[P2P-F] [NetworkedLabour] A note on the post-capitalist strategy of the P2P Foundation

Kevin Carson free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com
Thu Jun 30 07:10:40 CEST 2016

The Maurai Federation in Poul Anderson's post-apocalyptic Maurai stories
used extremely fast sailing ships with light composite materials and
computer-designed hydrodynamics.

I think in general there are a lot of industries that are capital-intensive
mainly because of technology choices or design choices that weren't at all

For example a lot of the capital outlays for Detroit rolling iron are
design choices like the molded body panels that require 3-story stamping
presses, and could be avoided by designs with flat panels (like the old
Post Office trucks). And those heavy engine blocks reflect a choice of high
reserve horsepower that's only used in short bursts for acceleration on the
freeway. Change the priorities and you could have a light vehicle like the
Model-T, with an engine block that could be built in small facilities. Or
for that matter, light electrical motors.

And on a more fundamental level, the substitution of jumbo jets for
lighter-than-air airships was a non-inevitable choice that wouldn't have
even been economically feasible if Truman's heavy bomber program hadn't
made it possible to fully utilize the dies with long production runs.

On Tue, Jun 28, 2016 at 12:41 PM, Eric Hunting <erichunting at gmail.com>

> One of the interesting effects of advancing technology is a progressive
> reduction in economies of scale in many industries and systems. Some of the
> bottleneck technologies you note do have some interesting, if still
> speculative, alternatives. Railways, for instance. New proposed systems
> like SkyTran or Hyperloop have significantly lower economies of scale than
> conventional rail--deliberately so because they find themselves challenged
> by political conservatives increasingly resistant to 'big ticket'
> infrastructure investments. There have also been small scale systems
> overlooked in the conventional urban context, like cable car systems or,
> one of my favorites, the 'banana monorail' (
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_mvBDdWJsM ) which has been
> experimentally adapted to passenger use in the developing world context. (
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icXHfnw-gaw ) These have always looked
> like a lot of fun to me, and could have potential space applications as the
> supports for the cableway can be designed to be self-supporting and
> quick-deployable. In Cambodia there was an aid program to encourage rural
> development through the supply of a kind of simple general purpose modular
> motor that could be adapted to many uses. One of the ingenious uses devised
> by locals was a simple rail car that could be used on the long-abandoned
> traditional rail system. Called the 'bamboo train', these have now become
> something of a tourist attraction in themselves. (
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ilJAczgfmHk )
> Satellites have also started to see hints of competition from new kinds of
> lower economy of scale systems, sometimes based on very old technology
> revived with new technology. Satellites have long had a problem of taking
> so long to deploy--because of their Faberge Egg mode of development--that
> they have frequently gone obsolete before they could pay for themselves.
> Sometimes as soon as they have been launched. And so the telecommunications
> industry has long been interested in alternatives that had some capability
> for continuous upgrade. Space stations proved too expensive for that, but
> it has compelled the development of alternatives like stratospheric
> airships and aircraft relying on solar power. I long corresponded with a
> developer of these, Michael Walden in Las Vegas. Though more limited in
> terrestrial footprint, these are so less costly and risky to deploy that
> using them in larger numbers to make up for the difference in coverage is
> practical, while offering benefits of much more transmission power, much
> lower latency, and much more bandwidth thanks to the potentially larger
> payloads and solar power capacity.
> Shipping now finds competition, at least in some niches, from revived
> sailing vessels, such as the Fair Trade Cruisers which now travel to the
> under-served markets of West Africa and South America. (
> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzBKbWL_Mjs ) With the benefit of new
> technology, new kinds of sailing vessels based on technologies like rigid
> solar wingsails, offer potential to make this increasingly viable.
> I think these things represent a long term trend in the Post-Industrial
> era. Industrial demassification is driven by the shrinking economies of
> scale afforded by advancing technology--one of the key factors eroding
> Industrial Age paradigms from within.
> On 6/18/16 2:49 PM, p2p-foundation-request at lists.ourproject.org wrote:
> Subject:
> Re: [P2P-F] [NetworkedLabour] A note on the post-capitalist strategy of
> the P2P Foundation
> From:
> Kevin Carson <free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com>
> <free.market.anticapitalist at gmail.com>
> Date:
> 6/18/16, 2:49 PM
> CC:
> p2p-foundation <p2p-foundation at lists.ourproject.org>
> <p2p-foundation at lists.ourproject.org>,
> "networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org" <networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org>
> <networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org> <networkedlabour at lists.contrast.org>
> The technologies I'm thinking of are the kinds of open-source
> micromanufacturing machine tools, smelting furnaces etc. being developed by
> groups like Open Source Ecology, and tabletop CNC machinery being developed
> by the open hardware community more generally; open-source machinery like
> the tractors, compressed earth block machines, sawmills and so forth also
> being developed by OSE; small-scale intensive food production techniques
> like Permaculture; and so on.
> I don't question that there are still many bottleneck technologies that
> require large scale and capital outlay -- microprocessors probably the most
> significant.
> Railroads are another bottleneck industry.
> I don't think electrical power generation is so much -- generating
> capability can be pretty well dispersed. And if photovoltaic generators
> still require larger, more capital-intensive facilities to produce, other
> kinds of renewable power -- wind, or using solar reflectors as heat source
> for a steam-powered generator -- are producible at the local level. I may
> be wrong --  I'm a layman on computer hardware issues -- but I think the
> hosting capability of server farms can be pretty widely distributed among
> many small facilities over a large area.
> But to my mind the most important thing is that the *preponderance* of
> small-scale means of production for local consumption means a much smaller
> portion of the economy than in the past, and probably a much smaller
> portion in the near future than at present, will be critical bottlenecks
> subject to capitalist control.
> And the fewer the bottlenecks, and the less time-sensitive they are (as a
> result of the increasing availability of expedients like reprogrammable
> micro-chips, recycling old hardware for functions where lower levels of
> processing capacity are sufficient, increasing cradle-to-cradle recycling
> of materials in landfills using local processing facilities like
> mini-mills, and less dependance on long-distance transportation in general
> thanks to economic relocalization), the more slack/insulation local
> economies will have for riding out periods of impasse before they actually
> have to be restocked from the remaining bottlenecks. That means the
> bottlenecks, while still remaining, will provide a lot less leverage.
> Not saying there won't be a final phase of violence at the last stage of
> the transition as the most critical remaining centralized stuff changes
> hands, but it will probably be a lot smaller in scale and with a vastly
> shifted correlation of forces -- a mopping-up operation against
> capitalist-state forces that have already been strategically outmaneuvered.
> --
> Eric Huntingerichunting at gmail.com
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Kevin Carson
Senior Fellow, Karl Hess Scholar in Social Theory
Center for a Stateless Society http://c4ss.org

"You have no authority that we are bound to respect" -- John Perry Barlow
"We are legion. We never forgive. We never forget. Expect us" -- Anonymous

Homebrew Industrial Revolution:  A Low-Overhead Manifesto
Desktop Regulatory State http://desktopregulatorystate.wordpress.com
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