“Is P2P for everybody?”

On P2P as it relates to the developmental schemes of Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics, Gravesian psychology

Michel Bauwens:

As I’m enjoying the historic (first ever) seminar dedicated to P2P and its development, a crucial question that is arising is: Is P2P for everybody, or is it Western, male, cogni-centric model functioning as a mechanism of exclusion rather than the much touted participation.

A theoretical strand which has already discussed this in more detail is the school of developmental psychology, which sees humans as passing through various stages of cognitive/emotional/psychological development. We thinking of the work of Ken Wilber (Integral Psychology), Clare Graves, and its systematization in the Spiral Dynamics school of Don Beck and Chris Cowan.

The following entries by Sam Rose and Chris Cowan might be too technical for the uninitiated, but they are important initial contributions:


Sam Rose wrote:

Sam Rose

I know from studying over your work over the past year or so that you are familiar with the work of Clare W. Graves. I have been studying Graves’ work for about 5 years now. I appreciate your multi-layered approach to the concept of cooperation. I see Graves’ work being related to your 4 intersubjective types of inter-relating or cooperating.

I think there is not enough work done yet to know for sure whether the emerging “P2P” paradigm matches up with what Graves observed and labeled “F-S” internal/external systems. It seems to be a close match, though, IMO. Graves talked about how “F-S” valued honesty/trust/transparency. He described F-S as “Sacrifice (self) now in order for all to ‘gain’ now”. This has traditionally seemed irrational to people used to living in a world dominated by E-R-leading-D-Q industrial/market paradigms. That is, until technologies became increasingly accessible to the average person that made it more feasible for people to “sacrifice self now in order for all to gain now” in a truly decentralized F-S way, and made the benefits of doing so more tangible.

Howard Rheingold recently referred me to Steven Weber’s “The Success of
Open Source” and to the idea of a “hybrid between the networked, open, non-hierarchical,
self-elected pool of contributors and the much smaller and more traditionally hierarchical final editorial selection” in open source projects. I think this may relate to many aspects of cooperation, P2P, peer production, open knowledge, open design, knowledge and information commons-based economies, etc. The smaller, traditional hierarchies in
this paradigm only rule what *they* do with the resources they are refining from the commons, and the systems are st up so that what they do cannot destroy the commons, but only add to it. The smaller, traditional hierarchies emerge out of commons-based human ecologies and exist to accelerate refining and applying the evergrowing ocean of
human knowledge commons. But, the “hierarchy” way of human organization does not appear to be able to successfully dominate on a large scale cultures based around commons or “P2P” principles. Rather, the social hierarchy appears to be employed voluntarily on a small scale as a tool to gain sustainable benefit from the commons. Even businesses that seek to gain profit from P2P organization must face and accept the holism of themselves with the whole system of everything they are connected with. They must turn from “push” to “pull” models. And, they must learn to cooperate and collaborate with their customers, and their employees. They have to learn to turn them all into one big interconnected system. That is how Google, Ebay, and Amazon have all succeeded. Douglas Rushkoff talks about this in the beginning of his book “Get Back In The
Box”. He talks about how an emerging paradigm in business is centering around this interconnectedness. Rushkoff uses the example of a holographic plate, and how if you break a holographic plate, each piece still possess the image in it’s entirety that was on the original plate. This is “parts reflecting the whole” seems like an emerging direction for business, for politics, and even for general post-industrial era life.

And Chris Cowan responds:

I’m not quite sure what Sam means by “”FS’ internal/external systems,” though I’d agree that the peer notion of openness, sharing, and community which so often characterize P2P plans ring of the sixth level. Perhaps he’s noting that FS (Green) is internally focused but has a more externalized locus of control. In either case, many of the P2P discussions I’ve seen do seem to be rooted in some FS-like ideas andideals. Since we’ve not seen much of it on a broad scale stateside (more in Scandinavia), then it’s hard to say how viable the approach is, or if it will become so. (We do know that it’s already under attack by ER
entrepreneurial interests which stand to make the ideas of openness and accessibility into profit centers and even regulatory bottlenecks for propaganda. Commons and commoditization share way too many letters.)

As to the gist of his note, I would agree human factors-wise. Successful P2P models require minds at a level where ‘peer’ includes both information systems and emotive relationships among people. That doesn’t necessarily mean a collapse of all into an egalitarian horizontal plane – there are still more knowing and less knowing, more capable and less capable – so a vertical dynamic remains in play. In addition, there’s what we call an oblique dynamic which indicates the relative ability/willingness to change and an openness to new knowledge, not just information. It seems that FS (Green) views are the move-toward state of many of the proponents of P2P as an escape from the dominance of ER (Orange).

I do think it’s possible to have a version of P2P at the fourth level – equals centralized around a universal principle that directs them and which they live to serve – and perhaps a version at the second – equals through kinship as collaborative parts of a whole in a hive-like structure. That’s not what you’re working on, but all of Graves’s deny-self systems (the cool colors) have a peer component within the thinking. It’s the definition of peer that differentiates things, as well as the expansiveness, abstractness, and remoteness of the field in which the peers function.

The presupposition of many P2P discussions at your level seems to be collaborative, open minds with a shared goal of building better systems capable of adaptation and knowledge gain with individual ambitions attenuated while individual rights increase. The pitfall is that open systems nearly guarantee a mix of minds with multiple agendas – a hard fact often unacknowledged. Some motives are overt while others are cloaked. Thus, the motive field is a complicated one, and it is part of the whole when the system is open to all and the distribution of systemsis ‘normal.’ Motive recognition and management is a challenge in the P2P arena quite as much as the knowledge spread.

Our own small adventures with the Wiki world have demonstrated for us how the psychology and motivations of contributors can sway ‘truth’ and their approach to its promotion. If there is a culture of open inquiry and sharing, things have a chance to work. If there are fanatics with agendas – either ideological or financial – or fixated minds stuck on particular ideas, then the outcomes turn into products of endurance, competitiveness, and alliance-building. If you’ve got a couple of folks who believe themselves without peer, it’s a problem. And for those who find such things unpleasant or not worth the effort, truth inevitably suffers. It doesn’t take but a couple of rotten apples to spoil an
egalitarian barrel. There has to be a mechanism for rotating the fruits and monitoring process, as well as content.

Just as we really don’t know how the collective mind in a school of fish works, there’s still a lot of figuring out to do in the P2P information world. Part of that comes with the recognition that CP, DQ, ER, FS, A’N’, and even a couple of B’O’ minds are likely to be in the mix.
Traditional hierarchies don’t have a prayer of managing that sort of complexity; we know that. Unfortunately, social hierarchies break down, as well, and that’s where the ‘peerages’ get in trouble. That’s why FS is not the way to do it unless you can sort the members of thecollective – too much tolerance for fools, fast-talkers, and saboteurs; too much group think without objective testing; too much sensitivity to the social without equal attention to the informational.

For now, given the thinking that prevails, the creation of successful models is the challenge. FS is an essential ingredient and next step for many involved in the search. And it’s no target destination, only a stepping stone. The quick and dirty answer is “Why, we obviously need more Yellow and Turquoise! It’s only the Coral minds which can fathom
the depths of this complexity.” IMO, that’s balderdash. (If theory holds, Yellow is pretty individuated; thus a lousy candidate for reliable involvement in peer situations – drop in, drop out as interest rises and falls.) Instead of seeking out the Yellow Brick Road to
wizardry or the Turquoise pathway to holonic holistic holiness, we need to come up with some better ways of managing the combined field of information and affect – data and human relationships – which recognizes the diversities of thinking and motives while insulating truth from egos and absolutes. I really don’t believe that takes a leap to new Gravesian levels; just some great creativity in dealing with the ones we’ve got in
more effective ways. If there can be more healthy A’N’ and B’O’ thinking liberated and engaged (and this really is an A’ and B’ level problem in the long run), so much the better. And if I’m not mistaken, that’s what you’ve been working on.




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