Socially-centered P2P vs. business-centered P2P

I recently had the opportunity to meet with Ross Dawson, author of the book Living Networks, as well as his charming and very smart wife, while they were passing through Chiang Mai on a holiday. He also recently commented on our conversation.

Ross has a very interesting blog, monitoring P2P developments, but seen from a more business-oriented perspective. His blog is largely written to a potential audience of business managers, who may be thinking of introducing participative processes into their operations.

How does my own vision of a P2P-centered world compare to a vision where P2P is integrated into existing businesses?

In the blog entry on quarternary economics, I indicate that it is my conviction, that P2P is becoming the core organizing principle of our society. This means that at the center, the core of this society, there will be the set of

processes, the ones that are developing now, but will greatly increase in strength in the next decades. Next to the digital commons, we will have to evolve to a steady state economics, where we do no longer take more from the natural world, that its ability to regenerate itself. Such physical commons will probably be managed through trusts, which differ from corporations in that they have to preserve the capital for future generations, who become virtual partners in the management of a trust, as well as taking into account the interests of non-human life forms on which we depend for our survival. Peter Barnes is an excellent author on this topic.

Corporations and the market(s) will continue to exist, but will be in-formed and reformed by the P2P principle, and in line with steady state economics, will have to take into account natural and social externalities in their management. As an example of a P2P-informed market practice, take the emerging fair trade process. In fair trade, the market is not just left to a naked balance of power, but the intermediary negotiates with the producers, so as to know what they needs are in terms of a decent social reproduction of their life; these demands are then compared to what the market can bear. In the end, the consumer pays a little more, the intermediary makes a little less, but the producer makes substantially more. In such an environment we can see that the market evolves to a partnership model, rather than remain a pure exploitation model based on power relations. We will many more of such mixed scenarios in the future, with older models being informed and reformed by P2P.

In this scenario, it is entire likely that the more far-sighted corporations will seek to adapt to the age of participation, seek to profit from the current environment of diffuse innovation, and develop new ‘edge competencies” rather than “core competencies” in how to deal with these new prosumers. A variety of relationships will evolve. On the one pole will be the purely manipulative endeavours, with the corporation trying to use participation for its own benefit, while still staying within the mindset of short-term profit; on the other pole of the spectrum will be bottom-up socially-originated commerce, with companies building an ecology of services around it. And there will be many varieties in between.

This to my mind then is the area that is covered, and thought about by Ross Dawson in his thoughtful blog.

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