P2P Foundation https://blog.p2pfoundation.net Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices Sat, 17 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Podcast: Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-thomas-rippel-using-a-blockchain-to-help-farmland-stewardship-organisations-grow/2018/11/17 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-thomas-rippel-using-a-blockchain-to-help-farmland-stewardship-organisations-grow/2018/11/17#respond Sat, 17 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73477 Reposted from Investing in Regenerative Agriculture Welcome to Investing in Regenerative Agriculture. Where I interview key players in the field of regenerative agriculture, people who are scaling up the sector by bringing in new money or scaling up the practises on the ground. Observations from the podcast: – A lot of speculative cash has moved... Continue reading

The post Podcast: Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>

Reposted from Investing in Regenerative Agriculture

Welcome to Investing in Regenerative Agriculture. Where I interview key players in the field of regenerative agriculture, people who are scaling up the sector by bringing in new money or scaling up the practises on the ground.

Observations from the podcast:

– A lot of speculative cash has moved into agri land
– We have seen a real decoupling of productive value and the farmland price
– Buying land is out of the question for most farmers
– Farmland is mostly bought by financial institutions
– Financial Institutions only look at the highest lease (which is usually the least sustainable farmer as he or she is not paying for all the externalities they produce. Because they mine the soil.
– 80% of the classmates of Thomas at the biodynamic (4,5 year study) couldn’t find land afterwards
– Regenerative farmers, who are good stewards of the land, can’t make those cashflows (especially at the beginning) to pay back the loans. This is one of the big drivers of industrial agriculture

Community supported agriculture
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community-s…rted_agriculture
– Thomas helped Luzernenhof a German CSA farm raise over 1M.
– They set up their own crowdinvesting platform
– Organised events made a cool video
www.luzernenhof.de/de

Conditions:
– Shares in the cooperative which owns the land
– Buy land and charge very low lease rates to the farmers
– The shares give no dividends.
– Really unattractive terms

Tether Google link
www.google.it/search?q=tether&so…B&biw=1436&bih=735

Danone, the costs of capital depends on the ESG score
www.forbes.com/sites/jaycoengilb…tal/#171703797e4d

Luzernenhof who has also bought land for 10 others farmers, has noticed that landowners are willing to sell for a fairer price, if they know the land is going to be used sustainably!
This is a very interesting point! If regenerative farmers get a lower price for land, if this is true in other areas and countries this could be huge.

Terrafina
Blockchain based, value backed (agricultural land) stable crypto currency
Raising capital to help FSOs grow
White paper can be found here:
www.tinyurl.com/y8tyzzdx

Examples of Farmland Stewardship Organisations:
terredeliens.org/
www.bioboden.de
kulturland.de/

Find the ones in Europe here:
www.accesstoland.eu/

Advice for impact investors wanting to get into Regenerative Agriculture:
– Look at your local Farmland Stewardship Organisation and get involved
– Look into your local CSA farms, they usually rely on bank loans you could refinance them, which would be cheaper for them and you get a return (compared to 0% on the bank)!

If you want to receive an email when I upload a new episode, subscribe here eepurl.com/cxU33P

The above references an opinion and is for information and educational purposes only. It is not intended to be investment advice. Seek a duly licensed professional for investment advice.

Photo by byzantiumbooks

The post Podcast: Thomas Rippel, using a blockchain to help Farmland Stewardship Organisations grow appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-thomas-rippel-using-a-blockchain-to-help-farmland-stewardship-organisations-grow/2018/11/17/feed 0
Book Review: The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft by Derek Wall https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/book-review-the-sustainable-economics-of-elinor-ostrom-commons-contestation-and-craft-by-derek-wall/2018/11/16 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/book-review-the-sustainable-economics-of-elinor-ostrom-commons-contestation-and-craft-by-derek-wall/2018/11/16#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73487 Republished from LSE Review of Books The threat posed by global warming and environmental degradation are the most pressing examples of what has become known over the past several decades as the ‘tragedy of the commons’. In this book, Derek Wall explores the work of the late Nobel Laureate, Elinor Ostrom, on how humans can... Continue reading

The post Book Review: The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft by Derek Wall appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Republished from LSE Review of Books

The threat posed by global warming and environmental degradation are the most pressing examples of what has become known over the past several decades as the ‘tragedy of the commons’. In this book, Derek Wall explores the work of the late Nobel Laureate, Elinor Ostrom, on how humans can overcome this problem, and sustain the commons over the long term. Chris Shaw finds that this book is an accessible presentation of Ostrom’s ideas.

The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft. Derek Wall. Routledge. 2014.

Derek Wall has been an important figure in the Green Party for a number of years and also works as Associate Tutor in the Department of Politics at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has written extensively on the subject of green politics and green economics. In The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft, he examines what the idea of the commons can contribute to the building of an ecologically sustainable future. He approaches this analysis through an overview of the work of the late Elinor Ostrom (who died in 2012), the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in economic sciences.

Ostrom’s principal interest was in how institutions worked or failed to sustain collective resource use. Ostrom noted that self-governing entities exist at a variety of scales and can be found in both the public and private sphere. The key question for Ostrom was: ‘How can fallible human beings achieve and sustain self-governing ways of life and self-governing entities as well as sustaining ecological systems at multiple scales?’

Ostrom’s answers to these questions were influenced by a range of classical liberal economists such as Joseph Schumpeter and Friedrich Hayek, with whom she shared a scepticism about governing through centralised state power. Her scepticism stemmed from the belief that state actors do not have perfect knowledge of the issues being faced by communities geographically and culturally distant from policy elites. But Ostrom also recognised that local knowledge on its own is insufficient because it is not always correct.

After sketching out the highlights of Ostrom’s career and the thinkers who influenced her, Wall then devotes considerable space to exploring the methodological individualism Ostrom employed to understand how commons might be sustained over the long term. Ostrom defined institutions as a set of rules; organisations are players, institutions the rules they play by. She developed an Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework to understand these rules. The IAD framework is drawn from game theory, which assumes people are rational maximisers who will try to predict how others are going to act in order to gauge their own best move.

The prisoner’s dilemma, however, shows that this can often lead to sub-optimal behaviour. If the police hold two suspects in separate cells, but do not have enough evidence to convict either of them, the police might promise each suspect shorter sentences if they each confess. Both prisoners may separately calculate that it is best if they confess. Given that they would have both walked free if neither had confessed this is a sub-optimal outcome. Whilst the prisoner’s dilemma is often used to illustrate the kind of social relations that lead to the tragedy of the commons, Ostrom’s experiments and research showed that in real life there are often high levels of co-operation, communication and information sharing. This co-operative set of social relations allows people to work collectively to achieve long term optimal outcomes for the resource users.

Following this overview Wall devotes a chapter to critiquing Ostrom’s methodological individualism. Wall sees Ostrom’s individualism as a position which poses questions about the usefulness of her work. Rather than a micro analysis of interactions between individuals Wall suggests what is needed in the study of the commons is macro analysis of powerful actors taking what belongs to others.

Wall compares Ostrom’s analysis with autonomist Marxism, which recognises the ability of the working class to organise themselves against capital rather than relying on centralised state apparatus to achieve this. Whilst Wall argues methodological individualism does not give sufficient attention to structuralist explanations, he believes Ostrom’s approach does at least recognise our ability as individuals to make decisions and deepen democratic control, and thus help overcome practical governance dilemmas.

Wall’s overview of Ostrom’s life and work offers a welcome extension of a debate that too easily accepts that the fate of all commons, including the atmosphere, is tragedy. Humanity has survived and thrived for so long in no small part because of the ability of communities to successfully govern commons. Despite introducing too much unnecessary complexity into commons scholarship, Ostrom’s work provides a valuable framework for understanding how the commons can support the building of a sustainable future.

Derek Wall, in presenting an accessible account of Ostrom’s ideas, and placing them within the context of the economics thinkers who influenced her, provides a useful and productive insight into how a reconsideration of the historic and present manner in which people have governed commons can provide valuable ideas about what role the commons can play in building a sustainable future.


Christopher Shaw is a Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford. He holds a DPhil from the School of Law, Politics and Sociology, University of Sussex. His thesis was entitled ‘Choosing a Dangerous Limit for Climate Change; How the Decision Making Process is Constructed in Public Discourses’ (Oct 2006-April 2011). He is currently working on a book due for publication by Routledge in March 2015, examining public representations of dangerous climate change and the implications of these representations for building climate citizenship. Read more reviews by Chris.

Photo by Jayne ~ Twiggy & Opal

The post Book Review: The Sustainable Economics of Elinor Ostrom: Commons, Contestation and Craft by Derek Wall appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/book-review-the-sustainable-economics-of-elinor-ostrom-commons-contestation-and-craft-by-derek-wall/2018/11/16/feed 0
Whose City is it Anyway? Reflections on Global Urban Dynamics https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/whose-city-is-it-anyway-reflections-on-global-urban-dynamics/2018/11/16 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/whose-city-is-it-anyway-reflections-on-global-urban-dynamics/2018/11/16#respond Fri, 16 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73472 When looking at contemporary cities around the world today, one could easily conclude that they seem increasingly designed to accommodate the requirements and interests of powerful financial actors, over those of the citizens who inhabit them. As these faceless players encroach ever further onto a range of spaces – both physical and intangible – in... Continue reading

The post Whose City is it Anyway? Reflections on Global Urban Dynamics appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
When looking at contemporary cities around the world today, one could easily conclude that they seem increasingly designed to accommodate the requirements and interests of powerful financial actors, over those of the citizens who inhabit them. As these faceless players encroach ever further onto a range of spaces – both physical and intangible – in the urban landscape, while ordinary people seem to be increasingly losing ground in their own neighbourhoods or being pushed out completely, what prospects are there for citizens to resist these dynamics?

This post is part of our series of articles on the Urban Commons sourced from the Green European Journal Editorial Board. These were published as part of Volume 16 “Talk of the Town: Exploring the City in Europe”. In this instalment, Saskia Sassen discusses The Global City, global urban dynamics and today’s smart cities.

Green European Journal: You wrote The Global City in 1991, can you explain this concept?

Saskia Sassen: The widespread notion in the 1980s that being in a specific place no longer mattered to economic sectors that could use digital technology spurred me to check out highly digitised economic sectors and led me to focus on the finance sector, the rising economic star after its deregulation, which allowed financial firms to enter all kinds of domains which they had been excluded from, from student debt to home mortgages.

That turned out to be the first step towards conceptualising the global city function. It became an effort to detect a new, somewhat elusive formation deep inside major cities: a sort of vast, complex, and diverse operational platform that installed itself in what were the major economic centres in the 1980s – New York, London, and Tokyo. That function eventually included about 40 major cities as globalisation proceeded and incorporated more and more countries.

My concept in its narrowest version was ‘the global city function,’ a sort of bridge that enabled entering the deep economy of a country.

What also amused me was the notion that there was a combination of elements that might produce this ironic outcome: the fact that the most powerful, rich, and digitised economic actors needed urban land or ‘central places,’ perhaps more than ever before. Large corporate firms engaged in routinised production could locate themselves anywhere. But if they went global they needed access to a whole new mix of complex specialised services almost impossible to produce in-house, as had been the practice.

A second hypothesis that was stronger than I expected was that this new economic logic, partial as it was, would generate high-level jobs and low-wage jobs; it would need far fewer middle-range jobs than traditional corporations. But those low-level jobs, whether in the office or in households, would matter more than one might imagine. I described these low-wage jobs in the advanced economic sectors, notably finance, as the work of maintaining a strategic infrastructure.

How does the global city relate to globalisation?

Standard economics does not capture the mix of dynamics that produced the global city function, nor does it capture the core dynamics of high-finance. Microeconomics and macroeconomics are at their best and most useful – or perhaps only useful function – when they deal with standardised economic sectors.

One key hypothesis I arrived at early on in my research was that intermediation was an increasingly strategic and systemically necessary function for the global economy that took off in the 1980s. This in turn led me to generate the hypothesis about a need for specific types of spaces: spaces for the making of intermediate instruments and capabilities. One such strategic space concerned the instruments needed for outsourcing jobs, something I examined in my first book.

But what began to emerge in the 1980s was on a completely different scale of complexity and diversity of economic sectors: it brought with it the making of a new type of city formation. I called it the ‘global city’ – an space for the production and/or implementation of very diverse and very complex intermediate capabilities.

This did not refer to the whole city. I posited that the global city was a production function inserted in complex existing cities. This was a function that cast a vast shadow over a city’s larger space.

In Europe there are more and more networks of cities and urban movements emerging and claiming a voice. Citizens express the will to ‘take back control’ and start new initiatives, such as energy cooperatives, repair cafés and fab labs. Can we be optimistic?

This is a difficult one for me to answer. It needs to be focused on the specifics of cities and these vary enormously. I definitely would answer yes. But it will take work, and it will mean that residents must know their rights and what they can claim from local and national governments regarding changes in their city and/or their neighbourhood. At present, most citizens perhaps are not aware of the claims they can make – an interesting item in itself. This effort then needs to expand to the right to make claims in domains where there is currently no clear law or statutes, and also to go beyond this… There is work to be done on several fronts to achieve this citizens’ standing vis-à-vis the local government of a city. It is a battle worth fighting and a mode worth developing.

What are the forces and/or actors that are really shaping cities in Europe today?

Two very different forces seem dominant; they are also partly still emergent in that they are different from earlier urban logics in European cities. One is the ascendance of cities as major actors and concentrators of key economic and political trends. The significant cities do not necessarily need to be the biggest – Frankfurt is a powerful city even if much smaller than London or Paris. The rise of a strong economic function that, somewhat unexpectedly, turned out to need urban space has made a major difference, for good and for bad. Cities are once again becoming wealthmaking machines, a function they had lost when the dominant economic sectors were focused on infrastructure, building housing, the explosion of suburbs. The wealth making function has some positive effects (updating infrastructure and transport, generating jobs, and so on) but also serious problems. The vast majority of urban residents and urban economic functions tend to be modest and hence at risk of being destroyed by the new high-end functions.

As I argue in my book Expulsions, a key dynamic in today’s Western economies is a range of expulsions of people, and other types of actors such as small firms, from the economic and social options they once had.

My focus there is precisely on that point of expulsions – an edge that is foundationally different from the geographic border in the interstate system. The focus on the edge comes from one of the core hypotheses running through this book: that the move from Keynesianism to the global era of privatisations, deregulation, and open borders for some, entailed a switch from dynamics that brought people into ‘the system’ to dynamics that push people out.

How do you see the future of cities and the whole discussion around ‘smart’ and ‘resilient’ cities?

The discussion around smart, connected, and resilient cities is political, and it is also – or should be – central to the environmental question, as well as to social justice. One observation that I have researched in my work on global cities is that in our current period cities have become far more significant for geopolitics, the global economy, and social justice, than they were in the period dominated by Keynesian logics. In that earlier period much was under the governance of the state and the post-war rebuilding was under state management to a large extent.

But when governments deregulate and privatise economic sectors once under direct management of the state, these managerial and regulatory functions do not disappear. They are transferred to private firms: they reappear as specialised financial, accounting, legal, advisory services for corporations. And these types of activities tend to be in cities, especially global cities, if they are complex because a firm’s market is global. And this is not always good.

We need counterweights to this emergent power system that is urban-centred. And that means strengthening the status and capacity to make effective claims of the vast majority of a city’s population who have a modest income. None of this necessarily eliminates the ongoing role of the inter-state system and its multiple institutions. But in the long run it has made cities de facto, rather than de jure, key actors in national economies and in cross-border economic spaces, transcultural circuits, environmental struggles, social justice struggles, and so much more.

The rise of a strong economic function that, somewhat unexpectedly, turned out to need urban space has made a major difference, for good and for bad.

It matters in my analysis that besides the growing concentration of power in major cities, there is also the option – especially in larger cities that cannot be fully governed – of contesting power in ways that go beyond what we can claim from national governments. We the residents can re-make parts of the city in simple ways that we cannot do regarding the national state.

The complexity and incompleteness of major cities gives those without power the chance to make a local economy, a local culture, a local politics. They can actually stand up to power – to some extent – and say, “We are not asking you for anything, we are just informing you that this is also our city.”

Are the urban movements in big cities not the feat of cosmopolitan, well-educated and connected elites who feel at home in Beijing, New York, Istanbul, and Berlin and share the same lifestyle – one increasingly distant from that of their actual rural neighbours?

This is certainly part of the story. But I also see a new type of energy focused on neighbourhoods, with initiatives around greening, food plots, and re-localising production where possible. I will never forget that some of my brightest, really brilliant undergraduate students at the University of Chicago – considered the most intellectual university in the US – went into community work: localising production of food, generating local entertainment (notably music and circus), setting up coffee shops to avoid franchises, and much more. All of this is not going to change the major systems in the world, from high-finance to destructive mining. But it should be seen as a first step in mobilising our energies towards more social justice, environmental protection, people-centered activities, and so on. A politics of place that recurs in city after city and can thereby have potentially vast effects on key urban functions – from political to economic.

Can we equate the city with the migrant today? Is the city the result of all those ‘thick’ cultures coming in and spreading into what we’d call today ‘cosmopolitanism’ (although the roots of the word are somewhat different)?

You said it! Yes, I think so, but cities are also the battlefield – it gets messy. I argue this a bit in my work on cities as containing today’s frontier. I think we are witnessing the making of a third type of migrant subject – neither the familiar immigrant nor the refugee.

The historic frontier was at the edges of empire – those spaces that we had not quite gained control over. But, in my reading, major actors, from U.S. and European to Chinese major sectors, have now succeeded in gaining access to most land in the world and can then engage in their extractive practices.


The Green European Journal, published by the European Green Foundation, has published a very interesting special issue focusing on the urban commons, which we want to specially honour and support by bringing individual attention to several of its contributions. This is our 6th article in the series. It’s a landmark special issue that warrants reading it in full.

 

Photo by fritscdejong

The post Whose City is it Anyway? Reflections on Global Urban Dynamics appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/whose-city-is-it-anyway-reflections-on-global-urban-dynamics/2018/11/16/feed 0
Podcast: Michel Bauwens, How Peer-to-Peer Can Change the World https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-michel-bauwens-how-peer-to-peer-can-change-the-world/2018/11/15 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-michel-bauwens-how-peer-to-peer-can-change-the-world/2018/11/15#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73468 Originally posted on thinkdif.co In this podcast, Michel Bauwens joins some dots together and explains why the open source movement, the growing prevalence of peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms and new technologies like blockchain create the potential to create a fundamentally different economic model that circulates vale between businesses, people and the environment, rather than extracts... Continue reading

The post Podcast: Michel Bauwens, How Peer-to-Peer Can Change the World appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Originally posted on thinkdif.co

In this podcast, Michel Bauwens joins some dots together and explains why the open source movement, the growing prevalence of peer-to-peer sharing economy platforms and new technologies like blockchain create the potential to create a fundamentally different economic model that circulates vale between businesses, people and the environment, rather than extracts it. Bauwens believes that we should move to an economy that is built on infinite resources like knowledge, rather than finite materials, and we have the structure and technologies to achieve it.

Ken Webster is a leading author, teacher and thinker when it comes to the circular economy.

Photo by Theen …

The post Podcast: Michel Bauwens, How Peer-to-Peer Can Change the World appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/podcast-michel-bauwens-how-peer-to-peer-can-change-the-world/2018/11/15/feed 0
Valladolid, Spain: Residents regain public control of water https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/valladolid-spain-residents-regain-public-control-of-water/2018/11/15 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/valladolid-spain-residents-regain-public-control-of-water/2018/11/15#respond Thu, 15 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73463 After 20 years of privatized water supplies in Valladolid, Spain, residents led the way to remunicipalizing this key service by successfully taking on the existing private contract holder, and central government too. As a result, a 100% public entity has now very successfully taken on running the utility. For decades, citizens in the Spanish city... Continue reading

The post Valladolid, Spain: Residents regain public control of water appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
After 20 years of privatized water supplies in Valladolid, Spain, residents led the way to remunicipalizing this key service by successfully taking on the existing private contract holder, and central government too. As a result, a 100% public entity has now very successfully taken on running the utility.

For decades, citizens in the Spanish city of Valladolid had endured poorly run and expensive water provision. But in 2015, municipal elections ushered in a new three-party coalition government – and though each of the three had differing platforms, all included the remunicipalization of public water management in their electoral programme. As the contract (held by private company Aguas de Valladolid) was about to expire, water management emerged as a key political topic for the first time in 20 years.

Valladolid Toma La Palabra (VTLP), the municipalist movement running the environment department of the new City Council, held lectures and open debates, and, once the decision to remunicipalize through a public enterprise was reached, the 100% Public Water Management Platform (PWMP) was set up. Its member organizations were ecologists, neighbourhood associations and others.

Despite lobbying by the private sector, and laws restricting local government from ‘indebting’ itself by investing in water infrastructure, a new public company was set up and is now successfully managing the water supply in Valladolid. The management has been democratized through the composition of the board, new investment will start soon, and charges to customers remain frozen. The new public company will apply low tariffs according to income levels, resulting in a higher number of beneficiaries.

Other big Spanish cities such as A Coruña, Santiago de Compostela, Vitoria, Sevilla, Zaragoza, Madrid and Barcelona have requested information about the Valladolid case in order to start their own processes.


“ This reflects a well-focused and politically engaged approach. The initiative saw collective action concentrate on water ownership and access in cooperation with political parties to identify and seize a ‘window of opportunity’ politically.”

– Evaluator David Sogge


Would you like to learn more about this initiative? Please contact us.

Or visit  valladolidtomalapalabra.org/


Transformative Cities’ Atlas of Utopias is being serialized on the P2P Foundation Blog. Go to TransformativeCities.org for updates.

The post Valladolid, Spain: Residents regain public control of water appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/valladolid-spain-residents-regain-public-control-of-water/2018/11/15/feed 0
AgTechTakeback | Neither neoLuddism nor Corporate Ag – Towards a Holistic Agroecology https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/agtechtakeback-neither-neoluddism-nor-corporate-ag-towards-a-holistic-agroecology/2018/11/14 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/agtechtakeback-neither-neoluddism-nor-corporate-ag-towards-a-holistic-agroecology/2018/11/14#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73447 Vassilis Gkisakis: Will hi-tech save agriculture from its otherwise intractable problems?  Certainly technological stakeholders want it to appear so, as digitisation increases both in the fields and in the policy documents and future plans for the sector. Hi-tech solutions are promoted as unavoidable and necessary and are broadly publicised as the ultimate innovative path for the modernization of farming.... Continue reading

The post AgTechTakeback | Neither neoLuddism nor Corporate Ag – Towards a Holistic Agroecology appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Vassilis Gkisakis: Will hi-tech save agriculture from its otherwise intractable problems?  Certainly technological stakeholders want it to appear so, as digitisation increases both in the fields and in the policy documents and future plans for the sector. Hi-tech solutions are promoted as unavoidable and necessary and are broadly publicised as the ultimate innovative path for the modernization of farming. In the quest for increased productivity, reduced costs and, notably, environmental sustainability, agtech is a core part of the answer – frοm the Commission to the companies invested in it.

The trend goes by several attractive names, like “smart” farming, “precision” or digital agriculture. The vision is common though: a ‘technocentric’ approach, including gradual to extreme mechanization of farm management supported by algorithmic, data-driven procedures and sophisticated tools, like cloud computing, specialized software, drones and Internet of Things.

The agri-industry and policy makers are majorly implicated in this new digital era: Giant agri-corporate mergers, like Bayer/Monsanto, develop a very strong parallel agricultural data-science agenda and market policy, buying smaller companies which specialize solely in data management related to soil, irrigation, weather or climate, like Monsanto did with start-up Climate Corp. Another mix of smaller, ambitious, and often opportunistic entrepreneurial players enter as well the agricultural sector with a multitude of promises on digital solutions to important agricultural and environmental issues.

Both EU and global data economy policies back these efforts by facilitating the creation of a market players’ ecosystem, including corporations, researchers, developers and infrastructure providers, in order to ensure that value will be extracted by data and a novel economic sector will rise. Of course, this new business expresses a genuine market-oriented and neoliberal approach, for delivering profits and entrepreneurship opportunities from new topics.

But, before evaluating the effectiveness of such solutions, we must identify the well- documented problems, stemming from the modern food production system. What is taken for granted both by scholars and international institutions like FAO, is that combating the scarcity of resources, the reduction of soil and water pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions and the loss of species and habitat are major issues that have to be managed quickly. It is also undeniable that this kind of global change requires developing much more sustainable agricultural systems, which will depend less on high synthetic inputs and fossil fuels and will be characterised by efficient resource use, low environmental impacts and, last but not least, climate change resiliency, in order to produce sufficient and healthy food.

So, can digital and (bio)technological innovations really meet these goals? Despite the hype, it appears not to be the case. The paradigm derived by such approaches is largely conceived to aim only at a “weak” ecological modernisation of agriculture, as many scientific authors suggest. Their effect is restricted to a partial increase in the efficiency of inputs and resource use and some decrease of production costs, which are however accompanied by the high costs of farm management’s mechanization. Often these tools developed ignore main ecological processes, under whose principles the agricultural ecosystems function. In a better case scenario, these innovations may just lead to partial substitution of inputs with some short-term positive effects on the sustainability and stability of the food system. And that’s it. They fail to address serious concerns on the structural weakness of the modern food system, which generates a major part of the negative impact to environment and society.

Another key issue is the problematic innovation process followed. In the above mentioned approaches, the narrative and practice of innovation is restricted to a framework of economically driven developments promoting technological solutions. The innovation transfer’s mode mainly follows a top–down procedure towards the end users, farmers or agronomists. Under this framework, as innovators are regarded only the scientists and agricultural advisors, who design and promote tools and practices, and companies, that develop and provide the technological solutions. Technological development is mostly out of reach to any but the agTech giants, as highlighted in the debate’s opening article. Suddenly sort-of-solutions become ‘one size-fits-all’ recommendations: farmers then must follow strategies and practices that evolve along with their research outputs and corporate technologies. In other words, these are innovation processes that create vertically developed and hierarchically-based tools, obviously fitting to serve better an industrially-scaled and profit-oriented farming system and the market itself.

Of course, the above criticism does not suggest some kind of agro-Luddism approach condemning advanced technologies, which are here already – like it or not. It has been already recognised that alternative examples of digital or analogue agricultural innovations that support the transition towards truly sustainable food systems can exist and are not inherently incompatible with the framework of an agroecological approach. The examples of open source agricultural technology initiatives, like farmhack in US, collaborative projects for the creation of technology solutions and innovation by farmers, as l’Atelier Paysan in France or international research projects, like Capsella. As many times described, agroecology is an emerging concept which provides a holistic approach for the design of genuinely sustainable food systems. It does not simply seek temporary solutions that will improve partially the environmental performance and productivity of the food systems. It stands mostly for a systemic paradigm of perception change, towards a full harmonization with ecological processes, low external inputs, use of biodiversity and cultivation of agricultural knowledge.

The important thing about agroecological design of the food systems is that they emphasize independent and participatory experimentation and not the reliance on high technology and external suppliers, with a high degree of dependency on additional support services. Therefore, it becomes obvious that hi-tech and any other technological solutions can stand as a complementary element to agroecological innovation processes, and only when the development of innovative tools includes a peer-to-peer planning framework and user involvement within the reach of an economy of the commons, as the above mentioned examples do.

Thus, the main issue is related to the way innovation processes evolve – in whose interests, and with who’s participation, do they emerge? We should realise that innovation lies in the creative process, not only in the generated tool itself. Bearing this in mind, it becomes evident that it is the lack of autonomy that matters – in other words, the absence of the end user’s engagement in the technology’s development. Appropriately used, technology can share power with all actors collectively involved in developing the innovation. And this appropriate use of technology allows us to democratize knowledge.


Vassilis (Vasileios) Gkisakis, Agronomist (MSc, PhD): Vassilis specialises in Sustainable Agriculture and Agrobiodiversity, with a background in Food Science. He worked previously in the organic farming sector, while he has collaborated with several research groups across Europe on organic farming/agroecology, olive production, biodiversity management strategies and food quality.

He is a contracted lecturer of i) Organic Farming and ii) Food Production Systems in the TEI of Crete and visiting lecturer of Agroecology & Sustainable Food Production Systems in the Agricultural University of Plovdiv. He is official reviewer in one scientific journal, Board member of the European Association for Agroecology and moderator of the Agroecological Network of Greece and also the owner of a 20 ha organic olive and grain farm.

The post AgTechTakeback | Neither neoLuddism nor Corporate Ag – Towards a Holistic Agroecology appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/agtechtakeback-neither-neoluddism-nor-corporate-ag-towards-a-holistic-agroecology/2018/11/14/feed 0
The Platform co-op movement gathers in Hong Kong for its global conference https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-platform-co-op-movement-gathers-in-hong-kong-for-its-global-conference/2018/11/14 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-platform-co-op-movement-gathers-in-hong-kong-for-its-global-conference/2018/11/14#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73437 Trebor Scholz, reposted from The News Coop: The Platform Cooperativism Consortium’s annual global conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) – the first time the event has moved away from the New School in New York City. This two-day conference, and the 48-hour hackathon that preceded it, involved more than 250 participants from 18 countries, including 40... Continue reading

The post The Platform co-op movement gathers in Hong Kong for its global conference appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Trebor Scholz, reposted from The News Coop: The Platform Cooperativism Consortium’s annual global conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) – the first time the event has moved away from the New School in New York City. This two-day conference, and the 48-hour hackathon that preceded it, involved more than 250 participants from 18 countries, including 40 co-ops interested in experimenting with platform co-ops.

Co-op leaders, students, researchers, programmers, open source activists, and freelancers from various sectors came to the CUHK campus in the hills above Hong Kong, a short train ride from Shenzhen. During the conference, the Platform Cooperativism Consortium Hong Kong was launched with its own website, as was a new Chinese-language book on platform co-ops entitled 平台點合作.

There were several reasons for bringing the event to Hong Kong this year.

As platform cooperativism expands, we need to develop our thinking and practices also outside of a European and Anglo-American context. Countries like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Taiwan all have vibrant co-op communities and long histories of mutual aid. Platform co-ops can and should learn from these diverse contexts. With 60% of the world’s population living in Asia, and with significant social and political challenges in the years ahead, the co-operative digital economy has the potential to make a significant impact on a number of pressing issues. From how to care for an ageing population, a growing number of refugees, worsening economic inequality, and the growth of the informal economy, platform co-ops and our Platform Coop Development Kit can improve the conditions and rights of workers, and help answer these challenges.

This year’s event used the agrarian metaphor of “sowing the seeds” to explore how platform cooperativism – and its key principles of broad-based platform ownership, democratic governance, open source, and co-design — can take root in Asia.

Participants heard from a range of co-operative entrepreneurs, scholars, activists, and hackers who shared their insights on everything from platforms used by rural co-ops in Taiwan to new developments in peer-to-peer licensing.

Conference conveners Jack QuiTerence Yuen, and Trebor Scholz led panels that forged connections between diverse topics, from the use of blockchain technologies for refugee co-ops to considering new pathways for platform co-ops in Asia.

On the first day of the conference we focused on resources and organisations emerging across south-east Asia. Representing the Japanese Cooperative Alliance, Osamu Nakano documented the growth of the co-op movement in Japan which now counts 65 million members. Nakano emphasized the long term commitment of Japanese worker co-ops to platform cooperativism.

Namya Mahajan, managing director of the Federated Self Employed Women’s Association (Sewa) in India, spoke about how Sewa supports more than 106 co-ops with a membership of more than 300,000. Mahajan outlined the “Sewa Way” and its unique approach to organising informal workers through a hybrid union and co-op model. She also reported how the collaboration with the Platform Co-op Development Kit had started.

Participants learned about the Smangus Aboriginal Community Labor Co-op in Taiwan, which was the subject of a recent Peabody Award-winning documentary, and its unique ability to motivate their young to stay and work for the co-op instead of moving to the city. Presenters also discussed the critical work of the Nangtang farming co-op in mainland China and the Alliance of Taiwan Foodbanks in Taiwan. All three groups participated in a hackathon in the days prior to the conference, prototyping new digital platforms for their organisations. Project ideas were based on Smangus’s need for a new platform to organise their recent surge of eco-tourists and the Taiwanese Foodbank’s need for a better digital platform that could improve the efficiency of receiving and disbursing food donations.

From South Korea, Changbok You showcased Sungmisan, an inspiring urban village in Seoul that offers residents a variety of co-operative living practices to combat inequality and social fragmentation.

Indonesian entrepreneur Henri Kasyfi discussed a new co-operative platform that can facilitate payment by facial recognition technology, specifically helping street merchants and the country’s poorest businesses. Also discussing new hardware possibilities, David Li, who founded the first Maker Lab in China, spoke about the possibilities for tech development in Shenzhen. With the Chinese city’s rapid rise as an industrial center for tech production, many formerly expensive commercial products can now be produced at astonishingly low prices. His lecture sparked a discussion about the potential for a new co-operative phone or co-operative hardware to be distributed by large co-ops. It also raised concerns about the social and ecological costs of such low-cost production.

As part of her spirited presentation, Gigi Lo showcased her project Translate for Her, which supports ethnic minority women living in Hong Kong who cannot read Chinese. Translate for Her allows these women to complete daily tasks like signing a lease for an apartment, or understanding their children’s report cards. The Singing Cicadas group, a small Hong-Kong-based production company of film-makers, writers, and illustrators focused on social justice storytelling, presented their decision to become a co-op.

Renowned sociologist Pun Ngai, co-author of Dying for Apple: Foxconn and Chinese Workers, argued that China’s revolution of 1949 is still unfinished – and that it now must challenge class conflicts within the global capitalist system. The challenge for platform cooperativism in Hong Kong, she argued, is to not become an empty slogan but to turn it into “a social movement embedded in real struggles”.

Trebor Scholz at the conference

Later, as a counterweight to some of these arguments, Melina Morrison, CEO of the Australian Business Council of Cooperatives and Mutuals, spoke about the strong state of the co-op movement and how it continues to grow and employ more workers, both in Australia and around the world.

Michel Bauwens argued that the rise of blockchain technology is being used to create a world where community and trust are absent. Bauwens imagines a post-blockchain world where – somewhere in the force field between public benefit and profits – platform co-ops and protocolary co-ops, as well as other organisational forms, could thrive.

Huang Sun-Quan, director of the Institute of Network Society at the China Academy of Art, discussed the unique coding and design dimensions of platform co-ops, arguing against “digital gentrification” in which only the rich members of communities benefit from technological developments.

The day concluded with a panel exploring platforms that use co-operative thinking for design and implementation. Jack Qiu calls them “amphibious platforms.” Although not formally platform co-ops, by attending the conference these groups can consider ways to integrate platform co-op principles into their work.

Panelists included Hong Kong entrepreneur Albert Liu who is developing a new ride-sharing programme for the city, and Jessamine Pacis from the Foundation for Media Alternatives in the Philippines. Pacis’ work focuses on the rapid growth of in-home cleaning services, which leaves workers rights in a grey area without clear legal protections. Platform co-ops are a workable, clear alternative. Ali Ercan presented his work on Needs Map based in Turkey, which directly connects people willing to make in-kind contributions with neighbours who have matching material or volunteer needs.

And panelist Nashin Mahtani, representing the PetaBencana group in Indonesia, outlined how their platform uses real-time information to deal with floods and urban disasters. With some of the highest concentrations of social media users in the world, Indonesians are constantly tweeting and posting about flooding. PetaBencana transforms this data into actionable information by hijacking it from social media platforms through an open source technology called Cognicity, and posts it to an open and accessible online map to give citizens up-to-date information on flooding.

Day 2 of the conference focused on how platform co-ops are emerging around the world, and how everyday users can democratically own and operate platforms regardless of their location.

Trebor Scholz opened the day by bringing greetings from a group of 45 taxi co-op leaders in Brazil, with whom he had just met. Trebor provided an update and analysis of the movement, explaining that the co-operative digital economy looks different from country to country. Over the past year, co-ops generally have continued to gain some momentum. New platform co-ops are popping up in new industries continuously. Through the Platform Co-op Development Kit, the New School team and developers from the Inclusive Design Research Centre will jump-start burgeoning platform co-ops and create a new online hub, sharing resources and facilitating learning. Learn more about this work here and write to info@platform.coop if you can think of ways in which you want to get involved in your country.

Participants from around the world followed, giving short updates on their projects.

Felix Weth of Fairmondo.de in Germany discussed his experience setting up a co-operatively run online marketplace. It was challenging: he had to learn to emphasise, and even prioritise, a sustainable co-operative business model first, which would enable the social benefits of the co-op model. Sharetribe co-founder and CEO Juho Makkonen called for a diversified digital economy and discussed how his company focuses on convenient platform hosting, so that anyone can start an online labour or market platform in a short period of time.

From France, Edith Darren presented on CoopCycle, an open source platform co-op focused on helping bicycle delivery workers become owners of their own food delivery platforms. Edith and her colleagues had attended the New York City conference in 2017 with just a nascent idea in mind. They proudly presented at this year’s event to show their progress, giving thanks to the numerous connections, insights, and encouragement from the previous conference.

Geddup.com, based in Australia, is a community action platform for trade unions, co-operatives, and schools that is currently converting to a platform co-op. Geddup allows groups to organise events, recruit volunteers, undertake votes, and gather feedback online. Co-founder Rohan Clarke outlined how co-operatives and social organisations can communicate better, maximise responses, and reward progress through the platform. Rohan also shared great notes from his experience at the 2018 conference which you can read here.

Danny Spitzberg from CoLab Co-op shared out results from the co-opathon, and updated participants on two of CoLab’s current projects. The first is helping to develop a cleaning co-operative called Up&Go in New York City, and the second is establishing a temporary staffing service called Core Staffing in Baltimore. Core Staffing is owned and operated by returning citizens, or previously incarcerated individuals.

Stephen Gill presented on CoopExchange, “the world’s first crypto exchange dedicated to buying and selling co-operative tokens”. Check out more videos about this work and follow the launch of their app on Twitter.


Swedish union leader Fredrik Söderqvist shared updates from Unionen, Sweden’s largest union, which organises private sector, white collar professionals into unions. In recent years, Unionen’s work has focused on standardising contracts for digital enterprises, and helping emerging platform co-ops and unions create new labour contracts and standardised regulations. From Smart.coop in Belgium, Lieza Dessein discussed the 20-year history and success of their mutual risk platform co-operative, which focuses on protecting freelancers against wage theft and late payment while also offering social benefits and co-working spaces. Freelancers become employees of SMart.coop and then share resources like accountants and lawyers, but continue to work independently as artists, writers, and digital creatives. Through their online platform, SMart.coop scaled significantly and now serves more than 85,000 members across Europe.

Next, a roundtable discussion focused on how blockchain technology could scale and reshape platform co-ops. Panel chair Jeff Xiong and Trebor Scholz asked the panelists to explore several key questions. These included how, beyond all the hype, blockchain can in fact facilitate better business practices – and what it can do right now. Panelists explored if and how blockchain can scale, and how to overcome problems with ecological sustainability. Tat Lam, for example, reported about his fascinating work assisting refugees with blockchain-supported identities. One of China’s first bloggers, Isaac Mao, discussed the use of blockchain technology for music.

Jack Qiu concluded day 2 by circling back to the theme of “Sowing the Seeds”. Through presentations, conversations, panels and group discussions, participants helped plant new seeds for the co-op movement in Asia and around the world. Though some of this nurturing and growth may be going on underneath the ground, and not readily apparent, the work continues to expand, creating a new network of roots and a new ecosystem. How quickly and intensely this ecosystem will flourish depends on the continued dedication of organisers, researchers, co-operative workers, and on additional support from traditional co-ops and philanthropic VCs stepping up to nurture this work.

Through the conference, practitioners and activists across Asia were able to share ideas, and plot a co-operative future of work. In this way, the event meaningfully showcased the diversity, open-endedness, and exploratory nature of many co-ops emerging in the region. Critical thinking and inspirational imagining of possible futures was balanced with real-world, on-the-ground examples of co-operatives and technologies succeeding right now.

But participants agreed that larger, traditional co-operatives need to do more to help nascent platform co-ops develop. Many debated and discussed how large-scale co-op federations and enterprises can do more to serve the weakest and most vulnerable members of society. Others asked how co-operatives can spread worker ownership and workplace democracy also throughout the supply chains that they rely on. Cognisant of the need to take formal steps to address these issues themselves, Platform Cooperativism Consortium members agreed that platform co-ops should work towards adopting a form of certification such as that by the Fairwork Foundation, to ensure that workers’ rights are protected.

As we look ahead to 2019, the Platform Cooperativism Consortium is excited to mark the ten-year anniversary of digital labor conferences at The New School. Please save the date for our annual conference next year to be held on November 7-9, 2019 at The New School in New York City.


See a photo album of the event here.

New to this work? Click here to learn more about the growing and global platform co-op movement.

The post The Platform co-op movement gathers in Hong Kong for its global conference appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-platform-co-op-movement-gathers-in-hong-kong-for-its-global-conference/2018/11/14/feed 0
The Open Coop Governance Model in Guerrilla Translation: an Overview https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-open-coop-governance-model-in-guerrilla-translation-an-overview/2018/11/13 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-open-coop-governance-model-in-guerrilla-translation-an-overview/2018/11/13#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 10:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73426 Guerrilla Translation (GT) began its life as an activist translation collective of politicised, conscious translators. Our motivation is to create a plurilingual knowledge commons, accessible through GT’s websites (English and Spanish so far). But GT is also a translation/language agency offering a variety of communication services and its governance model ties these two facets together. GT’s model is an extensive... Continue reading

The post The Open Coop Governance Model in Guerrilla Translation: an Overview appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Guerrilla Translation (GT) began its life as an activist translation collective of politicised, conscious translators. Our motivation is to create a plurilingual knowledge commons, accessible through GT’s websites (English and Spanish so far). But GT is also a translation/language agency offering a variety of communication services and its governance model ties these two facets together.

GT’s model is an extensive overhaul of an orphaned open source governance protocol [1], which we have been substantially overhauled to better fit our needs. The adapted model explicitly incorporates the key practices of Open Cooperativism (a method combining the ideas of the Commons and Free Culture with the social tradition of the cooperative movement), Contributive Accounting (a form of accounting where contributions to a shared project are logged to ensure fair distributions of income and livelihoods) and, uniquely in this space, feminist economics and care work as essential elements [2].

After years of discussing the model, we decided to collectively reimagine it by convening a group of experts on decentralised/non-hierarchical organizations, facilitation, peer governance, distributed tech and mutualized finance. We called this process “Guerrilla Translation Reloaded“, which culminated in a new version of the model: The Commons-Oriented Open Cooperative Governance and Economic Model (currently at version 2.0)

The full model can be read in the link above, but this article takes a narrative approach to answer two very simple questions: what is the model’s logic, and how does it work?

The best way to understand it may seem counterintuitive at first. If Guerrilla Translation is a co-op, think of the co-op members as shareholders. Okay, like in an evil corporation, but bear with us. Each member is an owner, holding different types of shares in the collective. These correspond to tracked “pro bono” (commons-oriented voluntary work chosen by the translators) and “livelihood” (paid) work, as well as reproductive or care work. Shares in these three types of work determine how much is paid on a monthly basis. Where does the money to pay shares come from, and how are they paid? From the productive work performed by the worker-owners — in GT’s case, that work is written and simultaneous translation, copyediting, subtitling, and related services. We will explain the “how” below.

In short, the more effort and care put into the collective, the larger the share. This is not a competitive, game-theory influenced scheme; it’s a solidarity based strategy for economic resistance that allows all members to contribute according to their capacity. All members create value; part of this value is processed through a market interface (the agency) and is converted into monetary value, which is then pooled and distributed to benefit all value streams. We call this value sovereignty. And, although the default decision making protocol is virtually identical to a traditional coop’s “one member, one vote” principle, your shares can influence decision making in critical situations, such as blocked proposal.

How is this type of share-holding a contrast to that found in a corporation? Let’s break down the differences. While shareholders in a corporation accrue power through money, in our model, power is treated differently. The descriptions are power-to and power-with, accrued via productive and reproductive work taken for the health of the collective and the Commons. A corporation (or a start-up, or any capitalist business) employs wage labor to produce profit-maximizing commodities though privately owned and managed productive infrastructures. By contrast, in an Open Coop, we work together for social and environmental purposes while also creating commons and building community, locally and/or globally. The model allows us to turn our talents to worthwhile, not dead-end, causes. This is how we are practicing economic resistance.

The Open Coop Governance Model in Guerrilla Translation: How does it work?

We have established that Guerrilla Translators perform two types of productive work: pro-bono and paid (more about reproductive or care work later). If we take written translation as an example, both types are essentially identical. They are performed by the same team, using the same methods, working collectively, and sharing both the work and the eventual rewards. So, what are the differences?

Pro-bono translations are the ones we choose to do ourselves, based on our enthusiasm for the original material and well aligned with our values. This doesn’t make us unpaid volunteers, though. It all boils down to the way we choose to distribute value. To us, a pro-bono or a paid translation has the same value – literally. We assign a (cost) value for all work we do, whether it’s a self-selected pro-bono piece for publication on our blog, or work contracted by a client. Our model of income distribution diverts a portion of every paid/contracted job towards fulfilling the value of the pro-bono work shares accrued by our members. This has several functions. First, it allows all members of the collective to gain an amount of income from their productive work, whether it was pro-bono or paid. Second, collective members are not put into competition among themselves for paid work, nor for the “best” paid work (based on the per-word rate). All work is valued internally at the same rate, regardless of the external prices which are variable.

We have several pricing tiers for our clients. Metaphorically, there’s a pay-it-forward spirit involved here on the client side, but it’s more like pay-it-backward-and-forward internally in the collective. Clients with the greatest financial means who are aligned with our principles and wish to provide support for our knowledge commons are offered the top tier rate – this is still quite competitive, in fact at the lower end of typical translation pricing. There will be a penny or two per word that these clients are directly donating to our pro-bono shares and also towards any contract jobs we accept for clients with minimal or bare-bones budgets (including small co-ops, activist collectives, non-VC startups, and others). This sliding scale helps us nurture relationships and help support collectives and initiatives with the least financial means so it is fair for everyone.

The soft stuff is the hard stuff: the importance of a care work

So far, we have mainly spoken about productive, tangible work: translations, editing, formatting. These tasks are mostly word-based and therefore, easy to quantify and assign credits. But what about everything that leads, directly or indirectly, to paid work? Searching for clients, project management, quality control, relationship and trust building, etc. – all the invisible work that goes into keeping afloat? This is reproductive work, or care work.

In GT. we distinguish between two types of care work: that for the health of the collective, and that for the living beings within.

When talking about caring for the health of the collective, we conceive it as a living entity or system, even a commons. The emergent values of this system are encoded in the governance model and embodied by the collective’s practices and legal-technical structures [3]. To maintain a healthy collective we choose to honour our collective agreements, maintain our communication rhythms, and distribute the care work needed to make the collective thrive. Other ways to care for the health of the collective include coop and business development, seeking and attending to clients, making sure our financials are up to date and everything is paid, maintaining active relationships with authors, publishers, following through on our commitments… everything that you’d consider as “admin” work in a traditional agency or co-op, and on top of that, everything else that’s easily forgotten if you’re not doing it yourself. It’s literally invisible work to those who don’t acknowledge it, and work that many feel unjustifiably obligated to take on.

The difference is that in Guerrilla Translation, these activities aren’t assigned to set roles. Instead, all “caring for the health of the collective” aka care work items are modular, easily visualized, and can be picked up by any collective member. In fact, those members may belong to one or more work circles, which steward certain areas, such as community, sustainability, networking, training, tech, etc.

Additionally, when we speak about care work for the living beings who make the collective, we refer to the individual Guerrilla Translators who mutually build trust and intimacy to care for and support each other. Our cooperative practices should never be solely dependent on technology or protocols, including the governance model. These are only tools to facilitate and strengthen our collaborative culture.

We believe that cooperative cohesion is primarily based on healthy, consent-based heterarchical relationships. To foster these we have committed to certain regular practices, such as mentoring — where we practice and document peer learning in the collective’s tools and practices — and mutual support — where we look after each other and care for our mutual well-being, attuned to everyone’s moods, needs and larger realities beyond the collective.

Every member, whether in training or longstanding, is supported by a specific person who has their back. Every member has someone else’s back. Supported members have a safe space to express themselves to be cared for and heard within the collective. In this relationship, they may also be reminded of their commitments, etc. Conflict resolution is handled through the mutual support system, ensuring the distribution of personal care work. This has been a very basic overview of the model’s structural (credits and shares) and cultural (care work) qualities. If it raises more questions than it answers, or if you’re simply curious, you can read the full model. In the following sections, we will visualize the ways in which the model can work.

What this looks like in practice

Meet “Jill”, a Guerrilla Translator. Today she’s got a little bit of a time and has chosen an article to be translated. Maybe she proposed it, or maybe she picked it up from an existing list of material waiting to be translated. She contacts the author to let her know that GT would like to translate and publish the article, and asks for any required permission if necessary, etc.

This describes a pro-bono translation. Jill will work alongside “María”, a copyeditor, and “Deb”, who’ll take care of the web formatting and social media promotion of the article.

The article is 1000 words long. This wordcount is processed through GT’s internal credits protocol, with this pro-bono translation valued at 0,16 credits per word. Once completed, 160 Love credits will be created. This is how they are split:

  • 80 for the translation (Jill)
  • 40 for the copyediting/proofreading (María)
  • 10 for pre production (Jill, as she chose the article and contacted the author)
  • 20 for formatting (Deb)
  • 10 for post production (Deb, as she will be promoting the translation doing social media, etc) [4]

Let’s imagine that this is the first time that Jill, Maria and Deb have done a pro-bono project for GT. Once the project is accounted for, their respective pro-bono shares will look like this:

  • Jill has accrued 90 Love Credits
  • María has accrued 40 Love Credits
  • Deb has accrued 30 Love Credits

A week passes, and an author or client wants to contract GT to translate an article. This is called livelihood work. The material is chosen by the client (obviously), and the deadline negotiated with the collective. Coincidentally, the text to be translated is also 1000 words long (amazing how our examples are identical!). GT’s agency side uses a sliding scale for prices. This client is a small, open source-oriented NGO, so the price is quoted at 0,12 € per word. The team will be Jill as the translator and María as the editor. Note that unlike the pro-bono translation above, there is no web formatting to be done. Once the translation is completed, the client owes GT 120 €, but this money will not be paid directly to Jill and María as income. This money will be held until the end of the month in a digital trust dedicated to maintaining health of the collective. Meanwhile, once the translation is complete and sent to the client, Jill and Maria will have accrued the following Livelihood Credits:

  • Jill has accrued 80 Livelihood Credits
  • María has accrued 40 Livelihood Credits

For the sake of simplicity, we’ll assume that these are the only pro bono and agency translations undertaken in the history of the collective. Now it’s getting toward the end of the month and the Guerilla Translators are ready to distribute! There are exactly 120 euros in the bank account [5]. This is how they will be distributed:

  • 75% of the funds will fulfill Livelihood credit shares
  • 25% will fulfill Pro-bono credit shares

These percentages have been chosen to balance the time needed for paid work while not forgetting to set aside some time for the vital pro-bono side. Now, we will divest those 120 € within the trust and into two “streams”:

  • The Livelihood Stream receives a total of 90,00 €
  • The Love Stream receives a total of 30,00 €


This is now divided among the member’s shares in the following way:

Livelihood Stream: Jill holds 67% of the “shares” (80 credits of 120 total), while María has 33% (40 credits of a 120 total). So out of 88,80 € allocated for the Livelihood Stream, Jill will receive 60,30 €. María receives 29,70 €.

Love Stream: Jill holds 56% of the shares (90 credits of 160 total). María has 25% (40 out of 160) and Deb has 19% (30 out of 160). So, out of 30 € allocated for the Love Stream, Jill will receive 16,80 €, María 7,50 € and Deb 5,70 €.

Totalled up, this is the money that gets paid to the three active members:

  • Jill receives 77,10 € (her Livelihood and Love work combined)
  • María receives 37,20 € (her Livelihood and Love work combined)
  • Deb receives 5,70 € (Just Love work, as Deb hasn’t performed any livelihood work this month)

This totals 120 €. Magic!

One example among many

This is one situation. During another month, María may have done much more editing work, which takes less time than translation. Deb may have done more care work (more on that later) in both the Love and Livelihood streams. New people may have come in, maybe there’s been a windfall! The model can account for all these and other possibilities while also being dynamic in changing circumstances. It’s a “Team Human” model where the technology is kept flexible, and updates to serve the qualitative experiences of the collective, not just the measurable ones.

The secret life of Livelihood, Love and the ways of measuring credits

As you may have noticed, if 1 love credit equals 1 euro, in the example above we’ve only paid down 30 Love credits (25% of distributed funds) in euros. As 160 Love credits were created with the pro-bono translation, this still leaves 130 which haven’t been paid in money.

The credits that have been converted into money and transferred to individual’s accounts are called Divested credits, ie: they’ve been paid down. The unpaid credits are considered Invested credits: active credits that have yet to be paid. If you think about it, on a month by month basis 75% of Love credits will be “invested” rather than divested/paid. In essence, the coop has an ongoing debt with its own pro-bono/Love stream which will be paid back on a rolling basis. [6]

The same situation is also applicable to Livelihood credits. As 75% of earned credits are divested, 25% will remain invested. Both types of credits (Love and Livelihood) can be divested or invested. Meanwhile, the sum of both are considered Historical credits.

“Why so many? So confusing!” Yeah okay, but complexity allows for dynamism, nuance and catering for the different life circumstances and preferences of Guerrilla Translators. Reality is complex, and we want this to work in many real situations.

For now, it’s important to make clear that the total amount of historical credits you have accrued reflect your investment in the organization. Whether it’s productive or reproductive work, it all gets tracked: this informs our governance.

While in typical daily situations, all Guerrilla Translators have what amounts to “one member one vote” rights, historical credits come into play when making critical decisions such as blocked discussions, large structural changes to the governance model, and legal structure changes. In these rare yet important situations, votes can be weighed against an individual’s historical credits.

Meanwhile, the invested/divested ratio helps clarify which members are prioritized for Livelihood work. Given that livelihood work gets divested at a 75% higher rate than Love work, we want to make sure that everyone has a chance to perform it, and that incoming work is offered to those with a higher invested ration first. Similarly, when measuring care work the invested/divested ratios helps clarify when individuals may be benefitting monetarily in lieu of caring for the collective (and its members). In these cases, the ratio is used to determine whether to divest less and agree to a renewed commitment to care work.

In essence, care work is measured in hours, not credits, but it is only entrusted to members who have already gone through a 9-month “dating” phase before becoming fully committed members. All care work hours are instantly turned into historical credits. The Governance Model also describes two scenarios for care work hours: one in which these are paid from an seed-funding pool and a second when once the Open Coop is stable, it is entirely demonetised, with members committing to a set amount of hours each month and adjusting accordingly when there are any discrepancies. [7]

Why have we chosen this model?

Imagine that María is single mother with two kids to take care of. She wants to do socially useful work, but her material realities don’t allow her that privilege. By working with Guerrilla Translation she a) can perform paid/livelihood work for causes that matter and b) will not “lose” income by doing pro-bono work – ie, translations that would not otherwise get funded, but which should still be translated.

In fact, she could spend most of her time just doing paid/livelihood work, and it would still benefit the pro-bono/love side (and vice versa). The model addresses the possibility of internal competition for “paid work” overshadowing the social/activist mission of the collective. In short, contributing to the Commons also makes your livelihood more resilient. In turn, you make the Commons more resilient by creating new commons and facilitating communications. The same can be said about care work. The more you demonstrate care for the collective, the more resilient and healthy it will be. If any member can’t contribute a similar proportion of care work as the rest, the member will simply have a proportional amount of their credits deducted and will be encouraged to compensate by committing to more care hours.

In summary, the model is designed to find an optimum balance between paid, pro bono and reproductive work, with equity and continued dialogue at the center.

And much, much more

Here we have touched on some of the characteristics of the model. The full version looks at every aspect in detail, including roles and responsibilitiesonboarding and mentoring, the legal/technical backdropcommunity rhythmsgraduated sanctionspayment mechanicsdecision making, and much more.

If you are interested in joining or collaborating with Guerrilla Translation, or are researching or writing about new forms of commons-oriented accounting (and accountability!), you are now much better prepared to grasp the model in its entirety:

Commons-Oriented Open Cooperative Governance Model V 2.0

Meanwhile, for easy reference we are providing below a summary of the model’s main featured and a list of the materials that influenced its creation.

Open Coop Governance Model TLDR

In short: Guerrilla Translators undertake both pro-bono and paid translation/editing work. These types of productive work are accounted for in internal credits (1 credit = 1 Euro), creating shares. Net funds held in GT’s account are then distributed on a monthly basis: 75% of these are used to pay down members’ agency (livelihood) shares. The remaining 25% is used to pay for pro bono (love) shares. Reproductive work is tallied in hours and distributed according to each members ratio of benefits vs. contributions.

Below is the protocol for the model’s main characteristics. These can be applied as a bare-bones formula for other commons-oriented service collectives. Hyperlinks direct to specific sections of the full governance model text or to the Guerrilla Media Collective Wiki.

Suggested Reading

First is a summary article of our GT Reloaded event, documenting the main discussions and takeaways from the encounter, where we picked apart and reimagined the governance model:

  • Punk Elegance: How Guerrilla Translation reimagined itself for Open Cooperativism (article) “The future of the project seems really bright because of the clarity of vision. Doing meaningful social and political work for groups and projects isn’t just an afterthought. The determination to build that into the org structure speaks volumes to the wisdom of the group: that investment of time is powerful, that translators and editors should be able to openly do passion work, following their hearts together, and that collective prioritization teaches everyone involved, and nurtures and hones shared values.” See also the Guerrilla Translation Reloaded Full Workshop Report for a more detailed account.

Following is a list of articles, papers, videos on things that have influenced our governance model and general philosophy. They also explore some of the tensions we have tried to reconcile: between metrics and the immeasurable, system design and lived experience, and productive and reproductive work.

  • Patterns for Decentralised Governance and why Blockchain Doesn’t Decentralise Power… Unless You Design It To (Video and article) “There is a lot of anticipation for how blockchain and other decentralising technologies are going to drastically reshape society, but do they address power? “If you take a step back from the technology, if you look at the challenges we face in wider society, and you look at the history of social change, if you step back and just consider for a minute: “how can we decentralise power?”, then “build a better database” feels like a pretty weak answer. To me, it seems obvious that some of the most urgent power imbalances fall on gender, race, and class lines.”
  • Patterns for Decentralised Organising (e-book) “I’m not so interested in what you’re working on together, I’m just going to focus on how you do it. To my way of thinking, it doesn’t matter if you’re trying to build a better electric vehicle, or develop government policy, or blockade a pipeline; whenever you work with a group of people on a shared objective, there’s some stuff you’re going to deal with, some challenges. How do we decide what we’re working on? who does what? who can join our team? what are our expectations for each other? what happens when someone doesn’t fulfill those expectations? what do we do with disagreement? how do decisions get made?” [8]
  • The Financialization of Life (article). “Do we want everything in life to be a transaction, as the market totalitarians propose? Or do we want to be citizen-commoners, co-creating shared value in freely associating communities? These differences matter, and Salvatore Iaconesi has written a brilliant analysis of the potential dangers of uncritically applying the blockchain to human life.”
  • Re-imagining Value: Insights from the Care Economy, Commons, Cyberspace and Nature (booklet). “What is “value” and how shall we protect it? It’s a simple question for which we don’t have a satisfactory answer. For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. This report explains that how we define value says a lot about what we care about and how we make sense of things — and the political agendas we pursue.”
  • There is an alternative: participatory economics (interview) In this interview, Michael Albert — co-founder of Znet — reflects on the vision of participatory economics, and how it could take us beyond capitalism. “For the Occupy movements, and for other projects and movements which are rousing and continuing all around the world, to all together merge into a massive project that is truly oriented to engender a classless, feminist, inter-communalist, participatory future — I think their membership will have to be in command, not some elite at the helm. And I think those memberships will have to know the broad defining attributes of where they are trying to go, so they use tactics and strategies consistent with getting there.”
  • From Platform to Open Cooperativism (article) “Two cooperative movements are important in this discussion: Platform Cooperativism, and Open Cooperativism. One may be more publicly visible right now, but they have much in common. These movements marry the power of digital networks with the rich history of the cooperative movement. How do these approaches compare? Are they redundant, complementary, mutually exclusive? What exact problems do they solve, and what outcome do they seek? In this article, we explain their origins and characteristics, and see how the actions proposed by these movements can work together, helping us form resilient livelihoods in our networked age.”
  • Why do we need a contribution accounting system? (article) “With the advent of the Internet and the development of new digital technologies, the economy is following a trend of decentralization. The most innovative environments are open source communities and peer production is on the rise. The crowd innovates and produces. But the crowd is organized in loose networks, it is geographically dispersed, and contributions to projects follow a long tail distribution. What are the possible reward mechanisms in this new economy?”
  • Blockchain technology : toward a decentralized governance of digital platforms? (academic paper) “In the same way, blockchain technology has enabled the emergence of new projects and initiatives designed around to the principles of decentralization and disintermediation, providing a new platform for large-scale experimentation in the design of new economic and organisational structures. Yet, to be really transformative, these initiatives need to transcend the current models of protocol-based governance and game-theoretical incentives, which can easily be co-opted by powerful actors, and come up with new governance models combining both on-chain and off-chain governance rules. The former can be used to support new mechanisms of regulation by code, novel incentivization schemes and a new sense of ownership over digital assets, whereas the latter are necessary to promote the vision, and facilitate the interaction of commons-based projects and initiatives with the existing legal and societal framework.”
  • Holo: The evolution of cloud computing (article) “This is an attempt to communicate Holo in simple, clear language (with a bit of playfulness to keep it entertaining)” and A Futurist’s View on Holochain, The Evolution Of Blockchain(video). An easy to understand video walk-through on Holo’s architecture and potential.
  • Blockchain Just Isn’t As Radical As You Want It To Be (article). “Today, Silicon Valley appropriates so many of the ideas of the left —anarchism, mobility, and cooperation— even limited forms of welfare. This can create the sense that technical fixes like the blockchain are part of some broader shift to a post-capitalist society, when this shift has not taken place. Indeed, the blockchain applications that are really gaining traction are those developed by large banks in collaboration with tech startups — applications to build private blockchains for greater asset management or automatic credit clearing between banks, or to allow cultural industries to combat piracy in a distributed network and manage the sale and ownership of digital goods more efficiently.”

Footnotes

  1. Jump up The original Better Means Governance Model can be read here. The changes have been so substantial that it should not be taken as a reflection of our current governance model, but mainly an inspiration.
  2. Jump up From Wikipedia’s entry on Feminist Economics: “While economics traditionally focused on markets and masculine-associated ideas of autonomy, abstraction and logic, feminist economists call for a fuller exploration of economic life, including such “culturally feminine” topics such as family economics, and examining the importance of connections, concreteness, and emotion in explaining economic phenomena”
  3. Jump up These are currently in development. Read our 2018 reboot article or full report for more.
  4. Jump up To see how love credits are subdivided, please read the Credit Value for Love Work section of our model
  5. Jump up For the sake of simplicity we have made the amount in the bank identical to the invoiced amount (120 eu). Of course, in real life, part of the proceeds of livelihood work go toward paying taxes, fixed expenses and a community savings pool. You can read more about that in this section of the model: The Monthly Payment Pipeline
  6. Jump up There are, however, ways to accelerate the payment of Love credits, as detailed in this section of the governance model.
  7. Jump up For a full overview of how care work is tracked and valued read this section of the governance model.
  8. Jump up Guerrilla Translation has agreed to adapt and adopt all the patterns explained in this book. More information about this decision can be found here.

Original art by Mercè Moreno Tarrés.

The post The Open Coop Governance Model in Guerrilla Translation: an Overview appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/the-open-coop-governance-model-in-guerrilla-translation-an-overview/2018/11/13/feed 0
Integral Technology in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Beyond – a concept note for discussion https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/integral-technology-in-blockchain-cryptocurrency-and-beyond-a-concept-note-for-discussion/2018/11/13 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/integral-technology-in-blockchain-cryptocurrency-and-beyond-a-concept-note-for-discussion/2018/11/13#respond Tue, 13 Nov 2018 09:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73412 Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater: The billions of dollars of venture capital pouring into blockchain start-ups over the past year reflect how people with a serious financial interest in technology see significant potential in distributed ledger technology (DLT). Yet the actual use of these technologies for everyday applications is still rare. Some say that it is... Continue reading

The post Integral Technology in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Beyond – a concept note for discussion appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Jem Bendell and Matthew Slater: The billions of dollars of venture capital pouring into blockchain start-ups over the past year reflect how people with a serious financial interest in technology see significant potential in distributed ledger technology (DLT). Yet the actual use of these technologies for everyday applications is still rare. Some say that it is a passing fad. Others say that blockchains and cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are dangerous to our financial system, our security and the environment. How should we navigate this new sector: as innovators, advisors, regulators, or just as informed citizens?

In this concept note, prepared as background for our article for the World Economic Forum, we explain how approaches to blockchain and cryptocurrency need to be grounded in a clear appreciation of the relationship between technology and society. That clarity is important not just for discussions on blockchains and cryptocurrencies, but for all software technology, as it becomes so powerful in our lives. We will therefore develop a lens, called “integral technology,” to assess the positive and negative aspects of any technology and apply this to recent innovation on the field of distributed ledgers.

Deepmind’s AI interpretation of Escher’s famous hands

When we hear people comment on blockchain and cryptographic currency being good or bad, we are often hearing different assumptions about the relationship between technology and society. So first, let us review the various ways that people look at that. The Oxford English dictionary defines technology as “The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes…” That is different to how the word is typically used to refer to the “artefacts” – or things – of technology, such as the arrow head, the mobile handset, blockchain, or nuclear missile. By describing both “application” and “practical purposes” the dictionary suggests that technology is best understood as a system of intentions and outcomes. That system involves people, knowledge, contexts and the transformations that are involved in creating those artefacts. These are what we identify as the five aspects of any technological system, which is what we will mean when we refer to a technology in this concept note. The power of this systems perspective on technology is that it invites us to consider further the wider context of politics, financing, iterative redesign processes, the side effects and finally the values that shape technologies. Which is what we will do now.

Is Technology Something to Love or Fear?

We humans attach a great deal of importance to technology because it seems to be able to meet many of our needs and desires. It brings aspects of our imagination into physical reality in ways that then reshape our lives and what we might imagine next. This utility of technology makes selling it very possible, but also means there is less emphasis given to the costs and consequences of those desires being met in those ways.

Given its centrality in civilisation, a range of perspectives on our relationship to technology have arisen.Some optimists believe any negative consequences are worth the benefit, and that the march of technology is synonymous with the march of human progress. This view is called “technological optimism”. Others believe that technology takes humans further from their natural state, isolating them from the world, and causing numerous new problems which often require further technological solutions. These “technological pessimists” can point to a range of dangerous situations such as nuclear waste, climate change and antibiotic resistance, to then question the hubris that humanity may have exhibited in thinking our technology meant we can exert influence on nature without an eventual response of equivalent impact on ourselves. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger argued that modern technologies have a quality of seeking to dominate nature rather than work with it, in ways that stem from – and contribute to – the illusion that humans are separate agents acting on nature.

Some of these optimists and pessimists don’t think that we humans have much influence on what is happening. Such “technological determinism” is the view that technology can be understood as having a logic of its own and develops as an unfolding of consciousness in ways that we, our entrepreneurs or our politicians, will not, in principle, control. Current debates about the merits or risks of blockchains and cryptocurrencies often echo these perspectives. Some argue it will change, or even save, the world. Others argue that it will collapse the financial basis of our nation states. Still others argue that whatever our view, it IS the future – as if it cannot be stopped.

Counter-posed to these views on technology has been the “technological neutralist” view which suggests that technology is neither inherently good or bad for humanity and therefore needs responsible management to maximise its intended benefits and minimise its unintended drawbacks. That view is the most widespread in the field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) studies. Sociologists have revealed as pure fiction the apolitical view of technology development as flowing from basic science, to applied science, development, and commercialization.  Instead, a variety of relevant stakeholder groups compete to influence a new technology and they determine how it becomes stabilised as an element of society.

Therefore, despite the pervasiveness of “great man” stories in our culture, technological innovation is not the result of heroes introducing new ‘technologies’ and release them into ‘society,’ starting a series of (un)expected impacts. Rather, innovation is a complex process of “co-construction” in which technology and society, to the degree that they could even be conceived separately of one another, negotiate the role of new technological artefacts, alter technology through resistance, and construct social and technological concepts and practices.

We share this perspective on technology. It invites us to see how innovation is a social process that we can choose to engage in to achieve public goals. We are not, however, “technology neutralists”, for a few reasons. First, we do not believe that all technologies have the same level of negative or positive potential prior to their human control. That is because all kinds of different phenomena exist under the one banner “technology”. For instance, while nuclear fission constantly produces poisons which require millennia of custody, smart decision-making algorithms only impact the world insofar as their decisions are acted upon. Second, we do not assume humanity to be the autonomous agent in our relationship with technology. Rather, we are influenced by the technologies that shape the society we are born into. Canadian philosopher of technology, Professor Andrew Feenberg explains this situation as humans and technology existing in an entangled hierarchy. “Neither society nor technology can be understood in isolation from each other because neither has a stable identity or form” he explains.

For us, “technological constructivism” is the perspective that technology and society influence each other in complex ways that cannot be predicted and therefore require constant vigilance by representatives from all stakeholders who are directly and indirectly affected. The implication of this perspective for innovation in blockchain and cryptographic currencies is that the intentions of innovators and financiers are important to know and influence, and that wider stakeholder participation in shaping the direction and governance of the technology is essential. This is the approach that we base our view of developments in software in general and blockchains, in particular.

The Technological State of the World

Humanity faces many dilemmas today. Some of these are brought about by our technology, some are not, and we may hope many can be solved by a sensible use of technology in future. Climate change is the result of our rapid use of technologies to burn fossil fuels and tear up forests. Malnutrition is the result of a wide array of factors, which are difficult to blame on technology, though its persistence despite the “green revolution” would make technological optimism a questionable position today.

One field of technology which may be exceptional with regard to regulation and the lack of it is Artificial Intelligence (AI), which describes the ability of computers to perceive their environment and determine an appropriate course of action. Narrow forms of AI are already in use. They often confer a tremendous advantage to those who use it well, and its use by the victorious Trump campaign, and the victorious Leave campaign (of the Brexit referendum) are raising huge questions about the justice of using people’s own data to manipulate their voting intention. AI systems tend to be very complicated and sometimes produce unexpected results. But because they save labour, for example by automatically judging loan applications or driving vehicles, there is commercial pressure to simply accept the automated decisions to reduce the costs. As AI is applied to more and more areas of trade, finance, military and critical infrastructure, the risks and ethical questions proliferate.

There are more intense concerns being expressed recently about more general forms of AI that include capabilities for software to be self-authoring. That does not mean consciousness, nor mimicking consciousness, but that overtime the software could develop itself beyond our understanding or control. It could ‘escape’ from a laboratory setting, or within specific applications, and disrupt the world through all our internet-connected systems. Astro-physicist Stephen Hawking said “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. Once humans develop artificial intelligence, it will take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” Some even fear that, a rogue AI might only be disabled by killing the whole internet. Combined with the resilience of blockchains, which cannot be switched off at any one place, this possibility is a step closer. This potential existential danger invites a new seriousness about software regulation. But our concern in this concept note is more with the way machines in the service of powerful organisations are already shaping certain aspects of our lives with little accountability and that the field of AI is almost completely unregulated.

Introducing the Concept of Integral Technology

Given these problems, it is self-evident that humanity needs a better approach to technology. How might we frame that approach? Concepts of ethics, responsibility and sustainability have all been widely discussed in relation to technology. Given our systems view of technology, we find Integral Theory to provide a simple prompt for considering its implications for society. It invites us to question internal and external impacts of any system and its embeddedness in wider systems. We are going to propose that humanity needs to develop a more consciously integral approach to the development and implementation of technology. Key to this concept is that technologies need to be more internally and externally coherent. Internal coherence describes how their design does not undermine the intention for their creation. External coherence describes how their design does not undermine the social and political system that they depend upon and which holds technologies and their protagonists to account, as well as the wider environment upon which we all depend. As that social and political system would be undermined by increasing inequality, so the effects of technology on equality are important to its integral character.

To aid future discussion, here we outline six initial characteristics of such integral technologies.

1) Meaningful Purpose: The technology system is the result of people seeking to provide solutions to significant human needs and desires, rather than exploit people for personal gain. A positive example is the development of technologies for cataract operations that can be offered affordably for the poor. A negative example is the development of financial algorithms to front run stock market trading.
2) Stakeholder Accountability: A diversity of stakeholder opinions are solicited and used during technological development and implementation in an effort to avoid unexpected and negative externalities. A positive example is the cryptocurrency Faircoin for which everything is decided through an assembly; a negative example is bitcoin, in which computer mining stakeholders approve or veto new features based on their interests in maintaining power and profit.
3) Intended Safety: A technology does not cause harm when used in the intended ways, and those using it in unintended ways are made aware of known risks. A positive example is the indications and contra-indications on pharmaceutical labels; a negative example is when pesticides are marketed to be used just before the rice or grain harvesting to increase the yield, when that increases likelihood of toxic residues.
4) Optimal Availability: As much of the knowledge about the technology as safely possible is kept in the public domain, in order to reduce power differentials and maximise the benefits of the technology when other uses for the technology are found. A positive example is open source software which allows anyone with the right skills to deploy it for any purpose they choose; a negative example is the ingredients of cigarettes which are not published and make it harder for affected parties to build a case against the manufacturers.
5) Avoiding Externalities: The way in which the artefacts of the technology affect the world around them are considered at an early stage and actively addressed. A positive example is the design of products to use a circular flow of materials from the Earth and back to the Earth. A negative example is how addiction to computer games may be contributing to obesity in the young while the games companies continue to pursue similar goals.
6) Managing Externalities: Subsystems for mitigating known negative externalities are developed at the same time as the technology and launched alongside it. A positive example is the system of regulations that mandate regular physical inspections of aircraft. A negative example is government migrating social service administration to the internet and not ensuring the poorest have the computer access, skills and support they need to use the new system.

Integral Blockchain and Post-Blockchain Technologies

In the past year Bitcoin has been criticised for the huge amounts of energy it consumes to secure the blockchain. At the time of writing, some compare the consumption to that of Switzerland. Such consumption is not a necessary feature of securing blockchains, but the initial design choice of the inventor, with a system called “proof of work” being used to issue new digital tokens. Other systems like Ethereum also use “proof of work” and are similarly reliant on the computer-mining companies for whether this climate-toxic code is replaced. Sadly the “proof of work” systems of these leading technologies remain. Whereas some proponents of these technologies argue that they are not so environmentally bad, due to servers being located in cold places near renewable energy sources where energy is wasted, these are somewhat defensive post-hoc excuses. Clearly the environmental appropriateness of their code was not one of the design parameters in the minds of the designers.

In the case of Ethereum, the speculation in the price of Ether affects the price of Gas which is used to process transactions. That means that as the price balloons, the system loses its attractiveness for supporting activities that are high volume and low cost. It also transfers funds from the many who would use the system to the few who speculate on digital token value or own the computer-miners.

We contend that systems which are not internally coherent will eventually experience a disintegration of their intended or espoused purpose. In addition, systems which are not externally coherent will eventually experience a disintegration in their public support and their environmental basis. The situation with Bitcoin is probably unsolvable, and its carbon footprint may lead to significant regulator intervention in time. Ethereum has a wider set of aims and so despite the continual delays in moving substantially away from Proof of Work, it may still be able to address the barriers to progress presented by the short-term interests of those controlling the mining computers. However, there is no doubt that this form of governance-by-hash-power is currently an impediment to Ethereum becoming a more integral technology.

Given these difficulties, we would like to point out some lesser-known projects, which we regard as showing exemplary integral traits.

Providing the same smart contract functionality as Ethereum, the new Yetta blockchain is intended to be sustainable by design, with the low energy requirements of its codebase being moderated further by automated rewards for those nodes using renewable energy. It will also enable automated philanthropy to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Also dissatisfied with how both proof-of-work and proof-of-stake consensus algorithms reward those who already have the most, Faircoin developed a ‘proof-of-cooperation’ algorithm. More than that, there is an open assembly in which the price of the coin is determined every month. This also is an attempt to stabilise the price of the coin and deter speculators and the erratic price movements which arise from their profiteering. They hold that a medium of exchange is not supposed to be a vent from which value can be extracted from the economy.

One post-blockchain project, Holochain, is currently raising capital in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO). The communications team has made many criticisms of conventional blockchains. For example they have massive data redundancy built in, which causes such a problem for scaling that the original intention of these projects is now being compromised with such innovations as the Lightning networks. Another being that since blockchain tokens are assets without liabilities, they cannot have a stable value and thus constitute a poor medium of exchange. Holo tokens therefore are issued as liabilities, which means they have a purpose and a more stable value as long as the project lives.

“If someone tells you they’re building a “decentralized” system, and it runs a consensus algorithm configured to give the people with wealth or power more wealth and power, you may as well call bullshit and walk away. That is what nobody seems willing to see about blockchain.” – Art Brock

Another project called LocalPay, which we both work on, seeks to build a payment system for existing solidarity economy networks. Its protagonists believe that payments infrastructure is too critical and too political to be put only in the hands of monopolists and rent-seekers. Instead, infrastructure which is held in common, equally available to all, is the basis of a fairer society. They too, understand money as credit, with somebody always underwriting its value.

While none of these technologies is perfect, they are Integral Blockchains and post-Blockchains as they seek to be internally and externally coherent. The internal coherence of a Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) means that the code and business model does not undermine the intention for their creation. External coherence of a DLT means that their code and business model does not undermine the social and political system that they depend upon and which holds the technologies and their protagonists to account, as well as the wider environmental system upon which we all depend. As that social and political system is undermined by increasing inequality, so the effect of a DLT on equality is important to its integral character. The four projects we highlighted all seek to integrate these considerations into their codebase and business model, rather than bolt on social or environmental considerations at a later time.

The Need for

Concerns about technology are growing. Warnings over unregulated nanotechnology and artificial intelligence are now widespread. Warnings about the socially and politically damaging effects of social media are growing. There’s a wider problem with how technology is financed and implemented in a free market system that means technology companies’ first duty is to deliver short term profits to shareholders. This means many technologies are developed in a hurry and much software is rushed to market before it is even finished. Many costs and negative impacts are hard to pin directly on the manufacturers, and thus sometimes nobody is accountable. The history of technology is one where resistance to development from society leads to stabilisation around control and access to technology. Recently we have had massive diffusion of new electronics such as the mobile phone and social media, while the systems for affected stakeholders to hold these technological systems to account do not yet exist in the ways they have done in other sectors.

The law is supposed to provide for unanticipated victims of technology and thus incentivise providers to take precautions. This clearly isn’t working nearly well enough perhaps because of the difficulty and expense of using the law and perhaps because some consequences are very hard to prove to the satisfaction of a jury. You may recall the decades of failing to prosecute tobacco companies because the link between cigarettes and lung cancer could not be proven easily. So if the law were better to favour the victims, then technology companies would do more to research and mitigate the secondary effects.

We will not be surprised if legal action will begin to be taken against platforms like Facebook on behalf of millions of claimants for a range of concerns. That might involve teenagers with clinical depression that has been correlated with social media usage, or relatives of those who then committed suicide. Companies like Facebook may point to their internal systems to address such risks, and whether that is sufficient may be debated in court sometime in the future. Such legal action may bankrupt some firms, or trigger changes. But to achieve a wider shift to more integral technologies there will need to be a shift in philosophy that the law alone will not be able to compel.

It is time for a new era of wisdom in the way we make and deploy our tools. A move from the knowledge of making things to the wisdom of making things – what we call an era of “technosophy”. In the field of digital technologies, this means the urgent development of new forms of deliberative governance, that uses both soft and hard forms of regulation. The forms that this will take need to be developed, but there are many examples from other sectors, where technical standards are agreed internationally and incorporate into national law. That would need to be done in ways that shape not stifle digital innovation, but also enable stakeholders to alert regulators to risk-laden projects, such as those using AI.

One idea might be to introduce a requirement that before software technologies can be deployed by large organisations (over 200 employees OR over 50 million USD turnover, with subsidiaries analysed as part of their parent companies), the software needs to be certified by an independent agency as not presenting a risk to the public. Such certifications could be based on new multi-stakeholder standards that would establish management systems for responsible software development. Any change of the software code that would be deployed by a large firm would need to be notified to the certifier of the underlying software before release, with a self-declared risk assessment, based on guidance provided by the standards organisation. Systems would need to be established for determining whether particular software types and uses pose heightened risks and require more oversight. For this approach to work it would have to be worldwide, so as to avoid firms moving to jurisdictions that avoid these regulations. Therefore, there is a rationale for an international treaty on software safety to be negotiated rapidly with significant resources marshalled to help these regulations to be appropriately implemented globally.

In developing this idea, we know that many protagonists in software innovation may be appalled. There is a strong anti-authoritarian mood amongst many computing enthusiasts. But it is time to realise that some technology optimists are becoming the new authoritarians, by enabling the diffusion of technologies that have wide effects on people worldwide without them having any influence on that process other than one role – if they can be a consumer. The challenge today is not whether there should be more regulation of software development and deployment or not, but how this should be done to reduce the risks and promote the widest human benefit. We offer the concept of Integral Technology as one way of helping that debate (and not as a template for regulation).

Unfortunately, in the hype and the reality around Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLTs) we don’t see many ideas and initiatives thinking beyond the initial value proposition and promised returns to investors. Some technologies like Bitcoin seem to us to have betrayed all the aims of the founder and early adopters, yet claims of internal and external incoherence are met with very questionable objections by their near fanatical adherents. The various projects to promote social or environmental good appear to be marginal to the main thrust of this sector, and many add such concerns on top of existing code and governance structures that are not aligned with the project goals.  On the other hand, incumbent banks and their regulators have often express dismissive or negative views of DLT technologies which suggest they do not understand the problems with existing bank power and practice, or the potential of DLTs. In some countries outright bans on DLTs or cryptocurrencies are not the result of wide stakeholder consultation on questions such as what and for whom systems of value exchange should be for.

Therefore, we believe a technosophical approach to blockchain and cryptographic currencies is currently absent and needs cultivation. It is why we urgently need more international multi-stakeholder processes to deliberate on standards for the future of software technologies in general. In the field of blockchain, one event that may help is the United Nations’ half day high level discussions on blockchain, taking place at the World Investment Forum in October. Whether wider political and environmental conditions will give humanity the time and space to come together to develop and implement an appropriate regulatory environment for the future of software is currently unknown, but it is worth attempting.


We provide a background to blockchain and cryptocurrency innovation in our free online course on Money and Society.

We also offer a Certificate in Sustainable Exchange, which involves a residential course in London (next April).

Our academic research on these topics includes a paper recently published on local currencies for promoting SME financing, a paper on thwarting a monopolisation of the complementary currency field and a paper on our theory of money, published by the United Nations.

Professor Bendell is the Chair of the Organising Committee of the Blockchains for Sustainable Development sessions at the World Investment Forum 2018 at the UN.

We produced this concept note on the IFLAS blog for rapid sharing. To reference this Concept Note:
Bendell, J. and M. Slater (2018) Integral Technology in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Beyond, Institute for Leadership and Sustainability, University of Cumbria.

The image used in this post is a reworking of Escher’s drawing that reflects the entanglement of author and authored. The image was reworked by Google AI project Deepmind, in its “dream” state, to produce the image you see. Deepmind is learning to identify the contents of images. This technology will be used to save lives, sell stuff and to kill with impunity. Reworking Escher’s hands in a rather bizarre fashion reflects our perspective of “technological constructivism” and our belief that the potential of AI to soon achieve (with human action and inaction) autonomous general super intelligence (amongst other dilemma, particularly climate change) means that we need a “technosophical” approach that more wisely assesses and governs technology systems.

Send comments to drjbendell at gmail

Photo by Daniel Kulinski

The post Integral Technology in Blockchain, Cryptocurrency and Beyond – a concept note for discussion appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/integral-technology-in-blockchain-cryptocurrency-and-beyond-a-concept-note-for-discussion/2018/11/13/feed 0
OPEN 2018 – Decision making for participatory democracy https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/open-2018-decision-making-for-participatory-democracy/2018/11/12 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/open-2018-decision-making-for-participatory-democracy/2018/11/12#respond Mon, 12 Nov 2018 11:00:00 +0000 https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=73416 Shu Yang Lin from PDIS.tw; Francesca Pick, Co-Founder Greaterthan & OuiShare Fest; and Richard Bartlett Co-founder of Loomio sharing insights into online decision-making systems; how online voting tools enable stakeholders to have an active say in decisions that affect them… See the shared notes from this session too.

The post OPEN 2018 – Decision making for participatory democracy appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
Shu Yang Lin from PDIS.tw; Francesca Pick, Co-Founder Greaterthan & OuiShare Fest; and Richard Bartlett Co-founder of Loomio sharing insights into online decision-making systems; how online voting tools enable stakeholders to have an active say in decisions that affect them…

See the shared notes from this session too.

The post OPEN 2018 – Decision making for participatory democracy appeared first on P2P Foundation.

]]>
https://blog.p2pfoundation.net/open-2018-decision-making-for-participatory-democracy/2018/11/12/feed 0