Digital Democracy in Taiwan, basic 8 for Synthecracy

Audrey Tang

Audrey Tang, Photo by Billy H.C.Kwak

Below is my translation, with permission of the author, of an interview by Julie Blussé in the NL quality newspaper NRC June 8 2020, page 14-15, with Audrey Tang, Minister for Digital Policy in Taiwan. https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/06/03/de-democratie-is-toe-aan-een-upgrade-a4001600

And also below the translation, with permission by the author, of a second article about Tang by Anouk Eigenraam in Financieel Dagblad (FD) a couple of days later.  Here is the link to that article: https://fd.nl/profiel/1348303/taiwans-jongste-minister-voert-onorthodoxe-strijd-tegen-nepnieuws

But the essence of this blogpage is not only about Audrey Tang, but  is to show that, after the present transitions and class/ generation revolts, Digital Democracy can be put in practice with success by young activists who are brave and able to do the right things at the right time.

It is very superficial to think that Democracy = taking decisions by majority of counted  votes. It is much more, and more  clever, deeper and more broad.

  1. It is essential that an issue can be commented on, discussed and percieved from as widely different angles of background and perception as possible. Idea formation. Contradictions. Broadness bypasses bubblevisons, prejudices. Innovation, creativity. Audace.
  2. These views can be combined into proposals to tackle/solve the issue by a number of fractions. Clustering and design by specialists and experienced & competent.
  3. There should be an “house” of representatives who can then vote=choose the best policy and ways to tackle & solve the issue.
  4. Those representatives should be held accountable for their decisions, be officials for a limited time.  The majority should listen and use suggestions by the minority. Because they can be the majority the next time around.

During this democratic process digital transparency is important (all should be informed and have same info <hologram>, possibilities of comment and contributions), everybody should be involved in learning from how unexpeced things where handled, and it should be able to react fast with solutions. And learn together.  Sure, mistakes will be made, but not repeated. Concensus and quality can only be achieved by working in parallel and distributed like light in a lens. And taking local circumstances into account. Digital tools and communication links are making new distributed ways of democratic communities possible. And by distributing it the community can handle complexity (not reduceable) better than a central point diktator who has to simplify in order to rule.

5. Crux of democracy is that the general & long times interests are connected in a loop(s) with the well understood short time & self interests of the participants. If such loops are formed, all ships will rise ! (non zero sum games)

6. In such networks < information, knowledge and wisdom>  can digital percolate P2P through society, and will be holographic: everywhere and nowhere, without the need for endless meetings and without the endless speeches of ‘leaders’, thank heavens.

Hierarchies and power/central authority no longer play much of a role. Napoleon invented them to control a large army in the field, by vertical command and control, but that was because there was no way to inform soldiers and lower ranking officers in a two way mode about the overview and reasons for commands. But now we CAN. Information from bottom to top flowed fast and simple enough for those Napoleontic times. But this way of command and control is now seriously outdated, even for businesses and states and cities,  and has to be replaced. And it now is possible to communicate many-to-many and handle complexity by distributing updates and info from the field with the help of ICT.

This transition to a functioning digital democracy is one of the key changes towards #Synthecracy we see happening, and it is what the low wage workers are essentialy demanding in their revolts and demonstrations. Yes, the DEMOS in Democracy means ‘Civilians in Power’.

PS1. A demonstration of the POWER that the Digital Demos can suddenly have, is what K-Pop fans did to the Trump Convention in Tulsa: a Flash NON-mob 🙂 organized with Tik Tok (popular with young population):

K-POP flash mob

What do you mean, you got forty tickets?

PS2. Here is an observation about how  ‘democracy” in Russia is organised: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/russia-forced-referendum/

Digital Democracy is no long a soft and idealistic movement. The activists that participate have AGENCY. They aim to get things done.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

===================translation with permission of the author==========

Julie Blussé

She preaches the blessings of Digital Democracy

Until recently she was considered, inside and outside Taiwan, as an inspiring utopist. But since ‘Corona’ she is taken very seriously. “Democracy is in for an UPGRADE” !

When a run on toilet paper started in Taiwan, the government very quickly distributed  a cartoon-like picture, in which the vice-president, with butt turned to the camera, calmly pointed out the facts to the population: “You have only one butt”. Under that text was explained in a businesslike fashion why the Taiwanese did not have to fear a shortage of toilet paper. Sure, this was not very sophisticated, but in Taiwan the joke was widely shared and forwarded.

This is just an example how the Taiwanese government updates, with digital media, the population on the Corona Crisis: blindingly fast, full of humor, and often with animal pictures: “Keep three shiba inu’s distance”.  This tactic is called “Humor over Rumor” by minister Audry Tang, in an interview via Skype. The minister for Digital Affairs developed this approach originaly in reaction to dis-information campaigns from the area of China, who still consider the de-facto independent island as a renegade province.

“We do not appy that strategy because we are a country of jesters”, she says laughing, “although that is correct.We use it because that is the only way that WORKS.” Furthermore a more authoritarian approach, like censorship can count in Taiwan directly on critique. “A large part of the population would immediatly say: ‘isn’t that exactly what they do in China?’ So we are more or less forced to innovate, nearly in the opposite direction of China.” And what makes Tang hopeful: “That optimistic way works, also for facing Corona.”

Until recently Audry Tang was considered, inside and outside Taiwan, as an imagination inspiring utopist. In a TedTalk she told how in Taiwan they are constructing “the Democracy of the Future“, for instance with online discussion fora. Since the coronacrisis her larger than life ideas are proving themselve in practical reality: technological knowhow plays an important role in the succesful fight of Taiwan agianst the outbreak. Only 440 people where infected on the island, only 7 people died thusfar. The densely populated country, with 23 million people ((NL: 17 million)) did not even have to go into lockdown. That is surprising if you realise how much Taiwan is connected with neighbour China.

Tang (39) is Digital Affairs minister since 2016. She emphasises not  to work “FOR the state but WITH the state.” For instance with “presidential hackathons” she made it possible that civilians can help shape governmentpolicy, improve it and discuss it.  “Democacy is a Technology” expresses Tang. “We no longer think it is sufficient to vote for a president or major once every four years. With that act you upload as a matter of speech only 5 bits of information to the system, and with a referendum every two years only 10 bits or 20.”

Silicon Valley  Since 2014 she is active in politics. That year the tech-enterpreneur returned from Silicon Valley to participate in Taiwan in the progressive Sunflower Movement. That movement of young activists occupied the building of Parliament as a protest against a disputed commercial treaty with China. Tang ran the ICT services for the movement so the whole country could follow livestreams of the meetings of the young activists online. The Sunflower Movement was not only a protest, it was foremost a demonstration of Digital Democracy” she says. Everybody could see that civilians aided with social technology could together form deeply thoughtful plans.”

When two years later the progressive opposition party came to power, Tang was asked to take the position of minister for Digital Affairs, especially created for her. and she made it her mission to Upgrade the Taiwanese Democracy with digital tools. In recent months Tang sees that civilians take the lead in developing  technological solutions for the crisis. A favorite example of Tang is an app that a software programmer developed in February, when facemasks where baught and hoarded. By way of the app users could online exchange information where facemasks where still available. Tang describes that this app was so popular that it crashed within days. “But it was a huge social innovation, a kind of gps-system that guided you to the nearest apothecary where they had facemasks in store. Coordinated by Tang the Taiwanese govt helped with network processing power to keep the app online available. In addition to that the ministry enriched the app with extra govt data that gave users an even more accurate picture of the actual nearest facemask storage situation. Later the ministry added the personal service to reserve a weekly quotum of facemasks or donate to countries where there is a shortage.

Apps with hotspots  Since the beginning of the corona crisis Taiwanese civilians have developed hundreds more of such technological tools, most often based on data available for the public. For example there are apps with which you can check yourself if you have been on or near hotspots for infections. There are chatbots with which you can factcheck dubious corona news or gossip. According to Tang these tools help to increase the “collective intelligence” of the population.  “It is a collective learning experience, instead of a top-down authoritarian approach.”

Nevertheless civilians are not allowed to join in employing all technological tools in the fight against the Corona Virus. take for instance the “digital fence” that played a key role in Taiwan’s Containment Policy, that was activated as early as January by the government. Nearly everybody that enters Taiwan is as a result ordered to stay two weeks in home quarantaine. With mobile phone user data digital location surveillance is done to check this. Tang admits “that it is a violation of privacy”.

No sneaky step She does not see this Fence as a first step in the direction of a survellance state- although she understands that fear. “We also had that fear during the SARS-epidemic in 2003.”  Tang describes how a SARS breakout forced the govt to take the rigorous meaure to bring a whole hospital under quarantaine for indefinite time. for weeks nobody was allowed to exit it, while inside the building more and more doctors and patients got infected and died.

“That was a collective trauma”, tells Tang. “Everybody thought: we do not want thar ever again. Afterwards we had a lenghty public debate about the question in what extent breaking into privacy is acceptible to safeguard public safety.”  That debate resulted in a verdict of our suppreme court that sets clear boundaries for the government: it is allowed to put civilians, during a public health crisis, digital under homequarantne for a maxmuim of two weeks, after which all collected data must be erased immediatly. Tang calls it a lucky coincidence that the incubation time of corona is two weeks.

” I will not fake it that everybody is happy with this policy” says minister Tang, “and I also will not say that the Taiwanese solution is best. But I do think that other countries should have the same kind of public debates, which in our case SARS had allready forced us to do. Thát Taiwan learned important lessons from the SARS epidemic gives her nevertheless hope that the rest of the world will learn from Corona too. We did have to undergo a kind of societal inocculation back then.”

Time for Reflection  Until quite recently the succes of Taiwan went by unnoticed on the world stage. Under presure of China Taiwan is not allowed to be member of the World Health Organisation (WHO), which makes it difficult for Taiwan to exchange information with the rest of the world. “Let me be loud and clear about this, everybody suffers that we have no access to the WHO” states Tang. But meanwhile we have established a number of bi-lateral realtions with epi-centers of the pandemic, like New York.”

On the technology plane this means that other countries are encouraged to work, like Taiwan, with open source software. Also we help guide them to copy and adapt Taiwanese code for their own use. The UK has adopted parts of Taiwanese code to devellop a social distancing-app, tells Tang, and South Korea has develloped their own version of the face mask app.  But we try foremost to spread the idea that it is NOW to go through the debate, where Taiwan took years to do that:

  • ” what are our core values ? ((see other blogposts of me))
  • what do our constitutional laws mean ?

Soon you will find your country in the same situation as Taiwan in January: a low number of infected and the experience of an epidemic as hindsite.”

“The coming month we will have to choose direction.” sees the minister in our future. “If people decide that they are willing to move in the direction of a surveillance state and sacrifice their freedoms in exchange for public health, than that will happen.” Technology can then nearly instantly realize that, thinks Tang.

But she remains optimistic: in the time before us also “something UTOPIAN can happen ((my guess: #Synthecracy)).  “Technology scales, but what you scale up with that are the fundamental ideas that are dormant in society.”

#

=============article from FD translated here with permission by the author=======

 

Posted in agency, Audrey Tang, democracy, Digital Democracy, infodemic, K-Pop demonstration, P2P Collective Intelligence, P2P Power, participation democracy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Empathy vs Self-Centredness, basis 7 for Synthecracy

#isrpal

Having empathy is reaching beyond genuine curiousity in others and must come with the notion that others may have DIFFERENT conventions and pre-judices than you 🙂

The following short story illustrates that point:

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-22 om 15.31.45

I did also learn. From this boy that i had not realised that American youngsters did not know very much about foreign countries and cultures. And thought that everybody is or should be an American, but that we do not know that yet :-). Today that is different, they have found that their digital power is stronger than their President if they cooperate.

It even applies to every meaningful discussion or dialogue you can have: others may see things from an different perspective than you and may interprete what you say against different models and filters. That is why marketing and govt mindfuckers do not tell you what to think, they find& support and then manipulate&change your filters.

Only way to counter that manipulation is to connect and build our own [ collective intelligence & small scale distributed authorities ] like people in Barcelona, Hong Kong and Taiwan did.

PS1. This empathy notion, a vital function for #Synthecracy is very much connected to a. Csermely‘s ideas of “Weak Links”, see: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/the-way-ahead-4-proposed-remedy-against-escape-into-fear-isolated-tribes/

and b. The ideas of Ryszard Kapuscinski as expressed in his splendid lecture about meeting The Other https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2016/10/31/basis-for-my-belief-in-open-connectivism-connect-with-the-other/

PS2. For more background on the activity of Altruism, which is broader than Empathy, I recommend the excellent Thesis of drs. Frederique van Till, which shocked economists until it dawned on them that also ‘buying and selling’ does not work without altruism and empathy ! https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2014/10/21/altruism-in-virtual-communities-thesis/

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

Posted in #Synthecracy, empathy, Synthecracy, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Gar Alperovitz about Community Ownership, basis 6 for Synthecracy

Gar Alperovitz, Image: CC BY-SA 4.0

Hat tip to Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation, who notified me about the interview below with the amazing Gar. He has a big track record in actual experiments in the field with “community ownership” other than State Owned or Business venture owned by shareholders. This other form usually is some kind of “Commons”, as defined by Elinor Ostrom. Commons are no longer just theoretical concepts but many of these do function quite succesfully. But there is still a lot to be learned to improve them as can be gathered from this interview.

Most important in my humble opinion is not to try to share everything with everybody everywhere. Second lesson is that scaling up must be forseen and planned how that is handled. And the commons should be constructed in such a way that everybody learns and can respond fast to unforseen situations that those who contribute are respected and valued, including volunteers. And: beware of the sharks, see my recent guestblog about that.

So, select carefully and have concensus about WHAT IS shared&where (issues, tasks, resources) and also clearly defined WHAT IS NOT. Very succesful commons in NL are the Flower Auction in Aalsmeer and the Port Authority-Community in the region of Rotterdam. ICT networks make cooperation in commons much more feasible. Gar does not mention computer networks. We can POST CORONA and should, so commons can be constructed with ‘collective intelligence’ and distributed authority ! The young in Hong Kong can, so can we.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/oureconomy/old-ideas-are-collapsing-interview-gar-alperovitz/

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“The old ideas are collapsing”: an interview with Gar Alperovitz

The veteran political economist talks crisis, community ownership and the next system.

Michaela Collord
5 June 2020

“If you don’t like state socialism and you don’t like corporate capitalism, what is the answer to the theoretical problem of the next system?” This is the question, says US political economist Gar Alperovitz, “that’s driven me since the 1960s.”

I recently caught up with Gar to discuss this question, his support for alternative forms of community-worker ownership, and what it will take — politically — to make them a reality.

Gar’s thinking on these issues has proved influential in recent years, championed through the organisation he co-founded, the Democracy Collaborative, and trialled at a local level in cities from Cleveland, Ohio to Preston, Lancashire. Aspects of an alternative ownership model also entered the policy platforms of the Bernie Sanders’ campaign in the US and Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK.

These mainstream electoral projects have now been defeated. But amidst the Covid-19 pandemic and looming climate crisis, the left urgently needs alternative economic models and new, more effective strategies for pursuing them.

With over 50 years of theorising and campaigning behind him—stretching from the War on Poverty and civil rights movement in the US through to collective Ujamaa villages in Tanzania and community take-overs of steel mills in the American Midwest—Gar has a wealth of insights to share.

The next system and of the politics of transition

Our conversation began with Gar outlining his understanding of a next system “design” and of “systemic transformation” or transition, which involve “two quite separate questions.”

On the design question, he emphasises the value of community ownership structures, which is a model that begins with geography. The value of these structures is in their inclusivity, incorporating everyone in a given place. “Only about 55 to 60 percent of those who live in a community are workers in the paid salary or wage sense,” meaning that focusing on workers alone leaves out women in non-waged care work, the young, the elderly, the disabled, the ill.

What form community structures should assume is “a question that Rosa Luxemburg posed”, Gar notes. “You find it in the Israeli Kibbutz movement, you find it in some theories of commune-ism rather than communism. Marx was interested in the question of the Russian mir, which was the original peasant formulation, which is a collective community structure. The Paris Commune [is another example].”

More recent, practical examples of community structures include, as Gar writes elsewhere, “cooperatives, neighbourhood corporations, land trusts, municipally owned energy and broadband systems, hybrid forms of community and worker ownership, and many more.” He adds in conversation that, to manage big companies and industries, you must also build up national and regional level public structures, but to ensure democratic accountability, there needs to be “a sub-structure that can control that”.

A community model does “have problems”; it can be “repressive”. It nevertheless remains, Gar argues, “one of the foundational elements” of a new, more democratic and egalitarian economic system.

Community ownership structures also contain within them part of the answer to Gar’s second question, how do we achieve the desired systemic transformation? Labour unions served as “the institutional base of social democracy as it was constructed in the 20th century”. Now, though, they are “literally disintegrating” along with the social democratic politics they previously upheld. “Labour union membership in the private sector in the US”, Gar notes, “is now a mere 6 percent of employed workers.” Amidst this decline in labour power, though, he argues that community structures might “become a power base for the next politics”, the next economic system.

Union organising and community ownership structures are not, of course, mutually exclusive. Indeed, some of the staunchest advocates of reviving the labour movement are adamant that radical, democratic unions must be rooted in the wider community beyond the workplace.

Gar nevertheless maintains that we cannot rely on unions alone nor can we overlook the often-neglected question of ownership. In the US, black, white and Hispanic communities “are all facing degradation”. We must build, right there in those communities, the local ownership structures that can serve as the “power bases for what becomes the next system”.

From theory to practice

Gar’s understanding of community ownership is rooted in practical experience, which offers its own insights into what can work and how.

His engagement began while serving as an aide to a liberal Senator in the late 1960s. It was at this time that he helped develop the Community Self-Determination Act, a piece of legislation that would have provided funding for locally controlled community development corporations in low-income urban and rural areas. The idea was that these corporations would invest in local business, local residents would buy shares, and credit would come from a network of community development banks.

The legislation, sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), attracted an unlikely coalition of backers. “I was working with a 17th century conservative Republican staff guy who believed in Vermont villages,” Gar recalls, adding, “He was attracted to a certain aspect of the community idea and was very sophisticated economically.” The two staffers, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, drafted the legislation and then “wrapped 34 Senators around it, half Democrats and half Republicans.”

One reason why the Act garnered this bi-partisan support was because, at that time, the idea of community ownership was “in the air.” The “pre-history” of the legislation went back to the community development corporation of the late 1950s, which was “interesting because it owned businesses and industry as a community structure.” “Experiments in community development” during that period gave rise to the “accidental innovations” that were then incorporated into the Johnson era War on Poverty.

Spurred in part by the Johnson administration’s promise of federal funding, in part by a new wave of activist organising, the community ownership model was, by the late 1960s, spreading across the United States. Examples ranged from the New Community Corporation in New Jersey to The East Los Angeles Community Union, which emerged out of the Chicano movement and received crucial early backing from the United Autoworkers Union.

Gar and his colleague, meanwhile, worked closely with CORE as well as with other black civil rights organisations. In that sense, the Act reflected the growing emphasis within the civil rights movement on community ownership. “I had just begun working with Martin Luther King Jr. and his staff to develop these concepts as a major piece of something he was beginning to explore for serious activity”, Gar notes. “It was really tragic because we were getting to a place where this could have been a part of his developmental project”, but “it was cut short by his assassination.”

MLK’s death was one of several damaging blows to a community ownership agenda. Another was the election of Richard Nixon, which was the beginning of a major reorientation in US politics. Among other casualties of the shifting tide, the Community Self-Determination Act was “taken over and destroyed”.

Tanzanian socialism

Gar moved on from the Senate in 1968, taking up a range of academic positions, first at Harvard and later at the University of Maryland. He did not, however, lose his practical focus. He soon set up the National Center for Economic and Security Alternatives, which was “a vehicle for experimenting primarily on community ownership.” It would later become the Democracy Collaborative, on which more later.

While developing his new organisation, Gar continued to cast around for real world examples of community ownership to draw on. This search led him beyond the US, including in the mid-1970s on a visit to Tanzania. “One of the reasons I went to Tanzania”, he explains, “was because of the Ujamaa idea, [then President] Nyerere’s conception of where he thought democratic or African socialism might go.” This interest also echoed what was then a more general appreciation on the American left for the politics of newly independent African states, particularly Tanzania.

Gar’s focus was nevertheless somewhat more specific. Leading up to his trip, he was exploring “variations on design”, and particularly how to scale from smaller cooperative structures to “larger structures,” which is how he became interested in Ujamaa and its apparently inclusive village structures. Nyerere’s theory of Ujamaa centred on the “geographic unit”, and “the notion was inherently everyone counts.”

Gar was, nevertheless, discouraged by what he saw in Tanzania. He accompanied a water engineer on a tour of villages, many of which appeared to be struggling economically, lacking in necessary technological equipment, and fundamentally, unsustainable. He left Tanzania thinking that Ujamaa in practice was “utopian in the not good sense of the term”, but even so, “the theory was still worth pursuing in different forms.”

Deindustrialisation and its alternatives

Back in the US, he was soon drawn into a new struggle, the fight against factory closures across the American Midwest, today’s Rust Belt. In 1977, he was called to Youngstown, Ohio, to advise on a joint community-worker ownership structure for recently shuttered and soon to close steel mills. “The workers and the community were working together”, Gar emphasises, “and oddly, the churches were involved too, giving them political cover.”

The closures in Youngstown was the start of a decades long collapse in the US steel industry. While steel executives complained of foreign competition, people in Youngstown countered that the main problem was deliberate disinvestment; rather than modernizing existing facilities, companies were investing outside the steel industry—notably in oil—to maximise shareholder profits.

The proposed take-over of the mills through a community-wide corporation — owned by thousands of community shareholders — was a way to both prioritize new investment while also securing the future of Youngstown. And, as Gar emphasises, this effort was about the Youngstown community in the widest sense. The city’s population included “the steel workers, in this case mostly men” but also of “their families, their wives, their children, their extended family and many others in the community”. All were mobilising so that “this community as a whole [could] flourish. It wasn’t just the workers and their fight for their salaries and conditions and pensions but also the schools and the churches and housing…”

This community focus also gave the Youngstown demand its “apple pie” quality. “It wasn’t dressed up in radical language,” Gar stresses, “It was a popular kind of idea.” “The group we were working with organised the state of Ohio so that even the Republican governor was forced to support the plan.” National television also “got very excited” about the idea, and the Carter administration pledged its support, financing a “sophisticated study of how to put together a steel mill” and promising $200 million in grants and loan guarantees. Part of the reason for this support was that “Carter needed that part of Ohio to win the [1980] presidential election.”

Not for the first time, though, the vagaries of national politics ultimately undermined the community effort. The Carter administration was under pressure from steel companies and likely some higher-level union structures, at odds with their activist union members in Youngstown. The administration “in the end backed down”, which Gar argues, “was a mistake on their part politically” as they went on to lose Ohio and the election to Ronald Reagan.

Starting anew, from Cleveland to Preston

Sounding a more optimistic note, Gar observes, “The Youngstown experiment generated a whole rash of experimentation throughout the state of Ohio because it got so much attention. So, there’s a lot of worker ownership and community development in different parts of the state.”

Gar and the Democracy Collaborative also continued to design models of community ownership, searching around the United States for people to realise them with. A breakthrough came in the mid-2000s not far from Youngstown, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The proximity of the two cities was no coincidence. “Cleveland occurred and stands on the shoulders of what was built from Youngstown and the culture of Ohio,” Gar emphasises. He references, for instance, John Logue, a Professor at nearby Kent State University, who had worked since the 1980s on developing employee ownership strategies to avoid viable firms shutting down.

Gar narrates, “We happened upon a situation where there was a group of people, including the Cleveland Foundation—the oldest community foundation in the world—and the Cleveland Clinic—a very large health organisation—in the midst of a very poor black neighbourhood, who wanted to do something.”

Out of this confluence of people and interest came the “Cleveland model”. This model combines a community ownership structure with a new element, the strategic redirection of the procurement budgets of large local institutions, principally the Clinic, the municipal government and a local university and university hospital.

In 2008, with additional starter capital from the Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives came into being. Using a community-worker ownership structure, Evergreen builds local business to create living-wage jobs in low-income neighbourhoods. The first business was a laundry, which served a local hospital, and the cooperative network has grown from there.

In 2011, the Cleveland Model travelled to the UK when Democracy Collaborative co-founder and the key Cleveland organiser, Ted Howard, visited Preston and captured the attention of left-leaning local councillor, Matthew Brown. From 2013, the Manchester-based Centre for Local Economic Strategies, a close collaborator with the Democracy Collaborative, partnered with the Preston City Council to start building what has become the “Preston model.” That, in turn, has inspired other local authorities across the UK to work with local “anchor” institutions, organisations with large procurement budgets, to support local investment, cooperative expansion, living wage employment, the creation of community banks and the like.

It is tempting to see an element of serendipity in Cleveland and perhaps in Preston too; “it was totally the right players at the right time at the right place.” But, Gar insists, what this apparent good fortune conceals is the “very serious intentional work” that lay behind it, the constant “looking for an opportunity… be it in Congress or Youngstown or elsewhere.” And the ideas generated in these places are spreading, the question being, how far will they go?

“You need to throw 30 years on the table”

Even as he emphasises the “promise” of Cleveland and Preston, Gar does not romanticize. He is especially quick to note that, while the two experiments offer important lessons, they also have their weaknesses. Two major problems, especially in Cleveland, are the “lack of political participation” and an “essentially top-down structure.”

To drive structural change, though, “You need to build a social movement that has content and ideas and vision”, the kind of movement present in the civil rights organising of the 1960s and in the Midwest industrial towns of the 1970s and 1980s.

There are no shortcuts, in Gar’s view, electoral or otherwise. The electoral question came back into focus recently with the Sanders campaign and Corbyn’s Labour Party, which put “alternative models of ownership” at the heart of its political agenda. Given previous electoral reversals, from Johnson to Nixon and Carter to Reagan, it seems crucial to retain representatives who are at least amenable to community ownership ideas.

But these representatives are “steppingstones,” Gar says. “I’m not opposed to that, but it’s much deeper… If you don’t also build from the bottom-up, you haven’t got anything.”

Reflecting on what opportunity the current crisis may offer, Gar notes that “it’s a learning experience,” adding, “Money comes out of spouts everywhere. The banks create the money, and you can just do it.”

But again, he cautions, “unless you have built the institutional base at the grassroots level and a political movement, they win. They will take over all these instrumentalities.”

At this point in the conversation, Gar begins, in his own words, “preaching”.

“I’m very interested in the question of how we, over time, rebuild the power base around institutions that include community structure. I think that’s possible. I think that was primitively there in Youngstown. It could be part of Cleveland. I think there are lots of prospects in the Hispanic community here. White working class as well; that’s what Youngstown was. The question is whether we can build a new politics with a new institutional base that begins with these community ownership structures…

“That’s a 30-year question. Don’t play this game if you’re not willing to throw 30 years on the table. Those are the chips. 30 years minimum. And that is really like the building of the labour unions originally to allow for the establishment of some kind of social democracy.”

This may seem like a very long odds game and thirty years like a long time, particularly given the urgency of the climate crisis. But as Gar comments, at least “in the ideas sphere, the old ideas are collapsing, so we’re beginning to have the advantage of offering a new vision.”

“Ideas don’t matter in history much,” he adds, “except sometimes.” It is a matter of continuing the “very serious intentional work”, building gradually from the bottom-up, looking for opportunities, and above all, “sticking with the 30-year hike.”

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Posted in Commons, Community Ownership, P2P Commons, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Book about National Socialist Stampedes

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-14 om 11.22.19

Ann Applebaum has written a book “Twilight of Democracy” about how the authoritarian/fascist movements in a number of national countries where constructed and gained power. Think of Brazil, Hungary, Poland, Turkey but also UK and USA. Pretending to be democracies the Press, Legal structures and Parliaments where systematicaly destroyed and brought under central dictatorial control. How? By manipulating elections using large scale personalised social media targeting (mindfucking by internet, see recent books I blogged about). They keep the population under control with massive network surveillance systems, supported by scrupuless ICT systems operators like Palentir and Facebook. And by building a power structure of eager men and women that are not directly competent but  very loyal to the Leader.  And a number of politicials aspire to rise to power also: mrs. Le Pen, Wilders and Baudet in NL.

This preference for loyalty over competence is also their weakness. During elections the civilians start to notice that it is visible that lower ranked members of these nazi like parties have rather dubious backgrounds and show incompetence in their high level hierarchy jobs.

I recommend you pre-order this very important book. It will be launched in July.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

=======================

Product description

Review

“Anne Applebaum is a leading historian of communism and a penetrating investigator of contemporary politics. Here she sets her sights on the big question, one with which she herself has been deeply engaged in both Europe and America: How did our democracy go wrong? This extraordinary document, written with urgency, intelligence, and understanding, is her answer.”
–Timothy Snyder, author of On Tyranny“Friendships torn. Ideals betrayed. Alliances broken. In this, her most personal book, a great historian explains why so many of those who won the battles for democracy or have spent their lives proclaiming its values are now succumbing to liars, thugs, and crooks. Analysis, reportage, and memoir, Twilight of Democracy fearlessly tells the shameful story of a political generation gone bad.”
–David Frum, author of Trumpocracy and Trumpocalypse

About the Author

ANNE APPLEBAUM was one of the first journalists to raise the alarm about Russian interference in U.S. elections and antidemocratic trends in Europe. Her 2018 Atlantic article, “A Warning from Europe,” inspired this book and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award. After seventeen years as a columnist at The Washington Post, she became a staff writer at The Atlantic in January 2020. She is the author of three critically acclaimed and award-winning histories of the Soviet Union: Red Famine, Iron Curtain, and Gulag, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

 

Posted in authoritarianism, democracy, Loyalty, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Covid-19 Pandemic is Far from Over

covid total

Altough the rate of new infections and the number of daily deaths from the virus is going down “exponentialy’ (halving every few days) in many countries (see for a log per country: @yaneerbaryam on Twitter)  that have at last taken the right drastic countrywide measures, the total number in the world is still growing. See above picture.

Screen Shot 2020-06-13 at 11.49.55

Link for this graph= https://twitter.com/yaneerbaryam/status/1271590421349781506/photo/2

It is significant that knowledge about what the virus is and how it exactly spreads (Aerosol tiny particles, patterns of spreading, do facemarks work, what happens in the body???) is still not widely studied, verified and shared so everybody can learn from experiences in the field and use that knowledge to halt further spreading. In countries like New Zealand they have declared that the country is Corona Free, but the world traveling makes it so interconnected that Covid-19 or a new mutation can suddenly appear again.

And we should learn more about how to treat the AFTER EFFECTS. Very many people who survived the infection suffer very long very serious ailments, resiratory and otherwise. Their bodies are harmed, by small blood clots(?). Fatigue and loss of muscle energy.

So lives can be saved if we share research that has been done on a wide scale. Examples of such studies are discussed below, in a GUEST BLOG.  @falsel_net (on Twitter) picked this up in Germany, translated it into English and offered it to me for publication here.

The studies are about “Lockdown” and its effects in a number of countries.

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

PS my contribution to all this was very low level. I wrote a short tutorial on why Corona is so VIRAL and dangerous: If you are infected you can spread it for a number of days before you notice its effects yourself, and it doubles until isolation by locdowns and masks takes place. https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2020/03/30/what-makes-the-corona-virus-so-viral/

===================== Guestblog==========

https://www.deutschlandfunk.de/studienergebnisse-zum-lockdown-in-europa-haette-es-drei.676.de.html?dram:article_id=478243

 Study results on the lockdown in Europe: There would have been three million more deaths

Borders closed, working time reduction, school closures, curfews: Was all this really necessary in the fight against the coronavirus? Researchers have analyzed the effects of the measures – and they all agree: Never before in the history of mankind have so many lives been saved in such a short time.

Volkhart Wildermuth in conversation with Christiane Knoll ((Editor of Deutschlandfunk))

Screen Shot 2020-06-12 at 17.29.20

The lockdown imposed by the Corona crisis is now gradually being lifted, shops are open, people can go out dining again, and children are allowed to go back to school. At the same time, aid measures of unprecedented proportions are being initiated, the short-time work allowance has been extended, large companies and small self-employed persons have been able to receive money directly, and there will be support for parents and major economic stimulus programmes. The costs of the COVID-19 measures are thus becoming increasingly clear. On the other hand, their track record seems questionable to many: “Was all this really necessary?”

“People can be very proud”

The magazine “Nature” published two articles on this subject, which try to give an answer to this question. And Solomon Hsiang from the University of California Berkeley in the USA writes about the worldwide measures against the spread of COVID-19:

The world was working together at that moment and it worked, the virus was stopped. Never before in human history have so many lives been saved in so little time. We all did it together by acting together on a global scale. I think people can be very proud of that.”

How did school closures, the ban on major events, and finally the lockdown, really work?

The two analyses from Imperial College in London and the University of California at Berkeley really agree on this: without the drastic restrictions, COVID-19 would really have got out of control. Hundreds of millions more people would have been infected, and in Europe alone there would have been three million more deaths. According to the American economist Solomon Hsiang, we can all be proud that we have slowed down SARS-CoV-2 at immense economic, personal and psychological cost in many countries.

The two research teams have chosen different approaches. How did the scientists from Berkeley, California proceed?

Both teams each looked at how COVID-19 would have spread in different countries if governments had not acted, and then they looked at how the epidemic responded to the different measures. Solomon Hsiang’s American team focused on six countries – specifically China, South Korea, Italy, France, Iran and the USA. In the beginning, the number of infections rose by 38 percent every day. This means that every two or three days the numbers double. In the six countries, there were more than 1,700 interventions at different times and in different regions. School closures, banning major events, closing borders, a lockdown. The bottom line is that 500 million infections were prevented in these six countries alone by the beginning of April.

What have the scientists from London done?

They didn’t look at the infection figures, which is where problems arise, because not the same amount of testing is done everywhere. They looked at the death figures and from there they went back to cases of illness and finally to the infection figures. And then compared again, how the numbers would have developed without countermeasures? Then the researchers around Sami Bhatt assumed that in the period up to May 4th in these European countries over three million deaths could have been prevented, and that currently COVID-19 is on the retreat everywhere. There are considerable differences in the spread of the virus in different countries. In Belgium, eight percent of the population has now been exposed to COVID-19, in Sweden 3,7 percent in Germany only 0.85 percent. In other words, different strategies have indeed been effective in reducing the virus to varying degrees.

Can the teams calculate the effect of the individual measures separately?

In both analyses this is only possible to a limited extent, partly because the different measures were introduced so quickly one after the other, the effects are blurred, so to speak. It is clear, unsurprisingly, that a complete lockdown has the greatest effect. The least effective seems to be the closure of the borders. On the other hand, travel restrictions in the country, the call for social distancing and the ban on major events are worthwhile. The effects of school closures remain unclear. For both groups, the decisive statement is that the political measures taken together have worked and are working, but unfortunately the details still cannot be deduced with certainty.

What conclusions can be drawn from the analyses for the future?

First of all, for all countries currently struggling with major COVID-19 outbreaks, time is a critical factor. China and South Korea have reacted very quickly and have almost stopped the spread of the virus. Other countries were more hesitant. The analysis shows that just a few days difference has dramatic consequences for the spread of the virus two weeks later. The speed is crucial, even if you may not be able to do some things very quickly – that is the most important message of the analysis for Solomon Hsiang. As said, the significance of individual measures can still only be predicted to a limited extent. Another important message for Europe is that countries here are still far from achieving herd immunity, which would require well over half the population to have undergone the infection, and even in Belgium the figure is less than ten percent. And that means that the virus is still there and will spread again if it gets the chance. Both groups agree on that.

The articles from the magazine “Nature”:

„Estimating the Effects of Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions on COVID-19 in Europe“
Bhatt et. al. Nature 8.6.2020

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2405-7_reference.pdf

„The Effect of Large-Scale Anti-Contagion Policies on the COVID-19 Pandemic“
Hsiang et. al. Nature 8.6.2020

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2404-8_reference.pdf

================== end of Guestblog=========

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Remarkable: Tim Cook’s email to all Apple employees about #BLM

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-08 om 14.35.16

Dear readers of my blog,

On Sunday May 31 Tim Cook CEO sent all the employees at Apple Computers the email below. I leave it to your own IQ  and EQ to understand his message. It alines well with my recent blogs about the changes coming up to #Synthecracy, see https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2020/06/02/urgent-message-from-peter-corning-basic-4-for-synthecracy-shared-values-for-cooperation/

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

==============================================

Team,

Right now, there is a pain deeply etched in the soul of our nation and in the hearts of millions. To stand together, we must stand up for one another, and recognize the fear, hurt, and outrage rightly provoked by the senseless killing of George Floyd and a much longer history of racism.

That painful past is still present today — not only in the form of violence, but in the everyday experience of deeply rooted discrimination. We see it in our criminal justice system, in the disproportionate toll of disease on Black and Brown communities, in the inequalities in neighborhood services and the educations our children receive. While our laws have changed, the reality is that their protections are still not universally applied.

We’ve seen progress since the America I grew up in, but it is similarly true that communities of color continue to endure discrimination and trauma.

I have heard from so many of you that you feel afraid — afraid in your communities, afraid in your daily lives, and, most cruelly of all, afraid in your own skin. We can have no society worth celebrating unless we can guarantee freedom from fear for every person who gives this country their love, labor and life.

At Apple, our mission has and always will be to create technology that empowers people to change the world for the better. We’ve always drawn strength from our diversity, welcomed people from every walk of life to our stores around the world, and strived to build an Apple that is inclusive of everyone.

But together, we must do more. Today, Apple is making donations to a number of groups, including the Equal Justice Initiative, a non-profit committed to challenging racial injustice, ending mass incarceration, and protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable people in American society. For the month of June, and in honor of the Juneteenth holiday, we’ll also be matching two-for-one all employee donations via Benevity.

To create change, we have to reexamine our own views and actions in light of a pain that is deeply felt but too often ignored. Issues of human dignity will not abide standing on the sidelines. To our colleagues in the Black community — we see you. You matter, your lives matter, and you are valued here at Apple.

For all of our colleagues hurting right now, please know that you are not alone, and that we have resources to support you. It’s more important than ever to talk to one another, and to find healing in our common humanity. We also have free resources that can help, including our Employee Assistance Program and mental health resources you can learn about on the People site.

This is a moment when many people may want nothing more than a return to normalcy, or to a status quo that is only comfortable if we avert our gaze from injustice. As difficult as it may be to admit, that desire is itself a sign of privilege. George Floyd’s death is shocking and tragic proof that we must aim far higher than a “normal” future, and build one that lives up to the highest ideals of equality and justice.

In the words of Martin Luther King, “Every society has its protectors of status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.“

With every breath we take, we must commit to being that change, and to creating a better, more just world for everyone.

Tim

=================

Posted in #Synthecracy, BLM, synergy, Synthecracy, Synthesis, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Bregman’s new book: “Human Kind”, basis 5 for Synthecracy

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-07 om 14.53.42

Dear readers of my blogpage, I recommend you read this book. It is a serious break with what we have learned since childhood. It was published with great success before in The Netherlands in the Dutch language: ‘ De Meeste Mensen Deugen ‘. It fits right into this recent series of my blogs marking the deep shift from <Competition and Extreme Inequality> to <Cooperation, Synergy and Diversity>

Text on the book:  [ “It’s a belief that unites the left and right, psychologists and philosophers, writers and historians. It drives the headlines that surround us and the laws that touch our lives. From Machiavelli to Hobbes, Freud to Dawkins, the roots of this belief have sunk deep into Western thought. Human beings, we’re taught, are by nature selfish and governed by self-interest. Or even worse, the tacit assumption is that humans are bad. 

Humankind makes a new argument: that it is realistic, as well as revolutionary, to assume that people are good. The instinct to cooperate rather than compete, trust rather than distrust, has an evolutionary basis going right back to the beginning of Homo sapiens. By thinking the worst of others, we bring out the worst in our politics and economics too.

In this major book, internationally bestselling author Rutger Bregman takes some of the world’s most famous studies and events and reframes them, providing a new perspective on the last 200,000 years of human history. From the real-life Lord of the Flies to the Blitz, a Siberian fox farm to an infamous New York murder, Stanley Milgram’s Yale shock machine to the Stanford prison experiment, Bregman shows how believing in human kindness and altruism can be a new way to think – and act as the foundation for achieving true change in our society.

It is time for a new view of human nature.”]

Again, I recommend you read this hopeful history !

** I will add some reviews later.

jaap van till , TheConnectivist

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Urgent message from Peter Corning, basis 4 for Synthecracy = shared values for Cooperation

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-02 om 20.49.45
Dear readers,
Let me advise you again to read this Key Book at this confusing time of transitions and openings to a new era. The Corona Pandemic, the Economic Crash of 2020, and the Climate Crash. In each of them the central nation states ruling classes have FAILED very badly. Facts that they want to hide or confuse at present by distractions of violence, surveillance and brutal force on the media.
In this book Corning shows us the real keys underlaying shifts towards COOPERATION:
========
From:        * Competition      —–> Cooperation and Diversity; driving evolution
       * Survival of the Fittest —–> Survival of the best connected in an ecology
       * Extraction of value.    ——> Synergy: Creation of value  by combining, connecting diverse skills
* NeoLib market mantras in exploitation hierarchies, breaking down ——-> Synthecracy work in P2P Commons with Democracy, appreciated contributions to the objectives  and fair sharing, ICT supported
         *Person2Person discussions ——-> continuous and massive use of Mobile Internet
* Central failure to cope with Complexity (Ashby) —–> distributed authority coordinated with Collective Intelligence
==============
      I have mentioned a number of these shifts on many levels, and  I have listed them in an earlier blog about this book in November 2018: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2018/10/20/the-survival-of-the-weavelets/.
But today these mental and activity shifts are starting to come to the surface and to the centre of attention. Prof. Peter Corning gives formal basic arguments for these necessary shifts. After lots of scientific and political arguments in various circles of thinking.
It is in our nature to want to meet, instead of avoid other people, even accross physical or mental borders of race, religions and cultural background. The changes will deeply affect Post-Apocalyptic human life, firmly embedded in Nature. Not only as individuals, as described by scholars, but in NETWORKS OF couples, families, teams, groups of friends, weavelet ventures, tribes and cities. Not only will these clusters be affected but also their DUAL : the links and relations between them. Those links will be affected on multiple levels: signs, signals, data packets, information, patterns, words, meanings, memes, tools, knowledge, lessons, wisdom, ethics, beliefs, life rules, stories, science, art, and imagination of the unexpected (which is scarce indeed).
Society will change in very many ways and not everyone in power may appreciate that.
But they maight as well try to “urinat in ventum”, as is written on a huge building in Amsterdam.
It is becoming urgent that we make these shifts towards a new future in concensus all over the world. Below is an urgent message to the people in the USA by Peter Corning to get concensus on a set of shared values (in a DEMOCRACY).  IMHO this is extra urgent since otherwise the USA will slide further down into a chaotic banana republic, with a dictator who will be ignored. Racial fights and police brutality are only an distraction by press and oligarchs, from the real issues that must be addressed and shifts that have to be made all over society. We live in historical times. Let’s bend things into positive and constructive directions for the benefit of all !!!
jaap van till, The Connectivist

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BEYOND THE PANDEMIC: AN “INFLECTION POINT”?

Even before the election of Donald Trump and the Covid-19 pandemic, America was a deeply divided, deeply troubled country, though it didn’t have to be this way.  It was the predictable (and predicted) outcome of economic and political choices that have been made in this country over many decades – a very long, sad story.

At the beginning of this year, sky-high stock market values, rising executive compensation, and low unemployment levels masked a much darker reality for many Americans.   We have the highest level of income inequality in the industrialized world (the G-20 nations), along with the highest level of poverty (far more than the “official” 38 million in 2018) and a minimum wage that is a sick joke, as well as the poorest overall population health (as measured especially by obesity, diabetes, infant and maternal mortality, and life expectancy), by far the highest murder and incarceration rates, the lowest social mobility, the highest burden of college student debt, the highest rate of opioid addiction and deaths – oh, and a crumbling infrastructure with more than $2 trillion in urgently needed repairs.  And this was before the pandemic.  Do I need to go on?

The stark difference between this country and other advanced nations was highlighted recently by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristoph, who compared a McDonald’s burger flipper in Denmark to one in the U.S.  He/she makes the equivalent of $22 per hour (more than twice as much as our workers), with six weeks of paid vacation, up to one-year of maternity/paternity leave, paid life insurance, a pension plan, and full access to Denmark’s free health insurance, paid sick leave, and subsidized child care.  American workers get none of these things.  Kristoph estimates that this adds only 27 cents to the price of Big Mac.  And higher taxes for everyone, of course, but look at the benefits.

No wonder Denmark is rated at the top of the international ranking of “happiest” nations.  Although it’s regularly smeared by conservative politicians in this country as an oppressive “socialist” prison, in fact it’s a dynamic capitalist democracy with a commitment to the common good and a strong social welfare system.  Its citizens enjoy a freedom from economic want and anxiety that is enviable.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration and the conservatives around him are still trying to scuttle the Affordable Care Act, reduce the Food Stamp (SNAP) program, curtail unemployment benefits, relax consumer and worker protections, reverse environmental regulations, cut Social Security,  and more.  And at the bottom of all this is a radically anti-democratic, anti-government, free market capitalist ideology – a kind of modern-day Social Darwinism that is encouraged (and rationalized) by the writings of the elitist right wing novelist Ayn Rand, which is required reading these days for the rich and powerful.  Rand divided the world into the deserving few “makers” and the great mass of undeserving “takers”, “moochers”, “spongers”, etc.

In other words, we are not all in this together, with a shared common good.  It’s all about “us” versus “them”.  (Them also has a racist bias, of course.)  This is why Donald Trump and some Republican governors have had no problem with sending sick workers back into meat packing plants, or suppressing CDC guidelines for how to cope with the coronavirus, or hiding data about the incidence of deaths in nursing homes and prisons, much less doing anything about these problems.

Abraham Lincoln memorably warned us that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  There must be a basic consensus about who “we” are and the duties and obligations that we have toward one another.  Such a consensus no longer exists in this country, and it is a very dangerous situation.  This must change.

Every complex society like ours is, in effect, a social contract for the purpose of securing our basic biological needs – a “collective survival enterprise.”   (There are some fourteen distinct categories, or domains, of basic needs in all.)  These needs are absolute requisites for the survival and reproduction of each individual, and of society as a whole over time.   Furthermore, we are all dependent upon an enormously complex division of labor (or, better said, a combination of labor) to satisfy these needs.  And when any society fails to provide for the basic needs of its citizens, then the social contract is imperiled.  Only coercion, and repression (and/or inertia) may be able to hold it together.  Or not.  Desperate people are likely to do desperate things.

Moreover, everyone who benefits from our society also has a reciprocal obligation to help support it, insofar as they can.   Reciprocity represents the ethical core of any organized society.  This includes both the “makers” and the “takers” – in Ayn Rand’s egregious terminology.  Our billionaires must also fully reciprocate for the benefits they receive from society.  Otherwise they are, in effect, free riders on the rest of us; they are “takers”.

As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, therefore, we must reach beyond economic “recovery”.  We need to bend the curve of economic and political dysfunction in this country and make a major course change.  Call it an “inflection point.”

For starters, we must create a new political consensus around a set of shared values, with a social contract that aims to achieve fairness and a fair society.   There are, in fact, three distinct, biologically grounded social justice principles that play a vitally important role in all of our social relationships.  They represent the goal posts, so to speak, for achieving a legitimate and fair society.   These principles are (1) equality with respect to providing for our basic survival needs; (2) equity with respect to merit (or “giving every man his due”); and (3) reciprocity, or paying back for the benefits we receive from others, and society.   These three fairness principles – equality, equity and reciprocity – must be bundled together and balanced in order to achieve a stable and relatively harmonious social order.  It could be likened to a three-legged-stool.  All three legs are equally essential.  (This ethical framework is discussed in detail in my 2011 book, The Fair Society: The Science of Human Nature and the Pursuit of Social Justice.)

One implication of this ethical framework, among others, is that a basic needs guarantee must become a moral imperative for our society going forward.   It would formalize and make explicit our fundamental purpose as a collective survival enterprise and our mutual obligations to one another.  Equally important, it is an absolute prerequisite for achieving the level of social trust, harmony, and legitimacy that will be required to heal our deep social and political divisions and respond effectively to our growing environmental crisis.  I write about all this at length in my forthcoming new book, Superorganism: Pandemics, Climate Change, and the Case for Global Governance.

The practical, political implications of this new social contract are not so very different from the many progressive proposals that have been discussed during the Presidential primary season, or that we can already see in Scandinavian countries like Denmark, Norway, and Finland – including full employment at decent wages, a full array of supportive social welfare benefits and services, extensive investment in infrastructure, excellent free education and health care, a generous retirement system, high social trust, a strong commitment to democracy, and a government that is sensitive to the common good.  In addition, we must come to grips with the existential threat of climate change and make a huge investment in converting to renewable, non-polluting energy sources, among other challenges.

What are the odds of achieving such an inflection point in our trajectory as a society?  What are the chances of a new social contract that creates a unifying sense of a shared responsibility for one another?    This is obviously a very tall order.  The skeptics will respond that it’s much too tall.  Totally unrealistic.  Even utopian.  However, we confront an inescapable collective choice with far reaching consequences.  We have an unavoidable choice to make.

The prominent twentieth century political economist Karl Polanyi long ago warned us, in his classic study The Great Transition, that extremes of wealth and poverty combined with widespread economic insecurity is a powder keg for violent conflicts, both within and between nations.  The common denominator in all the great revolutions of modern times has been “bread” – or the lack of it.  And now we also face the existential threat of climate change.   If the current trends continue, the coming crisis will very likely unravel and shred our fragile democracy, and possibly much worse.  To borrow a famous line from the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “this is not a drill.”

=================

Viva revol

BLM demonstrator in Amsterdam

The National Guard did put down their shields and stood by the protestors of BLM in Tennessee, June 2, 2020.

Schermafbeelding 2020-06-03 om 21.10.43

Posted in BLM, cooperation, Post-Apocalyptic, synergy, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Guest Blog about P2P Commons in Practice

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The article below by Katarzyna Gajewska is a paper first published here. My rough impression is that it describes the struggle in practice between [organizations that have for-profit marketoriented service production at their core] and [Communities that work on the basis of an online P2P shared Commons]. The theoretical framework for the latter: P2P Commons was laid out since many years ago by Michel Bauwens and other members of the P2PFoundation.Net

My personal impression is that a P2P Commons with online services by a community that shares clearly defined resources between its members who may or may not contribute is feasible. But only under strict and transparently defined rules. See: Elinor Ostrom – Wikipedia.  Such Commons behaves like a group of DOLPHINS, hunting together and having fun.

However in practice always (especially if the Commons is successful and starts to grow fast – using the Fifth Networking effect, see: https://theconnectivist.wordpress.com/2019/08/26/what-can-we-do-8-the-fifth-network-effect-the-law-of-p2p-cooperation-and-scaling-up/)  then  SHARKS  appear, who at first do all kinds of impopular tasks like the adminstration, billing or helping to get funding. And if the dolphins do not watch these sharks, boardmembers for sure, take over control of the company which has beeen established by them ” for convenience”. This is what happened at Facebook et. al. And now at GitHub too:

Screen Shot 2020-06-05 at 16.16.56

The sharks end up as seriously rich and powerful individuals, while those who worked their butts off to get things working, stay as slaves of their own ideals or are pushed out. So the Dolphins and the COMMUNITIES that share should be on their guard to shield and defend against the sharks (who are not evil, it is just their nature, and they are part of any healthy ecology. But so are Dolphins that defend themselves.

Please address comments and questions about this paper to Katarzyna Gajewska, who can be found of Facebook.  Schermafbeelding 2020-05-26 om 18.19.00

jaap van till, TheConnectivist

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ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words,  Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020
Katarzyna Gajewska CC BY

“Commons” ~Katarzyna Gajewska CC BY

Peer production and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome.org

  • This is a guest article by Katarzyna Gajewska, PhD. She is an educator and author. She promotes cultural and structural change in her feminine utopia “Imagine a Sane Society.” You can help publish this Creative Commons book and make it accessible for free online by making a donation or spreading information about her crowdfunding campaign.
    If you want to re-publish the full version or parts of this article, please, include credits:  “by Katarzyna Gajewska  CC BY International, the article was first published May 26, 2020, on TheConnectivist, blog by Jaap van Till.”

The book “The Peer to Peer Manifesto”[1] identifies several models of the relations between core team and peers in peer production projects. The authors distinguish between two opposite visions: commons-based and extractive peer production. While the entire concept behind Couchsurfing, a platform that connects potential hosts and guests to arrange free accommodation, started with the commons-oriented mission of increasing the number of new connections between people and de-commodification of these encounters,[2] further steps of the company tend to represent more extractive characteristics. Volunteer work has been hijacked into not quite transparent moves of the company towards using this platform for profit making.

How to produce commons in the capitalist world? This is a huge dilemma for anyone who ponders on the transition towards an economy based on completely different principles and values inspired by the Commons movement. I have engaged in this discussion in the past and this is the topic included in the aforementioned
book. Here, I will portray two organizations providing very similar services, yet very different philosophies are underpinning their development strategies.
Couchsurfing has been around since 2003. In its history, there were several cases of disagreements between how it is run by the core team and the vision its users and co-producers have about it. The website would make no sense if there were no hosts willing to invite strangers to their apartments, and this for free.
The transition to for-profit status in August 2011 was disputed by the community. Many volunteers had been involved in setting up the website. Many hours of normally highly paid work had been donated because of the belief in the value of hospitality and sharing between strangers. And then the founder and his collaborator just decided about the change of status. Stefan Kamph revealed that the B-Corp, a name which the founders used to make an impression that the company is not completely for profit, did not refer to its legal status but to a certification by B-Labs. Many, including myself, have been misled by this communication maneuver implying that they had a Benefit Corporation status, while it is a C Corporation in fact. Delaware, where the company has been located, did not have a Benefit Corporation option as a company status.[3]
In 2012, Couchsurfing accepted venture capital funding in two rounds, which amounted to $ 22.6 million dollars. Casey Fenton, the founder behind the status change, left in 2012 and since then he has kicked off several other Silicon Valley start-ups. In a blog post from May 20 th , 2020, the core team stated that investor ‘s money had been mostly spent by the early 2015 and only one percent was left back then. They also disclosed that they were spending $40 thousands per month to pay a Google service before they have transitioned to a tenfold less expensive provider. Such a huge expense has not been consulted with the users.

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words,  Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

Several more CEOs after turning into a for-profit, on May 15 th 2020, I received a message from its team informing users that they impose fees, which will enable to use the website as before. They explain this change with the crisis caused by COVID-19. A friend of mine, who paid a verification fee before, and myself, who has hosted recently, could still use the platform. Another friend of mine, who has neither paid nor hosted, could not. Some users have been suddenly locked out from the network. They need to pay a fee in order to access the correspondence they had before this sudden decision of the CEO.
Some members have complained and discussion groups have started off among the members. Randy Marks, a retired lawyer hosting just outside of Washington DC, who has over hundred references left by surfers, does not mind to pay a fee. However, he was disgruntled over the lack of transparency, disguising compulsory fee as a contribution, and the lacking service behind the platform. “[Couchsurfing‘s] staff [is] the least responsive of ANY organization of which I’m a member,” he wrote.
Since 2014, Couchsurfing has sold advertisements on its website. The company wrote that they have never sold user data in their May 2020 blog post. I have been asked to update the privacy data upon login several times. I checked the details and found options for sharing of my activities on the website with dozens of companies. There is a list of vendors with links to their Privacy Policies. One needs to manually disallow it, otherwise one agrees on their Privacy settings by default. The explanation of data use from May 2018, published on the website , makes two statements that may imply selling data as a possibility. Data may be used in order to:
1) “Communicate with you about products, services, offers, promotions, rewards and events and provide other news and information about Couchsurfing and other third parties.”
2) “Link or combine with other information we get from third parties to help understand your needs and provide you with better service.”
Further below, they state that:
“This information may be used by Couchsurfing and others to, among other things, analyze and track data, determine the popularity of certain content, deliver advertising and content targeted to your interests on our Services and other websites and better understand your online activity.”
So far, it looks like a Facebook model of extracting users’ activities for value extraction. They write that the collection of information “does not include personalization, which is the collection and processing of information about your use of this service to subsequently personalize content and/or advertising for you in other contexts, such as websites or apps, over time.” However, one needs to de-activate personalization in the Privacy settings to make sure that they will not process the data this way. By default, it is activated, probably counting on the ignorance of the users.
Furthermore, they did not exclude a possibility of transferring data to other parties:
“We will not share information about you with outside parties except as described below or elsewhere in this Privacy Policy: [An exception may apply] (…) In connection with, or during negotiations of, any merger, sale of company assets, financing or acquisition of all or a portion of our business to another company.”

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

I cite the Privacy Policy as I found it on May 19 th , 2020.
Is this crisis situation an excuse to sell the enterprise with accumulated data? Running the website does not bring much profit but data of so many users could be a good deal. Data are a new gold after all. Generally, financial situation is presented in a very vague way. For example, there was no calculation specifying the reasons behind the amount of the fee. In 2013, the CEO informed that the network grew to seven million members, which explains structural changes . However, there was no detailed information about
the costs related to the size of the network. The company wrote that four percent of users have paid a one-off verification fee, however, it did not inform how it translates in annual income.

The PhD thesis by Tan June-e points to the problems with transparency already in the early years of the organization. She cites 2009 resignation letters by volunteers, which mentioned cases of sexual harassment within the core team in a shared house.
Employee reviews on GlassDoor from January 2020 complain about the leadership style of the CEO Patrick Dugan, who comes from finance.
In the literature on cooperatives, historical analysis shows the tendency for watering down original missions as the organizations grow and become more embedded in the market logic. This seems to be the fate of Couchsurfing, which began as a movement of enthusiasts and has been overtaken by the precept of business-as-usual as inevitable because of one of the two co-founders. For platforms depended on non-commercial
work of so many people, especially the hosts who take a risk of not having the greatest of times in their own homes, the issues of accountability to the membership is a particularly important moral consideration.

There are three fundamental questions to be asked in the context of the development of peer production as a model for activists and theoreticians of this vision of the economy:
– How to protect peer production projects from degeneration and overtake?
– What are the ethical standards for commons-based peer production‘s benevolent dictators or coordination bodies?
– How to make such models viable economically without compromising the values and accountability to the peers who enable the project to function?

Many people in the community have migrated to the website BeWelcome.org as a response to the changes by Couchsurfing‘s core team, which they considered to be a betrayal and freeloading on their efforts. Website TrustRoots mentions criminal activities related to the conversion. There have been several spikes of migration.
One when the management sold the assets to themselves despite the fact that the main asset of Couchsurfing is the community of developers, organizers, and hosts and other people who made the site alive. After 2020 fee announcement, a steep rise of new members occurred.
The BeWelcome platform has been run by a French association since 2007. It is an open source project. Its origins go back to the Hospitality Club experience and volunteering. Hospitality Club was established in 2000.
Around 2006, many volunteers left due to the lack of transparency, manipulation of volunteers, and some

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

disagreements over the legal status. In 2015, former volunteers from BeWelcome.org created (or forked in peer production parlance) a similar UK-based platform, Trustroots. The founders of this platforms were frustrated with the time it took to make decisions by consensus and the implementation of new features. No overt conflict was the reason to split.

No one is paid for their work with the platform. It is not the lack of finance but an organizational philosophy. Anja Kühner, Media Volunteer and former Executive Delegate at BeWelcome working as a professional economy journalist and tourist guide, explains that having paid staff could be detrimental in the long run because of the internal dynamics it would trigger: “Probably some things would go faster – like being able to
pay for coders. If one coder is being paid and the volunteer is not, then the volunteer would most likely stop working for BeWelcome immediately out of the feeling for inequality. Then other things would go slower.” She clarifies, “BeWelcome will sometimes pay for items, legal fees for instance, but it will not charge for, or make money out of, the hospitality exchanges that it is set up to promote.”[4]
Most volunteers have full-time jobs and some are retirees. The members of 2019-2020 Board of Directors are a teacher, a businesswoman, a biologist, a retired civil servant, and a circus teacher.
Since November 2019, the organization has a new Privacy Policy replacing the one dating from 2012. The rule now specifies that: “BeWelcome does not set any cookies to obtain or transmit marketing or other information. The only cookies set are for the essential purpose of user authentication and to display preference settings.
Use of the site will be deemed consent to these essential cookies.” Another document describing Data Rights states: “BeWelcome does not use personal data to make money, either for itself or on behalf of others.”
The platform may transfer member information to a third party, however, for a specified purpose of increasing the quality of the service. Anja Kühner gives such an example: “If BeWelcome does a member survey[,] we need to use a survey tool. Last time we did this was via Lamapoll. As we are using an external tool we have to
inform our members about this in the privacy policy. The transfer of their email addresses happened for the sole purpose of sending them the poll request. We signed a contract for “commissioned data processing” which means that the data transferred can only be used for the defined purpose BeWelcome needs (like sending out emails to our members).”
Furthermore, sharing data for commercial reasons is prevented by non-profit‘s statutes. A decision to sell data would require a decision by the General Assembly and Anja Kühner deems it highly difficult to pass the vote for this.
The Treasurer suggests to the General Assembly an amount that he/she estimates necessary to cover the expenses of the upcoming year. As there have been some years when donations were higher then the operating costs, the suggested amount may be lower. For example, in the operation year 2020-2021, their collection goal is 1300 Euros, whereas the total operation costs amount to 3250 Euros. The donations are
voluntary. The recent donations show that some contribute 5 Euros and some 100 Euros, and the rest any double digit in between. They have already reached the goal.
They publish their financial information .

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

One may argue that the platform exists because the volunteers are employed in the market. Through their contributions, however, they are creating a non-market system of exchange. This enables them and others to de-commodify some parts of their travels. The more people are in, the more possibility to exchange hospitality. The platform increases the opportunities for other forms of relations between strangers.
Consistent with the idea of the Commons, one works for oneself while also working for others. In the long run, a culture is built and more commons-based initiatives can emerge due to a mentality shift and good experiences. Gradual organic work is needed for sustained transformation.
Couchsurfing‘s strategy supporters may argue that they have involved many more members than BeWelcome and were working on new features of their platform. So far, the features may have not been so good for the experience. Many have complained about the erasing of location groups and replacing them with different features, for example. A large amount of people unfamiliar with the culture of sharing may undermine the
experience for hosts because of the number of requests exceeding the capacity to reply and filter through.
This has led many to stopping hosting altogether. I experienced such periods as a Couchsurfing host during tourist influxes.
It seems that slow growth and consistence all the way is a better option in the long run. For example, not paying the core team would put every contributor at the same level. Someone who hosts a lot, as some people do, is also making a huge contribution to the network. Where should one draw a line between paid and unpaid contribution? Contributing to the platform maintenance and hosting people are indispensable for enabling hospitality. Hosting can also come with inconvenience such as dealing with a problematic guest or needing to clean a lot after someone with different cleanliness standards.
Another solution could be to help out financially those volunteers who are between jobs to enable them to give time and gain experience. But this could be financed through crowdfunding for a particular project with full transparency.

I am not against employment in peer production. I have done research on a kitchen and a supermarket partly operated by peers and partly by employees as a cooperative. Having employees is essential to the service. However, there is also more accountability possible in such locally restrained settings.

Hospitality platforms are by default most successful if there are members spread around the world, which makes the control and trust more difficult. Once such a platform demonstrates the limits of volunteering only approach, it may become necessary or more convenient to have somebody working full time. This could be a democratic decision of the users done through polls. However, we should not assume that this is the only possibility because the more users, the more potential volunteers and better ideas how to create coordination in a decentralized way.


We can see a culture clash between extractive peer production in Couchsurfing and commons-based peer production in BeWelcome. It is not only that the former is US-based and the latter mostly European. Some people in Couchsurfing core team would probably not enter this organization without a monetary incentive.
Money perpetuates the old culture, which hinders transformation potential. Probably, a CEO coming from finance has different ideas than a teacher. The clear rules regulating the non-profit sector in France further structure the accountability requirements and deter those who are into fast profit.

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

These two organizational profiles are a warning and a guidance for those genuinely interested in spreading the values that motivated many contributors to Couchsurfing. Peer production movement needs to focus on cultural work and ask the big questions of morality and ethics. The fact that some people do not see an alternative to for-profit company, as many have voiced in the recent discussion, is also a sign for the movement that more ideological and expert clarification is necessary. Otherwise, the efforts may be hijacked by the old way of thinking and profiteering.

 

[1] Michel Bauwens, Vasilis Kostakis, Alex Pazaitis (2019): Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto. University of Westminster Press.
[2] A summary of a talk points to opposite views on profit among co-founders, Daniel Hoffer and Casey Fenton:
“According to Hoffer, Fenton was the idealist. (…). Fenton wanted CouchSurfing to stand the test of time and to become a social movement. The goal of CouchSurfing was not to make money. (…)
Hoffer, on the other hand, had always been for-profit from the very beginning. When they first started, he made sure to write up a contract between the two of them that detailed what would happen if CouchSurfing were to ever go for-profit, as he suspected it one day would.” in: Lindsey Txakeeyang (January 2013):
Couchsurfing Co-founder and former CEO Daniel Hoffer Discusses Leadership at the Stanford GSB. The Dish Daily.
[3] Stefan Kamph (2015): Loose Stuffing: How Couchsurfing lost its kumbaya. In: Glenn Fleishman (ed) The Magazine: The Complete Archives.
A footnote in Simon Schöpf‘s article indicated that: “Some say that CS insiders “refused” to meet IRS rules about charitable organisations for 5 years, or that they “delayed finishing their application proposal” for 5 years to benefit from tax advantages and exploit volunteer labor until the clock ran out. “Most informed people would doubt they pursued charitable status with any vigor. While they may have been willing to accept a charitable status that guaranteed the insiders special status and financial power, the IRS explains in their refusal letter that that was not acceptable.” (Source: personal conversation with a member who has had extensive oral dialogues with Fenton and Espinoza).” in The Commodification of the Couch: A Dialectical
Analysis of Hospitality Exchange Platforms, 2015, by Simon Schöpf, in TripleC 13(1), p. 16.
[4] Interview answers were sent on May 20 th , 2020.
Further analysis of Couchsurfing can be found here:
Building Trust in Electronic to Face Social Network Sites: Case of Couchsurfing.org , 2012, PhD thesis by Tan June-e. It is a very interesting analysis of trust, community and commodification of gift economy.
Le couchsurfing, pratique forgeuse d’une communauté? 2012, Master thesis by Julie Zeyer at the Institut dÉtudes Politiques de Lyon
Things you should know about the problems with the CouchSurfing organization

ARTICLE P2P and ethical standards: the example of BeWelcome
3309 words Auteur : K. Gajewska – 20/05/2020

The Commodification of the Couch: A Dialectical Analysis of Hospitality Exchange Platforms , 2015, an article by Simon Schöpf, in TripleC 13(1).

Creative Commons License: CC BY International 4.0 by Katarzyna Gajewska, first published in May 26, 2020  TheConnectivist blog.

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You can download the paper from here ==> BeWelcome

Posted in Civil Society, Commons Transition, Communities, Ethics, governance model, Internet of Things, P2P Power, P2P Theory, Parasites, Platforms, Uncategorized, volunteers | Leave a comment

Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy gatherings, basis 3 for Synthecracy

Demonstration #antiNationalSecurityLaw

#AntiNationalSecurityLaw demonstration in HongKong

Today there are huge gatherings of many thousands of civilians of Hong Kong who demonstrate against the proposal of the 2020 National People’s Congress, in session this week in Beijing, to dictate a new National Security Law for Hong Kong. Such law would bypass the Parliament of HK. The city civilians would after this law would be implemented no longer have their own power and control, as enacted and promised in 1997.

I would like to stress the point that these gatherings are Pro-Democracy and that these brave young people are also demonstrating FOR OUR FREEDOM. In my humble opinion they are not the last in China but one of the first in the World who dare to stand up and halt outdated, corrupt and disfunctioning central control dictatorships.

  1. I recommend you read the book:

HongKong boek

Unfree Speech: The Threat to Global Democracy and Why We Must Act, Now ; Paperback – 6 februari 2020

 

3. See the video on Youtube about what the CCP is doing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lTImEIbTcI

However, the old power command & control hierarchy in China can no longer cope with modern life connected complexity and dynamics. Their Plan / Model of society reacts too slow to unexpected changes and runs into the brick wall of Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety. And instead of decentralising planning/models/ acting into a connected federative organisation with diverse models with realities and local circumstances and cultures; they have still chosen to simplify and uniformize Reality. That will ruin the life of young creative people who can create value and innovation. The CCP if they persist in this “Hong Kong law” enforced by secret police and surveillance will destroy the future of China. It is a dead end street.

Schermafbeelding 2020-05-24 om 23.06.59

Thank heavens the winds are changing and soon the CCP will be faced with a Yellow Wind which will be blowing over China. New ideas will spread unstoppable like virussesCCP congres And the Yellow Wind will blow also over Russia, the USA, Brazil and other old fart dicktatorships.

anon

[#neolib market ideology and value extraction with a small clan of superrich oligarchs] will be replaced by: [P2P value creation by interconnecting people with different skills who can cooperate: building a #Synthecracy ].

jaap van till, TheConnectivist 

Posted in Uncategorized, Viral | Leave a comment