Monday, July 27, 2015

Subsistence Living Amidst Hoarded Plenty - vs - The Insanely Great Performance Of Social Species

   (Commentary posted by Roger Erickson)

The “sharing economy,” or a brief recurrence of sharecropping mentality? Or both? Should we be complacent, giddy with relief, or expect even more depressing hardship before sanity breaks out again, on a larger scale? Is everything going to change as much -  better or worse - as plentiful prophets are always claiming?
"You only find this new economy if you look hard for it. In Greece, when a grassroots NGO mapped the country’s food co-ops, alternative producers, parallel currencies and local exchange systems they found more than 70 substantive projects and hundreds of smaller initiatives ranging from squats to carpools to free kindergartens. To mainstream economics such things seem barely to qualify as economic activity – but that’s the point. They exist because they trade, however haltingly and inefficiently, in the currency of postcapitalism: free time, networked activity and free stuff. It seems a meagre and unofficial and even dangerous thing from which to craft an entire alternative to a global system, but so did money and credit in the age of Edward III."

Uh ... so what? I'm not sure this helps anyone. It's just stating what all can see, without making any useful suggestions, or any useful warnings.

Let's start with the warnings. A national government is the ultimate current example of cooperative coordination, and is a remarkable achievement for any population. Tearing an organized government apart, and attempting to replace it with isolated pockets of coordination is NOT necessarily progress. In fact, that's the same, insanely juvenile, logic that various Bolsheviks & Capitalists, from Stalin to Pol Pot to Scott Walker and the Koch brothers, fell back on. Tear some highly evolved thing apart, and plan to replace it with something better? Like 5-yr olds dismantling a watch, that strategy rarely, if ever works, while evolution does.

Meanwhile, if you look at the insane profit margins of firms like Uber, they present ample opportunities for Capitalists (or Pol Pots) to - once again, and a little bit longer - steal the commons. This time, they're stealing your time, which is rather like belling the cats. Except this time it's belling the distributed cats that invent innovations, so that the bell-makers can steal them faster. The form changes, but not the goal.

Yes, new forms of coordination will continue to break out, but don't expect pickpockets with MBA degrees to stop stealing whole railroads.

Sinks in any system stop destroying aggregate output ONLY when sources surround sinks with enough warning lights and stop signs.

The desired outcome of the process we call "coordination" is to reduce any & all frictions, from individual frictions to institutional frictions. Success tracks our ability to fine tune the little things that keep us and all of our institutions from working at cross purposes. (Kudos to Col. Casey Haskins for helping to drive home that concept.)

Who controls what Marx called the “power of knowledge?” To a biologist, that seems like a specious question - revealing that the questioners mind is trapped in the capitalist dogma of agent-based competition to seize & control - for what sustainable purpose, they never explain.

Doesn't it seem more sensible to instead ask, why anyone would limit the power of aggregates to compound knowledge? Isn't that the same logic as "why shrink the flock of geese that lay golden eggs?"

To a biologist, this whole discussion is an aberrant tangent. Capitalism is no more than the mores of a bandit or Cossack camp, a population with members recently & briefly ripped from integration in a social species. Given time, even bandit bands re-invent coordination & teamwork, and return to their social-species instincts. The only question is, how much time? The answer depends on the cleverness the bandits wield, and the contexts they find themselves in. No one said evolution is easy, just unstoppable.

Our "general intellect" won't blow anything sky high, except in the mind of the aberrants. It will just allow us to regain the aggregate-intellectual-agility we once had in fluid tribal societies, before our growth spurt created our existing, supra-tribal population sizes, and thereby briefly turned us into the less-agile bandit super-society we call capitalism.

Paul Mason seems to be missing his own forest, by populating it with one too many of his own, distracting trees. All those little experiments in "sharing" on a larger scale? They started from scratch, mostly BECAUSE few, if any of the participants knew they were supposed to read attempted summaries of unpredictably distributed innovations, by people like Paul Mason. And, as noted, they were just prevented from continuing coordination on a national scale, through use of a functional government serving the needs and desires of the people.

It may come across as harsh, but what useful purpose does Paul Mason play? He travels around telling people what they see in their own mirrors? I don't get it. Does anyone remember the name of the Dinosaur who traveled around telling compatriots that the end of sauropods was occurring? Methinks it was rather obvious to all, and they didn't throw parties for scribes recording the obvious. In fact, they probably ate him.

Now about those requested suggestions. What would help cut through all the useless chatter and clutter of banalities? Maybe cooperative interactions with each other? How many of each other? There's the rub. If citizens could know summaries of what ALL of their co-citizens knew, they wouldn't have to worry about their food supply or "money" supply. They'd have more options, plenty of free time, and literally endless suggestions. For now, I'll only make one suggestion.  Personally, I think that we should be paying one helluva lot of attention to what gets taught in those cooperative kindergartens. Tomorrow's aggregate adaptive rate may well depend largely on the utility of such adaptive methods.

We are what we practice, we practice what we train, we train what we teach, and we teach what we see (not what we say).

In the end, we as a people learn the dynamic sum of what we do, and our descendants live with the outcomes we deserve.

It's literally not enough even to do unto others what you would have done to you. To make your culture even more adaptive, you now have to do unto the 7th generation yet unborn what subtle, small things you would have had your ancestors prepare for you. That's how subtle & complex our adaptive challenges now are.  In other words, our challenge is to think ahead, as never before, and more every year.

If that cascade isn't actively and exquisitely coordinated into a whole greater than the sum of it's parts, then we get the distributed civil war of capitalism, instead of the insanely great performance of finely tuned, highly adaptive, social species.

No comments: