New Civilization News - Category: Social System Design    
 Single transferable vote for better working democracy1 comment
25 Dec 2004 @ 07:11, by gaiatech. Social System Design
A group of random volunteers was set up in British Columbia to design a better voting system. (LOts of people are unhappy because there is not a close relationship between the votes tally and the numbers of seats in the legeslature that the partys eventually get. So, effectively, Canada and most of the provinces are governed by the largest single minority rather than a concensus of the majority.
Anyways, after a year or so of diliberation and listening to presentations from the public, the Citizens Assembly chose Single Transferable vote as the new system for BC. (It still has to go to referendum and get 60% approval from the voters).
This is the first time in history that voters actually decided which system would be the most in the VOTERS interests.
Commonly, voting systems were imposed from above by partys to further their own ends.
STV provides for open competition (and co operation) between candidates within and between partys before the judge and jury of voters in MULTISEAT ridings. It is a totally different ball game than the first past the post that most people are used to. It is like chess compared to noughts and crosses. Intelectuallyu stimulating!
Check out the citizens assem/blyu website at [link] for details.
Brian White  More >

 Ignorance, Predators and Evolution12 comments
picture 6 Nov 2004 @ 01:56, by ming. Social System Design
Slate article The unteachable ignorance of the red states, as part of a little series, of, as it says "depressed liberals analyzing what ails them". Excerpt:
The election results reflect the decision of the right wing to cultivate and exploit ignorance in the citizenry. I suppose the good news is that 55 million Americans have evaded the ignorance-inducing machine. But 58 million have not. ....

Here is how ignorance works: First, they put the fear of God into you—if you don't believe in the literal word of the Bible, you will burn in hell. Of course, the literal word of the Bible is tremendously contradictory, and so you must abdicate all critical thinking, and accept a simple but logical system of belief that is dangerous to question. A corollary to this point is that they make sure you understand that Satan resides in the toils and snares of complex thought and so it is best not try it.

Next, they tell you that you are the best of a bad lot (humans, that is) and that as bad as you are, if you stick with them, you are among the chosen. This is flattering and reassuring, and also encourages you to imagine the terrible fates of those you envy and resent. American politicians ALWAYS operate by a similar sort of flattery, and so Americans are never induced to question themselves. That's what happened to Jimmy Carter—he asked Americans to take responsibility for their profligate ways, and promptly lost to Ronald Reagan, who told them once again that they could do anything they wanted. The history of the last four years shows that red state types, above all, do not want to be told what to do—they prefer to be ignorant. As a result, they are virtually unteachable.

Third, and most important, when life grows difficult or fearsome, they (politicians, preachers, pundits) encourage you to cling to your ignorance with even more fervor. But by this time you don't need much encouragement—you've put all your eggs into the ignorance basket, and really, some kind of miraculous fruition (preferably accompanied by the torment of your enemies, and the ignorant always have plenty of enemies) is your only hope. If you are sufficiently ignorant, you won't even know how dangerous your policies are until they have destroyed you, and then you can always blame others.
The thing I wanted to comment on is the changed perspective of realizing that lots of other people really don't work like you, and you can't particularly change it directly.

I would instinctively always expect that I could appeal to reason in other people. I'd expect that if the facts are brought together, and we talk about things, we'd all reasonably come to relatively similar conclusions about what is going on. We might have different preferences, but we ought to be able to form a common picture of what is there and what the factors are.

And the, at first, depressing truth is that there's a large number of people that don't seem to work like that, that certainly don't believe in stuff like that, and that won't respond to it. I.e. for them it is not about getting the facts together. They can't be convinced with facts. It is not about talking it all over as reasonable people. They don't listen to certain things at all. It is not about reaching a consensus, because they don't believe in consensus.

But, see, it is only depressing if you mistakenly assume something different about others than what is there. You only get disappointed if you expected something to happen that then doesn't happen. If I expect to be able to reason with somebody and I can't, it is disappointing. But if I didn't expect it or assume it, there'd be nothing to be disappointed about.

If I kept lions as pets, I might assume and expect certain things from them. Being able to reason with them wouldn't be one of them. Them being sincerely concerned about my well-being would probably not be one of them either. They're wild beasts, but within a certain framework we might enjoy each other's company. But I'd always be on guard and knowing where the tranquilizer gun is. And I'd keep them well-fed and not turn my back on them. But I wouldn't be disappointed if I couldn't talk reasonably about the philosophies of societal structures with them. They probably have no concept of that, and that's no big deal, as long as I don't depend on it.

Likewise if certain groups of people are living within a certain worldview which from my perspective is very limiting and even ignorant concerning the facts of life. Or cruel and inhumane, for that matter. It is only something to be depressed about if I assumed it to be otherwise and only found out late that it wasn't.

If it were very clear that people living in different cities lived by different rules, and the rules were clearly posted by the entrance, one could live with that. If I knew that in City B one could get shot on sight if one was caught chewing gum, I'd refrain from chewing gum if I went there. Or if I couldn't live with that, I'd stay away from there.

The trouble is that the world isn't marked up like that. Well, it is to some degree by countries, but that is too crude. It is hard to see the geography of people's worldviews. So we tend to default to assuming that everybody else is more or less like us.

Which for stereotypical "liberal" people tends to be to assume that people are fundamentally good and decent and that if we just bring out the facts and talk everything over, we could reach a consensus, and everybody's needs could be taken care of. And for stereotypical "conservative" folks, it is to assume that everybody's out only to get the best for themselves, and it is a dangerous world out there where only the strongest and most disciplined people survive, and it is a waste of time to listen to the people who have the wrong ideas. OK, those are U.S. categories. Looks different in other countries.

The differences in worldviews are so pervasive, and so hard for any of the "sides" to perceive, that it becomes very frustrating to try to agree on anything.

But my point is that it is less frustrating once one realizes that the worldviews really are different and that it isn't easily changed. I.e. instead of trying to reason with people who can't be reasoned with, adopting a more simple stance of working around that, above it, below it, rather than against it. Treat lions as lions rather than as people. But put a fence around them.

On a related note, I'm right now on various mailing lists about success, entrepreneurship, wealth-building and similar things, because, well, I need to figure out some more sustainable ways of making a living, and need some inspiration. One of those newsletters sent me a thing yesterday about "Believe That You Deserve To Be Wealthy". Which generally is a good theme, of course. If you want to be succesful and make a lot of money, you'll have to believe it is a good thing. If you love money, you're more likely to have it. But then they give this advice:
No amount of effort on your part will overcome a faulty philosophy. If, deep down, you believe that wealth is a sin or that money is dirty, or wicked then the first step is for you to correct this error or give up all hopes of wealth for you and your family.

What is a 'wrong' philosophy with regard to making money?

Anything which could be described as altruistic, socialist, collectivist, communist or any one of its thousand manifestations no matter what the label, no matter what the disguise, no matter what the smokescreen.

Without exception, every self-made millionaire I have met was a rugged individualist. Most of them despised government, although many were clever enough not to say so in public. And believe me, there were approximately zero socialists amongst them.

A socialist, whatever he calls himself, is someone who believes that brute force should be used to loot from the productive, in order to provide handouts for the unproductive. No matter how you disguise it, or make it look fancy, that's the plain truth of the socialist doctrine.

I believe that it is impossible for you to attempt to get rich if you have some nagging doubt that money is the root of all evil, that Capitalism is bad or that wealth should be divided up amongst the needy. You have surrendered the philosophical high ground if you sign up for any of these positions.
I don't think I'd be wrong in guessing that this guy voted for George Bush, even though he is probably an intelligent and successful person. And, now, I'm not going to swallow that at all, or that that's any prerequisite for being successful or wealthy. First of all, it seems a bit upside down. Last I looked, it was marxism that promoted that wealth should go to the productive people as opposed to the unproductive people. I.e. to the people who do the work. Capitalism, on the other hand, is about being able to multiply money without any need to do actual work, by organizing others to be productive and to give the results to you. Oh, that's not an easy task in itself, and not for dummies. And it is not necessarily a bad thing to be able to organize others to do work. But it certainly isn't based on rewarding the productive people. Maybe rewarding the most inventive people, who can get the most people working for them. And one of the tools is to coerce governments into taking money from productive people and converting them into handouts to your companies. It is a different kind of socialism, the socialism of the elite, and the anti-thesis of a truly free market. Anyway, I've said enough things about that before.

My point here is that there are plenty of people who deeply believe that it is moral and good and right to serve only yourself, and that it would be immoral and wrong to try to do good for all people. You know, the only moral thing to do is to maximize your own profits, and if you actually think you can care about other people doing well too, you're misguided, soft and ineffective, and probably some kind of commie subversive who wants to steal from good people.

Here's another area where I instinctively would tend towards making the mistake of expecting that other people would work roughly like I do. I'd tend to assume that everybody else of course would prefer that everybody was doing well, and that everybody's basic needs were taken care of. That everybody were successful. It both seems logical and feels right to have concern for the whole, for how our whole society and our environment might be organized for the maximum benefit of all.

But again, some people have absolutely no interest in making things work for everybody. On the contrary, that's a ridiculous and immoral idea, running counter to everything they believe in. Listening to everybody's ideas and trying to reach consensus is crazy wishful thinking and a waste of time. The only logical thing to do is to do the very best you can for yourself, whatever it takes, and to keep the losers away from you, who'd just want to steal what you've done.

I find it rather revolting to even try on for size that kind of mindset. Feels a bit like becoming a racist slave owner. Or a gangster. Anyway, I don't plan to. I will choose to believe that people can be successful together and, for that matter, that they can become a lot more successful together than they can in one-on-one combat against each other.

But the point is, again, you can't argue with strongly held views like that, if your basis for arguing is outside the boundaries of that which they believe in. So, you will often be more effective by recognizing that and not try to cozy up to sharks. Sharks eat you if they're hungry and you seem to be tasty. Not because they're mean, it's just what they do. Arguing doesn't make a difference.

What rather might make a difference is to step up a notch, into a meta level, below which those various worldviews live. The more effective change takes place by changing the game itself.

You might fail utterly in trying to persuade a predatory capitalist to be nice to poor people. Or in persuading a fundamentalist christian to freely discuss the nuances and assumptions in different kinds of beliefs. Or in persuading a shark to not eat people.

Sharks haven't changed evolutionarily for several millions of years, because they're very good at what they do already. Efficient killing machines. One human is no match for a great white. But, on the other hand, organized humans can take them out any time they want to.

Some people have fairly predictable, but effective, ways of behaving, which maybe seem repulsive to you. If you meet them alone on their turf, you might well lose. But if you're organized enough and resourceful enough to change the environment they live in, they might suddenly be the weaker species.

A predatory capitalist who has no moral but profit can only survive well in a certain type of environment. Which exists in abundance at this point. But if a sufficient number of people, instead of trying to pursuade him to change, will rather change the rules of the game, he'll have little chance.

And I do happen to believe that different rules are gradually emerging, which eventually, in our collective evolution, will outcompete the individualisticly predatory behaviors mentioned.

But such a different environment or a different game doesn't exist yet, other than as a vision and as pockets here and there, and in certain areas of the internet. It is not what runs the economy or your government. A global collaborative society organizing for the well-being of all is just a dream at this point. It is a jungle out there, and there are cannibals and wild animals who'll eat you for lunch and not think twice about it. So, organize amongst yourselves and around them, but don't argue with them. And don't have a battle of wits with anybody who doesn't have any. You might lose.  More >

 The Winner takes it All16 comments
picture 21 Oct 2004 @ 21:45, by ming. Social System Design
Selfishness is an intriguing thing. I do believe that all humans, and all lifeforms for that matter, have built-in instincts to try to make their situation better. I.e. they instinctively make choices to improve things for themselves and maybe their companions. When there's a choice, of course you pick the better food source or the better territory, and if there's a way available of arranging things to better accomplish what you're doing, of course you take it. And, surprisingly or not, a well-functioning natural order emerges amongst many diverse individuals who go around trying to make things better for themselves, without any of them having to think much about the overall whole, if at all. In the plant and animal world, that drive helps form self-adjusting and evolving ecosystems. In the human world it becomes the basis for free market economics. If many life units continuously make choices of what they prefer, many things get balanced out, good choices get validated, and resources get distributed by supply and demand.

But there's an additional human quality, which at first glance appears to be just the same thing, but which isn't, and which instead tends towards destroying all such self-organizing checks and balances systems. I'm talking about limitless amplified selfishness, disconnected from personal needs. It is when somebody wants it all, without a regard to what they need, and it is when their will can be amplified by economic or economic machines so that potentially vast resources might be applied to carrying them out.

You know, there's the negotiation technique that starts off with the assumption that you will get 100% of whatever is available. And only if the other parties can make a sufficiently good case, or are able to coerce you by force, will you accept less. Sounds just like a little convenient technique at first, but it also represents a certain principle. What you're asking for, and what you will take, unless hindered, is not directly related to what you need. You want it all of course, just because. Because that's what that particular game is about. Or maybe because you'll then be powerful. Or because you're worried about not getting anything at all. Regardless, that is a new and different principle, different from how the rest of nature works.

If a lion is hungry it will go and hunt down a gazelle or something, and kill it and eat it. If it wasn't all that hungry, it might eat just half of it. But no way is it going to go and kill the whole herd just because it is able to. It is hungry, it eats if it can, and then it lies around in the sun until it gets hungry again. Yes, it is very selfish, but only in relation to covering its needs.

It is when it gets abstract that the game starts changing. I want it all. Not just that I want the biggest house or the biggest steak that I can get. No, I want it all, whatever it might be.

Even if the lion happened to be a little crazy, as far as lions go, and it actually went out and killed a bunch of gazelles just because it was bored, the damage would be relatively slight. It would only be able to manage so many. And somebody else would probably get their dinner based on that, so it isn't entirely wasted.

In our society, structured according to more abstract principles, often hierarchically, very different things are possible. One of us can decide we want something, and we can organize a big organization, like a company, which will have as its sole purpose to do just that. Oh, that isn't easy. Takes various kinds of skill and good connections to put it together. But somebody can do it. You can have a 100 thousand people doing what you want done. If you aim for becoming the head of a nation, like as a government leader, you can aim even higher. You could have a million people doing what you want done.

Now, that is very different from the self-adjusting natural balance free market thing. 100 thousand people trying to fill various needs based on their own choices will form all sorts of checks and balances and self-adjusting mechanisms. But 100 thousand people working for one cause, which isn't their own, and who only receive their rewards to the degree that they carry it out, that's very different. We have not much more than one choice, at the top, and the choices of the individuals making up the lower rungs of the hiearchy are primarily involved just in how best to carry out that choice, setting aside their own instincts and needs to a large extent.

That's a bit like the sorcerer's apprentice. You remember Mickey Mouse making the broom go and get water for him. And the broom splinters, and soon there are hundreds of brooms only filled with one purpose: getting water. You can do a lot of damage when your wish gets amplified many times over, without any self-adjusting mechanism, and when it turns out you didn't quite think it through well enough. If you're just operating by your own power, your mistakes are relatively harmless. If your choices are multiplied thousands or millions of times over, your mistakes can be devastatingly destructive.

Now, put these things together. You can decide what you want, based on purely abstract reasoning, and you can decide you want it all, 100%. And you can line up colossal resources in that direction. Vast amounts of materiel. Huge numbers of people. Communication channels that broadcast and magnify your message, your wish. Economic engines that amplify your resources many times over, and makes many more people contribute to them, whether they're aware of it or not.

And when you then get what you're asking for, or most of it, another major departure from nature's order is apparent. You don't really have to share it. It is yours. And if you actually don't need it, you can just leave it around, applying some of the previously mentioned resources on making sure nobody else uses it for anything they need. Take it out of circulation and put a fence around it. It is yours, after all.

And it is not just that somebody cleverly managed to do so. It goes further than that. Another level. People who wanted to do that have actually managed to make it THE system on most of the planet. They've made it the law. You'll be prosecuted, penalized or jailed if you resist in any other way than through the same system they're using. And they've made it THE economic system. The whole economic machinery and the printing and generation of money is designed to make just that happen, and to make alternatives unviable.

What makes it seem less horrific at first glance is that there are many people who try to play that game. A small percentage of the Earth's population, but quite a few nevertheless. And a very small percentage of them seriously succeed. But there are still several of them, so we don't see their wishes quite carried to their final conclusion. Unless in those cases where those guys work together towards unified aims. Then, if you find yourself able to look, you might suddenly realize that a very small number of people own and control most of what's worth owning and controlling on the planet, and they've already long ago set it up so that resistance is futile, and it is both illegal and immoral and unprofitable to object.

It is what sometimes would be called black witchcraft, black magick. It is when somebody selfishly establishes what THEY want, their will, and they have the knowledge and the skill to activate the forces that will make it happen, and they do so, without regard to what is is good, needed, harmonious or sustainable. That's the part that makes it black. White magick would be that you bring forces into motion that makes things better for everybody concerned. The black variety is that one agent puts every available weapon in the arsenal into play to accomplish their will, with no regard as to what everybody else might need or want or like. Everybody else is but a piece in the play, and will only be consulted or informed to the degree that their willful cooperation accomplishes the selfish will faster.

The puzzling thing, and the part that is difficult to overcome, is that this approach quite easily wins over the competition. I.e. a few willful individuals who will stop at nothing to take what they want, and who have the skill to engage multiple levels of amplification and manipulation to get there, will easily outcompete much larger numbers of individuals who just are bumbling around, going around their business, trying to fill their own needs, trying to be nice to the people around them, trying to acquire the best means of survival.

This principle of selfish single-minded anti-social organization has for a while out-competed the alternatives. When it meets societies organized in older ways, it wins. The American Indians didn't have a chance. Made no sense to them that somebody wanted to own the earth and that their solemnly given word meant nothing. Not that they themselves were angels. However fierce warriors they were, they were no match for detached, organized, hierarchical, leveraged selfishness.

The pyramids wouldn't have been built by small cooperative tribes. Stonehenge maybe, but not gigantic structures requiring 10s of thousands of people to work for many years to create burial places for a few people. Could only have happened by anti-social rulers forcing large numbers of people to do things that have nothing to do with their own needs or wishes or choices.

It is an evolutionary development, really. It is a new principle which is more efficient, more able to win and outcompete the old approaches. It operates at a higher order, leveraging energies to greater advantage. It is a directed scheme that outguns lower level self-organization. Doesn't meant it is good and right. Just that it wins against small groups that are based on meeting needs, and that adhere to principles such as honor and the value of good work. They don't have a chance.

But that is also the way forward. The principle can be outcompeted by something better. Not by complaining about the moral faults in the scheme. No, it would be outrun by a system that would be even better at making things happen.

It is not very hard to figure out that widespread sufficiently well-connected and well-organized cooperation could outcompete leveraged corporate ventures. It doesn't yet, but it is obvious that it could. And that it very well might, some time rather soon.

A handful of people making plans and tricking and coercing large numbers of people to follow them, against their own best interests - that might win over small cooperative groups, just by the sheer magnitude and resources involved and the cleverness of the scheme. But it is bureaucratic and inefficient, and the true capabilities of most of the people involved are badly utilized. Enormous amounts of resources are wasted. Compare that with large nubers of people who are well networked, well informed, who are cooperating. Who all are doing the things they want to do, and who're free to act appropriately on the information they have. Potentially much vaster collective intelligence and combined power than the hierarchical corporate entity.

Sofar only potentially, though. Lots of people can see it, and smell it coming. But it isn't there yet. Putting millions of people in potential contact with each other isn't enough. Loads and loads of information isn't enough either. The neural network between them needs to be woven tightly enough. Systems need to be in place that are tuned well enough. There needs to be sufficient bandwidth between these people. There needs to be sufficiently sofisticated tools to show them what is going on, what is needed, what do we know, who's here, who wants to do what.

But once it really happens, the battle will be over quickly. The old dinosaurs will be slow and dumb and nobody will feel like feeding them anymore. Millions of minds thinking together will be so much smarter than a few hundred. Millions of people doing what they see needs to be done will accomplish much more than a few hundred doing what serves themselves. A fast moving, coordinated, pragmatic network will be orders of magnitude more effective than a slow moving ideological hierarchy.

When given the chance, most people will choose the options that do what they think is needed, that fulfill their needs, that improve their environment, as far as they pratically can see it, and that are fulfilling to be part of. Of course. So, if lots of people can SEE more clearly, they can make different choices. And if it is practical and obvious that one can cooperate effectively with as many people as necessary, scaled to any level, and that one can leverage one's own activities with the combined power of all these people, it is a no-brainer. Goodbye to wasting your life supporting anti-socials doing things that nobody really wants. Hello to doing what you're really here for.

The means are still missing. But once enough of them become available, there's no going back.

The imperialistic, corporate, capitalist, industrial approach outcompeted the tribal, territorial, earth-bound approach based on math. It used to be a linear progression. You have twice as much land, you can get twice as much food. Twice as many wives, you can have twice as many children. Do twice as much work and you get twice as much benefit. Twice as many members of the tribe, and you can beat a twice as big enemy.

That got out-competed by an exponential progression of returns. Like compounding interest. You not only get more back than you put out, if you're the guy in the right place, you get more and more back, the more loops you can add to the game. And the more you get, and the more cycles you go through, the more you'll be able to get.

Now, if my math doesn't fail me, a well-functioning cooperative network also adds up to an exponential rate of return. But in a different way, which doesn't depend on repeated cycles over time. The more people participate, the more possible connections and opportunities there are. Not linearly, not quadratically, but the number of participants will be in the exponent. Right away. Capabilities and change to the Nth degree. Without a need for time to make it work.

So, say there's something you see that ought to happen. You could just start working hard on it yourself. Or you could leverage your saved energy by investing it and getting others to work, and tapping the result down the line, after a number of cycles. Or you could right now connect up with the collective resources of everybody else on the planet, and instantly engage in effective cooperative action with anybody else who is willing to make that happen. What do think will be most effective?

Global cooperation of the informed and connected many will win over global exploitation by the informed and connected few of the uninformed and unconnected many, which won over local cooperation by small connected communities, which earlier won over unconnected individuals working alone.

Sometime soon. Because it will get me what I need and want, better. And I will have a choice. Better yet, I will have many choices.  More >

 The Peer to Peer Paradigm7 comments
picture 14 Oct 2004 @ 21:54, by ming. Social System Design
Michel Bauwens wrote an excellent paper:
Peer to Peer - from technology to politics to a new civilization?
A specter is haunting the world: the specter of Peer To Peer. The existing economic system is trying to co-opt it, but it is also a harbinger of a new type of human relationship, and may in the end be incompatible with informational capitalism.
Indeed, it may. And this is important stuff. First, if anybody's still confused about what Peer to Peer is, here's this from Wikipedia:
Generally, a peer-to-peer (or P2P) computer network is any network that does not have fixed clients and servers, but a number of peer nodes that function as both clients and servers to the other nodes on the network. This model of network arrangement is contrasted with the client-server model. Any node is able to initiate or complete any supported transaction. Peer nodes may differ in local configuration, processing speed, network bandwidth, and storage quantity. One of the first uses of the phrase "peer to peer" is in 1984, with the development of the "Advanced Peer to Peer Networking" architecture at IBM.
It is that we can do something between our computers, without needing centralized servers. Sharing music files has been the most successful application of this model. It is widely held by internet enthusiasts as some kind of holy grail ideal of how things should work. Ultimate democracy and freedom from hierarchies. Individuals working together as they please, without needing hierarchical control. It is not just the technical thing as described above. It is also something way beyond internet protocols. It is for example a new way of doing work:
P2P is not just the form of technology itself, but increasingly, it is a "process of production", a way of organising the way that immaterial products are produced (and distributed and "consumed"). The first expression of this was the Free Software movement launched by Richard Stallman. Expressed in the production of software such as GNU and its kernel Linux, tens of thousands of programmers are cooperative producing the most valuable knowledge capital of the day, i.e. software. They are doing this in small groups that are seamlessly coordinated in the greater worldwide project, in true peer groups that have no traditional hierarchy. Eric Raymond's seminal essay/book "The Cathedral and The Bazaar", has explained in detail why such a mode of production is superior to its commercial variants.
And it isn't an entirely new thing. This way of working is what has worked fairly well in science for a long time.
Please also remember that peer to peer is in fact the extension of the methodology of the sciences, which have been based since 300 years on "peer review". Scientific progress is indeed beholden to the fact that scientists are accountable, in terms of the scientific validity of their work, to their peers, and not to their funders or bureaucratic managers. And the early founders of the Free Software movement where scientists from MIT, who exported their methodology from knowledge exchange to the production of software. In fact, MIT has published data showing that since a lot of research has been privatised in the U.S., the pace of innovation has in fact slowed down. Or simply compare the fact of how Netscape evolved when it was using Open Source methods and was supported by the whole internet community, as compared to the almost static evolution of Internet Explorer, now that it is the property of Microsoft.
Peer to Peer production, as in open source software, might potentially do it better than the development of science, which is after all still based heavily on entrenched hierarchies, which don't allow entrance to just anybody. P2P done right might allow the best stuff available to be distributed most widely. And it might simply be a better way of organizing, which naturally will outcompete the older, more inefficient and cumbersome approaches.
One has of course to ask oneself, why is this emergence happening, and I believe that the answer is clear. The complexity of the post-industrial age makes centralised command and control approaches, based on the centralised control, inoperable. Today, intelligence is indeed "everywhere" and the organisation of technology and work has to acknowledge that.

And more and more, we are indeed forced to conclude that peer to peer is indeed a more productive technology and way of organising production than its hierarchical, commodity-based predecessors. This is of course most clear in the music industry, where the fluidity of music distribution via P2P is an order of magnitude greater, and at marginal cost, than the commodity-based physical distribution of CDs.

This situation leads to a interesting and first historical analogy: when capitalist methods of production emerged, the feudal system, the guilds and the craftsmen at first tried to oppose and stop them (up to the physical liquidation of machines by the Luddites in the UK), but they largely failed. It is not difficult to see a comparison with the struggle of the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) against Napster: they may have won legally, but the phenomenon is continuing to spread. In general, we can interpret many of the current conflicts as pitting against each other the old way of production, commodity-based production and its legal infrastructure of copyright, and the new technological and social practices undermining these existing processes. In the short term, the forces of the old try to increase their hold and faced with subverting influences, strengthen the legal and the repressive apparatus. But in the long term the question is: can they hold back these more productive processes?
In a free market, they can't, of course. But it isn't an entirely free market. You can legally force people to use inferior and more expensive solutions. At least to an extent.

P2P also applies to poltical organization and to economics and to news.

Politically speaking, we're talking about that people might rise up and change things, without any centralized hierarchical organization, and without obvious leaders. Which, when it works, seems a better fit than the alternatives. Traditionally, movements towards putting The People in power have been considered leftists, and have usually involved some massive centralized organization which tries to get their hands on government power. And when they do, it again becomes just another hierarchy and not really power to the people. Look at communism, obviously. Now, free people in a network, well organized, but in a flexible non-hierarchical manner - that can be quite a different matter. Something very difficult for the traditional oppressive powers to fight against, because they don't know who to take out.

As to economics, there are local currency systems like LETS, and there's barter systems. And underground economies and black markets. And gift economies. In P2P the idea is that you can just go and do it, and that you can exchange with whoever it is appropriate to exchange with. Whether the government or a bank thinks it is good or not.

As to news, there are blogs. Networked peer to peer information. And there are networks like IndyMedia. Hard-hitting grassroots non-corporate owner information. No spokesmen, no anchors, no owners.

P2P networks work on different rules than what they're replacing. It is no longer that the winner is whoever has the most power, the most money, the best ads, or the biggest police force. These things are replaced with a more free market competition. Reputation suddenly becomes more important. It is now more important that people know about and like what you're doing, and that they find it useful. Actually useful, not just being tricked into buying it.

In an economy of abundance, like the internet's abundance of information, there's competition for the scarce resource of attention. Thus it becomes an attention economy. Or, rather, that's the still somewhat corporate way of looking at it. The real way of getting attention is to put good stuff into the hands of as many people as possible, and letting them know you did it. Not just by, eh, attracting attention, in the advertising sense.

P2P production works on different principles, different motivations. People do stuff because they feel like it, because it needs to be done, because it is cool, because people will like them, or whatever. But they don't do it because anybody forces them too. And they cooperate simply because it makes sense in order to accomplish things we'd like to do. They'll cooperate even if they have no great ideological belief in cooperation as opposed to the alternatives. But cooperation naturally happens.

And now to the exiting stuff. We could say that there's an evolutionary trend towards widespread cooperation, in the P2P fashion. That our next step is a cooperative planetary organism. Evolutionary psychologics John Stewart talks about things like that:
Evolution's Arrow also argues that evolution itself has evolved. Evolution has progressively improved the ability of evolutionary mechanisms to discover the best adaptations. And it has discovered new and better mechanisms. The book looks at the evolution of pre-genetic, genetic, cultural, and supra-individual evolutionary mechanisms. And it shows that the genetic mechanism is not entirely blind and random.

Evolution's Arrow goes on to use an understanding of the direction of evolution and of the mechanisms that drive it to identify the next great steps in the evolution of life on earth - the steps that humanity must take if we are to continue to be successful in evolutionary terms. It shows how we must change our societies to increase their scale and evolvability, and how we must change ourselves psychologically to become self-evolving organisms - organisms that are able to adapt in whatever ways are necessary for future evolutionary success, unfettered by their biological or social past. Two critical steps will be the emergence of a highly evolvable, unified and cooperative planetary organisation that is able to adapt as a coherent whole, and the emergence of evolutionary warriors - individuals who are conscious of the direction of evolution, and who use their evolutionary consciousness to promote and enhance the evolutionary success of humanity.
Yeah, I believe that. I want that. I hope that's what's happening. But there's the question of how to get from here to there. Maybe it will happen by itself, but one can't help wondering what ought to be done to facilitate it.

An immediate obstacle in moving more thoroughly to P2P methods in our society is that their presence to a large degree is paid for out of the side-effects of the old system.
The central problem is that most of the existing peer to peer emergence is based on the surplus created by the present economic system, and that many forms of peer to peer live from the wealth created by this system, being unable to sustain themselves independently. I am personally not convinced yet that peer to peer can sustain itself economically, and so are many of its proponents. Which is the reason why many peer to peer oriented theorists point to the need of a "generalised citizen wage", which would replace all existing transfers (unemployment, etc..) and allow for a generalisation of peer to peer activities, based on the surplus generated by the money economy.
And he goes on to outline various visions for a P2P type of society. Like a GPL Society, based on the principles of the General Public License. I.e. production not based on exchange, but based on making things that are needed, and making them as easily accessible as possible.

It isn't clear how to get there. Maybe the old style centralized hierarchical capitalism will collapse under its own weight. But maybe it won't. There are many possible scenarios where it instead will be able to swallow up the alternatives and be able to control even more aspects of your life.

Anyway, most of this is directly from Bauwens' paper, so read the real thing. Some parts are in French, but you can probably do without them.  More >

 Marxism, Open Source and New Economy8 comments
picture 21 Sep 2004 @ 19:46, by ming. Social System Design
Adina Levin posts Red Penguin about whether or not the open source movement is some kind of contemporary marxist thing. She has read Coase's Penguin, which is a classic paper written by Yochai Benkler, providing an economic explanation of open source software and other peer production endeavors like Wikipedia.

You know, open source software is developed mostly by people who work for free, who give their work away to the general community, and who don't seem to be much interested in profits. Is it some kind of communist conspiracy?
Marxism argues in favor of collective production and against monetary rewards out of political belief that capitalism is inherently exploitative. The way to ensure a just society is collective production where production is organized and rewards are distributed fairly through central planning. But centrally planned collective production proved inefficient and corrupt.

The first puzzle about open source peer production isn't whether or not developers have marxist political beliefs, but why it works, especially since the Marxist collective model failed miserably.

This is what Benkler explains elegantly. Coase's Penguin builds on the theory of Ronald Coase, who explained in the 30s that firms exist when the cost of separate transactions with many independent parties is greater than the price-efficiency of a competitive market. The problem Coase was trying to solve at the time was to explain the persistance and dramatic growth of centrally managed corporations, if a market is an ideal way to allocate economic resources.

Benkler solves today's version of the same problem. If money is the ideal way to incent and co-ordinate production, why are we seeing the persistence and dramatic growth of production methods that don't use money?

Benkler explains that commons-based peer production is more efficient than either firms or markets for information goods, where the costs of communication and distribution are low, and the difficult problem is allocating human creativity. When there are masses of potential contributors, and it's easy to participate in little chunks like an open source plugin or a wikipedia article, the best way match skills and work is a million little decisions by independent contributors.

Mandatory, Marxist-style collective farming doesn't benefit from these resource allocation efficiencies. Workers on collective farms have pre-defined work and can't leave. Collective farms don't gain the benefit of unique, voluntary contributions by thousands of distributed workers.

Another attribute of political marxism is an belief in mandatory equality. Peer production projects often have a meritocratic culture with dramatic inequality, where founding leaders and high-value contributors have greater prestige, influence, and sometimes financial reward. It's not considered inherently unjust that leaders of open source projects like Perl and Python have received grant, foundation, and corporate funding to do their work (although visible leaders of peer projects can also become lightning rods for criticism).

Another marxist value is opposition to a money economy. Cash is seen as a symptom of the alienation of workers from the products that result from their labors.

Clearly, the motivation of many thousands of open source, wikipedia, livejournal, and other peer content producers is non-monetary. But is it anti-monetary?

Benkler deals with the incentive question in the excellent third section of Coases Penguin. Benkler makes an astute distinction between activities where money is commonly thought to be an inverse motivation (sex), and where it is seen as complementary (sports, music). Many people who like basketball would love to be NBA stars. By contrast, most people who like sex would not like to be prostitutes.
So, a few thoughts, related to how we might more pervasively live in a different kind of econmy.

A central question there is why we indeed still do have a system that is dominated by centralized corporations, as opposed to a real free market. As she points out, Benkler, or rather Coase, said that firms exist when the cost of separate transactions with many independent parties is greater than the price-efficiency of centralized ventures. Large corporations are largely counter to a free market. They work quite a bit like communist governments, just with even greater incentives for greed, and the removal of any ideals of providing for the population or having them live in equality. And the corporations do compete with each other, and with whatever people do in a non-corporate way. But the somewhat mysterious puzzle is how come big inefficient bureaucracies actually CAN compete successfully with individuals and small groups in a free market.

Part of the secret, I think, is that capitalist ventures aren't doing what most people sort of intuitively think they're doing. A central tenet in Marxist thinking was that what is really valuable is the work that people do. The actual work that individuals put out is what the economy should be based upon, not the capital it is financed with, or the profits one might extract from it. And somehow most people seem to assume that their work output is valuable, and that's what they're being paid for, and that's what makes the economy work - that people do good work, which creates value. And of course, the economy wouldn't work if there weren't people doing good work, but it is rather far removed from what really makes the wheels turn.

Most corporations work quite a bit like a communist country did. I.e. the actual work people do has rather little to do with anything. A majority of people have figured out how to get through the day, looking like they're doing their job, without really doing much of anything. Despite western propaganda, making it look like everybody were in slave labor camps, the truth about work in for example the old Soviet Union was more in the direction that there wasn't a whole lot to do. Let's say you were a baker. It would be common to show up for work, and then around lunch time you'd run out of materials, no flour to bake with, so you'd stop working. After a long lunch, there'd maybe be something more to do, but most likely you'd go home early. It was the fault of central planning, and since you couldn't do anything about it, you just sort of made it through the day. And there was then plenty of free time to get really educated, or to drink, or whatever. None of it in very good style, but you were at least assured a living, and you probably weren't overworked. Now, a western corporation or a government job isn't all that different. It will produce a higher standard of living, albeit with much less security, and most people have figured out how to look busy all day long, and things are better planned, so one doesn't run out of paperclips in the middle of the day. But it is still the same situation that for at least 90% of the workers, what you're doing doesn't make much difference, and you're just sort of keeping up appearances, even if you're actually working quite hard. Many of you work for corporations that could fire 10,000 people if "the economy is bad", and it still wouldn't make much difference.

Now, let's say we set up a grassroots network of people who were exchanging their work for money. A very flexible and full-featured thing, allowing you to quickly find qualified workers for a job, and to always get the best work for the best price. You would be able to act on opportunities quickly, by selecting out good people, structuring attractive proposals, doing the work, and moving on to a different constellation when it is done. That kind of setup ought to be many times more efficient and competitive than corporations that are slow, bureaucratic and wasteful.

The annoying thing is that it probably isn't. And despite sounding very sensible, it would miss how things really work. Most of us are not just interested in working hard and being rewarded fairly for it. We'd much rather work as little as possible, but have a good time, and be rewarded unusually well for it. We'd rather get paid handsomely without any relation to what we actually do or don't do. And that's the point where the big centralized capitalist corporation wins out over the competition. Sofar the best of all worlds. For the people who're in the loop, at least. Most of the executives, the investors and the workers get away with being paid well, or even amazingly well, without doing much real work, and without having to be measured on their actual performance. I.e. what they do to increase the quality of life in the world.

Most of what we actually need in the world could be produced by a small percentage of us working. And a small percentage of us are indeed doing something very valuable and needed which we're inspired and excited to do. The rest are mostly passing time filling up a slot that probably didn't really need to be filled, if somebody took a bigger view on it. OK, good and useful things get accomplished too, even by people who aren't quite in it, and who're mostly looking forward to the lunch break. But really what is going on is that there are some big economic machines in motion. What makes those machines run is only to a rather small degree the quality of work done, even though some work of sufficient quality has to take place. What makes them run is to a higher degree the creative financing that allows somebody to manufacture the capital for them, without any exchange of real work. And the fact that the whole thing is so opaque that hardly anybody can understand how it really works. And then it works on how well the machine succeeds in guiding or matching the desires and whims and habits of the public.

It is about creating a value chain. Not necessarily real value, but economic value. If you own a patent which forces some people to pay you a billion dollars per year in licensing fees, you can hire 10,000 people, and it doesn't really matter what they do, and you'll still have a lot of money left over, and everybody is happy. Or you set up a manufacturing and marketing machinery that makes everybody eat your baked beans. And again, it doesn't matter much in the small what the employees are doing, as long as an acceptable quality of baked beans come out, and people feel like eating them. Everybody involved gets paid a small piece of the value produced by the big system in place.

A network of good people doing work for money can't easily compete with that, unless they can manage to set up similar kinds of value chains. Just doing work and being paid isn't quite good enough. If I look at the amount of money I need per month, and I consider making that by doing work for people I know who need something I can do, it looks pretty grim, unless I actually can do something very tangible and sought after. The more likely thing I'd do is to find somebody with a big value chain for whom the kind of money I need is very insignificant.

But now, open source, it actually works. Why? Unfortunately, to a large degree because the other things are in place. There are plenty of qualified people around who have a day job that doesn't inspire them, and which doesn't have them do much, but which pays them. So there's plenty of energy left over to do something that is actually valuable, based on one's own free choice. That wouldn't happen if one came home from a 60 hour week of manual labor, all worn out. Wouldn't happen if one had no source of income. Might happen when one is on unemployment, or while one is studying, and one's living and one's studies are paid for.

But the success of open source economics shows us a glimpse of how the world could work. People working for the common good, of their own free will, collectively doing higher quality work than one could buy for money. And somehow still being supported. They leverage this out of a capitalist economy which otherwise is totally antipathetic to such activites, and despite considerable odds against it, they demonstrate new kinds of economic relationships, and the potentially superior qualities of free organization.

But what would it take for such principles to actually replace the old, inefficient, but very powerful institutions?

They would have to not only be superior in terms of getting useful work done, which is by now well covered and documented, if certain conditions are met, but also superior in terms of generating life support value. I.e. they'd have to pay the rent and put food on the table.

One way would be to create ways for more loosely organized groups of people to capitalize their activities, and hook into common value chains. Co-operative business ventures. Maybe doesn't have to be done with dollars that come out of a bank, but maybe it can be done with other kinds of currencies. Obviously, if big value is generated for many people, there ought to be some formula for inverting that into a reward for everybody who were involved. Either way, at the same time the problem has to be solved how large heterogenous groups can communicate well, and coordinate their activities. Maybe the right kind of economic system will implicitly carry the answer to that too.

The open source approach would not be to figure out how to force somebody to pay directly for one's work. Rather, treating it as a universal problem to solve, and once one solves it, one gives the solution to anybody else who wants it.

Much harder to do with the physical world than with software, but maybe it mainly is software or blueprints that is needed. At least a little down the road. I need to have food to eat. So does 6 billion other people. What if somebody came up with ways of helping me fill that need on my own. You know, like the plans for a selfcontained hydroponic system I can have in the basement. Some nano-tech replicator would be better of course. But the point is that somebody can come up with a solution I can install locally, rather than me having to be perpetually hooked into a farming, factory, super-market system. A solution that puts the ball in my court.

Yes, currently we can't compete with big corporations and governments on many points. Because some of what we need and want requires big machinery, and because the collective activities of thousands of people better can be pointed in a particular direction with hierarchies and propaganda. However inefficient and wasteful they might be, they still has an edge over anarchic self-organization when it comes to big central projects.

But the scales tip a bit whenever a technology becomes small and cheap and virtual enough that it can end up under your personal control. Like when you were able to buy a personal computer for the first time, and you could create your own typeset newsletters, and you could program it, and then you could create websites for millions of people to see, easily and cheaply. Soon computer graphics will have gotten far enough that you might author a fairly sophisticated feature movie on your PC. Little by little, the keys are handed to you to do things on your own that you previously were dependent on corporations for. OK, you can't build your house or your car that way, or grow your food. But it is fairly inevitable that eventually you can, based on open source blueprints. Along the way some big corporations are going to try to stop you from actually using what they've sold you, but the cat will be out of the bag. If you sell LPs and I have a tape recorder, the economics of music distribution have already inextricably changed, no matter how many laws you have passed forbidding me to hit record.

A free market is good. For people to participate in a free market, they need to be free to choose, and they need some kind of tools that allow them to have something valuable to give to others. The internet and open source have opened up a bunch of areas, creating new free markets. Now we need better communication tools, to allow larger numbers of people to coordinate their actions. We initially need ways of capitalizing such networks of people. And then we need more technologies virtualized and made free. And eventually the centralized capitalist bureaucracies will go the way of their communist cousins, and crumple under their own weight, because they can't compete with well-organized free people. Will take some work, but it is probably inevitable.  More >

 New title for migrant workers.7 comments
20 Sep 2004 @ 01:39, by othomas. Social System Design
This is an attempt to re-frame the opposition to alien immigrantion.  More >

 Beyond Civilization1 comment
picture 26 Apr 2004 @ 10:03, by ming. Social System Design
This is from a synopsis of "Beyond Civilization" by Daniel Quinn:
One of our most fundamental cultural beliefs is this, that Civilization must continue at any cost and not be abandoned under any circumstance. This notion seems intrinsic to the human mind --self-evident, like The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Implicit in this belief about civilization is another: Civilization is humanity's ULTIMATE invention and can never be surpassed. Both these beliefs exemplify the cultural fallacy, which is the notion that one's beliefs are not merely expressions of one's culture but are intrinsic to the human mind itself. The effect of this fallacy is that it's almost impossible for the people of our culture to entertain the idea that there could be any invention beyond civilization. Civilization is the end, the very last and unsurpassable human social development.

No one is surprised to learn that bees are organized in a way that works for them or that wolves are organized in a way that works for them. Most people understand in a general way that the social organization of any given species evolved in the same way as other features of the species. Unworkable organizations were eliminated in exactly the same way that unworkable physical traits were eliminated--by the process known as natural selection. But there is an odd and unexamined prejudice against the idea that the very same process shaped the social organization of Homo over the three million years of his evolution. The people of our culture don't want to acknowledge that the tribe is for humans exactly what the pod is for whales or the troop is for baboons: the gift of millions of years of natural selection, not perfect--but damned hard to improve upon.

Civilization, in effect, represents an attempt to improve upon tribalism by replacing it with hierarchalism. Every civilization brought forth in the course of human history has been an intrinsically hierarchical affair--in every age and locale, East and West, as well as every civilization that grew up independently of ours in the New World. Because it's intrinsically hierarchical, civilization benefits members at the top very richly but benefits the masses at the bottom very poorly--and this has been so from the beginning. Tribalism, by contrast, is nonhierarchical and benefits all members with notable equality.

It's out of the question for us to "go back" to the tribalism we grew up with. There's no imaginable way to reestablish the ethnic boundaries that made that life work. But there's nothing sacrosanct about ethnic tribalism. Many successful tribal entities have evolved inside our culture that are not ethnic in any sense. A conspicuous example is the circus, a tribal enterprise that has been successful for centuries.

Beyond civilization isn't a geographical space (is not, for example, somewhere you "go and start a commune"). Beyond civilization is an unexplored cultural, social, and economic space. The New Tribal Revolution is our "escape route" to that space.
I haven't read the book. I've read Ishmael, though. And I probably agree with him. We've got to get over that big monolithic hierarchical civilization thing. I'm not sure I would call that "beyond civilization". I've called it a "new civilization", which would a more bottom-up, distributed, self-organizing, free, collective intelligence way of organizing. Which is contrasted to the "old civilization" which is hierarchical and centralized. Somebody is in charge, somebody owns and controls most elements you need to live your life, and collective stupidity is the norm.

I agree as well that a new kind of tribes might be a key. Get together with the people you're in sync with, and work together. There's no need to try to impose your view on everybody else in the world. But there are problems to solve as to how it would work. I don't know if Quinn gives the answers to that. I'm not sure if it will do it just to work for more simplicity in general. The problem might well be too much simplicity in the old civilization, too much simple-minded centralized decision making, and what is needed is more complexity. Complexity in the good sense - a more intelligent and flexible system, distributed but inter-connected in a synergetic and self-adjusting manner.

Here's more, from a review at Amazon:
Futurist Daniel Quinn (Ishmael) dares to imagine a new approach to saving the world that involves deconstructing civilization. Quinn asks the radical yet fundamental questions about humanity such as, Why does civilization grow food, lock it up, and then make people earn money to buy it back? Why not progress "beyond civilization" and abandon the hierarchical lifestyles that cause many of our social problems? He challenges the "old mind" thinking that believes problems should be fixed with social programs. "Old minds think: How do we stop these bad things from happening?" Quinn writes. "New minds think: How do we make things the way we want them to be?"
Indeed, I'm all for that. The old civilization is woven of a material that doesn't really serve most of us. A lot of the structures were created with an eye towards how to control large populations, and milk them for their productive output. Our economic system is a pyramid scheme, and there's not much democracy anywhere - despite what it is made to appear like. It is sometimes possible to very locally create good conditions of democracy, freedom, and healthy economy. Which makes most people think that the system is inherently alright, and stand up to defend it. But there's a hole in the bottom of the barrel. The system is slanted so it is always an unhill battle and synergy is hard to attain. There will be somebody standing on top of the hill to tell you that the weather is nice and everything is fine, and you just need to work harder. But most people are stuck trying to get up the hill, while powering somebody else's water wheel. And it doesn't have to be that way. This planet can quite well support that we all live comfortably, even abundantly, and without destroying it in the process. But, yes, we need to get beyond our old kind of civilization, which isn't really ours anyways, but that of our kings and emperors and bankers who managed to harness our collective irresponsibility to their advantage.  More >

 Individuals working for the world7 comments
picture 8 Dec 2003 @ 14:43, by ming. Social System Design
In 1927 as Buckminster Fuller was standing at the edge of Lake Michigan, intent on committing suicide by throwing himself into the dark, cold water, he instead hesitated and started thinking about what meaning his life could have. For the first time doing some thinking he felt was his own. And he asked himself what one penniless little human could possibly do for humanity that the most powerful governments and corporations couldn't do better.
"Answering myself, I said: "The individual can take initiatives without anyone's permission."

I told myself: "You do not have the right to eliminate yourself, you do not belong to you. You belong to the universe. The significance of you will forever remain obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your significance if you apply yourself to converting all your experience to the highest advantage of others." So I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just me - each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking instead of trying to accommodate everyone else's opinions, credos and theories. I vowed to apply my inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planet earth.

I didn't want to waste a second, so I slept that way that certain animals sleep: lying down as soon as I was tired, sleeping a half hour every six hours. I also decided to hold a moratorium on speech. It was very tough on my wife, but for two years in that Chicago tenement I didn't allow myself to use words. I wanted to force myself back to the point where I could understand what I was thinking.

I decided to forget about earning a living. It seemed to me that humans are honey-money bees, doing the right things for the wrong reasons, just as the bee pollinates the flower.

Released from the idea of earning a living, I was able to address problems in the biggest way. I decided to commit myself to the invention and development of physical artifacts to reform the environment. I decided that a plurality of such artifacts had the potential to evoke humanity's most intelligent, interconsiderate qualities. It became obvious that if I worked always and only for all humanity, I would be optimally effective. I'd be doing what nature wanted me to do, and nature would literally support me."
Now, get that. One individual working for all of humanity. Applying all of your energy and intelligence to making the biggest possible positive difference for the whole world. But doing it completely on your own premises. Not sacrificing yourself to the will of some homogonous group. Not just trying to tweak the best advantage for yourself out of life. No, doing the very best you can, in the way that only you can know how to do - not for yourself, not for any particular group, but for all of us together. There's nothing quite as powerful as that. It is a profound statement, a profound intention. And not just some idealistic do-good kind of thing to say. It is maybe the most sensible thing to do.

Many years later, two years before he died, Bucky wrote a book called "Critical Path" in which he summarized much of what he had learned. This is part of what he wrote in the foreword:
"My reasons for writing this book are fourfold:

(A) Because I am convinced that human knowledge by others of what this book has to say is essential to human survival.

(B) Because of my driving conviction that all of humanity is in peril of extinction if each one of us does not dare, now and henceforth always to tell only the truth, and all the truth, and to do so promptly—right now.

(C) Because I am convinced that humanity’s fitness for continuance in the cosmic scheme no longer depends on the validity of political, religious, economic, or social organizations, which altogether heretofore have been assumed to represent the many.

(D) Because, contrary to (C), I am convinced that human continuance now depends entirely upon:

(1) The intuitive wisdom of each and every individual.
(2) The individual’s comprehensive informedness.
(3) The individual’s integrity of speaking and acting only on the individual’s own within-self-intuited and reasoned initiative.
(4) The individual’s joining action with others, as motivated only by the individually conceived consequences of so doing.
(5) And, the individual’s never-joining action with others, as motivated only by crowd-engendered emotionalism, or by a sense of the crowd’s power to overwhelm, or in fear of holding to the course indicated by one’s own intellectual convictions."
Notice that it is at first not always easy to read what he wrote. After his two years of self-imposed silence he then only wrote and spoke in very precise statements that pack quite some wisdom into each sentence, but which uses many made-up words. However, if you get used to it, you'll appreciate how clearly the man was saying things.

OK, so again he's talking about how we might make the world work optimally for all of us. First of all how we might possibly save humankind from imminent extinction. Not by some political or religious ideology. Not through any organization that claims to be working on such big matters. No, through well-informed individuals, who come to realize what they're here to do, and who go and do it, in accordance with their own integrity and intuition. And such individuals then freely joining their actions with the actions of others.

I went and picked those quotes out because I was thinking about the principles of the open source movement, and about how I better can do something useful in the world. Notice that most people who're developing open source software are following the principles outlined above, even if the individuals doing so might not at all resonate with the lofty aims described. But it ads up to the same thing. If you develop some little software utility just to scratch your own personal itch, but you actually put it out into the world for others to freely use, and it turns out that it is useful for others too - you're doing exactly that. You, as an individual, are guiding your actions by your own intuition and decisions, not taking direction from any authoritative group outside yourself, doing it entirely you own way, and you give your work to the world with few or no strings attached.

If the world just worked a few percent more like that, the tides would turn. If more works were put into the world by people who did exactly what they think is needed, without caring whether it pays or whether power groups might agree or not. If more big and small problems were solved for all of us by smart people doing whatever they damned well felt like. Little by little, the pool of tools and resources supporting humanity is growing. And, one by one, organizations that hold on to power for its own sake, for their own sake, or for the sake of some dried-up idealistic principles - will fall apart and fade away. Just because they don't work as well as a network of free people who serve the world. They never have, but it is not beginning to be clear before now.

Anyway, I will be searching for a better understanding of what it means to be working in that way. Indeed, it doesn't have to be something big and noble and idealistic at all. It can be simply doing little useful things that need to be done, and making them as available as possible,  More >

 Tolerance and relativity, values of the evolution of knowledge2 comments
30 May 2003 @ 16:00, by edif. Social System Design
The value of the evolution of knowledge - the capacity to give a solution by following through our thinking process as many as possible enunciations related to each other.  More >

 Choices and Democracy2 comments
picture 10 Apr 2003 @ 12:07, by ming. Social System Design
What is emergent direct democracy? It is just many people being free to make choices, and the aggregate result of that, and the hope that the result can be fairly coherent.

Democracy is that the people decide things - that they choose what they want. In most countries in the world, that has been reduced to a ritual of every few years letting the people choose among some candidates, and the individuals they elect will then make most of the big important choices for the following years. If that is at all worthy of being called 'democracy', it certainly isn't direct democracy, and there isn't either anything very emergent about it. Yes, if the people really, really, really want things to be different, and they manage to mostly agree on that, they can start a revolution of some kind, elect somebody different from what they're offered, or force the ground rules to be changed. But there's a very high threshold to that, and it is mostly avoided by keeping people dispersed, busy, but moderately content.

Now, what would be all different would be if the democracy really consisted of all of us making choices, all the time. Not one choice per four years, but probably several or many choices per day.  More >

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