Ming the Mechanic:
Peer material production

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 Peer material production2008-06-20 15:40
by Flemming Funch

From P2P Foundation, Raoul Victor talking about how a Peer to Peer society might look like. One of the hard parts would be how to get from a capitalistic production system to a P2P system, presumably not based on money.
From a human point of view, the “efficiency” of a mode of production is measured by its capacity to allow the human material needs to be satisfied. Capitalism has created an extraordinary network (the world market) allowing existent needs to find, some times at the other side of the world, the means to be satisfied. Demand and offer are confronted and interrelated through the market mechanisms. But it is a relation distorted by commercial exchange and the capitalistic logic based of profit.

In the capitalist market, the needs considered are not all the real human needs. These are limited by the necessity to be solvent. If you don’t have money, your needs/desires do not exist in the market, they are not taken into account.

The offer is also limited, restricted: if production can not be sold, sold with profit, it is not done. Non profitable production does not exists in the market. Without profit perspective, fields are lied fallow, factories (even modern ones) closed, workers unemployed.

Only the logic of the capitalist market can explain that to day a child dies from malnutrition every 5 seconds in the world.

A peer society is the only way to interrelate the real (and not the solvent) demand with the real (and not the profitable) potential forces of production, human and material.
I intuitively agree. But how it actually is done, that's the thing. Our capitalistic system is inhumanely cruel and unable to deal with a great number of needs. But it is more efficient and productive than some of the alternatives, like a top-down communist bureaucracy. However, it shouldn't be all that hard to prove that it is hugely more wasteful and inefficient than a networked system that inspires people to produce what actually is needed, and to do so in the most efficient way. That would require, not just that everybody does whatever they feel like, but that there are potent ways of measuring of what is needed, what work is of good quality, etc. There'd still be a great need to way of measuring value.
For most of commonly needed products, we could imagine sorts of “super-markets” (we should say “super non-markets”) where goods are free/gratis. These might also be Internet sites. The nature and quantities of the products taken (instead of bought) would be instantaneously registered and the data sent by Internet to centers at different levels (villages, local, regional, worldwide).

That data would be permanently processed at different levels by a set of softwares in order to generate a list of consumption requirements, including as much information as possible: geographical localization, quantity, qualities, etc. The softwares would be constantly developed and improved integrating the final-user desires, systematically collected, elaborated, processed at all levels. That list would be made available to anyone in the planet, giving an instantaneous and permanent list of all the common consumption “itches” that humans “need to scratch”.

On the productive side, any center of production would thus have a real and large choice to decide what it prefers to produce, having the security that its product will be useful and used/consumed. It could also make propositions of new solutions to present or future needs/desires.

Every production center, in his turn, would express permanently its needs in order to realize its projects and, as for consumption, through Internet, these would be instantaneously collected, processed and put at public use.
What really would change the world in fairly rapid order would be just that: the ability to view it more clearly. If you actually could SEE, much more clearly than you can now, what is going on, what needs there are, what problems there are, how well the solutions are working, what is being produced, and what isn't - most reasoably rational humans would right away get ideas about what to do, and who to do it with and for.

The biggest problem is blindness. The prices in a market are a way of seeing. If you see that something is cheap or expensive, or abundant or scarce, it tells you something. Not necessarily the truth, but you assume that a whole complicated process already has taken place to establish those conditions. That works, but badly. How about if you actually could access, directly, the real costs of different products, services and activities. And you could see their real value. Do they really work, do they solve any problems? And you could see what is needed in many different areas and how well those needs are met.

That would all require some very fancy data processing which doesn't quite exist. But just imagine it. You're being fooled into paying high prices for products and services that often are of low quality and that could be done much more cheaply. You're being fooled into spending most of your life doing work that isn't actually very useful or needed. You're supporting organizations and electing leaders that don't necessarily do what's best for you or for the world. You do that because you're blind, getting your information from heresay and from the media, so you just give it your best guess and do what other people seem to be doing. But what if you could actually see, in a way that much better approximated reality, what is going on around you and in the world?

Peer production would be a no-brainer, if you had the right information and good enough communication channels. It would also be the end of many other systems that don't actually work very well, but that work in muddy waters.

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29 Jun 2008 @ 15:35 by ming : Information and the net
The net is a big step in the right direction. It allows us to easily know about stuff we otherwise would have a hard time learning about. But the waters are also pretty muddied on the net. It is a bit hard to see what is what. The information we need is more or less there, I'm sure, but our tools for accessing them, for really SEEing it, are still relatively poor.

I'm longing for being able to see things more like Hans Rosling visuals. And without somebody needing to carfully prepare such presentations for us. I'd like to be the one who decides which information I'd like to see, and then I'd like that information to be easily locatable and in a state that allows me to visualize it relatively easily.

We're certainly moving closer.  

29 Jun 2008 @ 15:39 by ming : Capitalism
The capitalist "free market" system certainly allows us to do some things that would be hard to do with several competing systems. It provides some incentives for converting poor areas into being populated by middle-class consumers. But at the same time it provides incentives for not doing so, as, for example, we need to have cheap labor somewhere.

The point is that there can be something better, which is more efficient, and at the same time more fair. And that something depends greatly on good information.

The free market system depends on the fiction that people make correct decisions based on the information they have. They don't. But still, if radically better information could be available, people would make better decisions. So, that would be an avenue for tranforming the system from the inside.  

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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
2008-05-06 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
2007-07-12 22:53: Emergence and democracy

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