How is internet technology related to the transition to a sustainable future, according to my vision and those of others in the P2P Foundation?
We see the internet not as a given or a ‘essentialized technology’, but as a locus of struggle between different values and usages, determined by the design of the systems, ‘by whom and for whom’. Right now the internet is the result of a mix of influences, the original military research and public funding, the mentalities of the scientists who worked on it, the influence of private investors and designers, and the influence of the choices of the public and user communities. The internet we would want would be significantly more ‘socialized’, made sustainable, and used for a fundamental transition of the mode of production, i.e. creating and distributing value.
I would guess that the change in mode of production, using globally networked distributed production, would follow the logic of ‘what is light (knowledge) is global, what is heavy (material production) is local’, would have the following effects,
First in terms of the redistribution of value to the direct producers:
* interest-free money would remove 38-48 percent of production costs that now go directly to the financial elite and is unavailable for investment in a sustainable transition:
* abolishing IP taxes as well would also have a huge redistributional effect, by removing the rent that goes to IP holders and allowing a faster distribution of environmental innovations
* creating commons-producing open cooperative models would keep the surplus value within the hands of primary producers as well, causing the same re-investment potential
The direct effects of networked local production, financed by the above models, would then be:
* the location of design into open design communities would remove the incentive for planned obsolesence and artificial scarcity characteristic of the scarcity engineering model of capitalist market production
* relocalizing production into a network of local microfactories would remove 75% of production costs by eliminating transport
* local production ‘on demand’, with the designs available on the global and local networks, would eliminate overproduction but also the massive need for promoting consumption through mass advertising and communication
* open supply chains would make the transformation possible towards a massive adoption of circular economy principles (impossible to achieve with secret production chains) and cradle to cradle design as well as mutual coordination between the commons-producing ethical enterpreneurial coalitions who could not only adapt to the holoptic information available but also make common agreements
* together with open book accounting this would ensure also a massive ethical shift towards fair distribution of value, since the investment streams and value transfer models, as well as ethical treatments of workers and comumers, would become visible to all
Of course, none of these is an automatic result of technology alone, but of a techno-social appropriation of technology by struggling populations, and in the meantime, by prefigurative productive communities.
None of the proposals above can be done without the mutualization of knowledge and physical infrastructures, for which a socialized global internet is an essential condition. (we could imagine doing it without, but at a catastrophic social cost).
Indeed, without networked technology, this can only be done by massive loss of human life. For example, without technology, the renewable transition would be catastrophic since people would revert to wood burning and other destructive practices, while solar and wind technology would ensure a much smoother transition path.
The answer can never be anti-technology, since the use of technology is what defines being human since the dawn of our species, but the question to be asked is, ‘what technology and for whom’. The internet has to be re-appropriated, made sustainable, and put to use for a massive transition of our industrial and agricultural systems, not left into the hands of the enemies of mankind.