would also like to emphasize that the present technological breakthrough process is also significant as the technology breakthrough required for the wisdom game that will characterize the third phase of modernization. [Add some comments here on the 2lst century system and The Information Infrastructure and Technology act of 1992]

In fact, it is interesting to note in relation to my comments about the new American law that the National Research and Education Network (NREN) has been selected as the computer network that will form the core of the Internet from now on. There have been calls for private sector enterprises in the computer and telecommunications industry to participate in the formation of the NREN, and for membership in this network to be extended to include not only educational and research institutions, but also general private enterprises and individual citizens. Whatever the intentions of those who framed the law, an objective interpretation suggests that if the computer network is opened up in this way it has the potential to function as an intelplace, by which I mean the arena for the global wisdom game. The computer network can also function as a work space, or "office," for intelprises. In other words, the computer network will function as information infrastructure for intelplaces and offices for intelprises. Mitchell Kapor, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is a private sector organization in the United States, has already suggested that the NREN should be structured as an international public network (IPN). He believes that the network should be open to small and medium-sized enterprises and individuals, and that its scope should be international rather than national. 13 The requirements for the wisdom game in terms of social systems are the establishment of information rights as the third major category of social rights in modern society, as well as the establishment of a global framework of laws and systems to provide partial limitation of those rights. As becomes apparent when we consider the wealth game, commerce and industry cannot grow freely until private property rights are established. However, the excessive insistence on those rights in absolute terms can actually hinder the development of commerce and industry. For example, if we decide that land bequeathed to us by our ancestors is too sacred to sell or even lease, it becomes in effect impossible to use that land for commercial purposes. On the contrary, when enterprises supply the goods and services that they produce to the market as commodities, they are showing their willingness to transfer their property rights to others at any time, albeit subject to certain conditions, such as payment. In the same way, intelprises are starting to supply the information and knowledge that they produce to the intelplace, which is a kind of network-based social system, as "sharables." They will probably show their willingness to transfer their information and knowledge to others at any time, subject to certain conditions, such as respect for their priorities.

Information rights differ from property rights in that they are based on the following three key components. The first component is the right of information-autonomy, which is the right of each actor to exercise autonomy over the processing of information. It also includes information-security right concerning such processing, namely, the right to prohibit other parties from invading or intervening in this process. The second component is the right of information-title, which I define as the right to claim title over new information and knowledge discovered or created through the information processing activities of individual actors. This also implies information-priority rights over information generated in this way, by which I mean the right to prohibit another person who has been allowed to share such information from sharing it with a third party without title-holder's permission.

The third component is the right of information-control, which is the right of actors to claim a basic right of supervision over information and knowledge that pertains to themselves. It also includes the information-privacy rights over the information concerning oneself or one's group. That is to say, I should have the right to prohibit others from processing information about me without my permission. Society is gradually forming systems to define rights and obligations relating to information. These efforts are currently focusing primarily on such concepts as privacy rights and the right to know. (Unfortunately Japan has lagged significantly behind in this area.)

There is also considerable pressure, particularly in the United States, for the incorporation of certain aspects of information rights, notably the concepts that I have referred to as information-title rights and information-priority rights, into the context of property rights, which fall within the scope of the wealth game, by treating them as "intellectual property rights."

However, it is grossly inappropriate to treat information-title and information-priority rights as another type of property rights. As many people have already pointed out, the transfer of information and knowledge to others does not necessarily result in the loss of that information and knowledge. There are certain types of information that could be lost in this way, such as material that is only recorded in document form and has not been totally memorized by anyone. However, the technological breakthroughs of the information revolution mean that it is now extremely easy to copy such information and supply copies to other people. Furthermore, since information does not need to take a specific physical form or occupy a particular space, we cannot readily check whether it has been moved or copied. Even if property rights are established over information, it is practically impossible to prevent infringements or ascertain whether infringements have occurred. An even more decisive problem is the fact that the economic value of information tends to depend on the range of actors who will share it. The price that I ask when I share information with you may differ according to whether or not we allow third parties to share that information. This means that if I sell information to you at a price determined on the understanding that we will not allow third parties to share it, the price of the information will change if you or I subsequently break this agreement. Once information has been sold as a commodity, however, it is practically impossible to revise its price once transaction takes place.

When these factors are taken into account, it is far more advantageous to share information and knowledge through the reciprocal relationships of networks than to distribute them through trading in the marketplace. In reciprocal relationships, the induction effect is determined by each partner's estimation of the extent to which they have given or received value. Unlike market transactions, no problems arise even if the giver and receiver place a different value on the information, or if the value fluctuates as the information changes over time. If after supplying information to you on the understanding that you would not share it with a third party I subsequently discover that you have broken that promise, all I need to do is to increase, in my mind, your debt to me from that point in time. Similarly, you too might feel psychological and social pressure to increase, in your mind, the extent of your obligation to me. The flexibility that results from the reciprocity of networks makes networks more suitable than markets as a social system for the distribution of information and knowledge." (http://www.glocom.ac.jp/proj/kumon/paper/1992/92_11_00.html)

Characteristics of the Wisdom Game

"The wisdom game will differ from the wealth game in a number of respects. In the wealth game, entrepreneurs produce individual and specific goods in factories and sell them as commodities. By selling their goods successfully, entrepreneurs demonstrate the social usefulness of their products and gain rewards in the form of wealth, thereby acquiring the symbolic and general power to trade. In this sense, the market is also an arena in which the social usefulness of entrepreneurs' activities is evaluated.

In contrast, the intelpreneurs who participate in the wisdom game produce individual and specific information in offices and seek to share it with others as sharables. By successfully sharing their information, they demonstrate the value of the individual information that they have supplied in terms of the social values of truth, goodness and beauty. Their reward is wisdom, which is the symbolic and general ability to persuade or exert intellectual influence. In other words, many people will be prepared to heed the words of an intelpreneur who has gained a social reputation as a person of wisdom.

In the case of the wealth game, if we disregard purchases by other entrepreneurs, the actors who buy commodities supplied by entrepreneurs through the market are "households." While entrepreneurs seek to accumulate wealth by selling "commodities," households seek to maximize utility by buying and consuming those commodities. I anticipate that the wisdom game will be based on the sharing of "sharables" supplied by intelpreneurs to network-type organizations, particularly network-type communities.

I would suggest the word "connectives" to describe these communities or virtual communities that are the counterpart of the household in the wisdom game. The goal of connectives and their members in acquiring information and knowledge through the intelplace would not be to expand their wisdom, and hence their intellectual influence, as is the case with intelpreneurs, but rather to use the information and knowledge to make their lives more meaningful. I am tempted to predict that in the third phase of modernization the connectives will replace the traditional community and family as the most basic social group.

It is important to recognize that, in the wisdom game, there is no need for the information and knowledge supplied in the intelplace for social evaluation to be treated as commodities that are subject to property rights, or even as the objects of reciprocal social exchange. Since it is desirable for sharables supplied in the intelplace to gain social value by being shared by as many people as possible, sharables should in principle be supplied at no cost or without charge, or even with some form of incentive attached. For this reason, it is totally inappropriate to think of the rules that govern the sharing of sharables as being similar to the rules that govern the sale of commodities.

In this sense, an excessive preoccupation with the concept of "intellectual property rights" is dangerous for two reasons. First, information and knowledge are basically unsuitable for distribution as commodities that can be treated as objects of property rights. Thus, even if our approach is based on the paradigm of the industrial society, we need to develop special mechanisms that differ from those used with other commodities. Second, intellectual property rights conflict with and contradict information rights in various ways. For this reason, the spread of the wisdom game will require efforts to establish and limit information rights systematically as something distinct from intellectual property rights and as a concept based on the paradigms of the information society.

The attitudes of those who regard the sharing of sharables as a means of wealth accumulation and who seek to accumulate intellectual property rights and sell them for the highest possible price are reminiscent of the philosophy of mercantilism, whereby the trading of commodities was seen as a means of enhancing national prestige and as something that should be under the control of the state. Perhaps philosophies and policies that place an unbalanced emphasis on intellectual property rights and balance of pecuniary payments can be described as "intellectual mercantilism."

The wisdom game's equivalent of the "world marketplace" of the wealth game will be the "global intelplace," which will function as an arena for the dissemination and evaluation of sharables as well as acquisition of intellectual influence, that is, wisdom. Obviously this global intelplace has yet to come into being as an established system, or even as a de facto structure. As I stated earlier, however, the Internet is already achieving explosive growth as the infrastructure for the global intelplace of the future. And history shows that social systems that could be described as "local intelplaces," which are equivalent to the "local marketplaces" of the wealth game, have existed for a very long time. One such example is the academic conference, where various schools of thought put forward theories for evaluation. The same is true of theaters, sports arenas, exhibition halls, newspapers and magazines." (http://www.glocom.ac.jp/proj/kumon/paper/1992/92_11_00.html)

Background on Shumpei Kumon

Note that Rheingold's interpretation can be read as 'three stages of civilization' rather than 'three stages of modernity'.

From Howard Rheingold's book on Virtual Communities:

"Shumpei Kumon, who is always addressed in Japan with the honorific "sensei," because he was once a professor at the all-important University of Tokyo, is a maverick of a different kind. In his fifties, he looks every bit the modern Japanese government adviser that he is, but he started out as an orthodox leftist in the 1960s. He lost faith in the left and began looking at the way civilizations like the United States and Japan and those that had gone before had managed the large-scale transformations triggered by technology. He became a professor, and his colleagues introduced him to some of the brightest, most open-minded members of Japan's powerful Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). When he realized that the time was not ripe to achieve deep political reform, Kumon concentrated on developing his theories in history, economics, and cybernetics. He was coming to see Japanese-American political and economic relations in the 1990s as the linchpin of a social transformation triggered by new information technologies.

In Kumon's framework, the three most important stages in the history of human civilization are most usefully seen in terms of the social games that governed those civilizations' sources of power: first the Prestige Game, then the Wealth Game, and finally the Wisdom Game. The Prestige Game was triggered by militarization, the use of force and the threat of force to gain and maintain power over other actors. The idea of nationhood came along and the use of force was abstracted on a higher level, in which national economic and cultural power challenged raw military power for importance. The industrial revolution made possible the most recent era in which technologically produced wealth rather than either prestige or military power alone became the most important marker in the world's highest-level social games. The older games continue to exist, but the center of attention moves from royal courts to national elections to virtual, transnational, communication-mediated relationships as the system evolves.

The current trigger for a transition to a new stage, in Kumon's theory, is the world telecommunications network, and the next game will involve information, knowledge, and folklore-sharing cooperatives around the world that will challenge the primacy of traditional wealth the way industrial wealth challenged the primacy of military and national power and prestige. Today's virtual communities, Kumon came to understand firsthand, offer a small-scale model of a society in which people communicate in a way that creates collective wealth. A kind of wealth that includes the existence of Parenting conferences is more than a cold-blooded exchange of information, hence his characterization of the coming social framework as the Wisdom Game, in which the source of power is "consensus-formation through information and knowledge sharing." He saw it working on a regional level. Would it scale up? For a student of history, the temptation to seize a social lever, once his intellectual exploration led him to discover it, was very great.

Kumon decided to make a move almost as radical as Aizu's decision to drop out of the college examinations--he decided to leave his professorship and devote himself to studying the economic and sociological consequences of the computer networks that came to enthrall him. But he intended to do more than study. Along with activists such as Aizu and Hiramatsu, he had an opportunity to demonstrate in real life the social potential of networks he had been writing about in his books. He cofounded an institute, GLOCOM, devoted to the study and implementation of the Wisdom Game. I met with Kumon and his colleagues in Oita and in Tokyo on both my trips to Japan, and they have visited me in the United States.

Kumon's interest in economic and social change had led him to learn the basics of computer technology with the eyes of a beginner. When he understood the power of networks, he wrote books and articles about Japan as a "network society" in a social sense, which it is in many ways, with its overlapping circles of formal and informal association that weave Japanese social, professional, political, and cultural institutions together. But the whole world is not as racially and historically homogeneous as Japan. One chief criticism of Japanese culture as a model for other societies is that the social networks in diverse societies such as the United States and other parts of the world lack the shared ethnic and historical context that strongly guides people's social communications in Japan. When he came across the computer concept of "emulation," Kumon believed he had found the solution to the most vexing problem in his theory--the way Japanese and American cultural approaches are integrated in a global context." (http://www.rheingold.com/vc/book/7.html)