The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age, by Pekka Himanen, was one of those essays that had a big influence on my early years. It resonated with how I felt about a few important things: the joy of learning, work with a purpose, etc.
At the time, I didn’t realize who this essay was written for: people with a purpose. Self-centered individuals that just happened to have friends & family. Like Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean, this generation’s mindset was one of fighting for their freedom and their vision — as individuals.
This attitude towards life, I believe, is the reason why the products we create pivot on the individual and not on the community. We have a personal music account, a personal pictures account, a personal email account, a personal e-wallet, etc. Solutions that incorporate a “group mindset” are rare. They mostly exist for communities that have a purpose too (for companies to produce, for NGOs to carry on projects, etc.). They are less frequent for communities that just spend time together (family, friends, etc.).
As we grew older and all the communities we belong to were exposed to the internet, they asked us for help. So we created the “pay for user” feature to pay for our relatives’ accounts (because they don’t know how to). Or the family plans in our music and video stores. And so on. These features reflect a change of direction and a more humane way to interact with each other through technology.
We are still in the early stages, but I expect this pattern to permeate more into our products ethos. We need to learn the fundamental lesson any other generation did in the past: we are weak as individuals, and we thrive within groups. Jack Sparrow struggled with this idea as well. Until he found out that the Black Pearl can be easily lost if you are on your own, and that you need a team if you want to navigate the ocean.