Global Economic System in the Midst of Profound Change

The Analysis of the Foundation  for P2P Alternatives

Looking at the apparent ramping up of a fresh stage in the economic crisis, one has to begin to wonder about the sustainability of the global economic system that is generally thought of as “free market capitalism.”  Michel Bauwens set the stage for this issue by asking: “what will replace it?   A reactionary power structure of increased exploitation, in a global struggle for dwindling resources amongst overpopulation, food and water and resource depletion and climate change, with scattered pockets of resilient communities ... or a new p2p system centered around open commons of knowledge, code and designs, linked to relocalized and more distributed property formats, with forms of global governance that protect the planet?”

In an interview done earlier this year in Bangkok. Michael Bauwens explains how over the last several years he has built the Foundation for P2P Alternatives. “P2P is nothing else than a premise of a new type of civilization that is not exclusively geared towards the profit motive,” he says.

Whereas Yochai Benkler identified peer production in the context of the Internet, Michel has gone on well beyond that to identify a broad array fundamental changes underway that are burrowing, termite like, at the foundations of global capitalism.

The intersection of the internet, and Moore’s law are reshaping the environment of what it is possible to do with in a decentralized collaborative environment that needs far less capital that could ever have been imagined before. Michel points out that “With the bursting of the internet bubble there was Big crisis. No more money. But instead of stopping innovation accelerates.  Now why?”

“My explanation was that you now can innovate without access to capital.  At least this is true when you make advances in knowledge in software and in design.  Of course there are always exceptions where you need resources for a really big machine.  But as a general rule what you need is smart people working together with computers and having access to a network.” 

“The role of capital is that it is needed after innovation is done.  It is needed to scale what can be done rather inexpensively with the new digital tools.  However, especially with things digital and with the network “when capital intervenes it is to enclose.”

Michel continues: “Think about what happened to Rome many centuries ago.  In was a crisis of extensive globalizaton.  The slave-based Roman empire could no longer afford to conquer and administer the territory it needed in order to get new raw materials.  What happened as a reaction was a return to localization.  The smart slave owner must have thought: if I free my slaves and transform them into serfs, then I will need no longer a thousand soldiers to discipline them, but I can accomplish this with only 100 soldiers.  I will let them work for themselves, take half of what they produce and will better off than I was before.  Those who did this were better suited to survive than those who did not.’

“But you also had an open global design community operating in early feudal Europe – this community was the Catholic Church.  The itinerant monks were the guarantors of the old knowledge and as they traveled, they were also means for spreading new knowledge. The monastic orders were the ones turning forests into new agricultural lands.  They invented new techniques that, unencumbered by copyright, they happily shared across all Europe.’ ‘Think about this.  It is what we have now.  A crisis of extensive globalization. Technological advances can play a role in playing around some limits, but technology is not a magical wand that can wish away resource depletion and social contradictions.”

“So, what we have is that, in the face of this people are beginning to relocalize while we have a global open design community that is the internet.  As the old structure slowly collapses, you have to be ready with something else because going on the streets and saying give us this or give us that when there is no one there to give it to you anymore just doesn’t work very well.  What peer to peer would like to do is see that society has choices by which it can rebuild other than ones dependent on centralized force. But, and this is crucial, localization by itself cannot compete with centralization unless it is smarter.  The way we achieve this is physical localization carried out within the context of a global information commons.”

Globally there are tens of thousands of people involved in creating and building the new knowledge commons that Michel speaks of.  What he is doing is an unusual but extremely valuable function of connecting globally sprouting independent seedlings into a global web of interest where participants can learn from each other and reinforce the building of life rafts to give humanity a better chance of successfully transitioning the huge changes it faces.

The interview contained in this issue describes much of the content and thinking behind these changes.  In doing so it gives an added picture of how the internet is affecting the global economy.  A picture that is something of a grassroots parallel to the more corporate and traditional take of the Power of Pull June COOK Report issue. The content and ideology of the peer to peer knowledge commons – the “what” and the “why” is the primary subject matter of this issue.   As I have worked on this material I have realized the HOW of michel’s doing this is very likely as important or even more o that the what and the why?  I have already begun work on material that will explain that.

One of the problems addressed by the authors of the Power of Pull is the need to increase the speed of learning and to organize what is learned so that it is findable and useable by others.  I believe that Michel has developed a methodology of doing this by means of very novel ways of using social networking tools in a well thought out framework that accomplishes what cannot be achieved by their use in isolation. We are talking about the ability to create a knowledge and wisdom infrastructure far more substantial than anything seen before.

BT’s Strategy Ribbit as BT’s Replacement for Voice  - p.37

We present what we think is the most accurate available assessment BT’s Corporate strategy for its  21 CN global services  platform.


Foreword                                        p. 3

Introduction                                        p. 5

The High Road or Low Road to P2P?                        p.  8

Depression 2.0                                        p. 11

Should Our Goal Be Creation of the Resilient Community?        p. 11

Scale Invariant Infrastructures                            p. 12

The Source of Resilient Community:  Security in the

Globalized World of 4th Generation War                    p. 13

Despite Free Market Failures We Are Left with

Worship of the Market-State                            p. 15

Build Platforms to Foster Local Innovation and

Make Ecosystems Stabile                                p. 16

Michael Bauwens’ Evaluation of Robb                    p. 18

The Interview                                    p. 19

Consequences of Changes in Distribution of Knowledge –

from Rome to the Present                                p. 21

What I See Emerging:  Engineering Abundance versus

Managing Scarcity                                    p. 23

Open Hardware                                        p. 28

Impact of Economic Meltdown                            p, 31

Peak Hierarchy                                        p. 32

Open Agriculture                                    p. 34

The P2P Community Structure and Goals                   p. 35

COOK Report Blog Essay

BT’s Strategy Ribbit as BT’s Replacement for Voice        p. 37

Executive Summary                                p. 40