Isaac Mao: Sharism, Philosophy and New Economic Models

Notes from the conference Sharism, Philosophy and New Economic Models, by Isaac Mao, in the framework of the Tech Talks series of lectures, held at the Open University of Catalonia, Barcelona, Spain, the 5th May 2011.

Isaac Mao: Sharism, Philosophy and New Economic Models

Sharing is a commonly spread way of behaving amongst human beings. Most of the time you are willing to share an apple with your peers, while just sometimes you decide that you won’t: if “sharing” means “giving”, will you always want to give away your property, your possibility to use something?

But on the Internet, there is not such a restriction. The web should not be a “read-only” web, but a “read-and-write” web. Blogging allowed just that. And the more you read blogs, the more prone you are to also write one.

On the Internet you share pieces of information, memes. Linking memes and behaviours can bring a new force up leading to changes. And there are plenty of examples of the power of change of meme sharing.

We should be able to connect the world of memes and atoms, to build up a coherence of atom sharing and meme sharing.

Public bike sharing or (private) car sharing just go on this line of thought.

What will you gain from your sharing?

  • Identity. Digital identity or identity online is crucial.
  • Social capital, accumulating around your digital persona.
  • Credit recording.
  • Trackback on the Path of Value Adding (PVA)

Sharing is fostered when everybody shares, then one becoming part of a sharing network that acts like a brain and its brain of neurons.

And there are ways to monetize the free circulation of shared information and knowledge.

Sharism = connected + shareable + path. Technically, we and them will be connected; mentally we need more preemptive to feed the world relevant information; if we can economically prove that ‘the more we share, the more we gain’, then the problem is solved.

A share: a new measurement, currency that you can use to capitalize what you bring to your social network.



Teresa Turiera: should we foster Sharism with tax cuts to “sharistic” enterprises or similar policies? Mao: Your organization has to be reinvented. Sharism is not about setting up new marketing strategies for social media, but yet another completely different thing. And the human resources cycle should definitely be a part of this new managerial design.

Lluís Pastor (after Twitter): is the way Al-Jazeera uses social media a good practice of Sharism? Mao: definitely. During 2010, their streaming audience multiplied by 20. Social media and content sharing from the grassroots has changed the landscape of news today.

Teresa Turiera: how will the future of activism and revolutions be altered by Sharism? Mao: Social media interconnects people one with each other in unprecedented ways, both horizontally (with your peers) and vertically (across the different strata and structures of society). ‘Signals’ from the grassroots will be increasingly embedded in the political discourse and loop back to the decision-makers.

Lluís Pastor (after Twitter): how can Sharism strengthen entrepreneurs? Mao: A first step is to scale up the idea of Sharism, as it requires a much wider adoption for it to work properly.

Round Table

After de the debate/interview, a round table followed that I chaired and that was participated also by Isaac Mao himself, Ricardo Galli, founder of the “Spanish Digg” (Menéame), and Alfons Sort, CEO of Adobe Systems Ibérica.

In general, the round table gave Isaac Mao another chance to sort out his thoughts, especially in what concerned how to apply Sharism to the world of economics. If I am right, they can be summarized as follows:

  • For Sharism to work and be economically viable, first of all a critical mass of adopters has to be achieved.
  • The new currency in a sharism-based system is reputation. This works both for individuals and institutions.
  • The way this reputation/currency is managed is through a ‘sharebank‘, which acts much like a legal tender bank, but deals with reputations.
  • As the transition to Sharism implies a radical change, there is a need to design a path to build that transition. That path has to be designed ex-ante.
  • In Sharism, identity is the key, as reputation strongly lies or depends on it.

The most interesting part to me during the round table was the debate, initiated by Ricardo Galli, whether Sharism was really an alternative to Capitalism or just a change of currency, where legal tender was replaced by reputation, but everything else remained the same.

Personal reflections

As I spoke out during my concluding remarks at the round table, I have never been so much in line with a speaker and, at the very same time, so clueless on how to get to the points he was making. That is, I share the philosophy, but I neither share not even foresee how to make it happen.

Indeed, I was especially surprised to hear Isaac Mao speak about topics that have already been covered by other disciplines and not mentioning them or even tacitly linking to them.

First, the reputation-based economy he’s been talking about has already been much discussed around the general field of the gift economy. Some practices in free software or open content can be explained by it, while some others cannot. And the problems in a gift economy are many and many are unsolved yet.

Second, and related to the former, most of the transition from a capitalist economy towards a sharism economy can be explained by the hacker ethic. Again, a lot has been written — with this name or another one — about the topic and how the Information Society is requiring a change of mindset in relationship with the Industrial Society. The problem, again, is how to deal with transitions, not only in matters of time, but in differnt paradigm economies that are being forced to live together for long periods of time.

Third, I really missed a mention to time banks, cooperatives or virtual currencies (e.g. Bitcoin). Plenty of people have and are experimenting with other ways to organize themselves, assess and value time and commodities and provide alternative societies.

In my opinion, sharism needs some polishing, and not only before it can be applied, but also for being discussed as an intellectual exercise.

Further reading

Official website for Sharism, including a wiki depicting most terms.

The paradox of Sharism, or how a cool idea will pay my mortgage, by Ismael Peña-López.

Isaac Mao i el Sharisme: noves estrategies per compartir el coneixement, by UNESCO Chair in e-Learning.

#UOCimao (Isaac Mao talk at UOC on may 5, 2011), collection of the Twitter stream for the hashtag #UOCimao.


If you need to cite this article in a formal way (i.e. for bibliographical purposes) I dare suggest:

Peña-López, I. (2011) “Isaac Mao: Sharism, Philosophy and New Economic Models” In ICTlogy, #92, May 2011. Barcelona: ICTlogy.
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