What we take away from Somero 2015 is a model and a map of social, economic, and technological change that forces us to rethink and refine the framework of work. And internally, for the Indianos, it is the beginning of a new time with a new way of understanding what las Indias is.
Last night we said goodbye to the last participants from Somero 2015. Somero is meant to be our end-of-summer party and beginning of a new year, but also a succinct “Somero” catalog of the socio-economic change created by technological development. In both categories, it was a great success: we learned so many things and we met many new friends that it has forced us to stop and re-order the main reference points from which we understand reality.
The pattern of the emerging change
Throughout the presentations, interviews, and talks, we gradually discovered a common pattern in the changes in the production of software, objects and appliances, in energy, and in the coming finance system, but also, to the surprise of more than one person, in areas as apparently distant from each other as local development and the new missions and operational capacities of the FFAA. This is a radical change that also became transparent in the global view of the economy and geo-strategy.
It’s a relatively invisible but unstoppable change that uses the keys of what we have called the Direct Economy.
The heart of the change: less scale, more scope, lower cost
This common pattern is an across-the-board reduction in the scale of productive units and the growing centrality of economies of scope. What are economies of scope? The disproportionate improvement of productivity obtained from two things:
- The capacity obtained through the intensive use of multi-purpose machines and systems–3D printers in prototyping, “recyclable” production chains in manufacturing, systems integrated into logistics–of multiplying the diversity of low-cost supply, marking a tendency towards low-cost customization.
- The capacity for reaching, at a low cost, across greater distances by using networks and identifying concrete identarian networks, to make them customized offers.
The result of the balance between large scales that are suffering more and more inefficiencies and a new productive “SME” community that is producing a greater diversity of things, in smaller runs, and selling them globally by differentiating more kinds of customers, is clear: the whole sector of the new “small and global” produces at a lower cost and is simply more efficient.
So the slogan of the change, in any setting, could well be less scale, more scope.
Distributed isn’t decentralized
The Internet of the giants of scale, the world of finance, and the industrial sector that is still dominant today, are the results of the connection of a series of centralized and centralizing systems. Twitter, Facebook, and Google are such centralized networks that they show the user a single entry page. Volskwagen, Endesa or any other industrial giant are such centralized transnational systems that they can plan not only their margins but updates to their equipment from their providers with their corresponding financial costs. These providers, who live in a true monopsony (a market with a single buyer) have no margin for any other technological innovation than that dictated and funded by the buyer.
But starting at certain scale, decentralized systems not only accumulate more inefficiencies, but turn them into costs that are higher than those of their distributed alternatives. These alternatives are not just more and more competitive in industry and even in the credit market. They are, by definition, more robust and resilient, and with a minimal regulation, as we saw in finance, they have systemic effects that underpin the main path of socio-economic and technological progress in our era: the dissipation of rents.
Additionally, when we joined the logic of distribution to that of free software, the free [of charge] nature of the underlying infrastructure appears easily, and the result is the appearance of resilient and accessible markets, and above all of a social fabric that gives a leading role to the community in the city and in conversation.
The key word is community
And as Juan had already told us on the second day and again remarked in the send-off, the new world doesn’t relate in impersonal ways, talking about “here’s what you should do,” but about many different versions of “here’s what we’re doing,” from many real communities, each one with their own values and ways of being themselves.
Somero 2015 was, above all, a community event. From the first days, we saw the birth of a powerful, imaginative and cohesive development community: that of GNU social. Working in parallel with the seminar of the “Sharing Cities Network,” in less than three days, it made a true show of force by developing the basics of the free and distributed toolbox of the “sharing city.”
But that wasn’t the only community that took shape in those days. The participation of many of our friends of la Matriz, who had jointly rented and organized accommodations and transportation to participate, gave shape to turning An?ovoligo into “las Indias Club.” Their participation in conversations and in software development, their contributions to the development of the event, and their interaction with the speakers were fundamental to everything turning out as marvellously as it did. In the end, as we wanted, we are something closer to a country than a landscape. Now the “Indianos” are not just the members of the cooperatives, but the network of friends of las Indias Club, our “happy few,” our “we,” united by values and ideas, but above all by experiences, feelings, and affections.
Towards Somero 2016
This morning, while the apartment rented by la Matriz was emptying out and its Indianos were leaving for train stations and airports, the other one, that of the cooperators, was ringing with accounts, bills, and telephone calls. Among them were the first preparatory calls for Somero 2016.
We feel that we entered, reinforced and excited, into a new year, our fourteenth year, and into a new stage. This is a stage in which las Indias is no longer only a community with cooperatives but also a Club to think and do together. During the upcoming weeks, we will build its new webpage and we will publicize the first contents published and produced in and as a result of Somero 2015.
Somero 2015 was exciting–it gave us all momentum, filled us with ideas, and let us glimpse a powerful general framework from which many valuable things can be made. None of it would have been possible without all those who came and gave the best of themselves. Endless thanks to everyone!