P2P Foundation

Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices




Everything written by Michel Bauwens

We will need to complete eventual basic incomes with a Guaranteed Basic Competence

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Michel Bauwens
12th November 2015

Excerpted from Open Source Ecology:

“Even if your machines are making and repairing other of your machines, eventually you will come to a broken machine that can’t be made or repaired by the other machines in your possession. Who do you call?

Why not call your own competent little self? For most people, the difference between a competent child, adolescent, or adult, and a perpetual adolescent stuck in lifelong incompetence, is the way the child was raised and educated.

Most modern children are loaned out to daycare, preschools, educational systems from K-12 to university, and so on. In such settings, young minds are conditioned to think much the same way as other immature minds — meaning other students, but also most teachers and professors. This conditioning takes place at school, at home in front of the television, and under the auspices of other cultural institutions and purveyors of entertainment.

In other words, for most children there is no opportunity for them to develop personal competence or individual skills necessary to deal with unexpected breakdowns and other unfortunate occurrences or threats. After a while, an entire society becomes “a victim society” or “a diseased society,” where everyone sees himself as either victimised or as having a serious diagnosis or disability of some kind.

All of this can happen even in the presence of “abundance” — or even because of abundance in the absence of purpose, motivation, grit, or early childhood training in skills and competencies.

Competent persons can run an isolated homestead with only a rare need to call for outside help to build, repair, or heal. In societies of competent people, one would call a plumber, electrician, or other repairman only if one were too busy to attend to the problem himself. And one would not have to look far to find a competent and trustworthy person to do the job. That will be particularly true as assemblers, 3D printers, repair and helper robots, and other enabling home machines become more ubiquitous.

Widespread affluence and abundance are quite possible future scenarios for the more modern nations of the world — as long as they do not unwittingly turn themselves into third world nations via suicidal immigration policies. But if the human substrate of such affluent societies lacks the character, grit, competence, and purpose needed to create future generations equally able to move into an open and expansive future, long-term prospects for such societies would be poor.

Self-confidence and genuine self-esteem come from personal competence, and the knowledge that one is capable of meeting the challenges one is likely to confront. Most pampered and entitled wastrels do not have that competence, and too often fall into destructive habits and lifestyles.

This is so whether under a monarchy, a democracy, under socialism, under theocracy, under ethnic separatism, etc. etc. Human nature requires early guidance to achieve lifelong competence, and humans who are pampered throughout their childhood and adolescence — into early adulthood — are unlikely to make the cut.

Governments and institutions are important, by all means. Dysgenic idiocracies of the type emerging in Europe and the Anglosphere make it more difficult to instill competence in offspring and other youngsters in the community and society.

But dysgenic idiocracies tend to emerge precisely in societies that have neglected the careful upbringing of their children. Societies that loan their children out to institutions for most of their formative years, are likely to emerge into a dysgenic idiocracy sooner or later.

Such society-level incompetence is what pushes many people to become survivalists or preppers, living on well-stocked compounds waiting for the world the collapse around them. But even these well intentioned people fail to understand what it takes to make a civilisation — no matter how large or small — sustainable over many generations. They are in fact thinking almost exclusively about themselves, and possibly their children, but not beyond.”


Posted in P2P Education, P2P Manufacturing | 4 Comments »

Video: Medea Benjamin on How Individuals Can Participate in Systemic Change

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Michel Bauwens
11th November 2015

Recommended 4 minute explanation on the relation between individual engagement and choices and systemic change:

“Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK, discusses her personal journey in systemic thought; how corporate and militarist forces converge to keep the U.S. in a state of perpetual war; and how social movements build deeper interconnectivity to develop a genuine alternative.”

Watch the video here:


Posted in Activism, Commons Transition, Politics | No Comments »

Supporting a documentary on the next economy

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Michel Bauwens
10th November 2015

Tammy Lee Mayer writes:

“We are motivated to explore and promote the stories of people that are already building tools for the next economy – and over the last few years there has been an explosion of people and organizations who are creatively meeting the challenges we face. From timebanks to digital currencies, new lending models to crowdfunding, blockchain technology to the value that people naturally create in their communities, we are deep in a paradigm shift that is changing how we experience our economy.

Check out Sensorica, a ‘next economy’ project that are just doing it. I’m super inspired by one of their projects, the ‘ipot’, which – as Jim Anastassiou says, ‘is the future of agriculture, in a pot.’ Daniel Brastaviceanu also gives an overview of a project he is passionate about, a water maker using a peltier strip to create water from ‘thin air’. These projects can be game changers in this time of climate chaos.”

See for more details here.


Posted in Economy and Business, Videos | No Comments »

Christian Arnsperger on Capitalism as Imaginary Scarcity

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Michel Bauwens
9th November 2015

Excerpted from Christian Arnsperger:

“Generating constant economic growth within a framework of constantly expanding globalization—this is, in a nutshell, the capitalist project when it comes to economic development. I want to argue that such a view—the massively dominant view—of development is existentially wrong….to move towards a genuinely post-development view, we need to tackle the issues raised by existential economics. For us in the rich, Western countries, capitalist, growth-oriented development has been a three-century-old cultural choice. It has been based on specific anthropological premises. It has been an anthropological and spiritual disaster.

“The identification of growth with development comes from a deep-seated conviction in the Western cultural landscape: more stuff is better than less stuff. By ‘stuff’ I mean material goods but also all sorts of non-material objects such as services and images. The Western human being is a being who has made consumption into an existential imperative.

“Don’t expect me to draw…a well-meaning denunciation of economic materialism in the name of ‘spirituality.’ If I did that, I’d be ignoring the very roots of modern economic thought. In reality, in fact, the great thinkers of economics were working very consciously for the salvation of humanity…. I think we need to go as far as saying that economic thought has a strictly spiritual root…. The economy is, therefore, less a technical-operational domain than an existential-spiritual one…. Economics, therefore…is part and parcel of theology—not only neo-liberal economics (as some left-wing critics claim, using the word ‘theology’ as a degrading term), but all of economics to the extent that it ultimately seeks to liberate Man. Marx, Keynes, and Hayek were, literally, the most influential theologians of the 20th century; I say this not by analogy or as an image, but as a literal description of what their study of economic activity was about.

“What is post-development? It is, essentially, a move from capitalism to post-capitalism in all parts of the globe. This includes pre-capitalist economies which still exist. These economies are no longer viable; the existential critique of capitalism should never be an alibi for a nostalgic—and completely illusory—return to pre-capitalist forms. The idea, instead, is that poor countries need not necessarily go through a capitalist ‘stage’ in order to go beyond the misery which we, in the West, have bestowed upon ourselves through the massive growth of our wealth.
“Capitalism functions on what I call imaginary scarcity: what makes accumulation, competition, and consumption ‘work’ is the fact that each of us somehow feels he never has enough. Wanting to get more just deepens the feeling of ‘never quite enough.’ This process is never-ending; it never exhausts itself; more not being enough, it calls for even more, and this creates growth and the need for growth to create existential reassurance.

“Now, real scarcity could, in principle, be eliminated through a form of egalitarian capitalism. You could try to ‘channel’ the dynamism and incentives of capitalism into a system where we produce, distribute, and consume (and even ‘exploit’ each other, which is inevitable whenever there is division of labor)—a system that would establish one single barrier to capitalist rationality: everyone should be protected from real scarcity, so that there should be massive and constant redistribution. But alas, egalitarian capitalism is an unstable creation; when you establish it (as did the promoters of social democracy in the mid-20th century), it gets attacked from all sides by those who have no interest in it. Why? Simply because capitalism and equality are like oil and water: you can mix them up vigorously, but if you don’t coerce them into staying mixed they will separate again. The basic reason is that egalitarian capitalism eliminates real scarcity but is incompatible with imaginary scarcity…. [We need] a profound change in our theology, a change towards a new fundamental reflection on what it means to be human beyond liberal individualism… Capitalism can’t transcend itself.

“In a truly post-capitalist world, human beings should be free from both real and imaginary scarcity. The idea that constantly growing aggregate wealth can be stimulated only through relative poverty—an idea that lies at the heart of capitalist market incentives—has to be replaced with the idea that moderate wealth can be maintained through relational and social investment.

“One thing that is very urgently needed is development aid to the First World from the Third World—to the extent that the Third World hasn’t itself already given up its traditions…. What the Third-World traditions are still rich in, and what we tend to have become very poor in, is spiritual resources to deal with existential anxiety in ‘adjusted’ ways—integrating death into the rituals of life…. Spiritual resources would allow us to see things differently, and to live differently, giving economic wealth production its rightful—and relatively minor—place and giving relational and social investment the priority.”


Posted in Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, P2P Spirituality | No Comments »

World History as a Thermodynamic Process and the coming of a Third Global World System

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Michel Bauwens
9th November 2015

Excerpted from Peter Pogany:

“The present analysis is interfused with the thermodynamic theory of world history, which is briefly summarized below. Human population and produced artifacts together may be perceived as a material entity, an aggregation of atoms or, even more generally, that of subatomic particles. This entity, culture, has undergone exponential growth through human activity (extended reproduction both biologically and economically), a process called cultural evolution.

As elaborated by Ilya Prigogine, the father of modern disequilibrium thermodynamics, a material entity that gains in size while becoming increasingly complex (where complexification is defined as growing volumes of information generated and transmitted among the entity’s decision centers) must undergo an alternation between relative (dynamic) steady states and bifurcations (chaotic transitions).

By the end of the 18th century, cultural evolution demanded global-scale organization to maintain its accelerating mode. The chaotic transition that began with the French Revolution and ended in the early 1830s led to the establishment of the world’s first global system (GS1), characterized by laissez faire and metal money. It lasted from approximately 1834 (the “birthday of the industrial proletariat” [Polanyi], a year of intense legislation in Britain concerning the poor) until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The period 1914-1945 was another chaotic transition that brought the second and current global system (GS2) — mixed economy/weak multilateralism — into existence. (Until the end of the Cold War, socialism remained an unsuccessful alternative for global self-organization.)

At present, physical limits are beginning to slow cultural evolution. Its demand for free (accessible) energy (in the form of low entropy matter and energy carriers), and capacity to absorb pollution are coming into conflict with non-expendable terrestrial constraints. As a consequence, the world has either entered or is on the verge of entering another period of chaotic transition. A new global system (GS3), two-level economy/strong multilateralism, will be needed to create a sustainable balance between culture and humanity’s ecological niche. Micro-activities will have to be made legally subject to globally-determined and nationally allocated macro-constraints. The required transformation of individual behavior and institutions will be vast. “


Posted in Commons Transition, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Integral Theory, P2P Epistemology, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity, P2P Theory | No Comments »

The danger from and reasons for the emergence of Death Star Platforms

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Michel Bauwens
8th November 2015

Excerpted from Neal Gorenflo:

“Bill Johnson of StructureC3 referred to Uber and Airbnb as Death Star platforms in a recent chat. The label struck me as surprisingly apt: it reflects the raw ambition and focused power of these platforms, particularly Uber.

Uber’s big bet is global monopoly or bust. They’ve raised over $8 billion in venture capital, are on track to do over $10 billion in revenue this year, and have over one million drivers who are destroying the taxi industry in over 300 cities worldwide. They’ve done all this in just over five years. In fact, they reached a $51 billion valuation faster than Facebook, and plan to raise even more money. If they’re successful, they’ll become the most valuable startup in history. Airbnb is nearly as big and ambitious.

Platform coops are the alternative to Death Stars. As Lisa Gansky urged, these platforms share value with the people who make them valuable. Platform coops combine a cooperative business structure with an online platform to deliver a real-world service. What if Uber was owned and governed by its drivers? What if Airbnb was owned and governed by its hosts? That’s what an emerging movement is exploring for the entire sharing economy in an upcoming conference, Platform Cooperativism.”

Why is this happening ?

“Uber signifies a new era in tech entrepreneurship. Its leaders express an explicit ideology of domination and limitless, global ambition. In fact, the global tech sector may be one of the most powerful stateless actors on the world stage today. And Death Star platforms are the tech sector’s avant garde.

Death Star platforms deftly exploit today’s growing economic insecurity and political vacuum. Their business model relies on precarious 1099 contractors. They mix technology, ideology, design, public relations, community organizing, and lobbying in a powerful new formulation that’s conquering cities and users around the world. They wrap themselves in the cloak of technological progress, free market inevitability, and even common good. As a result, cities allow them to break their laws with surprising frequency (Uber and Airbnb are simply illegal in most cities). Weak city governments either drink the Kool-Aid or struggle to contain them.

Millennials, who Pew Research described as detached from institutions and networked with friends, may be Death Star platform’s most ardent users. 50% of millennials are political independents, a huge increase over prior generations. And while Millennials are detached from traditional institutions, they increasingly connect through Death Stars. Most use these services and implicitly accept their ideology as Death Stars mask the complexity of their services—and their politics—behind slickly designed apps. As a result, they along with many others unknowingly join a movement with totalitarian goals, all for the sake of often negligible income, savings and convenience. It’s scary but understandable. US Millennials suffer from the highest debt and lowest employment of any generation since the Great Depression. Not to mention that Death Stars often deliver a better service. I use them occasionally too.

Peter Thiel, founder of PayPal and leading sharing economy venture capitalist (VC), epitomized this ideology in a 2014 Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled, “Competition is for Losers,” in which he encourages entrepreneurs to establish monopolies. Marc Andreessen, another leading sharing economy VC, wrote a similar op-ed in the same publication three years earlier titled, “Why Software is Eating the World,” in which he declared that there was no industry that couldn’t be disrupted by web technologies.

Behind the bombastic rhetoric are powerful real-world drivers. There are sound, if not self-serving, reasons for these VC’s bold calls to action. A technology gold rush dramatically larger than any before has only begun to unfold, and Thiel and his ilk have the most to gain. Jeremiah Owyang’s Collaborative Economy Honeycomb infographic shows a large and growing universe of companies challenging dozens of major industries. Indeed, a recent IBM survey identified corporate executives’ top fear as the Uberization of everything. Zipcar founder Robin Chase believes that everything that can become a platform, will become a platform. If so, then the sharing economy is just the tip of the spear. Silicon Valley could become the power center of the world, with its leaders joining the small-but-growing ranks of stateless, above-the-law plutocrats.

That’s a big claim, but not out of the realm of possibility. There are some compelling leading indicators.
There’s a surface explanation, but much more below that. Technology startups are building platforms to compete in nearly every brick and mortar service sector, and on a global basis. These platforms coordinate economic activity, but do not need to own the key physical assets or employ any of the end-service providers to profit. Uber owns no cars and employs no drivers, but has decimated the taxi business in San Francisco.

With incredibly low costs, global reach, scientifically developed user interfaces, and massive funding, Death Star platforms have a shot at duplicating this kind of success in every major city and service sector around the world. This has VCs salivating. The multitude of incumbents spread across many industries and geographies that play by the rules face steep odds against the lawlessness, network effects, and focused power of Death Stars.

At a deeper level, fundamental changes in the startup world are underway. Tech startups have to venture into the brick and mortar world as the low hanging fruit in information-intensive industries has been picked. Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and more have established their global monopolies. Tech must leave the nest, and its newest startups can because it’s significantly faster, cheaper, and less risky to start companies than before.

The assembly line creation of technology startups has been largely perfected. Silicon Valley’s VC-driven ecosystem has significantly reduced the considerable cost and risk of starting a venture. Funding is at record levels. There’s large corps of professionals who specialize in building startups. The technology is also cheap, meaning that startups need significantly less funding than before…unless they want to “disrupt” a brick and mortar industry.

These new dynamics explain Uber. Uber didn’t raise record amounts of venture capital to develop a new technology. Their technology is pedestrian. Most of it was developed by taxpayer-funded US government programs decades ago. They have combined old technology in a new way, but that’s relatively cheap to do. The $8 billion they’ve raised is to establish a global monopoly—in the real, physical world—in as short a time as possible. That takes a lot of marketing and lobbying muscle, and that’s really expensive.

What are indicators of the Death Star platform’s rising political power? Uber’s David Plouffe, formerly President Obama’s campaign manager, literally besieged Portland’s mayor, ultimately forcing him to create a favorable policy. Bloomberg’s “This is How Uber Takes Over a City” gives an eye opening account Uber’s strong arm tactics. As of this writing this, Airbnb is running an $8.3 million campaign to defeat a San Francisco voter proposition (Prop F) designed to limit Airbnb’s negative impact on the city’s skyrocketing housing costs. This lobbying activity is just the tip of the iceberg. Uber and Airbnb are using a good bit of their $10 billion+ collective war chest to hire a global army of lobbyists. In their language, they’ve put “boots on the ground” in hundreds of cities.

This is a big departure from the past. Tech investors used to avoid startups with significant regulatory risk because there were plenty of better, less risky opportunities. That’s not the case anymore. Now tech investors must and can take on the physical world.

Moreover, the huge investment raises and regulatory friction add up to much more than the sum of their parts. It’s like 1+1=10. The more money Death Star platforms raise, the more press and customers they get. The more they break the rules, the more press and customers the get, which enables them to raise even more money. Taxi drivers strike? Jackpot! And the cycle repeats. It’s a blitzkrieg. It’s shock and awe entrepreneurship. It’s the sound of a new hegemonic bloc coming to power.

Here’s what’s at stake. As Detroit shaped the world in the image of the car in the 20th century through an alienating and resource intensive system of highways and suburbs, so might Silicon Valley shape the world in the image of Death Star platforms in the 21st.

If you’re outraged by the power of tech giants now, just wait until tech dominates the majority of services you depend on to live. If you’re worried about how tech companies use your personal information now, just wait until they can track you 24/7 online and off. If you’re frustrated by how tech companies wield power over you as user now, just wait until you’re algorithmically fired by a Death Star because of one random bad rating. If you think incumbents like taxi companies suck, just wait until a win-at-all-cost tech titan like Uber’s Travis Kalanick rules the roost. If the diversity of your city’s locally-owned businesses is already suffering, just wait until sterile, centralizing Silicon Valley apps create an even more boring and unresilient monoculture. If you’re worried about housing costs, just wait until every city’s housing market is like San Francisco’s, where one bedroom apartments rent for an average of $3,500 a month, the highest in the US. If you’re pissed by today’s unprecedented inequality, just wait until Death Star platforms destroy millions of jobs (Uber can’t wait for driverless cars, yippee!) while shifting more risk and cost onto providers.

Bottom line, what seems like a bad situation for the 99% today could become much, much worse tomorrow.”

What can we do about it ? See our next excerpt on Platform Cooperatives as alternatives, on the 10th.


Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Cooperatives, Economy and Business, Peer Property | No Comments »

Video: David Graeber on debt and what the government doesn’t want you to know

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Michel Bauwens
7th November 2015

Watch this short 3-minute video:


Posted in P2P Money, Videos | No Comments »

Primavera De Filippi on stigmergy, swarming, collective intelligence and the evolution of cooperation

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Michel Bauwens
6th November 2015

Interesting Tedx talk by Primavera De Filippi which also focuses on the potential of blockchain technology in the context of human cooperative abilities:

“The animal kingdom contains numerous examples of individuals cooperating with one another to achieve impressive outcomes without the need for planning, control, or even direct communication between agents – examples are bees, ants, and schools of fish. Humans, however, have only been able to achieve goals cooperatively through the imposition of organizational hierarchies, centralized coordination, and rules. Blockchain technologies offer a new approach, allowing us to achieve large-scale and systematic cooperation in an entirely distributed and decentralized manner. The application of this technology, however, has mostly focused on transaction-driven financial models like Bitcoin, but the Blockchain’s ability to transact and cooperate on a peer-to-peer basis, without relying on any centralized authority or middlemen, has many other applications. The Blockchain offers a new governance model with implications well beyond financial markets.

Primavera De Filippi is a permanent researcher at the National Center of Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. She is currently a research fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, where she’s investigating the concept of governance-by-design as it relates to distributed online architectures. Most of her research focuses on the legal challenges raised, and faced by emergent decentralized technologies – such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and other blockchain-based applications – and how these technologies could be used to design new governance models capable of supporting large-scale decentralized collaboration and more participatory decision-making.”

Watch the video here:


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, Videos | No Comments »

Barcelona’s city council plans to roll out a cash-less local currency

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Michel Bauwens
5th November 2015

Excerpted from Don Quijones:

“Over the next six months, Barcelona’s left-wing city council plans to roll out a cash-less local currency that has the potential to become the largest of its kind in the world. The main goal of the project, according to a council spokesperson, is to boost economic opportunities for local businesses and traders.

The idea is for local stores and residents to be able to exchange euros for the new currency at a one-to-one parity, and use it to purchase products and services at a discount or with other kinds of incentives. But it doesn’t end there: the new parallel currency may also be used to pay certain subsidies, taxes and local services such as public transport, reports El País. Municipal workers could also receive part of their salary in the new money.

Barcelona will not be the first European city to launch such a scheme. Local currencies are all the rage these days. There could be as many as 3,000 forms of local money in use around the globe, says Community Currencies in Action, a global partnership promoting such schemes that is part-funded by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund.

While the Bristol Pound experiment has been a big success on a tiny scale, Barcelona’s move toward adopting its own currency is a proposition of a whole different magnitude. With a metropolitan population of 3.2 million people, Barcelona would be far and away the largest city council in the West to trial such a scheme. The council is also proposing using the currency to pay some salaries, social benefits and public services, which could propel the amount in circulation well into the millions, if not billions of euros.

Predictably,the opposition to the scheme in Madrid is fierce. In June, the Bank of Spain’s deputy governor Fernando Restoy delivered a shot across the bow by warning that the scheme proposed by Barcelona’s activist mayor, Ada Colau, was “impossible” as well as “undesirable.”

To launch its own currency Barcelona City Council would have to go directly against the wishes of both national regulators and the central government. It would hardly be the first time in history that it had. Indeed, many of the leading figures of Catalonia’s pro-independence movement, including the region’s premier, Artur Mas, have already called for mass civil disobedience of Madrid. And there are few more potent acts of disobedience than the creation of one’s own currency.

Which begs the question: could Barcelona’s local city currency serve as a springboard to a region-wide parallel currency? After all, if Catalonia’s leaders are genuinely serious about breaking away from Madrid and creating a new nation-state (still a sizable”IF”), they will need to dramatically reduce Catalonia’s financial dependence on the central government’s treasury, the Bank of Spain and by extension, the European Central Bank. The only way to do that is to launch its own currency. As Greece’s Syriza party learnt the hard way, it’s no good threatening to go your own way without first having a parallel currency in place.

Granted, this is the grandaddy of all nuclear options. It is far more likely that Colau’s primary motive in launching a community currency on this scale is somewhat more mundane: i.e. increase local government spending. It’s what she pledged to do before the municipal elections. And there’s no easier way of increasing government spending than printing your own money and then using it to pay salaries, benefits and public services!

The big challenge will be getting local people and local businesses to trust the new form of money, as well as finding a local financial institution willing to back it up with euros. Without that, the currency could lose credibility. Without credibility and trust, fiat money loses value very quickly. And that’s when seemingly easy solutions give way to excruciating pain.”


Posted in P2P Money | 1 Comment »