[P2P-F] do check out the hi:project and the Digital Life Collective

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Tue Apr 25 10:19:44 CEST 2017

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Michael Linton <michael.linton at gmail.com>
Date: Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:31 AM
Subject: Fwd: the hi:project and the Digital Life Collective
To: Michael Linton <mwl at lets.net>

This is a profound pleasure, perhaps the end of a beginning, maybe the
begnning of something entirely different.

I came across Philip Sheldrake and his work only a few months ago, almost
by chance, and have been delighting since then in the people he's been
drawing into this project, the excellence of their process and the products
in prospect.

The core message here, in case you are really short of time -

*Technology of, by and for the people. Our tech, not their tech. Find out
more now at www.diglife.com

But I really recommend you find the time to read this message too.  And
even more I hope you will act on it.

Thank you very much indeed Philip (et alia) - a great start to a great

cheers, m

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---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: The hi:project <hi at hi-project.org>
Date: Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 1:44 PM
Subject: the hi:project and the Digital Life Collective
To: Michael Linton <michael.linton at gmail.com>

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the hi:project and the Digital Life Collective

Hello hi:project newsletter subscribers. All 255 of you. I’ll get to the

The hi:project team is collaborating with others interested in trustworthy
and empowering technologies. We’re working to launch the Digital Life
Collective and we'd love you to be part of it.

Now for anyone interested in the trials and tribulations of an ambitious,
open-source, nonprofit vision such as the hi:project, I provide a fuller
debrief below. For those who prefer their updates bitesize, everything you
need is contained in the next six paragraphs.


You’ll recall the hi:project has some mighty challenges in its sights. We
will help: solve personal data & privacy; secure a citizen-centric Internet
of Things; transform accessibility & digital inclusion.

Just as for many free open source software projects, no-one profits *with*
the hi:project but rather everyone *because* of it. And therein lies both
the broad opportunity and the deep problem. If everyone secures the return
on investment, if the profit cannot be privatised, who exactly is going to
make the investment?

In other words, markets aren’t designed to address such particular
potential, but that hasn’t stopped us appealing to commercial players –
more on how that works below. Moreover, it doesn’t seem foundations can
fund and foster such fundamental architecture. And our brush with academic
funding was a brush off. In all, we’ve been working across four fronts,
failing at these three, and seeing if we can succeed at the fourth.

At first the fourth appears counter-intuitive ... if the hi:project seemed
too big, fifty of us have banded together so far to go bigger. The Digital
Life Collective is a co-operative dedicated to “tech we trust for the world
we want”, and today is the day we go all official. Today we put the
incorporation paperwork in the post and invite you to become a co-founding
member so that together we can give the market a miss for the moment, pause
the powwow with foundations, give up grinding the grant applications … and
start simply co-operating.

Technology of, by and for the people. *Our tech, not their tech*. Find out
more now at www.diglife.com

As for engineering the hi:project …  well we’ll be making our case to the
Collective in due time.



>From the moment we started talking about the hi:project, we contrasted the
user interface (UI) and the human interface (HI), the former describing the
status quo in which you, the mere *user*, are actually the *used*, where
you are in fact the product being sold, the civilian being controlled
By adopting HI as our terminology, we communicate the intent to reinstate
your sovereignty, your dignity, your humanity.

In the ensuing four years we’ve witnessed a new type of UI emerge that
feels sufficiently transformed as to warrant its own acronym. Some call
them conversational interfaces, or intelligent personal assistants, or
chatbots, which sounds ever so friendly. I prefer to name them after their
primary function however … the surveillance interface
(SI). Google Assistant. Amazon Alexa. Apple Siri. Microsoft Cortana. And
Facebook appears intent on developing similar capabilities. The only thing
more alarming than SI’s intrusive, opaque, and society-altering
capabilities is the way in which tech pundits have ladled out the
accolades, pundits whose worldview appears as limited as a magpie’s regard
for shiny things.

Very very few companies are positioned to offer SI because it requires a
huge amount of context (the surveillance ideally pre-dates the SI),
enormous computing power, and therefore an existing dominant position in
the consumer electronics and web services marketplace. Consequently, our
global digital infrastructure is further centralized – saying that half a
dozen companies are left in the race is likely an overestimate.

And yet it’s tricky to convey the criticality of decentralization. In the
here and now it seems irrelevant compared to the facility to utter “Alexa,
play Sheeran’s Shape of You”. We were invited to write an article on the
topic by the World Wide Web Foundation, and we hope the title alone does it
justice: Decentralization – a deep cause of causes you care about deeply

We need to redecentralize the interface layer in ‘the stack’. We need to
re-center things on you so you can chose to work *with* companies to create
shared value rather than have them work *on* you. And we need to make sure
everyone is invited.

Now I’ve touched on some of the context, here’s a brief look at the
challenge we face trying to fund such an enterprise.

We haven’t spoken to every foundation with an Internet or Web related
programme I’m sure. Nevertheless, the story I related in my last update
(Feb 2016) hasn’t progressed any. We’re consistently aligned with these
programmes, but our scope is waaaay too ambitious. As someone with more
experience of foundations describes it ... if you’re transforming the
relationship between civilians and their police service, then here’s some
funding, but seek to reconfigure our relationships with all variety of
public, private and governmental organizations and you’re clearly smoking

(For the record, she was merely employing metaphor.)

On the back of the hi:project, I find myself pursuing a PhD on the issues.
This is wonderful. Less so my experience of a multi-university application
for European funding. We failed. And personally speaking, it’s not
something I have any intention of ever doing ever again ever.

In *Virtual Competition: The Promise and Perils of the Algorithm-Driven
(Nov 2016), the authors question whether the invisible hand of the market
still holds sway over some of those very privileged companies I listed
above. I spent a good part of 2015 and 2016 talking to tier 2 tech firms
(i.e. massive firms who didn’t make this tier 1 algorithmic hegemony) about
staying tier 2 forever and paying the tier 1 tollgates forever. Would they
not rather invest together in re-levelling the playing field to everyone's
benefit including their own?

I’m delighted we secured the interest of a well-known organization that
hosts collaborative development of open, non-differentiating tech, but no
breakthrough yet on securing collaborative investment from their members or
beyond. Still working on it.

As it becomes increasingly obvious to the leadership and technologists
across many sectors – automotive, financial services, home automation,
healthcare, sports, entertainment, etc. – that they’ve been mediated out of
contending for a direct relationship with any customer or indeed any
stakeholder, this must change.

And so to our fourth way forward ...

I recently learned two things about Franklin D. Roosevelt. He’s considered
one of the top three US presidents (ref
and in a 1912 speech at the People’s Forum in New York he proclaimed:
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no
further, but cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today,
begins where competition leaves off.”

Competition has ‘left off’ and we’re left with growing, numbing
centralization. We’re resigned to deepening, meticulous surveillance. We’re
abdicating to the pervasive, unknowable influence of opaque algorithms.
Where once others constructed digital profiles of us, we are now the mere
biological shadows of these digital entities.

Hang on a minute, you say. Did he mention something earlier about smoking
something?!... well allow me to ground this last observation.

When your home and car insurance premiums are determined, who exactly do
you think the insurer is quantifying? The remote, inaccessible, biological
you, or one or more of those digital fabrications? The latter of course,
and irrespective of the corresponding omissions or accuracy. Now combine
your lack of control over the digital entities that are taken to *be* you
with your lack of control over your interface into and onto this digital
world, and your situation doesn’t look too bright. *Our* situation doesn’t
look too bright.

It’s plain to me that we can’t wait for tier 2 business leaders to wake up.
If they only view things through the lens of direct competition, the best
they can achieve is number 1 of tier 2.

No. We must co-operate amongst ourselves to address this mess, and they can
come and co-operate with us once we’ve got things rolling.

The co-operative way dates back to the 18th Century, and the Rochdale
principles set out the operational ideals for co-operatives in 1844.
Working co-operatively is perfectly suited to our challenge here, and in an
interesting synergy identified and championed by Platform Cooperativism
our work will actually enhance the vibrancy of the co-operative way in the
digital age.

If we don’t co-operate to help ourselves, no-one will.

You’re invited to become a co-founder right now. You can find out more at

Best wishes, Philip @Sheldrake.

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