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Occupying the Money System: Enric Duran introduces Fair.Coop

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th September 2014


“What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, creating value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

Enric Duran initially approached us during the late spring. He’d read Michel Bauwens’ policy paper for Transitioning to a Common Based Society and said that he was interested in collaborating with the P2P Foundation on a number of projects. When we asked for his impressions on Michel’s policy paper, he replied, “Yeah, we’re already doing half of what you describe in the paper at the CIC (Catalan Integral Cooperative)…now we want to do the other half”.

It is this brash, hands-on attitude that I admire so much about Enric Duran. While others were criticising the banking system and monetary creation as interest-bearing debt, Duran dared to have these same banks lend him money which he then redistributed to social justice collectives. Michel and I feel much the same way about the Fair.Coop initiative, promoted by (among others) Duran, Amir Taaki, the CIC and the P2P Foundation itself.

Monetary and economic theories centered on the fairer distribution and stewardship of the earth’s wealth abound. As invaluable as these theories are, we’re still sorely lacking practical examples to refine and adapt them to local and transnational realities. Something similar has happened in the realm of cryptocurrencies. While people are understandably excited by Bitcoin and its potential, I think that it’s a stretch to believe that a cryptocurrency with a Gini coefficient higher than traditional fiat currencies, combined with the fact that 1% of Bitcoin owners hoard 50% of the wealth, will do much to address global social inequality. Thankfully, alternatives abound, but many of them remain theoretical at best, and at worst, mired in never-ending discussions about whose monetary theory is the best, and why the rest are naive.

Back to Duran and Fair.Coop. The punk rock spirit that underlies the Fair.Coop initiative is admirable. Infused with an attitude transcending punk’s DIY ethos and arriving at a DIWO (Do it with Others) position, Fair.Coop has decided to tackle the big picture, reaching out to people and collectives who want practical action to offset the abundance of rhetoric. Rather than undermining the wealth of theoretical work promoting new models of monetary creation and wealth distribution, initiatives like Fair.Coop can only strengthen the validity of such work (in my opinion), feeding back into it and refining proposed approaches.

Whether the project succeeds or not, the experience and insights gained will prove to be invaluable. It is also worth mentioning that Fair.Coop isn’t merely a stunt designed to engorge a cryptocurrency detached from any social or environmental responsibilities. Instead, it is a working project for a whole financial eco-system as articulated by the P2P Foundation’s proposed guidelines for Open Cooperativism, which underlie the transnational structure of the coop. I won’t describe the project itself here, for that you should read what’s copied below, originally published by Duran on his personal blog, where he offers a personal narrative and perspective on the project. For more technical details and an abundance of supporting material, please visit Fair.Coop’s excellent new website, and if you’re motivated to contribute, join their social network.

Faircoop _

An open cooperative as a revolutionary tool for building a new global economy

By Enric Duran

Today I have not expropriated any banks, nor am I presenting anything which anyone can call illegal. I am not presenting a strategy directly related to my return to public freedom (perhaps contrary to what many may expect), although that does not mean I am not still defining that plan.

What I am presenting here is a revolutionary project on a global scale, a fruit of the immersion and learning afforded to me by 19 months of intense activity in seclusion and hiding.

The moment this project was born during my nights of creative solitude, it became clear to me that I had to make this both a priority and a reality before taking any risk as an individual. Today, I am pleased to have acted on that determination, and I hereby submit the project so that it may become everyone’s.

It is the open, global cooperative Fair.Coop, one more step in the extension of the integral revolution worldwide, along with P2P society values, open cooperation, and hacker ethics, among others.

Now I will explain some of the thoughts which inspired me to do this:

esquemaFairCoopThe blockchain and Bitcoin brought the world one of the few missing pieces to allow us to become independent from the old economic system. Old centralized and new decentralized systems have begun an open competition for domination of the future world. And, for the first time in thousands of years, decentralized systems now have another chance.

However, for those of us who understand the world in terms of cooperation, decentralization is not enough. We believe this new world needs self-organization and mutual support; cooperation needs to penetrate all the corners where domination has fallen behind.

Cooperative, self-managed, collective, community-based projects are extending and multiplying everywhere.

The practices that model the everyday ways this other world could be are very much alive. Although these practices are starting to interconnect at a bio-regional scale, they are still too isolated; there is mutual ignorance among initiatives separated by thousands of kilometers, on different continents, based on different languages.

Large amounts of commons are being built in parallel at the local scale, but any one project’s evolution has so far been insufficiently shared with the others. We need more powerful tools to help us share our knowledge, and we must be able to finance their development.

We don’t want to remain spectators in the confrontation between the old oligarchical and the new netarchical capitalism. We also want a cooperative system on a global scale, just as we already practice it at local scale - and if we want to see it happen, we have to build it.

Therefore, we felt it was necessary to develop a project that puts social cooperation back on the stage where these dominance struggles between economic systems are playing out, and to show that the path toward putting human beings back at the center is possible, it exists, and it’s ready for us to expand.

This project has arrived, and is called Fair.Coop, The Earth Cooperative for a fair economy.

The initial push to boost this initiative is what we call, “hacking money markets to introduce the virus of cooperation”.

This means:

A cryptocurrency, negotiable outside the control of decentralized markets around the world, can be understood as social capital, in which the number of shares is equal to the total number of coins created .

If we choose it as our founding capital for a cooperative, it means that this capital, rather than being accounted in the dominant currency (euro, dollar), would be in a currency the system can not control. Additionally, as our cooperative project grows and provides resources and services of proven usefulness, the value of this capital and the entire cryptocurrency will grow accordingly.

This is an important point, and I will explain what this means in a different way to be sure it is fully understood:

Consider traditional capitalism. Company owners extract value primarily through:

  • Income from capital
  • Labour exploitation

In some transnational corporations, netarchical capitalism adds a third way to extract value: free collaboration between humans. For example, Facebook and Google ads generate a lot of money because we use their “free” services, while we in fact we are working for them, for free.

What if we were to create technological tools for cooperation between equals, and then use them to generate free knowledge, a global commons?

Well, then we could do the things which we like and consider helpful, such as cooperating, sharing, and learning, while letting the economic value of our work remain in cooperative projects, and even revert to ourselves.

Therefore, it became necessary to find a coin that was not controlled by old capitalism (euros / dollars…), nor exploited by the most innovative capitalism (Bitcoin), one in which we could incorporate our values and cooperative practices. With all this in mind, Faircoin was chosen.

After months of networking and creation, Fair.Coop is born today

The space is open to start cooperation among us all, and we have supplied the cooperative 10,000,000 faircoins, which represents 20% of total existing coins.

This social capital was injected into Fair.Coop with the following distribution:

And the following conditions:

Except for the Pooled fund which can be used to cover operating expenses at the discretion of the Ecosystem Council and the whole Fair.Coop, contributions to the other three funds can not be touched during a period of one year.

With the Global South fund, we call for a redistribution that can reach as many local projects as possible, prioritizing the empowerment of the areas and environments most under attack by the current system, generating a peer-to-peer cooperation environment to restore global economic justice.

As for the Commons and Technology Infrastructure funds, the call is to qualitatively prioritize projects that can most benefit the global common good.

This period may well serve to build a participatory, creative and mutually supportive process leading to decisions in relation to the right priorities, defined collectively and efficiently. Also, as collaboration between equals multiplies under all Fair.Coop and especially the FairNetwork, the value of Fair.Coop’s social capital is expected to respond by appreciating relative to fiat currencies - not forgetting, as a symbol of our independence, that 1 faircoin will always equal 1 faircoin.

tierraThis way, just for starters, 20% of the existing monetary resources remains in the hands of a participatory and open political process. Meanwhile, Fair.Coop will work to continue recovering resources for the common good which may be redistributed through the same funds.

So this time, if our collaborative and freely shared vocation is to benefit someone financially, it will be the same ones who are building it before anyone else, that is all cooperatives, and through the funded projects, all of humanity.

In other words, we have finally found a way to cooperatively organize, share, learn, and help; one that can self-manage without the need, at least in the most delicate initial phase, to depend on others, or to prioritize selling our production in the market, not even keeping up with regular member fees. All we need in this first phase is to create free knowledge, share and become interwoven the way we know best, extend the intangible, and build the material commons; build social currency networks based on faircoin, such as the Faircredit project already presented.

We can innovate to create value together in many areas of the commons.

We can each contribute our bit of knowledge, political participation, time, donations, products, services, investment, network-building, each based on their capabilities and priorities.

The market will value this by buying our cryptocurrency and pushing up the value of our social capital, in relation to other currencies. So, we can finally “squat” or “occupy” the forex markets, responsible for so much inequality, and recover from some part - large or small, only time will tell - of these injustices.

I can imagine that this all might seem contradictory to some anticapitalists – me, articulating the role of money markets in this project.

Anyone trying to quit using money,  who has already done a lot of work involving community economy and direct exchange, can certainly go beyond Fair.Coop’s monetary initiatives. This does not prevent them from getting involved as one more in collective creation and political participation.

But most of us who often do use currency, whether fiat or social, for trading or saving, are dependent on a reference framework for prices and store-of-value function (which is imposed by central banks), so we are in some ways passive partners of the system we want to overcome.

Moreover, I would like to remind you that the foreign exchange market is an indisputible historical reality, over 100 years old, with a trend toward being less and less regulated. In recent years, only authoritarian states (such as the case of China, where value is set by government decision) have explored a second path in relation to how to deal politically with the market. Meanwhile, as far as I know (from sectors with related ideas, shared in the context of the integral revolution), despite having tried various pathways toward using social currencies as exchange tools, up until now there have been no previous approaches created regarding how to confront the forex market to build global economic empowerment.

In recent years, new cryptocurrency exchange markets have appeared, outside the control of governments. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to have a country and a central bank in order to have a currency that can be exchanged across the world. The banking system is outdated, and more and more of us are realizing it. The path we’re taking now is toward building something that will someday consolidate a global alternative.

What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, to create value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

We will see over time whether the way we’re choosing is the best or not, but at least with this initiative we now have a path to explore, as far as addressing this global issue of how to create a more just economic system, with the level of social cooperation that this planet needs and the current technology allows.

Fair Coop is born! Let’s get interconnected - let’s share, discuss, build!

Everything is waiting to be done and everything is possible. Now it’s up to us!

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world!

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Media, Networks, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, P2P Money, Videos | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Atlas of Transformation

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hartsellml
17th September 2014


Atlas of Transformation

URL = http://monumenttotransformation.org/atlas-of-transformation/index.html

Description

“Atlas of Transformation is a book with almost 900 pages. It is a sort of global guidebook of transformation processes. With structured entries, its goal is to create a tool for the intellectual grasping of the processes of social and political change in countries that call themselves “countries of transformation” or are described by this term. The Atlas of Transformation was first published in Czech and it contains more than 200 “entries” and key terms of transformation. Several dozen authors (more than 100) from around the world contributed to this book and also some influential period texts were republished here.” (http://monumenttotransformation.org/atlas-of-transformation/index.html)

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Posted in Activism, Featured Book, P2P Movements, P2P Theory | No Comments »

Theses on P2P Politics, published in “The Square”

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Stacco Troncoso
16th September 2014


The latest issue of “The Square” newspaper, edited by Ivor Stodolsky, features articles by Michel Bauwens, Nika Dubrovsky/ Feminist Pencil, Grey Violet (aka Maria Shtern), Núria Güell, G.U.L.F., Noah Fischer/Occupy Museums, Teivo Teivainen & Ivor Stodolsky, Telekommunisten and Nadya Tolokno (Tolokonnikova) of Zona Prava/Pussy Riot. Michel’s piece is entitled “Thesis in P2P Politics”

 

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The New Ecopolitical Nations

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
14th September 2014


* Book: Habitat: The Ecopolitical Nation. by Ignasi Ribó. Mycelia Books, 2012

This summary description is followed by a review and an excerpt:

“A new world is emerging under the rusted structures of the nation-state. Catalonia, Scotland, Quebec, Flanders, the Basque Country may soon be sovereign and independent states. The process of breaking up the large Western states into ecologically and socially meaningful political communities may have just started and could lead to a more democratic and sustainable world system. In Habitat: The Ecopolitical Nation, the Catalan author Ignasi Ribó develops a new and original theory of the nation, in order to show that there is indeed a real alternative to the model of the nation-state and to the modern project of building increasingly larger states. The habitat-nation, founded on the inhabitants’ deliberate choice of living together and on the ecoliberal principles of justice, could well be the theoretical framework for this new world that is just starting to emerge, both in Europe and in America. ”

Review by Mike Menser:

“Ignasi Ribó’s Habitat is an engaging treatise focused upon one of the most pressing questions facing the global ecological movement: what is the appropriate political unit for fostering the social cohesion necessary to respond effectively to the ecological crisis? Should we be hyperlocalists intensely protecting every intimate inch of our everyday life? Green statists pressuring our presidents to bring about a sustainable economy? Or nomadic cosmopolitans, linking together across any and every boundary in an attempt to make a truly global, multi-everything eco-community?

Ribó rules out all three. States are too focused on securing sovereignty via militaries and/or markets to be socially sane, much less ecologically sound. Hyperlocalists cannot have a big enough impact, and cosmopolitans lack the embedded commitments needed to foster trust and cooperation. Instead Ribó calls for an approach that will make left progressives uneasy and right wing conservatives puzzled: ecological nationalism (85) grounded in the principles of autonomy, reciprocity, care, and friendship (134). The argument goes as follows. To solve the ecological crisis we must live sustainably. Sustainability means living together with other humans and nonhumans so as to be able to preserve and reproduce all those conditions necessary for our collective survival. After a jaunt through some evolutionary biology, Ribó focuses on intersecting the ecological, social and political dimensions of cohabitation (the economic is not addressed). The place of cohabitation is “habitat.” The mechanisms by which we come to operate in a habitat are “habits.” Human beings are, fundamentally, in a sort of ecological Hume-an twist, bundles of habits. Indeed, all organisms are complexes of habits. There is no great chain of being composed of beings with distinct essences, but rather a number of bioregional assemblies of different ways of being in the world: habit-complexes with different modes of obtaining energy, perceiving, reproducing, dwelling, fending off prey, and so on (124). But even if humans are members of the great earth community, we are dissimilar, since we form deliberative political communities in order to pursue the good life. Humans choose to live together.

This seemingly trivial tenet—what Ribó calls “cohabitation”—constitutes the basis for his ecopolitical view. In order to live together, we need to foster habits that promote the trust necessary for coexistence. The project then is not about (cultural) identity or citizenship (my relationship with some abstracted state-based demos), it is about everyday life and the bonds we develop with our cohabitants, all those who make the systems and institutions I require for my life, and autonomy, possible. Ribó writes, “Wherever a particular bioregion, that is, the geographical coincidence of a biological and a social community, is able to uphold these effective relations of justice founded on the habits of autonomy, reciprocity and friendship, we can properly speak of a habitat-nation” (98–9). According to Ribó, examples of such places are Basque Country, Spain [sic], and the Scandinavian states. The distinctiveness of these places arises not from abstracted relationships to the state (e.g., the notion of citizenship) or transcendental moral orthodoxy of rational persons, but the commitment of the inhabitants to each other and to their place. According to ecopolitical theory, on the contrary, the political community should be articulated from meaningful social communities “bound to a certain natural habitat” (192). The foundation of the community is friendship, the “deliberate choice of living together” (192–3). This does not require common language or religion, but is instead based upon the norms necessary for just cohabitation: autonomy, care, reciprocity, and friendship.

Such units are just when they recognize the freedom of inhabitants (the principle of autonomy), as well as the obligations that arise because of our interdependent contributions (reciprocity). But what really makes these units work is friendship, which gives them a coherence born of trust that also allows for the development of the capabilities of said inhabitants with respect to their desires and aims (the principle of care). The boundaries of the system needed for the just reproduction of our society we call the habitat-nation. Ribó then makes a moral argument for a just inhabitation utilizing an unusual reconstruction of a Rawlsian framework with a dose of Aristotle. What does justice as fairness look like in the habitat-nation? In Ribó’s reconstructed “original position,” not only do we not know our economic position or natural talents, we do not know our species! We could be “humans, starlings or martians”. He writes, “It would make much more sense therefore to conceive the original position as a hypothetical meeting of indeterminate individuals who know they will inhabit the political community resulting from their contract, but are unaware of the natural, social, or specific characteristics within this community”.

While many will find much to disagree with in this reinterpretation, Ribó’s rendering of justice as fairness and his understanding that inequality must benefit the whole society (principle of care as applied to the habitat-nation) is his ecopolitical attempt to respect the autonomy of individuals with respect to the rest of the group. What is more intriguing is that he deems the primary good to be cohabitation: the ability to live together, with human and nonhumans. What is necessary to make this happen is not well appreciated by Rawls, or by liberalism in general, and that is friendship and care. On this note, it is worth contrasting Ribó’s Rawlsian reconstruction and political utilization of Aristotle’s philia with Sibyl Schwarzenbach’s view laid out in On Civic Friendship: Including Women in the State (Columbia University Press, 2009). Schwarzenbach calls for an overt refounding and reconstructing of state while Ribó forcefully condemns it, along with political parties, and thus seems to align himself with more bottom-up or “horizontal” political movements as described in Marina Sitrin’s excellent Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina (Zed, 2012).

In sum, we have to cast off abstract moral categories such as rational persons (a fiction), political ones such as demos (an anti-ecological abstraction), citizenship, and sovereignty, and embrace the biocultural terrain of the habitat. The habitat nation is not self-sufficient; to make it the fundamental unit, then, is to require further relations and coalitions. These can be formed along the lines of cohabitation and friendship, rather than market rivalry and competition as in the interstate system (186–7). Although this will sound too ambitious or naïve to some, in the last chapters Ribó thinks strategically about how this ecopolitical transformation might take place in North America and Europe. This is one of the more refreshing and welcome aspects of the book. Ribó takes the pains to explain how his view differs from the top-down decentralization of the EU (205–7) and how it could build upon projects in places as diverse as Québec and Mexico, but he also recognizes the particular political difficulties facing the US and how they are different from those in Europe. Ribó is optimistic without being naïve. Indeed, the book begins with a short story about a small nation whose defection from a large state brought about the collapse of one of the biggest empires in human history. The country was Lithuania. What motivated this tiny nation to risk so much? A mix of ecological degradation and the desire for independence. Acting on the small scale can have big results. The implications for the global environmental movement are profound. Especially, as Ribó points out, since two-thirds of the world’s population lives not in the megastates of the Chinas and Indias but in the more human and natural-scaled Guatemalas and Nigers.”

Excerpt by Ignasi Ribó:

““This book has grown out of a previous one, written in Catalan, De la indignació a la nació (“From indignation to nation”), which was published on September 11th 2012, the same day that hundreds of thousands of Catalans took to the streets of Barcelona to demand their freedom and a state of their own. It was in that book that I first developed the ecopolitical theory and the notion of the habitat-nation that I am exposing here to English readers. The original aim of my reflections was to displace the old ideology of the nation-state, which is still very much divisive in Catalonia, and to ground the nation on a new, more inclusive theoretical framework in which all individuals, regardless of their culture, their origin or their condition, even their species, could find their place in the political community and contribute to the sustainability of common habitation.

By its own nature, the ecopolitical project is not restricted to the transformation of a particular social community such as Catalonia, but aspires to become a model of universal appeal, albeit always within the limits and the possibilities of each specific community. My theory, therefore, rather than offering ready-made institutional solutions that could be indiscriminately applied to all social communities, attempts to set up the foundations that would allow these communities, if they so wish, to constitute themselves as habitat-nations and to develop their own ecopolitical institutions according to their habits and forms of habitation. For the same reason, the theory of the habitat-nation avoids any ideological or partisan ascription, focusing instead on the elaboration of a constitutional framework that could be accepted and assumed by all inhabitants regardless of their inclinations, values or political preferences.

In my previous book, I delved in much more detail into the practical implications of the theory presented here, putting forward specific mechanisms and institutions that could serve to implement the ecopolitical notions in the future state of Catalonia. While many of these reflections and proposals, which touched on political, economic and social issues in considerable depth, might be of some interest to non-Catalan readers, I have decided to exclude them from this book in order to concentrate on the more general proposals of the ecopolitical theory. As a consequence, the reader might feel that my ideas are not sufficiently fleshed out, but tend to linger for too long on the high spheres of theory. I have nothing to say against this criticism, except to invite the critics to undertake the work of elaborating those specific proposals, adapting and developing the concepts discussed in this book to meet the needs and the possibilities of their own habitat-nations. After all, a book should strive to create a sense of wonder and inspire readers to seek their own solutions to the problems, rather than giving them a creed to follow.

Whatever the actual institutions that may eventually stem from it, an unavoidable conclusion from my theory is the urgent need to redefine the geopolitical units that make up the current world, abandoning once and for all the model of the nation-state and advancing towards more ecologically and socially sustainable political communities. This book attempts to justify, both theoretically and practically, why this process is so necessary and how it could be accomplished in the present political context. But surely, as always, the world is already running ahead of our theories. The rusted structures of the nation-states, particularly the largest ones, are already showing evident signs of decay and instability. New habitat-nations may be about to achieve statehood, both in Europe and in America. A new world seems to be forging its way ahead. Let us hope that it will be so organised that we shall not regret calling it our home.”

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Posted in Empire, Featured Book, P2P Ecology, P2P Governance | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Geeks Without Bounds

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
12th September 2014


 Geeks Without Bounds (GWOB) supports humanitarian open source projects through a combination of hackathons and an accelerator program which takes promising projects through six months of mentorship towards sustainability. GWOB also engages in a range of educational programs aimed at increasing diversity in the technology workforce, helping technologists better understand humanitarian issues, and helping those who work in humanitarian fields learn more about technology.

The organization has a strong focus on appropriate technologies and codesign principles. Many of the technologies which GWOB works with are intended to be deployed in low-resource situations, whether during a disaster or in less developed countries, and therefore need to work within the restrictions of those environments. Other tools may be intended for use in developed countries, but by those with various disadvantages within those countries, and so the technology must take into account considerations such as language barriers, reading ability, and lack of internet access. The issues of environmentalism, fuel use, and potential side effects of any new technology are also concerns, and every effort is made to ensure that projects that GWOB works on will improve upon the environmental impacts of any previous solution that may be replaced.

Hackathons

Hackathons are events, usually held over a weekend, that bring programmers, designers, engineers, and subject matter experts together to work on a set of themed challenges. GWOB has organized hackathons in the Random Hacks of Kindness series, the Everyone Hacks model, and as part of the International Space Apps Challenge. GWOB has also been contracted by various organizations including Partnership for A Healthier America, HP, and Netsuite to run hackathons on their behalf.

GWOB has developed a system for running hackathons which encourages greater diversity among participants, engages non-technologists in more of the workflow of the weekend, and rewards cross-team cooperation over direct competition. These events include educational talks at the beginning of the weekend, and sometimes during breaks. The intent of the talks is to improve the quality of outcomes during the weekend, but many attendees cite the learning aspect of the weekend as one of the top reasons to participate in a GWOB-run hackathon. The GWOB hackathon model has also been successfully used in school and university settings as a learning and assessment tool for science, general ICT and cyber security courses.

As of August 2014, GWOB has run more than 50 separate hackathon events around the world.

The Accelerator Program

Since GWOB has no fixed location, and operates on a small budget, the accelerator model that has evolved over several rounds revolves around bi-weekly meetings with each team over Google Hangouts. Most meetings include one or more volunteer mentors who can help the team with one area of concern. Examples of mentorship areas include legal containers for open source projects, IP law for open source projects, fundraising, technical help for engineering challenges, security concerns, and codesign principles. Whenever possible, the mentor meetings are recorded and posted to YouTube for the benefit of others.

History

Geeks Without Bounds was founded in 2010 by Johnny Diggz and Willow Brugh as a fiscally sponsored[1] project of The School Factory. Immediately, hackathons became the major focus of the organization as a method to find new solutions to ongoing problems in disaster response and humanitarian aid. Some of the solutions created at GWOB-organized hackathons were tested at an assortment of disaster response drills to varying degrees of success.

By early 2012 it became clear that hackathons alone were not going to create the solutions that were needed in the field. Two main problems existed:

  1. Projects created at hackathons often lose momentum quickly after the event and
  2. Technologies created in a weekend often lack deeper insight into the needs of the end users of those tools.

At this point, the accelerator was created to take a few of the best projects from hackathons and give them the support to grow beyond the hackathon weekend’s experiments.

Organization

Geeks Without Bounds currently has three full time employees who function as peers in a leadership team. The titles on their business cards are just to help outsiders to know which issues to direct towards which individual, based on each person’s skill set and prefered duties.

Willow Brugh is responsible for connecting people together, herding hackers, and making sure that everyone in the organization does what they say that they were going to do.

Lindsay Oliver is the go-to person for organizing events. She is also the master writer of the team, and in general, if it’s published by GWOB in some way, she most likely either wrote it or edited it.

Lisha Sterling is responsible for ongoing organizational development and fundraising. She’s also the code-and-server-fixer-upper.

GWOB also has an advisory board that meets semi-regularly to discuss the general direction of the organization and give advice to the leadership team. The advisory board also votes on prospective accelerator teams.

Note

  1. ? In the United States, fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a federal 501(c)(3) public charity functions as an umbrella organization for a related organization that may lack tax exempt status. This allows a small group to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under the sponsor’s exempt status with a lower overall administrative cost.
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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Project, Free Software, Networks, Open Hardware and Design, Open Innovation, Open Models, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing | No Comments »

Post-Liberalism: a p2p-relational version of liberalism ?

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Michel Bauwens
10th September 2014


the big questions in politics today are less about individual rights and more about the nature of our institutions and the quality of our relationships

Excerpted from Nick Dyrenfurth:

“Its ethos can be discerned in the post-Cold War “Third Way” politics of social democrats such as Tony Blair, Gerhard Schroeder and even Bill Clinton. Some call it communitarianism rebooted. Post-liberalism’s central claims also echo the ancient traditions of civic republicanism, elegantly restated of late by Philip Pettit’s book Just Freedom: A Moral Complex for a Complex World.

It is in post-global financial crisis Britain that post-liberalism has generated most interest, attracting supporters from across the party political divide. Philip Blond’s “Red Toryism”, a key influence upon David Cameron’s “Big Society”, is one expression.

Glasman and Jon Cruddas, head of British Labour’s policy review, are unabashed post-liberals. A post-liberal ethic is evident in the writings of former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.

What does post-liberalism have to say precisely? One high-profile advocate is David Goodhart, director of London’s left-leaning Demos think-tank. He writes that post-liberalism wants to fix the unintended consequences of economic and social liberalism – the fact that despite being freer and richer, many of us seem to be less happy.

post-liberalism believes in individual rights and liberties but recognises that without secure, settled lives surrounded by love and recognition, occupied by purposeful activity, individuals cannot truly flourish as human beings. Stability, continuity and familiarity are instead its watchwords; a love of family, community and patriotism are not to be sneered at.

Goodhart’s essay is based upon the British experience, where the GFC and immigration are more visceral political issues. But there are lessons for Australia, despite two decades of uninterrupted economic growth. And therein lies the rub. The two liberalisms have not necessarily made us happier. Witness the unprecedented reports of loneliness and depression, record rates of divorce and family breakdown. Sociability and neighbourliness are in serious decline. Australians are less trusting of their fellow citizens but also more sceptical of the ability of government to deliver services or solve complex problems. Nor have the twin liberalisms necessarily made the entire populace richer, certainly in relative terms. The richest one per cent of Australians now own the same wealth as the bottom 60 per cent.

In creating a society built upon abstract rights and freedoms, we have lost sight of what really matters. Too much of our economic debate occurs in a moral vacuum. For example, productivity is talked about as an end in of itself. There was something nihilistic about the manner in which the Abbott government effectively killed off the nation’s car manufacturing industry – as if we could not afford to consider the impact on individuals, families and communities of mass job losses and the flow-on effect to the wider economy.

Ironically, as government retreats from the economy, power is increasingly centralised in Canberra – and it becomes even easier for vested interests to distort policy making. Consider, too, the power wielded by the supermarket duopoly of Coles and Woolworths, as Malcolm Knox revealed in the August edition of The Monthly.
Do not misunderstand my argument. The liberalisation of our society was generally a good thing. Few would want to turn the clock to an Australia of the six o’clock swill; inequality for women, ethnic minorities and gay people; cultural conformity and crude economic protectionism. There is no undoing globalisation. Nor is this an argument against the market economy. “The 1960s and the 1980s were not mistakes”, Goodhart suggests. But “the big questions in politics today are less about individual rights and more about the nature of our institutions and the quality of our relationships.”

How does post-liberalism transform into the real world of policy? Relationships are crucial. A post-liberal politics calls for a new grand compact between the market, state and civil society. This compact – call it an accord, if you like – needs to be built from the bottom-up by communities working in tandem with governments. We arguably need less government policy, better implemented. In general terms, what is called for is a shift away from the dominant economic model of today. An order based on short-term profits and pure price competition should be abandoned in favour of sustainable, profitable industries centred on quality, innovation and environmental obligations, and which in turn provides for fulfilling, secure and well-paid employment.

The key is to re-embed markets in social institutions. Take the jobs crisis. There is much talk today of a productivity emergency. For the most part this is a confected crisis designed to usher in a new round of workplace law deregulation, which can only exacerbate the real labour market crisis. Unemployment is at a 10 year high with 747,300 Australians out of work in July. Youth unemployment sits at 13 per cent. The underemployed are estimated to number 1.1 million, hardly surprising given that the formal measurement of employment requires one hour of work per week. Good jobs are increasingly being replaced by low-skill, low-wage insecure work that lacks dignity and meaningful career progression. Part-timers, casuals, outworkers and contractors make up 40 per cent of the workforce (and are thus denied non-wage benefits such as annual leave). These trends are eroding the security of family life and probably harming the holy grail of productivity.

What is needed is an Australian version of the German social market. One idea is making compulsory the appointment of employees on company boards to ensure a fairer distribution of rewards and imbuing management with vocational knowledge of what actually works on the shopfloor. We need to be thinking about the establishment of work council-style arrangements to boost productivity and actually tackle issues around childcare, transport and flexible work.

Instead of talking about the “minimum wage” the debate ought to be reframed in terms of a “living wage”: a “fair day’s pay” means time for parents to spend with their children and engage locally. Another solution to the jobs crisis is drastically increasing the volume and quality of vocational education, linked more closely to labour market entry in the form of subsided private sector apprenticeships. Such a strategy would partly obviate the need for the much-abused 457 visa scheme. Here, employers’ groups and chambers of commerce could play a critical role. Instead of lobbying for Work Choices-style legislation, they could act as a conduit between government, vocational education providers, unions and business.

Outside of economics, a post-liberal politics would devolve the control of services to allow families and communities a real say. Education is ripe for devolution. The ultimate goal ought to be creating schools that are not merely tailored towards churning out more productive, high-income earning units, but which yield more rounded, resilient students and stronger, more cohesive communities.

There is no reason why this logic should not apply to community banking, or the provision of childcare, health and welfare. What may be required to accomplish this is a complete rethink of our political structures. While those colonial-era throwbacks, the states, are unlikely to be tossed into the ashtray of history, we could give greater powers to capital city and regional councils – a nod to Gough Whitlam’s new federalism. Can post-liberalism prosper in Australia? It ostensibly cuts across the left/right divide and has won a hearing in segments of the British Tory party, but there is little reason to believe that the market fundamentalists, libertarians and “big ‘C’” conservatives of the modern Coalition will seriously consider post-liberalism. The so-called conservative intelligentsia is obsessed with pursuing prosaic culture wars. The Greens may be attracted to aspects of its community-activist agenda and free-market scepticism, but its “messy” attitude to “doing” politics will likely prevent any serious embrace. Which leaves us with Labor. It should be a no-brainer. Post-liberalism is in Labor’s DNA.”

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Nesting Instinct, by Vera Bradova

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
10th September 2014


A brilliant piece by my alexandrian friend Vera Bradova! Her essay clearly shows the advantages of the Representative In-Group Democracy, which is proposed by the human ecologist Terje Bongard. Bongard’s model would have created the ultimate commons, but his research project MEDOSS was brutally rejected by the ignorant and anonymous referees of the Research Council of Norway.

A model of the ultimate representative democracy, adjusted for Norway. Larger nations will need one more level of ingroups.
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Original article here.
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Nesting Instinct

Governance activities are organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises.

— Elinor Ostrom

It was Elinor Ostrom who began to speak of nestedness as one of the key components of a successful co-governance of the commons. But tribal societies had long been organized along these lines. A regional tribal alliance nested within it several tribes, which each nested several bands, and those nested several affinity clusters, composed of individual human beings. This way of organizing has an organic feel to it; our own bodies are “nested enterprises.”
holarchy2

It’s a curious thing. Human (tribal) organization units — affinity clusters, bands, tribes, tribal confederacies — don’t scale up. They don’t grow by proportional increase. What happens if an affinity group is pushed to grow past its natural limit? Ill will rises amongst the members. The strengths of the group — intimacy, trust, spontaneous conversations, easy problem solving — begin to fade. The group turns dysfunctional. People leave. When it reaches some 20-25 members, the size of a small band, it begins to function again, as facilitation, talking sticks, councils, committees and other formal devices are implemented to manage group process. It looks like a band, but is it? The previous formation out of which it has grown has been destroyed. The resulting “band” is just a growing collection of individuals, no longer anchored in smaller units, and vulnerable to the misuse of power. This is the violence of “biggering” that this civilization brings into everything it touches. As hamlets grow into small towns, and towns into cities, the person’s political clout vanishes, and anonymity and deracination take their toll.

holarchyinfinite

Why don’t we learn from the growth of entities that are not known for ravaging the inheritance they have been given? A healthy cell does not grow unchecked. It divides. The divided cells form clusters, which form tissues, which form organs, and eventually, an organism arises, all without anyone dictating the development. That is how nestedness works. Some call it holarchy. They say it’s a type of hierarchy, but it seems to me the inverse of a hierarchy: there is no top or bottom, and there are no bosses. As this diagram shows, there are always more potential levels each way, as atoms give way to subatomic particles, and organisms rise together to form societies, ecosystems, and beyond.

Holarchy: a meta-system of irreducible wholes that are themselves part of larger wholes, ultimately comprising all life on earth from a single cell to the entire planetary ecosphere.

holdom

What if we were to grow communities via natural self-organization? Individuals spontaneously form affinity groups. Some flourish more than others, and divide. Out of several, a band emerges. Out of a few bands, a tribe emerges. (It would take only 7 layers starting with groups of a dozen to include every human on the face of the earth!) Note that this sort of growth does not do violence to the prior, more local, smaller groupings. They keep on flourishing, part and parcel of the logic of that particular social organism.

Holarchy

holarchic schema of a tribe

What is the advantage of this way of growth and organization, besides imitating the success of Mother Nature? Governance can take place appropriately; the smaller, earlier units largely retain their autonomy; the broader, more encompassing later units like bands and tribes deal with broader matters that pertain to bands and tribes. Easy conversations, intimacy and trust are undiminished. At the same time, the larger, later units bring with their emergence novel advantages: coordination, attention to larger parts of the commons, diversified talent pools, and clout. And the organization that remains anchored in small groups of trusted associates has a leg up on the problem of free riding. It is easy to see what other people are doing within your group; easy to apply peer pressure if needed. The genius of successful commons management summarized in Ostrom’s eight principles rests on trust which is impossible without people knowing one another well over time.

Nested systems are self-organizing, emergent, bottom-up systems. They preserve direct involvement of each member. They are polycentric, having many semi-autonomous decision nodes rather than one. This makes them robust, adaptable, and resilient. Rules too are crafted from the bottom up, and are adjustable by the members with a focus on creating a structure of incentives favorable to both trust-building and maintaining a diverse environment favorable to discovering better solutions to problems. To paraphrase Ostrom, “when large systems fail, there are smaller systems to call upon — and vice versa.” Each smaller, earlier level is influenced by, and itself influences, the broader, later levels. Each cluster, each band, each tribe is an entity unto itself, and a part of an entity larger than itself. Allowing decisions to be made as close to the scene of events and the actors involved as possible, each affinity cluster, each band is a self-regulating, open system that displays both the autonomous properties of wholes and the dependent properties of parts.

So. What’s stopping us?

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A political evaluation of bitcoin

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
9th September 2014


TheeBlog-Bitcoin5

“Despite all the drawbacks mentioned, Bitcoin remains a landmark and pivotal development, showing that globally scaleable currencies are technically feasible. It sets the stage for potential commons-based p2p-driven currency systems and the Bitcoin ledger can become a tool for self-organizing communities.”

Bitcoin is a complex phenomenom, and it is a landmark development, even a technological singularity, for good or ill. At the P2P Foundation, we also have complicated feelings about it.

The Positive Aspects of Bitcoin

Let us first summarize why Bitcoin is indeed such a singularity.

Bitcoin is the first globally scaleable, social-sovereign, post-Westphalian currency

This is not trivial. Before the Treaty of Westphalia, local currencies where the norm, many with negative interest rates, and they bolstered local independence, but the scaling effects of the printing press, which led to a Europe-wide religious civil war, made necessary a re-organization of the political space around the emerging nation-states. These nation-states outlawed local currencies, destroyed local autonomy, and also relied on sovereign currency to establish their power. While local currencies have a periodic resurgence in times of crisis, none of the complementary currencies scaled. Local currencies can therefore never be the expression of global commons power, i.e. the power of global virtual communities. Bitcoin has no intrinsic value, it is a hyper-fiat currency, i.e. it only exists because of the trust and political will of the international libertarian hacker segments of the population, in the particular algorithm.

Bitcoin is a weapon of last resort for activist communities

The mainstream monetary and payment system is at the service of a particular world order, and can be mobilized against opposition to it, as became very clear around the Wikileaks affair, where banks, VISA and Paypal collaborated with various authorities to block the fundraising for Wikileaks. In such times, access to alternatives like Bitcoin is vital for activist groups, it becomes their lifeline to funding outside of the control of the central authorities.

The potential of the Bitcoin ledger as a tool for human self-organization

Apart from being a currency, the underlying universal ledger technology of Bitcoin has potential to usher in a new era of more easy self-organisation, by enabling the possibility of smart contracts and software-driven ‘distributed autonomous organisation, as expressed by initiatives like Ethereum, Common Accord, and the crypto-equity experiment of Swarm. Though these developments and possibilities are not without danger, and though most of the current enthusiasm is utopian and mostly based on hopes and just a few budding experiments, this technology is potentially a game changer by bringing down the transaction cost for self-organization.

The Negative Aspects of Bitcoin

Notwithstanding the above, Bitcoin’s development comes with a potentially very high and anti-social price tag.

Bitcoin is not a true peer to peer currency but leads to more extreme inequality

It is sometimes asserted that Bitcoin is a peer to peer currency because any computer with mining software can create the currency, but not everyone has access to the same number of computers and not everyone has computers, hence, the design of Bitcoin, which favours early entrants and those with investing power, is an engine of inequality. Bitcoin’s Gini coefficient, a metric of inequality, is a whopping 0.87709 and according to Bitcoinica, 1% of the players own 50% of the coins.1 That inequality is not diminishing, but rising: according to Bitcoin Trader, for a given period, “the top 100 have gone from holding 1,776,434 coins to holding 2,254,634 Bitcoins, a whopping 27% increase!”2 The mining capacity is also already concentrated.

Bitcoin can’t lead on its own to a disintermediated society

We live in an epoch of techno-utopianism with a strong drive for techno-cracy. The former means that many believe that technology alone determines certain outcomes, while the latter believes it is a good thing that flawed human processes are replaced by ‘clean’ technological processes. Both attitudes are very dangerous. First, distributed technologies do not necessarily lead to distributed outcomes. We have seen this historically with the effect of the invention of printing, which led to a democratisation of knowledge and literacy, but also in time replaced the local autonomy of free medieval cities with much stronger and controlling nation-states, i.e. more political centralization, not less. Networks which have no counter-measures to maintain equality inevitably lead in time to a new concentration of resources. Hence, in Amazon and iTunes, the so-called long tail of culture consumption predicted by Chris Anderson is no longer operative, and in p2p social lending, 80% of loans are provided by big bangs and institutions, the very forces the technology was supposed to disintermediate. Again and again, we see that the potential disintermediation of power, which may affect established powers, creates new intermediaries, such as the platform monopolies. Technologies are indeed, used by social forces, who inflect technologies for their own needs. The inequality of bitcoin ownership will inevitably further affect the structures that make bitcoin operational, leading to new kinds of monopolies. Technologies are always infused with human values, no programming or infrastructure is truly neutral in that respect.

Bitcoin funds a dangerous ideology

The big danger to the social movements of the industrial era were fascism and stalinism, both forms in which the power of the state became extreme. But what fascism is to the state, propertarian libertarians are to the markets: they aim for the realization of a total market, where every aspect of human life is commodified. The design of Bitcoin is anarcho-capitalist, i.e. it is designed to favour the freedom of property owners, and the more you own, the freeer you are. Because such propertarians do not want to see the existing inequalities in society, decreeing them to be the result of free choice, they inevitably ally themselves with oligarchic forces and support their political programs of the dismantling of social solidarity mechanism, and any regulation which limits the freedom of powerful corporate forces. The valuation of Bitcoin means an important transfer of social wealth to this political tendency, which allied with venture capital and the oligarchies that invest in Bitcoin, alters the balance of power away from emancipatory and progressive political forces. Early libertarian investors in Bitcoin, can sell their bitcoins at a premium to new entrants, thereby capturing substantial speculative value. So while the claim that Bitcoin is a pyramid scheme is obviously false, it does institute a rent from new entrants to existing owners. In this sense, Bitcoin, far from being a tool of distribued equality, which is already a false empirical claim at present, is an ideal tool for the development of hyper-capitalist economic models. In this sense, Bitcoin is an ideal tool for netarchical capitalism, the hierarchies that enable, but also control the networks, and capture value from it.

In Conclusion

Despite all the drawbacks mentioned, Bitcoin remains a landmark and pivotal development, showing that globally scaleable currencies are technically feasible. It sets the stage for potential commons-based p2p-driven currency systems and the Bitcoin ledger can become a tool for self-organizing communities.

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Posted in Original Content, P2P Foundation, P2P Money, P2P Theory, Politics, Technology | 8 Comments »

Podcast of the Day/C-Realm: Nafeez Ahmed on Optimism in the Face of a Gathering Storm

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
8th September 2014


Another must hear conversation between two friends of the P2P Foundation: KMO of the C-Realm podcast, and author, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed. Here’s the original post on the C-Realm website.


C-Realm_430_coverKMO welcomes author, journalist and filmmaker, Dr. Nafeez Ahmed, to the C-Realm Podcast to talk about his new novel as well as the role the that US and British foreign policy and intelligence agencies played in empowering Sunni extremists and bringing the Islamic State to power. After discussing the depressing state of affairs in the Arab world as well as in Western countries who remain strong militarily but whose economies are floundering, Nafeez describes why the emerging solar energy sector and the open source revolution leave him essentially optimistic in the face of a storm of converging crises.

Music by The Humble Grapes.

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Content, Featured Podcast, Media, Open Innovation, Open Models, Podcasts, Politics | No Comments »

Report: TheTragedy of the Private and Potential of the Public

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
8th September 2014


* Report: The Tragedy of The PrivaTe. The PoTenTial of The Public. by Hilary Wainwright. Published by Public Services International and the Transnational Institute, 2014

“This booklet is about how public service workers, with their fellow community members, are not only defending public services but also struggling to make them democratic and responsive to people’s needs and desires. It is also about how these alliances are working at different levels – local, national and international.
We are publishing this booklet at a time when the privatisation of public services and utilities has been tried and failed. There is widespread criticism of privatisation. It is now leading to an increasing number of decisions, mainly at a local level, to bring services back under public control.”

From a discussion by Anne Karpf:

“It might sound like an oxymoron, but this is a positive article about public services. So effectively has the coalition rebranded an economic crisis caused by private greed as the consequence of public ownership, that nationalisation has come to be seen as a universally discredited hangover from bad old Labour. So while current Labour is considering taking back parts of the rail network into public ownership the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, last weekend was intoning the neoliberal catechism: “I don’t want to go back to the nationalisation of the 1970s.”

But bringing outsourced services into public ownership isn’t about looking back: it’s about moving forward, and is a popular idea (66% of respondents in a poll last year supported the nationalisation of energy and rail companies, including 52% of Tories). For today, in the face of the combined bungles of G4S, Serco and Atos, not even the slickest PR-turned-politician can sustain the myth that private equals efficient.

Yet privatisation is touted as a panacea and cliches are trotted out about the evils of the “nanny state”. We need to develop a new language to talk about public ownership, one that detoxifies it and taps into the wide recognition that natural resources and essential public services should not be treated as commodities.

Instead of talking about the state, Hilary Wainwright, in a powerful new booklet – The Tragedy of the Private, the Potential of the Public – describes water, health and education as “the commons” – an excellent term. What’s remarkable, and hitherto fairly undocumented, is how all over the world a quiet process of remunicipalisation is taking place. Wainwright gives examples from Newcastle to Norway. In the UK, she found over half of 140 local councils bringing services back from the private sector. In Germany, by 2011 the majority of energy distribution networks had returned to public ownership. Even in the US, a fifth of all previously outsourced services have been brought back in-house.

The case of water is a particularly powerful one: to most people the idea of privatising it is alarmingly similar to the privatisation of air. Wainwright tracks struggles to resist the privatisation of water and defend it as a public good in Brazil, Uruguay and Italy.

What makes all this heartening is that new social forms of ownership are emerging in which public utilities are run by coalitions of workers and service users. Theirs isn’t just a defence of public services but an attempt to democratise them so they are not the top-down bureaucracies of old or simply job-saving strategies (important though these may be). They become what Wainwright calls “new forms of collectivity” – unions and public managing common resources together for shared benefit.

There is a palpable momentum to these ideas. Last summer saw the formation of the We Own It campaign, which is lobbying for a public service users’ bill. This would promote public ownership as the default option for public services and give the public a say in whether services are privatised. This week, a New Economics Foundation working paper also set out alternatives to the marketisation of public services.

These constitute a challenge to the fatalistic there-is-no-alternative narrative that has dominated political discussion. In his recent book, Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues that the alleged “musts” of political discourse “are nothing other than various aspects of the status quo – of things as they do, but in no way must, stand at the moment”.”

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