Ming the Mechanic:
Anarchy, Open Source/Content and Value Systems

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 Anarchy, Open Source/Content and Value Systems2004-05-06 10:07
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Interesting article by Gerald Gleason.
In trying to think about the success factors for Open Source (OS) projects, and evaluate their character and structure, as well as thinking about extending this idea to other areas, I had the insight that the essential character of OS project organization is anarchy. As a political/intellectual movement, Anarchy is probably the most pure form of Libertarianism. Forget any associations you may have with the idea of creating anarchy in communities or societies by throwing bombs and other disruptive acts, since these are both factually incorrect, and have nothing to do with what Anarchy advocates. The correct association is of anarchy with "a state of nature", the Garden of Eden, if you will.

Humans, being highly social animals with highly advanced systems for communication of symbolic knowledge, have the ability to impose rules of all sorts on this original state. In principle, there is nothing wrong with this, but history shows many examples where "the rules" become highly oppressive. In tribal societies, the social unit is a small group where social "norms" can operate effectively, and it can be argued that the "norms" are essential for the survival of the tribe, but human development did not stop there. With the development of agriculture, the stage was set for creating hierarchical structures, monetary systems and large scale warfare (i.e. beyond inter-tribal conflicts for territory).

It is well know that Libertarian thought is pervasive in the highly technical software development community, and it is easy to see the attraction of these ideas to a class of highly intelligent, somewhat individualistic people. Add youth to that, and you get a lot of contempt for conventional systems of power and authority. In the beginnings of the software industry, there wasn't much of a market for additional copies of specific programs, and a lot of development happened in academic and other research labs, so there wasn't much thought or attention from the capitalists. Programmers freely shared their code with anyone who asked, and nobody thought about cashing in by selling millions of copies of a program. Richard Stallman created the GPL in reaction to the way code sharing was being closed down by the potential to cash in by selling code over and over. [...]

All of this is the essence of an anarchistic organizational system. Yes, formal structures are developed and put in place, but only with the tacit support of the community. It only works because everyone is free to participate or not, according to their desires and interests. There would be no debate about any of this if we weren't embedded in a system of market capitalism where value is equated with money, and money is necessary for each of us to be able to live and make choices. [...]

The bottom line is that while monetary systems and markets work well to efficiently distribute scarce commodities, they also tend to simplify complex systems of values into a single dimension, and they are particularly bad at promoting the efficient development of IP resources that gain their greatest value the more widely they are shared. It should be clear to most of us by now that this one-dimensional value system becomes non-functional in an information economy, as well as undervaluing the diversity and quality of the natural environment necessary for our long-term survival. The way forward will involve the emergence of new value systems based on sharing of information. To get there from here, we need to operate in the context of market capitalism, and actually exploit it to fund the transformation. This will involve convincing those who control the money to fund the rapid development of the IP Commons for the benefit of everyone.
Indeed. A one-dimensional value system no longer works, as our collective relationships become more complex and multi-dimensional. The purpose of an economy is to facilitate the valuation, distribution and coordination of items we need for living, and which we don't already possess. An economy and an organizational system that is based on centralized control and valuation by only one parameter is no longer adequate. Effective coordination among free people, who basically can do what they feel like, is certainly a harder problem. But not unsolvable, if we recognize that a new paradigm is required. The payoff can be enormous.

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9 May 2004 @ 15:57 by Jon Husband @ : Purposeful Anarchy ....
... it seems to me, using a digital interconnected infrastructure of minds, information and hearts ... is one of the emergent characteristics of blogging, and of open source principles applied to a given realm of activity.  

9 May 2004 @ 17:49 by ming : Anarchy
But do we need a new kind of economy to go with it? A new way of measuring value. Or does our interconnectedness in itself replace the outdated ways of measuring value? I'm not sure.  

11 May 2004 @ 09:22 by Jon Husband @ : New Economy
You guys are of course aware of Zuboff's The Support Economy - a significant section of the book argues persuasively for new business logics and new business models. Flemming has written (often ?) on the logic of friction in the current economy, and what might transform or replace that.

There is an interesting yahoo group on the support economy where several very active members are wrestling in practical ways with these issues (from what I can see). I have not been as active in that group as I would like, mainly I think because my mental bandwidth ain't quite up to it - I'm a bit intimidated by the smartness of the people there, while atthe same time I must say I recognize some of previous thoughts in their comments.

I find it hard to pull all of the (my ?) thoughts together most of the time. It feels like there are large-scale fractals of economic (rather than "business") models building up slowly, with thousands/millions of thematic varieties eventually bloomimg forth.

I do hope our language will change too, over time - which is why I used "economic" rather than "business" above.  

11 May 2004 @ 10:07 by ming : Economics
Maybe we need a different word than economics. Even though economics should cover fine that there are more dimensions to it. I mean, it basically means "housekeeping". But many people might be stuck in it being about money and making profits. I like "holonomics". It has some past uses that are a bit different, but it could be appropriated. I've gotta write more about that. Sort of a wholistic, fractal science of how one makes systems work, to the maximum benefit of everyone and everything involved.  

14 May 2004 @ 14:36 by Jon Husband @ : Evolution, Dissolution, Revolution ??
Re: George's

" So how can we overturn those basic assumptions as to how value and man above all is measured? Is our discontent and work enough to propel a paradigm shift? Not very likely, at least in the foreseeable future. am i a pessimist? no i am not. I'm just observing the world the way it is.

Big issue - I agree. I have read hundreds if not thousands of items where people decry pessimism, and continue to hold out belief and hope that "a small group of emboldened people can change the world, etc.". Bollocks, IMO.

I do believe new models and mindsets will come into being - but I do believe too that the wider (western ?) society we live in is addicted (consciously or not, but mostly un- or semi-consciously, IMO) to growth, greed, consumerism, looking out for oneself, and so on. And the structural paradigm we live in is quite solidly in place, and reinforced daily ... and sometimes desperately, by manipulation, fraud, collusion amongst corporate and business leaders, and neo-cpaitalist dogma and so on.

So, as with addicts and addiction, I believe real substantive, fundamental change will occur, of necessity, but only when the crises become severe enough, frequent enough that it becomes obvious to most women and men on the street that the current system isn't working and cannot be re-juvenated/rehabilitated. Think drunk or junky, face down in the gutter for the nth time, finally making (or not) the life-changing decision that represents waking and taking responsibility

It seems clear to me that we are on the path to that, but not yet there - tho' events have been hastening the footsteps on that path.

Taking responsibility - individually and collectively - is the only way, and unfortunately that "language" has long since been coopted. For example, in the USA lots of Repugnicans will yak your ear off for hours about responsibility and accountability, no ?

I think things will have to crash, and surviving humans will see the need for different ways - but I don't expect a smooth and orderly transition to a more democratic world, or transparency, or a positive wirearchy. I can see in the not-too distant future a semi-benign, partly corporate and partly libertarian (open sourcers, etc al) wirearchy - it seems to be me evident and obvious that interconnectedness and sophisticated software is having ongoing impact on power - maybe in the short term there's push-back from the powers-taht-be that see the power dissolving, but longer-term events and activities in a wired interconnect world either start to cohere - probably in some sort of fractal ways - or they won't and it will just all be fragments floating off into the future.

Either way, too late for pessimism ?? (Barbara Marx Hubbard)  

15 May 2004 @ 08:32 by ming : Change
I too am doubtful of it being sufficient that even a large number of people want something different and talk a lot about it. Not because I don't believe in the power of groups and their shared thoughts. I think it completely is the collective mind of all of us that directly creates the world we live in. But it is not enough to just think different thoughts and agree that they would be a good idea. What we actually feel and what we actually do is much more important. So the real question is how large enough numbers of people might start living and acting in a different kind of world. Not just how they might talk about it.

So, even though I still think it might just happen "by itself", I put more faith in that somebody will come up with a system that works better, without requiring any evangelizing or sacrifices. I.e. not that we have to agree that "it is tough, but we'll tighten our belt and do the right thing". Rather that a new option appears which is compelling, immediately gratifying, which will be readily adopted even for the "wrong" reasons, but which is viral in its nature, and unstoppable. Like, how if somebody invents a new type of cell phone, and it is cheap and allows us to do something immediately useful - of course we'll adopt it, and some people will make a lot of money on producing it. And maybe it changes the world in a pervasive and useful way that the people producing it or adopting it might not have thought about.

A new kind of economic system could possibly be an instantly compelling no-brain kind of thing. If you could get more of what you want and less of what you don't want, and it is easy to do, and you retain more power of choice in your life - of course you'd want it. So far, the alternatives offered in economic systems, like LETS or barter systems, have been not that useful. They're a nice idea, and maybe they provide a few new possibilities for some people, but overall they just make things a little more complicated compared with national currencies. And they're really not a new economic system, but just a supplementary, complementary feature.

The right kind of construct, launched in the right way, might obviously, to everybody, provide more value and more flexibility for everybody than the current global money system. There are plenty of things in the way, of course, in the form of forces that would spare no resources in stopping such a system from being put into place. But the biggest reason it isn't there is really that nobody's invented it. Not just the good idea of it, but the real thing.  

22 Jan 2005 @ 13:20 by Gerry @ : I missed it
People talking about my writing most of a year back now, and I missed it.

My working hypothesis at the moment is that alternative currencies should/will replace the monetary systems we have now. I ended up here Googling for my name and "anarchy" after Harry posted a link to WB comments: http://www.thehappytutor.com/archives/2005/01/emergent_ideali.html

Alternative currencies have the potential to fill the need for valuation without the nasty tendency of money to accumulate. It's not about slaying the dragons, but instead systematically taking away the shiny things that the dragons so like to hoard. We don't need the shiny things to live, we need clothing, shelter and companions. We need to start playing a different game.  

28 Jun 2009 @ 09:03 by Catarina @ : Holonomics
I read one of the comments above referring to "Holonomics" which depends on a self-reflective form of consciousness, a clarity of perception, and an ability to account for and create order. Hence, it is an intuitive apprehension and expression of a system as a whole in which one is a member. In other words, the holonomic philosophy is about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts but each of its parts is a whole system in and of itself. Personally, this is the way I think a true society should work: care for the self involves care for others and the environment.
There's a great website (http://www.holonomics.info) that delves deeper into this and there's a new eco-village in development based specifically on this theory (http://holonomicsecoproject.yolasite.com). I encourage you to check it out.  

Other stories in
2010-07-10 13:01: Strong Elastic Links
2010-07-08 02:27: Truth: superconductivity for scalable networks
2010-06-27 02:28: Be afraid, be very afraid
2008-07-06 23:20: Laws of social networks
2008-06-20 15:40: Peer material production
2008-05-06 13:57: Why can't we stick to our goals?
2008-02-21 21:16: Open social networks
2007-11-08 01:49: The value of connections
2007-11-07 00:51: Diversity counterproductive to social capital?
2007-07-13 23:42: Plan vs Reality

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