Open Reciprocal Production, Resource-based economics and the World Game

Eric Hunting dives into the history of resource-based economics, in an online email to Dante Monson:

“The idea of netention systems, and especially the extension of that into that Global Survival System, seems a very promising and ambitious attempt to reduce to software the principles of Buckminster Fuller’s World Game and Jacque Fresco’s Cybernation.

This notion has emerged a lot in contemporary Singular/Post-Singularity science fiction. The root concept is the elimination of financial paradigms in economic systems in favor of a demand-driven resource-based economics that is rooted in productivity and functional need and desire rather than a simplistic model of cost vrs. price. In the case of The World Game, Fuller was proposing a kind of mutualist gaming model; a game of poker where everybody wins. He developed this originally as an educational platform for global systems management and once proposed a university based on it. His Biosphere geodesic sphere built as the American Pavilion exhibit in Montreal for the ’67 World’s Fair was actually intended to be a World Game arena where the principles of The World Game would be explained and demonstrated in a live televised exposition. But no one in American government could even remotely grasp such an alien concept as resource based economics, and so The World Game was dropped from the expo proposal.

Fresco re-imagined The World Game in the context of a kind of expert system software of massive scale. Fuller -in his 1950-60s context, imagined the role of computers in The World Game as data loggers, gathering a series of digital counters of world statistics. Early in the history of the Web there was an attempt to put The World Game on-line and the start of the project was a set of live digital counters for statistics about the world that were intended to be become ‘widgets’ people could ad to their own web sites. The project self-destructed because, shortly after Fuller’s death, idiots at the Buckminster Fuller Institute sold rights to all software based versions of The World Game to a fledging company seeking to make a touring show of it for schools. Fresco, aware of the early work in artificial intelligence, imagined a more autonomous system where a vast network of data gathering would feed global information to a massive expert system running on a central supercomputer whose adaptive rulebase would crafted by committees of scientists and constantly self-optimized in application on real world info and people’s needs.

Dubbed Cybernation, this system would treat human demand for goods as the ‘currency’ in a resource distribution management that learns to anticipate and balance human and environmental needs and generates a plan for production and resource communication. Eventually it would be capable of managing and manufacturing by itself as production and transportation became increasingly networked and automated. Still, this is a somewhat anachronistic notion based on the 60’s era idea of centralized data processing on massive supercomputers tended to by a systems management priesthood trusted to employ scientific reason to the rulebase. Fresco may be right in considering science more rational than politics but he is too trusting of the intentions of scientists as a community. It’s by no means monolithic and exclusively rational.

Curiously, the concept of Cybernation is the core of Fresco’s vision of a Post-Industrial economy but probably fewer than 10% of the members of The Venus Project or the recent Zeitgeist fandom have any notion of what this is exactly or how it would work or be created.

In recent years a variety of science fiction writers have adopted the notion of cashless future cultures where social networking evolves into a replacement for financial and market systems. The basic idea is that a social credit system develops where one’s situation in the society – basically a dynamic metric of social worth based on accumulating reputation- determines one’s access to goods and resources above a dynamic common baseline defining the common reasonable standard of living. This is intended not to enable access to luxuries but as some sort of prize but rather to justify the access to goods and resources for individual and group projects and activities deemed of some value to the larger society. Like Fresco’s Cybernation, the suggestion here is of total automation and total resource awareness in an increasingly intelligent software platform. But instead of a system hosted on some old fashioned central computer, this takes the form of a network of distributed systems which, through social networks, permeate the fabric of people’s lives as well as the fabric of resource communication and planetary environmental sensing. So the result isn’t so much a single computer program as it is an Internet of Things with a very sophisticated but passive artificial intelligence. A neural network for the civilization.

In my writings on this subject, particularly with P2P and in The Millennial Project 2.0, I talk about the establishment of networks of Open Reciprocal Production originating at a community level, running in parallel to old market systems at first, and merging into a progressively larger and eventually global network. The idea is of the technologies of independent manufacturing enabling and leveraging proclivity-inspired production and productivity on a model akin to publicly accessed web servers and Open Software projects which employ the Internet as a medium of demand-currency communication. This derives from P.M.’s notion of open production within the discrete community context. Because planned communities are hard to pull-off in a world dominated by the existing market hegemonies (tending to be marginalized and hampered in standard of living by being ostracized from urban/suburban areas and pushed to the edge of wilderness -particularly in the US), I’ve taken this to a kind of ‘insurgent virtual community’ where an Internet of Things can be established as a location-independent participatory infrastructure for individual life support that can supplement and whittle-away at market systems.

Instead of an illegal Black Market, an insurgent Anti-Market or Alter-Market. One of the functions of the CIC concept in TMP2 is as a corporate ‘firewall’ between the outside market and the alternative economy within the collective communities of TMP which leverages the power of automated industrial scale exploitation of renewables -solar energy through OTEC and food through polyspecies mariculture- as a means to support its subsistence in its nascent stages of development. Basically, you’re creating -in the TMP context- this massive multinational corporation that looks to the outside world like any other giant corporation producing energy, food, and many other things but, within its communities and among its resident-shareholders, is cultivating an alter-economy as a social convenience.

I find this Netention concept very interesting because this looks like a very deliberate attempt to create the kind of networked passive AI that would be the basis of this neural network of a civilization independent of any established production infrastructure. At some point that must be implemented, but here we’re seeing an attempt at a Semantic Web of Living developing in the social networking context that could become a foundation for a production/resource oriented Internet of Things, which in turn becomes the foundation of an Open Reciprocal Production network. And hence we would get that passive intelligent wholesale management of resources and production linked to the awareness of human beings as individuals. It’s sort of like having a globe-spanning Jeeves -a genius butler- integrated into/distributed throughout the built habitat that would obsolesce the contrivances of economics by its total passive awareness of needs, wants, and sustainable limitations and self-optimizing predictive abilities. It’s a breathtaking possibility.”

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