ACCORDING TO a recent study random acts of kindness have a very positive impact on humans and regularly spread this good feeling to others.
The study, which is discussed at Physorg, shows that cooperation is contagious. This comes from behavioural researchers, and in our eyes gives scientific proof that enlightened altruism, such as is found is open source projects, is real and pays off.
James Fowler, from the University of San Diego, has created a diagram to show how this paying it forward creates a chain of do-goodery that gradually increases in scale. He explained, "This diagram illustrates how a single act of kindness can spread between individuals and across time. Cooperative behavior spreads three degrees of separation: if Eleni increases her contribution to the public good, it benefits Lucas (one degree of separation), who gives more when paired with Erika (two degrees of separation) in period 2, who gives more when paired with Jay (three degrees of separation) in period 3, who gives more when paired with Brecken in period 4. The effects also persist over time, so that Lucas gives more when paired with Erika (period 2) and also when paired with Lysander (period 3), Bemy (period 4), Sebastian (period 5), and Nicholas (period 6). The effect also persists at two degrees of separation, as Erika not only gives more when paired with Jay (period 3), but also when paired with Harla (period 4) and James (period 5)." We use the term 'explained' loosely.
We don't know what happens in the boiler rooms of Redmond, but we are pretty confident that the world of open source development lends itself to the idea that altruistic, co-operative behaviour is a natural human instinct, and a form of enlightened self-interest, which could begin to justify why open source development works quite well, and, er, some other kinds do not. That's what we think anyway.
So, even if seeing the film Pay It Forward with Kevin Spacey makes you want to go out and kick someone, it is probably best for you and the world if you don't do that, because meanness too is catching. µ
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