My friend Joy Sever emailed me to look at an article on reputation on The Edge. I did not know about this web site despite the excitement I experienced when I found it. The Edge was established in 1988 as an extension of a group known as The Reality Club including some of the most interesting minds in the world. From 1981 through 1996, The Reality Club held its meetings in Chinese restaurants, artist lofts, the Board Rooms of Rockefeller University, The New York Academy of Sciences, and investment banking firms, ballrooms, museums, and living rooms, among other venues. In January 1997, The Reality Club migrated to the Internet. It is similar, in my mind, to a networked Algonquin Roundtable or Bloomsbury Club.
The 2009 World Question for this year is “What Will Change Everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?” One of those answers was by Gloria Origgi, a philosopher and a researcher at the Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris. And her answer was about reputation. This is what Joy wanted me to see.
Origgi’s speaks about how the Internet has become an enormous network of ranking and rating systems where people can find what they want to know through the filters of others. She says, “My prediction for the Big Change is that the Information Age is being replaced by a Reputation Age in which the reputation of an item — that is how others value and rate the item — will be the only way we have to extract information about it.” As I have written before and was noted by Clive Thompson in a Wired article, Google is not a search engine but a reputation management system. Yes siree. She envisions a world where a whole new set of search engines aggregate people’s judgements. “This softer Web, more controlled by human experiences than complex formulas, will change our interaction with the net, as well as our fears and hopes about it.” Just like the world is turning to soft power, we might be on the verge of the soft Web and as Origgi says, an Age of Reputation.