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Archive for 'Culture & Ideas'

Video of the Day: 3 hacks for a resource-based economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
23rd October 2014


From the notes to the video:

The Zeitgeist Movement Ecuador invited Michel Bauwens to talk about a possible transition towards a Resource-based economic model and the “hacks” he proposes to achieve this (edited to include English audio only).

Michel Bauwens:

In this video I explain how, through the Commons-Based Reciprocity License, one can create an ethical entrepreurial coalition which co-produces commons, and which can, through the adoption of open book accounting and shared open logistics, move the ‘stigmergic’ mutual coordination which already exists for the production of immaterial goods (knowledge, code, design), to physical production itself.

This is a quote from our latest book, ‘Network Society and Four Scenarios for the Collaborative Economy‘, which touches on that issue:

“Through the ethical economy surrounding the Commons, by contrast, it becomes possible to create non-commodified production and exchange. We thus envision a resource-based economy which would utilize stigmergic mutual coordination through the gradual application of open book accounting and open supply chain. We believe that there will be no qualitative phase transition merely through emergence, but that it will require the reconstitution of powerful political and social movements which aim to become a democratic polis. And that democratic polis could indeed, through democratic decisions, accelerate the transition. It could take measures that obligate private economic forces to include externalities, thereby ending infinite capital accumulation.”

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Events, Featured Content, Featured Video, Original Content, P2P Foundation, P2P Subjectivity, Politics | No Comments »

Evolutionary Biologist Divulges The Secret To Human Coexisting

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
23rd October 2014


Luke Rudkowski of We Are Change in Majorca, Spain talks with Evolutionary Biologist and Futurist Elisabet Sahtouris about her life’s work. She studied algae which covered Earth in its first 2 billion years to find that there’s a maturation cycle of all life, wherein the costs of competition are too high and the solution for survival is cooperation. She is now applying her finding to the study of the evolution of human society.

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Featured Person, Videos | No Comments »

How to craft a collaborative economy for the 99%

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
22nd October 2014


Faircoop _

Towards a second wave of world-changing hacks

In recent years, the collaborative economy has been growing exponentially , reaching a stage of co-dependency with the emerging new forms of the for-profit economy, which we have described in our recent book, ‘Network Society and Four Scenarios for the Collaborative Economy‘. The new ‘netarchical’ (= net-archy, the hierachy of the network) form of capital, is no longer investing in its own production through the hiring of labour, and making products that it sells on the market, but, as Google, Facebook and other platform owners show, is directly capturing profits from the free cooperation and contributions of the 99%. While it may seem a good thing for users that platforms are being built ‘for free’, or that buyers an sellers can directly connect with each other for a fee, it is also very problematic as it creates a deep value crisis, not just for the increasingly precarious workforce, but also for capitalism itself. Indeed, how can we imagine a successful capitalism, that produces products that it can no longer sell, because an increasing number of contributors are no longer paid for their value creation ? Thus today, after an increasing exodus of especially young people out of the system of paid labor for capital, the social tensions are not just between salaried labor and capital, but increasingly, between peer producers and netarchical platform owners.

The search for alternatives is on, and more and more citizens and young knowledge workers are looking to build an alternative economy where they can make a livelihood around their contributions to the shared commons that are the heart of the new economy. Obviously, this new ‘hacker’ working class has its own approaches, that are very different from the traditional labor movement, and often takes the form of ‘hacks’, i.e. subversive tweaks to the existing system which hijack a system for contrary purposes.

The most famous hack was of course the hack that created the open source economy itself, and which has now reached, according to the Fair Use economy report, one-sixth of GDP in the U.S. alone. This hack, by Richard Stallman and others, took the form of licenses that used the very enclosures of knowledge facilitated by Intellectual Property legislation, to free knowledge, code and design. Through the General Public License, massive commons of shared knowledge was created, creating huge economic streams around it. However, this hack has created a paradoxical effect. Indeed, the more shareable the commons, the more capitalistic the economy which is built around it. Thus the Linux economy is at least 75% commercial, and dominated by large firms such as IBM. So, in this co-dependency between netarchical capital and the commons, we have a ‘communism’ of capital, in which the use value created by the commoners creates exchange value for the private for-profit economy. Is there an alternative to this ‘liberal communism’? Is there a new hack on the horizon?

We believe there is, and this requires a new type of license, which are no longer fully shareable licenses, but licenses based on ‘stronger’ reciprocity. Thus, along with others, we have proposed ‘Commons-based Reciprocity Licenses’, which are open for use by common good institutions, nonprofits, and for-profits that contribute, but ask for license fees or other contributions from for-profits that do no contribute back to the commons. The first iteration of such a license is the ‘Peer Production License’, already in use by the P2P Foundation, Guerilla Translation, and other P2P economy entities, and which was developed by ‘venture communist’ Dmytri Kleiner.

A second great historical hack is of course the hack of currency. As an alternative to the nationally sovereign currencies whose compound interest requirements are destroying our economies, the non-interest based Bitcoin cryptocurrency was developed, which can be peer produced by participating computers (‘mining’), has an open source code, and a thriving global hacker community to support it. However, Bitcoin is also a hyper-capitalist currency, with a higher inequality coefficient than sovereign money, mmonopolized mining, and a deflationary design which leads to rent extraction of newcomers by early adopters. Hence, Bitcoin will be mostly a tool for netarchical capital as well, enriching a new elite within the hacker class. Here also, we need to hack the first hack, just as we needed to do with the GPL. Thus the initiative of fair.coop, a global network instituted by the Catalonia Integral Cooperative, in cooperation with the P2P Foundation and others, to institute the first global cryptocurrency for the commons. Fair.coop uses the rent extraction model of cryptocurrencies, by buying up a failed egalitarian bitcoin fork, called Faircoin, but gifts this currency to a global coalition of open cooperatives, i.e. cooperatives and other ethical enterprises that create positive externalities and co-produce commons, creating livelihoods for the commoners. On the basis of the increasing market value of Faircoin, a commons-supporting capital currency is created, on top of which interest mutual credit systems will be built, supported by commons-based collateral.

There are just two of the main hacks1 that are being developed to create leverage for an emerging prefigurative commons economy, and offers an alternative to the hyper-extractive netarchical model.

The first wave of hacks was radically liberal, it is time for a second wave, where the values of equity and fairness are added to the core value of freedom, liberating commons-oriented peer production from its capture by netarchical capital.

**

1(At the P2P Foundation, we use Loomio software to hack hierarchical governance and are looking at new models like the Fairshares model to hack property models)

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Posted in Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Ethical Economy, Original Content, P2P Money, Peer Property | 1 Comment »

Book of the Day: Small is Beautiful

photo of hartsellml

hartsellml
22nd October 2014


* Book: E. F. Schumacher. Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. 1973

 

Review

Maria Popova:

” a magnificent collection of essays at the intersection of economics, ethics, and environmental awareness, which earned Schumacher the prestigious Prix Européen de l’Essai Charles Veillon award and was deemed by The Times Literary Supplement one of the 100 most important books published since WWII. Sharing an ideological kinship with such influential minds as Tolstoy and Gandhi, Schumacher’s is a masterwork of intelligent counterculture, applying history’s deepest, most timeless wisdom to the most pressing issues of modern life in an effort to educate, elevate and enlighten.” (http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/07/07/buddhist-economics-schumacher/)

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Posted in Ethical Economy, Featured Book, P2P Lifestyles | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Michel Bauwens on why the P2P Foundation supports Fair.coop

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
20th October 2014


This video interview between me and Michel Bauwens was filmed by our associate Kevin Flanagan and recorded at a break during the Open Everything Convergence held in the Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Tipperary, Ireland. In the video Michel explains why the P2P Foundation supports Fair.coop and its unheard-of experiment to create a new global economic system.

How do they intend to achieve this? By taking the most desirable characteristics of cryptocurrencies while palliating their shortcomings by embedding the whole project within a transnational, P2P and Commons oriented Open Co-op. You can find out more about Fair.coop in their very comprehensive website.

 

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Posted in Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Content, Featured Video, Guest Post, Media, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, Videos | 1 Comment »

Nathan Lewis: People Who are Not Directly Involved in Agriculture Should Live in Urban Places

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
19th October 2014


My place Totenby some named “Totscana” as a Norwegian counterpart of famous Italian Toscana, has lost much of its charm by suburban houses spread all over this pleasant landscape. This is a horrible thing to do! This way the beautiful landscape is reduced to a kind of Los Angeles like Suburban Hell!

Totscana

Suburban housing doesn’t belong to the countryside, like in “Totscana”. People who are not directly involved in agriculture should live in urban places. Otherwise the countryside becomes reduced to a kind of Suburban Hell, a favourite phrase of Nathan Lewis.

Read Nathan Lewis’ essay:

The Eco-Technic Civilization

From the essay:

We don’t try to mix “the city” and “farms.” Urban places are dense and distinct from farming areas. People who are not directly involved in agriculture should live in urban places — whether tiny country villages, or huge metropolises.

European village

European village. Although this village is in an agricultural region, this village itself is a dense urban place, and there is a distinct transition to farmland.

Chinese village

Chinese village. Again, a dense urban place, and farmlands. Don’t mix them.

 

 “It seems the US Americans have been teaching children that surburbia is good and urbanism is bad ever since 1952. Thanks alot!” – KRISTIAN HOFF-ANDERSEN

But of course, modernist “urbanism” is not urbanism, it’s nihilism! Only traditional urbanism can support pleasure of life. Nathan Lewis is one of the best urbanist writers, so go on to his fabolous archive to learn more:

Traditional City/Heroic Materialism Series

A Pattern Language

Using the Pattern Language we can create urban spaces more joyful than the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation

The Eco-Technic Civilization. Try to imagine it. If you can imagine it, you can have it! It is actually cheaper and easier to do than today’s Suburban Hell. – Nathan Lewis

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Posted in P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Infrastructures | 2 Comments »

Podcast of the Day: Rachel O’Dwyer on the Role of Commons in Contemporary Capitalism

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th October 2014


We met Rachel O’Dwyer a couple of weeks back, at the Open Everything 2014 Convergence, celebrated in Cloughjordan Ecovillage, Ireland. We really enjoyed talking to Rachel and listening to her contributions in the Q&As and, in fact, we’re hoping to work with her in the near future. Until then, please check out this podcast, originally published as part of a series called “Contemporary Capitalism”

From the Shownotes to the Podcast:

Contemporary Capitalism is a 4 part series of talks, each part critiquing an aspect of how capitalism affects society today.

The talks were originally held in Dubzland studios, north inner city Dublin, in late 2012, and were organised by the Provisional University, a group of researchers and social activists. [www.provisionaluniversity.wordpress.com]

The series was edited for broadcast by artist and Near FM volunteer Craig Cox. [www.craigcoxart.com]

Contemporary Capitalism Part 4: The Commons

Part 4 is by Rachel O’Dwyer and is about the commons as it exists today.

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Podcast, Media, Networks, Podcasts | No Comments »

Can we turn Netarchical Platforms into worker-owned businesses?

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th October 2014


facebook
In answer to the question posed in the title, I don’t think we can do much to reclaim our rights as producers of content and use value in netarchical platforms. However, we can work to raise awareness on the subject and help the shift toward real P2P platforms. This is already happening right now, with Diaspora enjoying a revival in the wake of Ello’s failed promise to deliver a true alternative to Facebook. The following article was written by John Robb and originally published in Home Free America.


“We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership… We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.”

Do you contribute to Facebook, Yelp, Reddit, or sites like that?

Most of us do contribute to some sites like this and our contributions, more or less depending on our contribution, are the reason these companies are valuable.

Our contributions are the reason people come to these sites day after day, so why don’t we get a bit of ownership for our contributions?

Lots of ownership goes to the employees.  But, nobody goes to these sites for the high quality software, elegant design, or robust hosting.  Further, all of the tech they are using is the result of innovation by other people.

Most of the ownership goes to the financing.  Yet, these sites don’t cost much to run.  A pittance actually.  The cloud makes them very cheap to operate.  In fact, the amount is so small, nearly all of the money needed to launch these sites could be raised by the customers using these sites.

We don’t get ownership because we don’t expect ownership.

We’ve been conditioned to give away our work and our patronage for free while the schmucks on Wall Street walk away with buckets of money.

There is a small glimmer of hope things might finally be changing (it’s something I tried to do back in 2010-12 and got my ass handed to me for trying to do it).

My hope is due to three things:

  1. Desire to do the right thing.  We don’t see enough of this in Silicon Valley anymore, despite the fact that all great innovations start with getting the “why” right.  Reddit’s CEO, Yishan Wong (formerly of Facebook) is doing the right thing.  He’s planning to make Reddit’s users into owners, depending on their contribution to the site.
  2. There’s a way to create a form of liquid ownership that doesn’t require Wall Street.  This new method is based on the bitcoin blockchain.  That technology makes it possible to issue ownership to contributors in a decentralized and trusted way.
  3. The combination of blockchain stock, Yishan’s example, and the experience of participants will set in motion a wave of change in Silicon Valley.  The message is:  if you want to build an online company, you better find a way to make your customers/contributors owners.

PS:  This is potentially a sea change in financing/ownership.  There’s much more to this.  Wall Street’s banksters should be worried.

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Empire, Networks, Politics | No Comments »

Spanish lawmakers to kill CC licensing

photo of Guy James

Guy James
17th October 2014


image by argazkiak.org

image by argazkiak.org

As usual, Spanish politicians react with fear and repression when confronted with the effects of new ways of sharing information: they are preparing a new law (to go with the ones restricting crowdfunding and services like AirBnB and Uber) to tax those who wish to share information freely. The pattern appears to be: existing industry feels threatened, lobbies government, government passes legislation to hamper innovations. The individual merits of each new service can be argued but anyone who knows the way the conservative government in Madrid generally thinks and reacts, we can be pretty sure they do not understand the milieu in which they are attempting to act.



“…all Spanish newspapers are haemorrhaging readers, consistently report revenue losses to the tune of millions of euros a year and many are already technically bankrupt.”
“…The idea that law will compensate for these losses is laughable. What isn’t so funny is the chilling effect on the free dissemination of information it will have.”

Read more…

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Posted in Anti-P2P, Copyright/IP | 2 Comments »

“To Grow Without Bureaucracy, Only Hire Fully Formed Adults…”

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
16th October 2014


Netflix Doodle

John Robb shares the winning formula that has allowed Netflix to reinvent itself three times. Apart from setting a very different example to the special interest group-led P2P witch hunts of the mainstream entertainment industry, there may be a lesson here regarding ongoing, more focused peer-production projects. The article was originally published in HomeFree America


This means the role of management isn’t oversight, it’s focused on providing employees with context. A context that helps employees make better decisions because they fully understand the bigger picture. Context includes any and all information needed for good decision making, from product strategy to economic performance to customer feedback. In other words, the role of management is to help employees orient their decisions correctly, and let them decide what to do on their own.

Technological change occurs so quickly now, companies need to reinvent themselves every decade just to stay relevant.

That’s extremely tough to do. I’ve seen it first hand when a company I founded grew from a dozen people to over hundred in a year. As our company grew beyond a couple of dozen employees, we fell into the classic growth trap:

For a company to increase its impact, it grows. It adds people, new geographies, and new products. This growth adds complexity to the business. Increasing complexity creates chaos as it outstrips the ability of the start-up’s informal management system to handle it. To reduce this chaos, the company must put in place processes and rules as well as an administrative bureaucracy to manage them.

These rules lock-in the existing business model and enables efficiency improvements that allow the company to rapidly scale revenues and profits in an orderly way. The kind of growth that Wall Street celebrates. However, these rules, processes, and bureaucracy have a pernicious impact. The locked business model drives out the majority of the innovative people, due to the mindless oversight and the limits on what is possible.

Then, inevitably, the marketplace shifts as the technology changes. The company needs to reinvent itself but it can’t because the existing business model is locked into place and most of the people able to make the reinvention possible have left. Unable to adapt, the company “grinds painfully into irrelevance.”

Fortunately, there is a way to avoid the ossification brought on by this trap, and remain innovative despite corporate growth. Given the change underway, it’s something nearly every company is going to need to learn sooner than later or face failure. A great example of this is what Reed Hastings did at Netflix. Reed had an experience similar to mine at his first successful start-up, Pure Software. The growth of the bureaucracy at Pure made the company lethargic and impossible to change. So, when Reed decided to start Netflix, he was determined to find a way to grow without bureaucracy. Despite the odds against him, he pulled it off. Netflix has a market capitalization of over twenty billion dollars and dominates the market for online video distribution. Further, Netflix accomplished this feat by defeating challenges from both Wal-Mart and Blockbuster.

How did Netflix pull this off? Reed hired the right people by throwing out the rule book on hiring. He didn’t hire the brightest people, or the most experienced, or the most ambitious as most other companies do. Those simply weren’t the traits he was looking for. Instead, he hired people according to the quality of their decision making. Simply, could they make great decisions (again and again with regularity), despite uncertainty and without oversight.

With people like that at Netflix, Reed was able to grow and grow without the ossification normally seen at big firms. This allowed Netflix to remain flexible and innovative despite rapid changes in the marketplace and in the technology underlying their offering. This flexibility allowed Netflix to reinvent itself three (!) times in the last fifteen years:

In late 1999, Netflix changed from a classic movie rental business to a subscription service.
In 2008, Netflix added streaming movies and TV shows to its subscription offering.
In 2013, Netflix began offering stunning original programming.

Speaking as a customer of Netflix, I’m a fan of what they’ve done. This record of innovation is why I’ve been a loyal subscriber to the company since 2000. This is an amazing product that gets better and better nearly every year, at a price that’s about the same as it was when I first subscribed to it. So, how exactly did Netflix pull this off? How did they grow in a way that allowed them to reinvent themselves three times when most companies can’t even do it once? Reed Hastings did this by hiring people who used a method of decision used to great success across American history. It’s something I call the American Way (for more on this, check out my short, and to the point, e-book) because it’s more common to find here than anywhere else and it’s responsible for all of the economic progress the US has enjoyed to date.

Specifically, Reed did this by looking for responsible decision making in new hires. People that Netflix calls internally: “fully formed adults.” These are people who who make all of their decisions using a balance of interests — personal, company, co-workers, and customers. They aren’t overtly selfish or blindly loyal like children. They can take care of themselves and they strive for independence, yet they do so in a way that increases the success of others. They constantly seek win-win-win decisions. People like this also see work differently than others. They see their work as a meaningful part of their life and not a chore. For them, work is one of the main ways they achieve success in their lives, and they treat it as such.

People that make responsible decisions don’t need much, if any oversight. They can be relied upon to make the right decision again and again. This capacity eliminates the need for most of the administrative overhead typically seen in companies as they grow. For example,Netflix doesn’t track the hours employees work, count their vacation days, or nit pick them over travel expenses. The employee is expected to manage this themselves.

This means the role of management isn’t oversight, it’s focused on providing employees with context. A context that helps employees make better decisions because they fully understand the bigger picture. Context includes any and all information needed for good decision making, from product strategy to economic performance to customer feedback. In other words, the role of management is to help employees orient their decisions correctly, and let them decide what to do on their own.

However, this emphasis on independence doesn’t mean that employees treat work as a shark tank or financial boiler room. Internal competition based purely on self-interest would increase the number of wrong decisions to an unacceptable level, and necessitate the return of bureaucratic oversight. Instead, Netflix has eliminated competition for a limited number of positions that drives so much selfish behavior in bureaucracies. Instead, if an employee has demonstrated he or she can routinely make great decisions, the company will treat them as an asset that can be employed on new projects.

Sound different than the company you work at? It should. There are very few companies that operate like this, but we’re going to see many more like them in the future. The speed of change underway demands it. It should also be apparent that the type of people Netflix hires could easily become entrepreneurs and start their own firms. They have the capacity to do it. However, they choose to work at Netflix because they get all of the benefit of an innovative entrepreneurial environment, great co-workers to invent the future with, all at a scale and level of impact that only the most successful start-ups can achieve.

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »