[P2P-F] Fwd: Technology and the Future (GTN Discussions)

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Tue Jan 4 15:34:01 CET 2022

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Great Transition Network <gtnetwork at greattransition.org>
Date: Mon, Jan 3, 2022 at 11:28 PM
Subject: Technology and the Future (GTN Discussions)
To: Great Transition Network <gtnmembers at greattransition.org>

>From Pierre Calame [p.calame at fph.ch]
[Moderator's Note: The last day for comments is TODAY: MONDAY, JANUARY 3.
Looking forward to your contributions! - JC]

I fully agree with the analysis of Michel Bauwens. Blockchain technology
applied to specific ledgers is not per se energy-intensive. There is
actually a first crucial application of it: the ecological footprint of
global supply chains. Such ledgers are essential for creating the
accounting system of carbon dioxide equivalent individual quotas, which are
the logical consequence of an obligation to fight global warming.  You can
find the description or the system at:
blog.pierre-calame.fr/public/quotas_carbone_EN.pdf . In my opinion, pushing
for the international endorsement of such a system should even be a crucial
priority for GTI.


Pierre  Calame

Le 30/12/2021 à 19:43, Great Transition Network a écrit :

>From Michel Bauwens [michelsub2004 at gmail.com]
Great Transition Initiative: Filling in the Commons Gap
Michel Bauwens

Whether we believe that technology itself has its own determinism or that
it is shaped by material interests, there is always a residue of human
agency to transform technological tools in the service of social change.
This is what we propose to do here with perhaps the most unlikely
candidate: the bitcoin-generated blockchain. Our contention is that the
blockchain can be used as an essential tool to construct the next
cyber-physical infrastructure that will allow humanity to produce for its
own needs, while respecting the material and ecological planetary
boundaries, and its interdependency with the web of life.

Bitcoin is the recipient of many legitimate critiques by progressives. It
was designed with Austrian economics and anarcho-capitalist values in mind,
is very energy-intensive in its production, and has a very unequal
distribution in terms of income and property, a distribution that is not
accidental in view of the ‘oligarchic protocols’ that it has chosen as
incentives for its stakeholders. [1] But is it important to distinguish the
existence of a global distributed ledger, i.e., an open and interoperable
accounting and logistical system that can be used to coordinate production
on a global scale, from its first iteration as the ledger of Bitcoin. We
now have different post-blockchain distributed ledgers that attest to this,
and a number of these ledger projects are operated not according to
libertarian values and rules, but by integrating the insights of Elinor
Ostrom. [2]

The question to answer is the following: what becomes possible once we have
such technology at our disposal? My contention is that an interoperable
blockchain becomes the vehicle for global mutual coordination of human
production within planetary boundaries.

A ledger is first and most an accounting tool, recording transactions. This
is obviously not trivial: the first accounting systems in Sumer, with
temple administrations recording the flow of grain and debts, stand for the
origins of the state apparatuses; the double entry accounting system for
private competitive units created by a Franciscan monk Luca Pacioli in the
Italian city-states stood for the emergence of private forms of capitalism
which would eventually become dominant.

Blockchain ledgers have currently inaugurated various forms of
post-capitalist accounting which seem to be just as non-trivial:
•    Contributory accounting, which can record, value, and recompense
non-commodified forms of contributions to ecosystems and networks, already
signify the recognition of value outside the commodity form; it is a
crucial tool signifying a transition to contributory regimes of value [3]
•    Flow accounting, such as the Resource-Events-Agents software, allows
every transaction to be recorded as an event in a network, and has
abandoned double entry; it is an accounting for externality-aware
ecosystems, not externality-ignoring closed entities.
•    Thermodynamic accounting directly records the flow of matter and
energy into an accounting system, such as the systems pioneered by R30.org
and the Global Commons Alliance, who use a ‘global thresholds and
allocations’ approach to determine the maximum allowed flow in particular

These ledgers are linked to tokens and intelligent current-sees which can
allow for expanded and complex value regimes. [4] We now have access to
local currencies, which can protect and regulate local economies and
domain-specific intelligent monies such as SolarCoin generated by renewable
energy or FishCoin which regulates the maximum volumes for the fishing

Local-geographic currencies, domain-specific virtual currencies, and
transformed nation-state currencies can co-exist in a regime of monetary
biodiversity that is both socially aware, ecologically aware, and a global
regulatory currency that insures the economy stays within agreed upon
ecological limits.

With these tools at hand, integrated in a cosmo-global cooperative ledger,
it becomes possible to transcend the violent competition between economic
coordination systems that plagued the twentieth century.

Here is what is envisageable:

-    The primary layer of human cooperation becomes ‘stigmergy’, the gift
of the commons economy that has been operating successfully within the
open-source economy for two dozen years by now: open and transparent
systems allow participating producers to freely coordinate their work in
view of the needs and possibilities of the ecosystem as a whole, without
needing central command. Collective agreements then result from negotiated
coordination. The agents of this are the contributive communities, and the
for-benefit associations that maintain their infrastructure of cooperation.
In this particular context, the blockchain economy is best seen as an
extension of this movement: it enables the creation of open and global
coordination systems, in which a substantial amount of the income is
devoted to paying open-source developers.

-    The secondary layer consists of the generative market exchange
mechanisms, post-capitalist market forms that regulate genuine exchange,
within planetary limits; this is necessary for the flow of all the
resources that need investment and need to be renewed. The agents for this
are generative and cooperative market entities that add value to the
commons economy. Commons Stack, focusing on commons regulations, and
RadicalXchange, focusing on the creation of generative market systems, are
among the initiatives dedicated to this.

-    The third layer is the planning layer. This is where thermodynamic
accounting systems come in, by rendering visible the flows of matter and
energy in a economic system, and where the ruleset of ‘global thresholds
and allocations’, allows for context-specific ‘maximums.’

Of course, to a sceptic, the description so far will sound utopian. What
could be the agent of sufficient change that would lead to the adoption of
such a global infrastructure?

Our answer is that the commoners are the agents of such a change, following
cosmo-local models, which we see as the ‘third possible future’ for
humankind. [5]

The first future is the continuation of multicultural neoliberalism, from
now on under the hegemony of the Successor Ideology, as proposed by the
World Economic Forum. [6] It is a world run by public-private partnerships
and natural asset investment vehicles, with weak national governments,
strong transnational capital, and instrumentalized global NGOs. Its
political preference is for alliances of the urban cognitive elites,
organized under group allocation rules, which can be used to manage the
unruly popular classes.

The second model is protectionist retreat, which aims for re-strengthening
sovereign nation-states. creating solidaristic citizen-based class
coalitions internally, and attempts to control global flows of capital and
labor to benefit a competitive nation. The danger of the second model is
armed confrontation between states aiming for control of scarce resources.

The third model is the cosmo-local model: in this model, we aim for a
subsidiarity of material production (intelligent relocalization), based on
distributed manufacturing models, producing on demand using the maximum
amount of biodegradable material. In such a model, local production units
are linked to global open design communities, which we call ‘protocol
cooperatives.’ The partner state concept stands for a ‘community state’
that enables and empowers individual and collective autonomy at the local
scale, guarantees the equality of contributory capacity, using
multi-stakeholder commons institutions, following the quintuple helix
governance model pioneered for the Italian urban commons. Local alliances
of public authorities, the commercial sector, the formal civil society and
research organizations support commons-centric public initiatives; they are
mirrored, in a fractal way, by similar transnational institutions that
support a domain-specific commons institutions, which we call the
‘magisteria of the commons’.

We see these networked workers, organized in common third spaces, i.e.,
revamped makerspaces, as both local agents, rooted in their communities,
and as agents that are linked to the global open design communities which
are the vehicle of their social and technical knowledge. Barring or
awaiting the emergence of political forces which can represent this
cosmo-local order, the priority is to network the productive nodes, and to
construct the necessary transnational layer which can represent the
counterforce to transnational capital. Partner state organizations are a
vital link to facilitate the connection of local producers to the global
streams of shared knowledge, and the new domain-specific value streams. [7]

[1] To see how this differs from a commons-centric design, see the
comparison table: Contrasting the Propertarian Blockchain with
Commons-Based Ledger Systems,

[2] The Commons Stack project, part of the Crypto Commons Alliance, is
exemplary in this regard. See commonsstack.org/

[3] The P2P Value project found that 75% of the 300 studied peer production
projects were using, experimenting or researching such accounting
conventions and tools, wiki.p2pfoundation.net/P2P_Value

[4] The concept is from Arthur Brock, founder of the Holochain
post-blockchain ledger, a open and p2p-based interoperable ledger system
that doesn’t require a world computer but is based on the free
interconnection of autonomous ledgers.

[5] Cosmo-local production models are described in a new book by the P2P
Foundation, which contains 40 case studies of initiatives combining local
material production with globally shared open designs: The Cosmolocal
Reader. Ed. José Ramos, Sharon Ede, Michel Bauwens and Gien Wong. P2P
Foundation, 2021, clreader.net/

[6] See wesleyyang.substack.com/p/welcome-to-year-zero

[7] P2P Accounting for Planetary Survival: Towards a P2P Infrastructure for
a Socially Just Circular Society. By Michel Bauwens and Alex Pazaitis.
Foreword by Kate Raworth. P2P Foundation, June 2019. (Subtitle: How shared
perma-circular supply chains, post-blockchain distributed ledgers, protocol
cooperatives, and three new forms of post-capitalist accounting, could very
well save the planet.),


December 1, 2021

Dear GTN:

Our December discussion—*Technology and the Future*—takes up a critical
question: how might emerging technologies shape—and be shaped by—the global
transition? Let us approach this knotty question at both concrete and
conceptual levels: weighing the implications of *specific technologies *for
a GT and establishing an adequate* theoretical framework* for making sense
of the interplay between technology and society.

*Specific Technologies*
An astonishing array of potentially disruptive creations looms on the
horizon. *In this pivotal moment, what influence, for better or worse,
might vanguard technologies have on the global trajectory
<https://greattransition.org/explore/scenarios> ? Which applications are
inherently discordant with a Great Transition and should be resisted
outright? Which have a legitimate place, in some form, in a Great
Transition world and the struggle to get there?  *

Under prevailing Conventional World conditions, social change movements can
resist specific technologies outright, advocate policies to regulate them,
or, by ignoring them, cede the field to business-as-usual forces. Not
surprisingly, given the diversity of environmental and social advocacy,
controversy rages about such technologies as bioengineering, artificial
intelligence, and the Internet.

To structure our discussion of this sprawling topic, I invite you to focus
on the prospects of key technologies in three arenas:

*Bioengineering*: Will there be GMOs in a Great Transition? Surely we need
to move from industrial agriculture to an agro-ecological model, but can
this meet the nutritional needs of a growing population? Skeptics see a
role for regulated GMOs, while others passionately disagree.

*Artificial intelligence*: Will AI induce painful unemployment in the near
term? By reducing socially necessary labor time, might it be the
precondition for a post-scarcity society? What would a politically
progressive AI strategy look like that balances such concerns?

*Digital economy*: Consider blockchains and cryptocurrency, for example. Do
they merely foreshadow new financial and environmental burdens, or hold the
promise, as some claim, of hastening a post-capitalist economy? Can social
movements begin to coopt elements of platform capitalism to grow the
infrastructure of platform cooperativism?

Please reflect on how different institutional contexts might shape the form
each technology assumes and the function it plays, a consideration which
segues into the second level of our discussion.

*Theoretical Framework*
*How should we think about the interplay between technological and social
evolution? Does technology drive history? Or the reverse? Or perhaps the
logic of discovery defines a channel of possibilities for social evolution
that delimits the scope for human agency?*

Ask a professional futurologist (or a wonderstruck layman) what our
grandchildren’s world will look like, and odds are you’ll hear a story
about how disruptive technology inexorably will revolutionize economies and
everyday life. For many, *technological determinism*—the idea that
technology drives history—is a seductive lure that offers a through-line
for explaining social change. We can resist, surrender, or adapt to the
robots (and much else), but they are coming!

But in downplaying the other side of the equation—the ways history drives
technology—technological determinism is reductive and simplistic. The
robots and their ilk will not be dropped from the sky by technology gods;
they will carry characteristics and functions congruent with the societies
that spawn them. By insisting that the internal logic of innovation drives
social evolution, technological determinism reverses that paternity. If
technology marches to the beat of its own drum, we can love it
(technophilia) or hate it (technophobia) but not alter its essence. Both
the techno-optimist gushing about cool gadgets and the techno-pessimist
indicting the machine let the reigning political economy off the hook.

By contrast, the *social construction of technology* school rejects the
idea of technology as an autonomous force, instead understanding it as
embedded in society and subject to its choices. Social constructionism
yields academic and policy insight into the regulation and management of
R&D, but its granular focus cannot guide us in the big-picture challenge of
shaping the social-technological culture of the future. Moreover, social
constructionism’s bias—history drives technology—obscures the objective
constraints imposed by the state of technology and the laws of nature.

What are the contours of a systemic understanding of the technology-society
dialectic? An adequate framework recognizes that technological and social
conditions co-evolve at different spatial scales influenced by
strengthening global forces. In stable times, the technological variants
that prevail and become entrenched are those compatible with dominant
interests and institutions. However, at pivotal moments of historical
change like the present, techno-social systems can branch in myriad
directions as disruptive innovations contribute to the stress on existing
structures, helping to trigger and shape what comes next.

In our time of transformation, emergent technologies powerfully affect all
future trajectories, whether of Conventional Worlds, Barbarization, or
Great Transition varieties. The forms they assume and the roles they play
are subject to choices yet to be made and struggles yet to be waged. If it
is true that the robots will look like us, the prior question remains: what
will we look like? Technology scenarios are subplots of the larger story
depicted in the alternative narratives of the future.

With this as background for your critique and elaboration, I invite your
thoughts on *Technology and the Future*, whether focused on specific
innovations or on theoretical considerations. The comment period will go
through *Monday, January 3*. Succinct remarks are welcome, as are extended
reflections (capped at 1,200 words, please).

Over to you,

Paul Raskin
GTI Director
To submit a comment for this GTN discussion, click reply or send it to
jcohn at tellus.org. *Expect a delay between the submission and posting.*
You can review the discussion here
where you can also submit your comment by replying to any previously posted

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