Patrick Meier at iRevolution has a brief, interesting article on the power of information technology to help individuals in areas of limited governance coordinate actions to fulfill needs traditionally met by governments. This is exactly what I was talking about in my post on local manufacturing. As Meier succinctly puts it, “[T]he resulting map is often not as profound as the social capital generated between the dozens, often hundreds, of people collaborating on a live crisis map. In turn, this social capital facilitates mass collective action. In other words, social capital is fungible.” Technology is useful as a way of empowering individuals and groups to meet their needs without relying on hierarchical, coercive institutions that extract high rents in exchange for services. But, the technology is perhaps more valuable as a means of building social capital which can then be applied to a variety of other situations. Self-actualization is the real goal and the technology serves as an educational tool. This is related to Rebecca Solnit’s work researching group behavior during disasters for her book A Paradise Built in Hell. What she found was, contrary to popular belief, in disasters many people actually behave as their best selves, acting more cooperatively and generously than in ordinary life. The possible conclusion from this is that people generally rise or fall to the level of behavior expected or demanded of them in a given situation. Certain scenarios or tools can facilitate pro-social behavior which can lead to self-actualization and the confidence to live without reliance on external support/control structures. This may be kind of a leap, but it’s a nice idea at least.