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Time Scales for P2P Oriented Change: the 2030 scenario

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
9th May 2010


In my own writings on how and when I see the shift towards a p2p oriented society, I use a mostly historical reasoning, based on the Kondratieff cycles.

Basically, given that 2008 is the Systemic Crisis (still unfolding through sovereign defaults), this can be given as the start of a new cycle, which, after a number of years of struggling with the previous crisis, leads to a new upcycle. I argue that this new upcycle of capitalism necessarily means a more intensive usage of the new p2p logics, and will therefore strengthen the p2p aspects of society, even as they are used/coopted by the present dominant forces in their own interest and for their own survival. This gives us rougly twentyfive – thirty years (2008 to 2033-2038) in which p2p can move from emerging social logic, to paritary social logic, and hence, it could set the stage for a phase transition. However, as there is no mathematical relationship, and human affairs and political change moves more slowly than the underlying structural change, I often would give a time-scale of 50 years for the actual change to occur.

It is this latter extension that Sam Rose and Joss Winn are arguing against. In fact, by 2030, the structural problems of our society related to resource depletion, peak oil, the food and water crisis, and climate change, will lead to an acceleration of dysfunction and social crisis, and by then, it may already be too late to stop an accelerated unraveling of the current civilisational model. In their view therefore, we only have 15 years to make a sufficient impact to avoid major catastrophes.

Here are the contributions, from Sam Rose and Joss Win, from the p2p research mailing list:

Sam Rose:

“I think the projections I’ve seen on P2P foundation list of “30 years”,”50 years” etc are too long for:

1. Radical change in biosphere (enough changes to cause significant pressure on people employing industrial era approaches)

2. Shift to commons and p2p based approaches

An argument can be made that in as little as 10-15 years, multiple pressures will coincide all at the same time. Peak oil figures are set near 2030, speed up of Arctic and Antarctic thaw right now, by 2030 it is plausible that we will have already passed the tipping point for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere affecting climates world wide.

Food and energy demand are projected to increase by 50% by 2030, fresh water by 30%; India and China (2 most populous nations) both warn their populations that their demand will outstrip their supplies severely by 2030 (links there to reports on this subject)

Many food producing corporations that run industrial farming operations are switching large scale agricultural production to biofuel which can further increase food costs by raising commodity prices worldwide, and causing food shortages. This price and biofuel production increase is already happening now.

Meanwhile, multiple corporations are relentlessly pursuing total control of communications infrastructure, (and already have total control of) financial systems, energy and food distribution, etc

So, by 2030 (not later) it is plausible that we will already be in a state where millions, if not billions will be marginalized by all existing basic sustenance systems (food, water, energy, access).

Stuart Kauffman, and other complex systems theorists have shown that in all systems, change tends to happen in an “s curve” fashion. Kauffman uses a sandpile as an example in his book “At Home In The Universe”. He describes the data signature of a massive pile of sand collapsing. First small bits fall of, then large chunks, then larger and larger, faster and faster. The total rate of collapse towards the end is exponentially faster than the beginning. I think we are seeing the same with global human systems now, and that we are *now* in the beginning time of collapse, with signals already present around the world. This means we have maybe 15 years, starting *now*, to start changing things in significant ways for at least 45% or more of people on the earth. 45% minimum probably will get us enough inertia in the opposite direction to slow down the momentum that is starting *now*.”

Joss Winn:

“The growing consensus is that the peak of conventional oil was in 2005 and that the peak of all liquid fuels will be between 2010 – 2014.

I’ve summarised this and a few other things relating to climate, technology and efficiency: here

Since writing that, a paper from an Oxford University research group (including ex-Chief Scientific Advisor to UK gov, Sr. David King) has added to the growing Peak Oil consensus.”

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One Response to “Time Scales for P2P Oriented Change: the 2030 scenario”

  1. Joss Winn Says:

    I have recently summarised six recent publications that provide an up-to-date overview of the social and technological challenges of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

    joss.blogs.lincoln.ac.uk/2010/05/13/peak-oil-and-climate-change-notes/

    I worry that Peak Oil has serious implications for the development of a P2P culture which, in its current embryonic form, remains largely reliant on cheap energy, globalisation and economic growth, all of which are threatened by dwindling oil supplies over the next decade. As liquid fuels becomes more expensive and difficult to source, economies will experience zero or degrowth, providing opportunities for more authoritarian modes of government that emphasise the need for ‘stability’ and ‘efficiency’. I also fear that Net access is similarly likely to peak over the next decade and then decline as it becomes too expensive to maintain the current infrastructure.

    In addition, if governments decide to seriously tackle climate change, it will require the full resources of developed countries, much like when in a national state of war, again providing further opportunities for greater authoritarianism, in contrast to the distributed, autonomous sites of P2P production.

    Although I am still inclined to think that long-term, a P2P commons-based culture can still thrive, I think we face decades of struggle during a difficult transition to alternative forms of less intensive sources of energy.

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