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Everything written by Michel Bauwens

Video: Neal Gorenflo on Why No One Will Buy Tourism in the Future

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Michel Bauwens
20th December 2014


From a keynote by Neal Gorenflo at the Buy Tourism Online conference in Florence, Italy about the sharing economy and travel:

““The gist of the talk is that the rise of net culture, with it’s emphasis on collaboration, peer relationships, and social good, is changing the habits of the next generation of travellers. A large and growing cohort, mostly from developed countries, don’t want pre-packaged, mass-produced travel experiences. In fact, that’s the opposite of what they want. It’s counter to their value system. They want to hack travel, i.e. make their own travel experiences. Better yet if the hacking is done with locals and creates lasting benefits for travelers (like new skills) and their destination communities.

Aside from the digital professionals present, the audience was mainly Italian and European boutique hoteliers. I think they have a much better chance of adapting to this new reality than chain hotels. I shared a few ideas with them like turning their hotel’s business centers into coworking spaces, teaching skills that are regional specialties (beer making, glass blowing, fashion design), and connecting travelers to the local community through local causes. In general, the idea is to view a hotel as a community center that links travelers directly with locals for learning, community contribution, and cultural exchange.

I gave a bunch of examples where aspects of this new travel paradigm are unfolding like Destination Coworking, The Digital Detox, Seats2Meet, and The Embassy Network. On the latter, I explained how The Embassy Network, as a collection of social innovation communes (i.e. coliving spaces), blurs the lines between travel and everyday life by making a network of houses available to residents allowing them to live like a local in a variety of destinations. In other words, networks collapse the difference between home and destination, everyday life and holiday. Admittedly, The Embassy Network is similar to time-share condominimums, but with one big difference — you get access not only to many places, but many communities where learning, social innovation, and self-development are priorities. This is particularly appealing to young adults who want this lifestyle, but often can’t afford housing, travel, and learning as separate offerings.

I closed with the idea that travel may be returning to its historical roots in The Grand Tour and pilgrimages, where learning and spiritual renewal are the focus, and that this offers the travel entrepreneurs a chance to do well by doing good.”

Watch the video here:

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Video, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Defining the Commons

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Michel Bauwens
19th December 2014


Project by the Remix the Commons video collective, wherebyt one-sentence definitions of the commons were given in their own language by attendees of the Economics and the Commons Conference which took place in Berlin in May 2013.

For example,

Define the commons #5, is the fifth serie of short videos of definitions of the commons, produced by Communautique and Gazibo for Define The Commons. It contains 12 capsules presented below. This serie has been gathered at the Internationale conference ECONOMICS AND THE COMMON(S): FROM SEED FORM TO CORE PARADIGM , co-organized by Commons Strategies Group, the Heinrich Böll and Charles Leopold Mayer Pour le Progrès de l’Homme Foundations and Remix The Commons, in Berlin, May 24 and 25, 2013.

Define The Commons is a multilingual project sharing definitions of commons. It is a process of collecting spontaneous and very brief definitions of the commons, made ??over several years and in different places around the world.

The project started in the first by interviewing people during the first International Commons Conference, co-organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group, in Berlin November 1 and 2, 2010. The conference organizers and participants were invited to define the commons with just one sentence in their own langage. Since 2010, many other definitions have been collected during other meetings.

Collection of the definitions of the commons continues. It is open to individuals and organizations contributions to define the paradigm of the commons. Publications and uses of the collection of definitions are in preparation, such as a mapping of the definitions of the commons. This project will also contribute to the creation of a glossary of commons through the identification of the terms used in the definitions.

If you want to participate, please sent an email to Alain Ambrosi (ambrosia/at/web.ca) or Frédéric Sultan (fredericsultan/at/gmail.com).

This initiative is an idea of Alain Ambrosi.”

Find the videos here at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiO9RvnsUfkYA3AHFtDOUCQCcCvEzkn-S

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Posted in Commons, Featured Project, Videos | No Comments »

Network-based work is about tasks and interdependence between people, NOT jobs

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Michel Bauwens
19th December 2014


Excerpted from Esko Kilpi:

“The factory logic of mass production forced people to come to where the machines were. In knowledge work, the machines are where the people are making it possible to distribute work to where they are. The architectures of work differ in the degree to which their components are loosely or tightly coupled. Coupling is a measure of the degree to which communication between the components is predetermined and fixed or not. It was relatively easy to define in repetitive work what needed to be done and by whom as a definition of the quantity of labor and quality of capabilities. As a result, management theory and practice created two communication designs: the hierarchy and the process chart.

In a hierarchy the most important communication and dependence exists between the employer and the employee, the manager and the worker.

Manufacturing work is, perhaps amazingly, not about hierarchical, but horizontal, sequential dependence. Those performing the following task must comply with the constraints imposed by the execution of the preceding task. The reverse cannot normally take place. The architecture consists of tightly coupled tasks and predetermined, repeated activities. Communication resembles one-way signals.

Creative, highly contextual work creates a third design.

It is about loose couplings and modularity, about networked tasks. In creative work, any node in the network should be able to communicate with any other node on the basis of contextual interdependence and creative, participatory engagement.

Work is interaction between interdependent people.

The architecture of the Internet is based on the same principle of loose couplings and modularity. Modularity is still the only design principle that intentionally makes the nodes of the network able to be highly responsive. The logic of modularity and ubiquitous communication make it possible for the first time to create truly network-based organizations.

Creative network-based work in the future will not be about jobs, but about tasks and interdependence between people.

You don’t need to be present in a factory any more, or in an office, but you need to be present for other people. In an economy, people essentially produce goods and services for people. Companies are theoretically intermediary organizational forms that arrange the development, production and delivery processes. Can companies perhaps be replaced by apps in some cases? Or can managers be replaced by apps? Or perhaps more and more new companies look like apps, like Uber or Airbnb already do.

Many of these new companies are really market makers rather than service providers.

In the network economy, individuals, interacting with each other by utilizing coordinating apps and relatively cheap mobile, smart devices, can now create information products in a way that has never been possible before.

But many things need to change!

We are as used to the employer choosing the work objectives as we are used to the teacher choosing the learning objectives. The manager directs the way in which the employee engages with work. This image of work is easy to grasp because it has been taught at school where the model is the same.

In contrast to the above, creative, digital work and the Internet have brought about circumstances in which the employee in effect chooses the purpose of work, voluntarily selects the tasks, determines the modes and timing of engagement, and designs the outcomes. The worker might be said to be largely independent of some other person’s management, but is in effect interdependent. Interdependence here means that the worker is free to choose what tasks to take up, and when to take them up, but is not independent in the sense that she would not need to make the choice.

The interdependent, task-based worker negotiates her work on the basis of her own purposes, not the goals of somebody else, and negotiates who her fellow-workers are on the basis of cognitive complementarity and her personal network, not a given organization.

The architecture of work is not the structure of a corporation, but the structure of the network. The organization is not a given hierarchy or a predictive process, but an ongoing process of organizing.

The Internet-based firm sees work and cognitive capability as networked communication.

And we have the tools!”

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Posted in P2P Hierarchy Theory, P2P Labor, P2P Theory | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative

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Michel Bauwens
18th December 2014


The Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative defines itself a counter investment cooperative of the precariat: “Our business is minor asset management”

They explain:

“How is it done? Very simply. By understanding that knowledge (immaterial and affective elements, the ability to learn, think, create and relate to the presence of others) has became a means of production. By understanding how these elements are producing value. By understanding how it is organized. By understanding the functioning of the new mechanisms of valorization at work in semiocapitalism. By understanding the mimetic logic of financial economy. By understanding the formation of market sentiment and how it organizes the multitude of transactions at the financial market. By knowing how the public opinion “runs” the formation of value.

Some basics about the financial market: The information deficit (or, call it ‘information overload’) is structural for the functioning of the stock market.

Nobody, including the big investment institutions, knows exactly what to do.

That is why making money at the stock market is not about being “right”, about having the “right” opinion, but about the art of knowing the common sentiment, the public opinion, and of anticipating, and even manipulating its movements. This is what Robin Hood does.

We are operating a massive dynamic virtual agent – we call it “the parasite” – that is able to analyze transactions from all major US Stock Exchanges including NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, etc. It operates a little bit like an internet search engine (like Google): it examines all information for a particular financial market segment and identifies critical patterns and relations in this information. What is the relationship between this transaction and this transaction, that transaction and that transaction, what is the regularity of their connection…

To put it very simply:

We know everything what and when people are buying and selling.

And then we rank them, these buyers and sellers, all of them, revealing the consistent winners and losers for a given instrument. The statistics are quite surprising. They are not just any statistics, but a dynamic technique which is able to transform bare beliefs and desires (to buy/sell) and their intensities and tendencies into anticipatory timelines: by piecing together the regularities of innumerable singular events which are conscious and unconscious, in continuous movement, productive and non-productive, individual and collective and totally uncontrollable by any traditional means, we are able to see an emergence of a form.

In short: we identify who is able to make money consistently with a particular instrument. We then follow when the majority of the best players of each particular instrument start buying or selling. On these basis, we then rank each instrument according to a prediction of its future behavior: it is good and prospective when the majority of the best operators (who have consistently been right about its movements) start going for it, it is bad when they start rejecting it. We identify the most competent actors for each instrument and manage our portfolio according to their movements. In other words, we operate in the pure space of imitation, pure space of mimesis. We let the bankers play the contents, we play the position.

Because, as Michel Serres writes:

– “The one who plays the position will always beat the one who plays the contents. The latter is simple and naive; the former is complex and mediatized… To play the position… is to dominate the relation. It is to have a relation only with the relation itself… that is the meaning of the prefix para- in the word parasite: it is on the side, next to, shifted; it is not on the thing, but on its relation. It has relations, as they say, and makes a system of them.”

Like Serres’ parasites we hook to the brains of the financial elite at Wall Street, the community of these men who are making millions… we know exactly what they do and when… and they don’t even know it. We expropriate the knowledge and capabilities of financial capital and its representatives and put them to work for us – just like capital normally puts to work our abilities and knowledge for its own increase. This is minor asset management. Another way to occupy Wall Street.

We have run massive tests 2003-2009 and 2009-2011 and now the operation is running. Our operating costs are ridiculously minimal compared to traditional asset management with high end locations and leather sofas. Now, we would like to build a channel to socialize or out-onomize this information, to use it, to play with it, to study it, to exploit it… but also to build on its basis a possibility of micro investing for basic income, for radical project funding, of cheap loans for financing one’s studies or life, in a form of an investment cooperative. We call it minor asset management, a possibility of political operation of building from our minor assets financial out-onomy in cooperation.”

In a letter from the Chairman of the Board, Akseli Virtanen explains their ethics, values and mission:

“Even if looking like a purely financial operation, Robin Hood is about organization. About emergence of a new form. It is about experimenting and inventing a becoming, when it seems impossible. For this the financial-tactical level of Robin Hood, no matter how well we have elaborated it, is maybe not enough. Robin Hood must also become sensible.

What does this mean?

It means that when you look at Robin Hood a little bit closer, it certainly looks like a financial operation, but somehow in a strange way. It seems to create a foreign language inside the techno-linguistic automatism of financial market, it is explicitly a parasite which hollows production of value from the inside. It escapes and exceeds the established meanings and identities of financial economy, makes them stutter and mutate. It releases minor finance from major finance, it turns major assets into minor assets. It is minor asset management. Which corresponds to our subjectivity.

Robin Hood is a project taking place in the midst of the marvels of financial economy and crises of Europe, when the precariousness of immaterial labour defines our every day, semiocapitalism exercises its arbitrary power and forces us to continuously exploit ourselves and our friends while cynicism, depression and detachment form others have become important means of our survival. There is no heroism in the exhaustion and disillusionment we are experiencing. We have difficulties in believing what is happening to us, because nothing seems to happen. We are tired of being ourselves because the self-evidendies of our lives don’t work anymore. We know they don’t, even if we still try to pretend that they do. We need a reinvention of ourselves, but have no strength or appeal for it. That is why we all sound like déjà vu. The realm of possible at our disposal is exhausted.

This is the starting point of Robin Hood. The closed reality of European crisis and semiocapitalism, the predisposed framing of the field of possible: the exhaustion of possible at our disposal, social life becoming swarm, the consequent morphostatis, loss of our singular ways of becoming. It seems that there is no way out.

How do you invent a way out, when there is no way out? How does something new begin when nothing new can begin? Robin Hood is a real experiment in this.

Robin Hood is an attempt of reactivating the body of general intellect. Not in the old political way of the last century, but in a strange way. In an insolvent way. In a monstrous or paradoxical way (but are you not taking part in the same system?!). In a disgusting way (what are the ethics of this?!). In a rebel way, maybe, but in any case in a way that is not reducible to present frameworks of knowledge and predictability (this is politics? art? is this research? or business?).

Robin Hood sounds like a ponzi scheme, a fake, or it could be a private group of aggressive entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of anybody. To become a member demands certainly something we don’t have, like belief in the possible, or imagination. This could all be a hoax or an “art project”. Robin Hood makes us uneasy, it breaks the “natural” and “easy” flow of independent action and ready environments. It is something unallowable and unimaginable, almost impossible… a monster… with its specters of mistrusts, weaknesses, confusions, fears, impossibilities, non-commitments and insolvencies… something which is closer to poetics than exchange of information and rational communication.

This poetical-financial monster, which is not reducible to present frameworks of knowledge and predictability and breaks the “natural” and “easy” flow of independent action and ready environments, with its specter of mistrust, disbelief, weakness, fear, impossibility and insolvency, is something around which we appeared also in Kassel Documenta in September 2012. On the one hand it was a straight forward cold blooded “pitch event” to raise more capital and exploit the Documenta structure – like the meanest motherfuckers of precariat would absolutely do. On the other hand, the “pitch” played in a way that was insolvent, included presence of a risk of excess and deception, a semiotic insolvency, a paradoxical, poetic, non-sensical ambiguity of the project, which has not yet become communication, for which you don’t yet have the words… but which makes you “feel it”, which makes it “touch you”, and forces the demonstrative gesture: “here”.

Could the depressing present, lack of hope, lack of possible, dead end of autonomy, be also a breeding ground for a new kind of monster, a parasite, that is self-aware, self ironical and has only its precarious present to share, and to lose.

We think it can.”

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Posted in Crowdfunding, Economy and Business, Featured Project | No Comments »

Surveillance and spying is not a bug, it’s THE business model!

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Michel Bauwens
18th December 2014


Excerpted from a really great Indie Summit keynote presentation by Aral Balkan:

“The problem is that we keep getting shocked; we keep getting surprised. We keep thinking this is a bug, and it’s because we don’t understand the problem. Some of us still harbour the misunderstanding that Web 2.0 for example was about freedom. Remember open APIs? That if we all just used open APIs, we could build an open web, right? I fell for it. I started creating Twitter clients. But what I was doing was adding value to a closed silo, which is what Twitter is. An API key, an open API key is a key to a lock that you don’t own, and a lock that can be changed at any time, so what we were doing in Web 2.0 was, we were adding value to closed silos; the same corporate surveillers that run the internet today, but we were told we were doing it in the name of openness.

I have an issue with that. Today, we’re seeing the same people, the O’Reillys, etc, telling us that we should embrace the Internet of Things as long as they have open APIs, so today with Internet of Things, we have Things that feed into closed silos, into the companies that practise corporate surveillance. Without independent alternatives, the Internet of Things as it stands today is just an evolution of Web 2.0. It is the Internet of Things that spy on you. The difference is, these are things that we wear on our persons and that we invite into our homes. What’s happened here is with Web 2.0, we started tapping the arteries of data and life was good. But we got that.

So what’s the next step? We need more data. We need to start tapping the capillaries. The capillaries are the Internet of Things. We have to understand that this is not a bug. Corporate surveillance is a business model. It is the business model of spying on you. This is why they don’t have a direct response ever, because they cannot deny their own business model. You can look into their financial documents and see what it is.

So, we look for the bug. We look for the bug in software because that’s what we do, right? And we have to find the bug before we can fix it and finding the bug is ninety per cent of the work, isn’t it? We look for the bug in the software and we write lines of code. But no matter how many billion lines of code we write, we cannot fix this bug, because it’s not in the software, so let’s look in the hardware. Is it in the hardware? Can we fix the bug with hardware? No, because that’s not where the bug is.

So let’s look elsewhere in the stack. Is the bug in the network? What if we just distributed the network, would that work? The bug’s not in the network; there are things we can do to make it better, but if we’re really going to address the bug, if we are going to address this bug, we need to find it, and we need to look outside the stack, because the bug is outside the stack. The bug starts at the business model. Until we understand this, we’re going to be fixing the symptoms, not the bug itself.

The business of corporate surveillance feeds on data. We have to understand how that business model works, so let’s take Google for example. Google has services; it started out as a service, right? Just search. They weren’t even keeping your data; they weren’t keeping tabs on you, they weren’t spying on you necessarily. They fell into that business model later, after 9/11. But today, Google is a very different beast. It has a plethora of services, right? Do you want somewhere to put all your files? Put them on Google Drive. Will Google look through all of your files to get to know you better? Yes. Why? That’s how they make money, that’s their business model. There’s nothing more sinister than that at work here. It is simply a business model, not some conspiracy theory. Do you want to put your pictures somewhere? Put them on Picasso. Will they run facial recognition, try to understand who you are, who your friends are? Why not? Data is what they feed on.

When you use GMail to send emails to your friends, will they read your emails? Yes, of course. That’s how they make their money. And you might say that’s fine, I’m happy with that. I’m willing to make that exchange of my privacy for this service, but what you have to understand, and this is essential, is that you’re not just making a personal decision there. You’re also making a decision on behalf of everyone that writes to you, that sends an email to you, because you’re saying it’s OK for Google to read their emails also, and if you have a custom domain, they may not even know that they’re sending that email through Google and that it will be read. It’s like second-hand smoke; it also affects other people.

And Google has games that they use to get data, like Recaptcha. Recaptcha’s great, isn’t it? It teaches them so much about the world by giving you some bit of functionality, so it’s these little captures on forms, and they might show you a street sign that they haven’t been able to read and so it protects the form from Spam, but at the same time, you’re teaching Google Street View how to read street signs.

They have actual games like Ingress, where you walk around town and you play in teams and you’re trying to find landmarks and you’re trying to hack into them in the game world; it sounds awesome, it’s free of course. But what they’re really doing is they’re getting very hard to come by data on pedestrian walking patterns, right? So, you are the lab rat. We want to find out how people walk in town and how they get from place to place, so let’s incentivise them to do that.

And you might say, OK, well their services are evil; I’m not going to use their services. And then they’ve lost, right? So that’s why they have devices, like beautiful, beautiful devices like this Nexus phone, which is half the price of an iPhone. Have you ever asked yourselves why? Do they have twice the economies of scale as Apple? Tim Cook is a supply chain guy. Is he asleep at the wheel? No. This is a subsidised device. It’s a beautiful data entry device saying, buy this and let us get more of your data, because even if you don’t use Google’s services, they will still get some data, because they’ve made your log-in, your sign-in to your device, your Google sign-in. Same with their tablets. Same with their Chromebooks which they’re trying to get into schools and which we will talk about today.

OK, let’s not use their devices, and Google’s lost. They don’t want to lose. What’s the next step? What’s the end game? If your business feeds on data, what’s your end game? Your end game is to provide connectivity for people. If you can make my sign-in to the internet my Google username and password like they’re trying to do with Google Fiber, then it doesn’t matter what device I use; you will still get valuable data from me. That’s the end game, and they’re not just trying to connect us; they’re trying to connect the next five billion, the next billion people in India, the next five billion people around the world with projects like Google Loon using balloons or using drones. Why? Well, in the future, there might be a whole nation whose only notion of the internet is something you sign into with your Google username and password.

Facebook’s trying to do the same thing with internet.org for the same reasons. So that’s them having to know about you because that’s valuable data; that’s what they feed on, that’s their food.

What about the world? They also need to know as much about the world as they can, and of course all of that knowledge that they gathered together is proprietary. So, we have Google Maps, right, which we love; they’re great. We’ve got Google Earth and Google Satellite View, right? And then we’ve got Google Street Maps, Street View, and that’s just here right now. And you’ve all seen the Google Street View Car that gathers data by driving, but there are places that they can’t go with the Car, so there is the Google Street View Trike. And there are places that that can’t go. So there’s the Google Street View Snowmobile. Why? Because they need data. They’re trying to get the data that’s there.

What about indoors? They can’t go in there with a Snowmobile. They need a trolley, and they have it. What if you can’t go there with the trolley? What if it’s rough terrain? Well, you know what? There’s a Backpack. The Google Street View Backpack. They will get that data somehow. Why? They feed on it; it’s their food. But there are still a few places where even if Google Street View showed up with their Backpack, you probably wouldn’t let them in. One: it’s probably your office, the other is probably your home. And that’s why they need you. That’s why one of their latest projects, Project Tango, is a phone that has a depth sensor and a motion tracker that when you’re walking around with it in your own home, it maps your home in three dimensions. It can recognise objects in your home, and of course, share that information with Google. But you can also do cool things like play games in your own home which is really cool.

You’re the lab rats. They can’t get into your home; they can sell you a device that gets them into your home. If you need to understand the Internet of Things, that’s all you need to know. Why? For a very simple reason. Your data is not the most valuable thing. We keep looking at symptoms. Your data is just raw materials.

But when you put all that data together, all of those individual data points, you start creating a profile, you start creating a digital self that’s apart from your corporeal self. You start creating a simulation of the person. And even though I can’t take you and lock you away in my lab and study you twenty four hours a day, because we have laws that protect your corporeal selves, I can actually take your simulation. Imagine it as everything but your body. I can take that and I can lock that away in a lab, and I can psycho-analyse it and I can prod it to see how it works, twenty four hours a day, because your simulation, your digital self, has no laws protecting it. And that’s something that we need to change as well. Our corporeal selves have human rights; our digital selves do not.

So, free and the eco-system around it is a lie, but it’s more than a lie; it’s a con. It is a text book definition of a confidence trick. Who are the people that get had by confidence tricks? Who gets conned? Dumb fucks, right? That would be us. It’s a concealed barter. We are exchanging something of value, but that is not made apparent to us, and we do not understand the extent of what it is we’re giving up. And more than that, they will tell you, but you have a choice; don’t use Google, it’s fine. Use Yahoo! OK, what’s their business model?

Oh, it’s the same. So this business model has become a monopoly on the internet, and the lack of alternatives is hugely, hugely worrying. This business model is fuelled by a cycle of venture capital and exits. When you take venture capital, when you take equity investment, you have to have an exit; that’s how the people who give you the money make their money back ten-fold or more. You either exit to people or you exit to a larger company.

So, how many of you have seen this? Spritz. It’s a new way of reading. Anyone seen this? Who thinks this is cool? I’ll put my hand up because I think it’s cool. When I saw it, I was like…Wow! And then I saw, because it’s awesome, it’s like basically you can look at the screen right now and you read one word at a time and it’s positioned so that you can read really, really quickly, and the CEO of the company was at a conference that I was speaking at recently, and in his talk he said, you know, we discovered, they don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, but he said, “We discovered that people with dyslexia find this really easy to read because there are no distractions and they can just focus.” And then, at the dinner that we were talking at, I asked him what his business model was and he was like, well, we can see what you’re reading, right? And this is an SDK. They want people to put this into their own applications. And he said during his talk, “We’d really like to see some email apps using this.” I wonder why that was?

But what’s worse is, what is the choice you’re being given here, especially if what they say is true and you have dyslexia. What’s the choice you’re being given? Either read better or…and let us spy on you…or read worse. I believe that humanity deserves better than this myopic, myopic business model and its ramifications. This is an unacceptable, unacceptable decision to be put in the position of making.

So, corporate surveillance is the business model of spying on you. It’s the business model of studying you, understanding you, to predict your behaviour and to manipulate you. So let’s just at least stop getting surprised every time they act in line with their business model. It’s not helping. In this business model, you are the quarry being mined. You’re the livestock being farmed. You are the lab rat, and so am I. You are in the eternal words of Mark Zuckerberg.”

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Posted in P2P Infrastructures | No Comments »

German utility E.ON confirms irreversible distributed energy revolution

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th December 2014


We may be about to witness one of the most profound transitions ever to occur in the utility industry. Challenged by the surge in distributed renewables and a strong decline in revenues, one of Europe’s largest largest utilities, RWE, is reportedly planning to completely transform itself from a traditional electricity provider into a renewable energy service provider. The utility’s new philosophy: either adapt — or wither away and die.

This is an important development, reported by Stephen Lacey:

“In a strategy approved by the utility’s advisory board yesterday, E.ON is preparing to split into two separate companies sometime next year. The new (as-yet-unnamed) company will take on the company’s coal, gas and nuclear assets, as well as its trading business and hydropower plants. Once the spinoff is complete in 2016, E.ON will focus exclusively on renewable energy, energy efficiency, digitizing the distribution network and enabling customer-sited energy sources like storage paired with solar. The reformed utility will be active in Europe, North America and Turkey.”

To explain it, CEO Johannes Teyssen said the following:

“Until not too long ago, the structure of the energy business was relatively straightforward and linear. The value chain extended from the drill hole, gas field, and power station to transmission lines, the wholesale market, and end customers. The entire business was understood and managed from the perspective of big production facilities. This is the conventional energy world familiar to all of us. It consists of big assets, integrated systems, bulk trading, and large sales volume. Its technologies are mature and proven.

This world still exists and will remain indispensable. In the last few years, however, a new world has grown up alongside it, a world characterized above all by technological innovation and individualized customer expectations. The increasing technological maturity and cost-efficiency and thus the growth of renewables constitute a key driver of this trend. More money is invested in renewables than in any other generation technology. Far from diminishing, this trend will actually increase.

At the same time, the costs of some renewables technologies — such as onshore wind farms — have sunk to parity with, or below, those of conventional generation technologies. We expect that other renewables technologies could become economic in the foreseeable future.

Renewables aren’t just revolutionizing power generation. Together with other technological innovations, they’re changing the role of customers, who can already use solar panels to produce a portion of their energy. As energy storage devices become more prevalent, customers will be able to make themselves largely independent of the conventional power and gas supply network.

The proportion of customers that want to play a more active role in designing their energy supply is growing steadily. Above all, they want clean, sustainable energy that they can use efficiently and in a way that conserves resources.”

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Posted in P2P Energy | No Comments »

Towards a Commons-Based International Food Treaty

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th December 2014


* Proposal: The commons-based international Food Treaty: A legal architecture to sustain a fair and sustainable food transition. By Jose Luis Vivero Pol. Rencontres internationales « Penser une démocratie alimentaire », 25-27 novembre 2013, Nantes

From the Summary:

“Food as a purely private good prevents millions to get such a basic resource, since the purchasing power determines access and the price of food does not reflect its multiple dimensions and the value to society. With the dominant no money-no food rationality, hunger still prevails in a world of abundance. Hunger is needlessly killing millions of our fellow humans, including 3.1 million young children every year, condemning many others to life-long exposure to illness and social exclusion. This paper argues this narrative has to be re-conceived and a binding Food Treaty, based on a commons approach to food, will create a more appropriate framework to work together towards a fairer and more sustainable world. The eradication of hunger no later than 2025 would be the main objective within a broader framework whereby food and nutrition security shall be understood as a Global Public Good. Within the treaty framework, those governments that are genuinely determined to end hunger (a coalition of the willing) could commit themselves to mutually-agreed binding goals, strategies and predictable funding. The paper presents the rationale to substantiate the treaty, as well as objectives, provisions and a possible route map for the process.”

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Posted in Commons, Food and Agriculture, P2P Rights | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Democracy and Consensus in African Traditional Politics

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Michel Bauwens
15th December 2014


* Essay: Kwasi Wiredu. Democracy and Consensus in African Traditional Politics. A Plea for a Non-party Polity

Summary:

“Wiredu discusses the use of the consensus principle for political theory and practice in Africa. The consensus principle used to be widespread in African politics, and Wiredu elaborates on the example of the traditional political system of the Ashantis in Ghana as a possible guideline for a recommendable path for African politics. For empirical data, he draws from historical material published by British anthropologists (Evans-Pritchard & Fortes et al.) and Ghanaian intellectuals (Busia et al.). According to Wiredu, a non-party system based on consensus as a central principle of political organisation in Africa could avoid the evident problems of both the one-party system and the multi-party system imposed by the West.”

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Posted in Featured Essay, Politics | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Stigmergy as a Universal Coordination Mechanism

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Michel Bauwens
14th December 2014


* Article: Heylighen, F. (2015). Stigmergy as a Universal Coordination Mechanism: components, varieties and applications. To appear in T. Lewis & L. Marsh (Eds.),* Human Stigmergy: Theoretical Developments and New Applications*, Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics. Springer.

From the Abstract:

“The concept of stigmergy has been used to analyze self-organizing activities in an ever-widening range of domains, from social insects via robotics and social media to human society. Yet, it is still poorly understood, and as such its full power remains underappreciated. The present paper clarifies the issue by defining stigmergy as a mechanism of indirect coordination in which the trace left by an action in a medium stimulates a subsequent action. It then analyses the fundamental components of the definition: action, agent, medium, trace and coordination. Stigmergy enables complex, coordinated activity without any need for planning, control, communication, simultaneous presence, or even mutual awareness. This makes the concept applicable to a very broad variety of cases, from chemical reactions to individual cognition and Internet-supported collaboration in Wikipedia.

The paper classifies different varieties of stigmergy according to general aspects (number of agents, scope, persistence, sematectonic vs. marker-based, and quantitative vs. qualitative), while emphasizing the fundamental continuity between these cases. This continuity can be understood from a non-linear, self-organizing dynamic that lets more complex forms of coordination evolve out of simpler ones. The paper concludes with two specifically human applications in cognition and cooperation, suggesting that without stigmergy these phenomena may never have evolved.”

Contact the author, Prof. Francis Heylighen Evolution, Complexity and Cognition group Free University of Brussels via http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Featured Essay, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

Basic Income as a Minimum Claim to Basic Resources

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Michel Bauwens
14th December 2014


Republished from Scott Santens:

“A basic income is in a way a minimum claim to resources, with each person using this to claim the resources most important to them. The fact a basic income is given regardless of work, makes it that much more clear it exists as such a claim on resources based on the shared right to such resources.
This last point is important. No one of us created the Earth. We were all born here. Its resources therefore can be seen as belonging to all of us or none of us. To use its resources that are free, and transform it into something else using human labor, does not change the fact a portion of it always remains owned by none or all because that portion was never created and only transformed.

It is this lack of 100% full individual ownership over anything and everything we create, that provides the justification that every single one of us has a right to a percentage, however small, of everything created by humanity. Therefore a basic income exists as a highly efficient means of representing such a claim to this universally owned portion as well as the means to effect its universal access.

For those familiar with a resource-based economy, basic income is a step in that direction. Instead of saying every human should have a 100% equal claim to all globally available resources, a basic income says that every citizen of a nation or state should have an absolute minimum claim to the natural resources of that nation or state, sufficient to secure individual basic needs, such that there will continue to be humans with a much larger claim, but no one will have less claim than a hard minimum limit.

In the United States 1.1% of all labor is involved in food production. This is because of how far we’ve advanced with our food technology, where we can now create all our food (and even waste half of it), with relatively miniscule effort. So why do we still insist that everyone work in order to eat it? If it took 1.1% less total effort, such that it took 0% of our total effort to produce our food (perhaps being produced by automated Star Trek style food replicators?), would we still insist people work to obtain food? If so, why?

Cash is a very efficient means of resource distribution. It’s a distributed non-centralized system. Is it the best of all systems? Probably not, but it’s what we’ve got right now, and it can certainly exist as a means of allocating individual resource rights, and distributing the goods and services people want to use these resource rights to obtain.

As for the idea that all prices will rise so much, that any attempt to guarantee a minimum allotment will be eroded, that is a huge oversimplification of how massively complex interconnected markets actually work and purely exists as a fear of change.

Think of it this way, what if food stamps didn’t exist? Do you think we would hear people saying we can’t give out food stamps, because it would raise prices so much that there would effectively be no point in giving them out in the first place? I imagine we would. Would they be right? Of course not, because we have food stamps, and they actually do allow more people to eat than would be able to without them. Without food stamps, a lot of people would be far worse off. Has the existence of food stamps raised the price of food for everyone else? If yes, does that mean we are all worse off because of them?

The same can be said of Social Security. Does that cause the prices of everything to rise so much, it isn’t worth it to seniors to receive it? If we didn’t have Social Security, would some people argue that implementing it would drive price inflation? Can you think of anything else we have that if we didn’t already have, we’d hear having it would cause the sky to fall?

We have the infrastructure in place and the technological capability to increase the quality of life for everyone.
We just have to decide to actually do it.”

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Posted in Ethical Economy, P2P Public Policy, P2P Rights | 1 Comment »