Las Indias in English

Since 2002 opening ways towards a New World

las Indias Cooperative Group

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ June 23rd, 2015 ~ 1

Sharing is a glimpse of abundance

comunidad transgeneracional
To understand the relationship of abundance to marginal cost allows us to see “collaborative consumption” from a new angle.

sharingEconomyLet’s take an example. You and a neighbor work in the same business. He has a car, so he offers to share it, to go back and forth to work together. One fine day, you discover that another workmate also lives in your building. The extra cost from taking him is negligible. For all intents and purposes, zero. Additionally, you could go from three to four, and even from four to five, without the increase in people who enjoy the service meaning an increase in total costs.

What’s happened? We started with a situation where only one person was going to work by car and changed to another where everyone has as much as they want of the product “go to work by car,” and the cost of doing so has been zero. We have had a glimpse of abundance and discovered a simple, everyday example in which the marginal costs are zero.

Limits

compartiendo en peer byBut if we think about it carefully, what we have is really little more than a mirage. If another co-worker moves into the neighborhood, providing him with the service would mean buying a new car. If we write out the marginal costs, we would find that they are zero between one and five people, and rise—by the price of a car—by going to six; then they return to zero from six to seven and will continue on at zero until the eleventh person we want to carry, at which point we would have to buy another new car. And so it would continue indefinitely—between each multiple of five and the following, we’ll have a pretty significant marginal cost.

That is, if we think about growing, about providing for a community or a network of certain size, we cannot think for one moment that we are living in a world of zero marginal costs. And above all, though the ideas is functional for a small community, we are putting the focus on the mere optimization of the use of what already exists and taking it off of what abundance truly means: the development of the capacity to transform our setting to the point of being able to satisfy everyone’s needs.

The moral of the story

This is why collaborative consumption should be understood, above all, beyond the increases in efficiency in consumption, as an element of cultural change, as the limited experience of a possible world which, however, is begin decided on and is built somewhere else.

To look at sharing from the point of view of marginal costs also illuminates some dark corners of the community phenomenon. We know that one of the keys of the capacity for resistance and resilience of the community experience throughout history has been sustained by the ability to enjoy those “glimpses of abundance” continuously. We also know that even though the Dunbar number puts a total limit of 148 members on the size of a real human community, really existing communities tend to have “thresholds” in their growth, the so-called sub-Dunbar numbers (6, 12, 20, 30, 60, 80). Might the sub-Dunbar numbers be related to similar thresholds in our example?

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ June 22nd, 2015 ~ 1

Abundance is the end of divisions in production

fabrica de utopiasThe culture in which we were brought up is the product of millenia of scarcity. That is why it’s easier for us imagine a society of abundance as the negation of a good part of what we know and take for granted than as the affirmation of a project whose elements are within arm’s reach. However, the unprecedented development of productivity during the last two hundred years, the emergence of distributed networks, and the first social experiences of abundance on the Internet have begun to clearly show outlines of the possible world in the present. Today, to imagine the society of abundance is, in more and more fields, to take the present–a present that is radically different from that of the origins of industrialism–to its limits.

The division of labor

Fabrica-FordAn especially interesting example is the division of labor. In classical economics, starting with Adam Smith and his famous example of the production of pins, specialization is understood as part of the social effort for the improvement of productivity. That is, it was part of the road towards abundance. Dividing work into precise tasks and substitute people with machines, to the extent technological development made it possible, was the heart of the Industrial Revolution that transformed the world between the 18th and 20th centuries.

From the manufacturing to the robotic factory, the specialization of tasks not only revolutionized productivity, but also encouraged the specialization of knowledge, and just as it had never been possible to produce so much, neither had so much knowledge been developed ever before.

falansterio de ugineBut with the development of services and the massive incorporation of information technology, knowledge becomes a direct tool of production on a new scale. Production processes are confused with marketing and communication. Businesses begin to demand people with more than one specialty. What had, until then, been reserved for engineers and a few technicians, was multiplied by all of the knowledge that the new industries understand link their more and more sophisticated tools and products. Initially, this tendency, which Juan Urrutia called multipecialization, appears above all in the new technology sector that becomes consolidated in the ’70s.

But the innovation industry linked to personal computing first and the Internet later, is a very particular industry: in the US, its pioneers are openly influenced by hippy understandings of abundance, and in Europe, by a new work ethic centered on knowledge that soon will be expressed in free software. As far back as 1984, the writer Bruce Sterling describes in his novel Islands in the Net the following dialogue full of reminiscences of the classic tales of the society of abundance:

islas en la red“… a sort of hotel manager?”

“In Rhizome we don’t have jobs, doctor Razak. Only things to do and people who do them.”

“My esteemed colleagues of the Party of Innovation Popular might call this inefficient.”

“Well, our idea of efficiency has more to do with personal realization that with, um, material possessions.”

“I understand that a broad number of employees of Rhizome do not work at all.”

“Well, we keep ourselves busy doing our own thing. Of course, much of this activity is outside the money economy. An invisible economy that is not quantifiable in dollars.”

“In ecus, you mean.”

“Yes, I’m sorry. It’s like housework: you don’t pay anyone money to do it, but that’s how the family survives, isn’t it? Just because it’s not a bank doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As an aside, we’re not employees, but members.

“In other words, your baseline is playful joy before benefit. You have replaced work, the humiliating spectrum of forced production, with a series of varied hobbies like games. And replaced the motivation of greed with a network of social ties, reinforced by an elected structure of power.”

“Yes, I think so…, if I understand their definitions.”

“How long until you entirely eliminate work?”

What makes this scene especially interesting is that the character being interrogated is member of a transnational egalitarian community. Sterling’s intuition connects technologies that had hardly even been sketched out then–in fact, in the novel, the Internet is not used, but a sort of hybrid of fax and e-mail–with the cooperative inheritance and community values held by hippies in the US.

Twenty-first century trends

mariadbThe prophecy will begin to come true scarcely a decade later with the nascent reality of the first industry linked to abundance: free software. Connected to it is the appearance of the first businesses that break with the obsessive hierarchies of the industrial enterprise. As Pekka Himanen argued in 2000 in his famous essay about the hacker ethic, in knowledge industries, work in self-managed teams is simply more productive. Also, by that time, the Internet was already restructuring the forms of relationship. Hackers, used to equality in conversation and to working in networks like equals, practiced “flat” forms of organization based on conversation between “multi-specialized” individuals. Also, networks of relationships between peers that occur in a conversational space will tend to be transnational, limited perhaps by linguistic borders.

falansterioThis incipient movement will not stay in the world of software: consulting, digital publishing, graphic design, and generally all the services that were first commercialized directly via the Internet are the natural point of departure for these first experiments of transnational communities of multispecialists, but not their destination. The development of productivity and new forms will reach the industrial world in their most radical way as the “direct economy“: small groups of friends design products, finance them with pre-sales and crowdsourcing within communities of affinity, send them to be built by the old industry (now converted to 3D printers), and distribute them through the network.

As a result, traces of abundance appear in more and more places in our lives. The tendency can be summed up today as: multispecialization, transnationality, and non-heirarchical organization of business.

If we take them to their limits, we can glimpse the main features of work in a society of abundance: obsessive specialization disappears, and with it, professional identities as we know them. Thus, the ideal of knowledge as a whole is recovered. In correspondence, group projects, formed and motivated by the pleasure of creating and discovering, not by the need to earn a salary, small, non-hierarchical, identarian communities form, which don’t respect borders other than the ones of the affinity for objectives and media.

A society of abundance is a society in which productivity is not separate from research, conversation and knowledge, as if they were different worlds, and knowledge itself is not divided into professional and mercantile knowledge. It is a society where community is directly productive, without divisions.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ June 8th, 2015 ~ 2

The economic foundations of abundance

pais de la abundancia
We all understand that abundance exists when it becomes unnecessary to work out what is produced and what not, and above all, how much access to a given product these or those people will have.

Schlaraffenland - JaujaThat’s why it’s intuitive to understand that abundance is a question of costs. We all understand that if producing something doesn’t cost anything, that something will be abundant. The problem is that it’s hard to think of anything whose production doesn’t cost anything, and even harder to picture a society where it never costs anything to produce anything.

The truth is that a situation like this is not necessary to imagine a society of abundance. We just need to distinguish between value and price on the one hand, and the other, between the different types of costs of production.

Value, price and costs

As we saw in the prior essay, as a species, we humans are obliged to transform Nature to survive. In that transformation, “things” incorporate knowledge and are “humanized” as they are turned into products. This incorporation is none other than the effect of the the transformation itself, the effect of work. That’s what we call value.

Value and price

Schlaraffenland - Jauja 3Value is not price. Price is a measure that attempts to quantify the relationship between different resources within general scarcity. Value, in contrast, is the measure of work, and therefore, of the knowledge “incorporated” into an object or a service.

The difference between value and price is a classic piece of economic theory. The first economists of the 17th and 18th centuries, “the classics,” embraced theories of labor-value and built their models around the differences between “incorporated work” and relative prices over the long term. At the end of the nineteenth century, when the corpus of marginalist economic theory was formed, the economic foundation (value) was left out in favor of an effective explanation of the mechanism of prices. A good understanding of the mechanism of prices and the efficient distribution of scarce resources needed no more than a good understanding of the relationship between supply and demand, which is to say the relative measure of scarcity among resources.

In reality, every object or service, to the extent that is necessarily a product, and to the extent that it always incorporates human labor, has value, but only goods, the scarce products that enter the market, have a price.

When something becomes abundant it stops having a price, or rather, has a price of zero. A handy example is free software. It obviously has value: it incorporates knowledge and serves in turn to produce other goods and services. It also has costs: the work hours that thousands of developers have dedicated to coding and the computers they used, the maintenance of the servers from which each program is distributed, etc. And yet, its price is zero. Why? How can it be that something with costs has a price of zero, even when it has established demand and there would be certainly be people prepared to pay for access to it? Is it just a donation?

Price and costs

To answer, we must first understand what costs consist of. Intuitively, when we think about them, we think about the total cost: how much it costs me to produce a given number of copies of something. In reality, this cost has one fixed part–what I have to spend no matter what to start producing–and a variable part, which is a function of the amount produced.

costes variablesFor example, if I want to make sugar, my fixed cost will be (simplifying somewhat) the cost of the sugar-milling machines, while the variable costs will be the sum of the costs of the work hours that I dedicate, the tons of beets I purchase, and the electricity consumed by the machines. The fixed cost, the cost of the sugar-making machine, does not depend on the amount I choose to produce. However, the variable costs will tend to grow as I produce more. Intuitively, we understand that the average cost, the result of dividing the total costs by the amount produced, at least at first, will tend to decrease because by producing more, and the part of the fixed cost built into each cup of sugar will be smaller. As of a certain quantity, however, I would begin to find myself obeying the famous “law of diminishing returns,” and costs would vary (three people working on the machine do not produce three times more than the first, but rather, a bit less).

costes marginalesBut there is still one more measure of cost, which is especially interesting: marginal cost, the extra cost incurred to produce the next unit of product. Mathematically, it is the derivative of the function of total costs, but the interesting part comes from being useful to determine how much a business will produce in a market in perfect competition.

Perfect competition is a model that all Econ students learn in their first year. In it, all the businesses in an industry produce identical goods, there are no barriers to new businesses entering the market or old ones exiting. No business has any trouble acquiring new technologies and no business has the power to set prices on its own. In other words, by definition, none of the participants enjoys rents&madsh;benefits due to some type of differentiation or extra-market advantage.

In reality, in a model like this, the price is set by the business that is capable of producing at the lowest cost, and the others adjust their production to that competitive price, which in the end, is simply the one that reduces extraordinary benefits—rents—to zero. In this model, the supply curve of the businesses is built by thinking about how much different businesses would like produce for a given price.

producción competencia perfectaThe answer would seem to be common sense: as the price is equal to the income that the last unit sold would produce, they would not want produce if the marginal cost was greater than the price, because then that last unit would cost more than the income it would create and would reduce the total benefit. But if the marginal cost was less than the price, producing a little more could still bring in a little more and give a greater total benefit. Result: a business will be situated with maximum total benefits when the amount produced equals marginal cost and price.

And thus, one of the mantras of every economist is born: in perfect competition, which is to say, when rents don’t exist, the price is the marginal cost.

Abundance as child of the market

Schlaraffenland - Jauja 2By introducing time into this model, Econ students learn that predictably, over the long term, in every industry, the curves shift to the right, which is to say, that prices fall over time. But let’s imagine that a series of technologies or forms of production appear that pull the curve of marginal costs down, so that, over the long term, we could think about marginal costs equal to zero.

If we think about it a bit, that’s already happened with some immaterial goods: up to a certain amount, one more person downloading one of our books from our server does not mean any extra cost. The marginal cost of distributing a book in the public domain is zero. And what goes for a book goes for a copy of the latest distribution of Debian.

In markets like free software, therefore, we can talk about having arrived at the paradigm of perfect competition: Zero marginal cost and zero price. The product has reached a point where the efficient price is the zero price. No longer is it exchanged for money, no longer is it a commodity: decommodification has arrived as a product of the evolution of the market.

Criticism and nuances

Distributed networks and abundance

Topologías_de_redThe first criticism of the example above would be that it’s only true for a certain number of copies, because if our server passed a certain critical point, we would have to increase bandwidth and in reality, if it happened long term, we would have a growing variable cost and therefore, a positive marginal cost.

But this is really only true if there is only one server from which to download the product. If we share it on a P2P network, like those created with the BitTorrent protocol, we would be in a radically different scenario: each new download, each new user, would mean a another possible place to download from for the next person. The more people who “consume,” the less each one of those who already are part of the network need to contribute. Not only we would we be well settled with the zero marginal cost, but at the limits, the total cost borne by each person would also be zero.

This is just one example of the logic of abundance produced by distributed networks described by Juan Urrutia in 2001. In addition to the network effects like the one described above, there’s one more important element: the drastic reduction of transaction costs that appears when the real social network unites identarian communities.

bittorrentTransaction costs is another concept from economic theory. They were created to explain why, if markets tend toward efficiency, people don’t just start produce things on their own, hiring the factors of production and even the coordination of the process ad hoc. That is, transaction costs are the primary explanation for the existence of businesses. They include things like the cost of negotiating with providers and customers, the derivatives of the need to get information and those of supervising providers and customers. All of them have to do with asymmetries of information and distrust between people, and it is that distrust that makes it rational to set up a business, which is to say an institution, a set of contracts, that is going to remain stable over time.

But all these costs dissipate within a real community–which is, by definition, a small distributed network–of people based on trust. Unity in large distributed networks of overlapping identarian communities–which is to say that on average, each individual will have more than one identity-based community–is both about the role of models and the reality made much more possible by the Internet, the “primordial soup” where abundance germinates for the first time, even if only in a few environments, on a massive scale.

Other rents

El capitalismo que vieneAnother obvious criticism would remind us that, “in real life,” big businesses do not live in markets with perfect competition, but seek rents of all kinds: rents of position, regulatory rents…

But here once again, the emergence of distributed architectures changes the game. The key is a concept described for the first time in another book by Juan Urrutia: the dissipation of rents. The idea is that the unity of distributed networks and globalization erodes all rents more and more intensely, including regulatory rents like intellectual property.

To understand the ultimate causes, we must add one more factor: the reduction of the optimal scales of production, which is result of technological development. The same movement background that produces a true crisis of scale means that necessary investments are smaller smaller, and it takes less time to replicate an innovation in any industry, including some as complex as pharmaceuticals. That’s why even rents from innovation, the benefit derived from create something new and enjoy a small, temporary monopoly, are more and more brief.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that rents derived from things like the legislation of intellectual property or “custom” regulations for oligopolies like electricity have disappeared or been canceled. It just means that, for the time being, they are being continuously eroded, in an unending cycle of innovations that erode rents and legal repression, new innovations that have already brought down audiovisual industries, publishers, and even energy production, and that, over the long term, seem to reinforce the expansion of technologies and networks that are more and more distributed and opaque to the State.

The fibers of abundance

mosaico abundanciaThe fibers of a society of abundance are already among us. Some, like the dizzying development of productivity or the possibility of zero marginal costs, were already present in the thought of the utopians and economists of the 19th century. Others, like the role of the reduction of scales, distributed networks, and the commons, only have appeared clearly in the last three decades.

Those very elements let us clearly see something that is no less important: what doesn’t lead to abundance, what is truly “reactionary” in our days. We’re talking about strategies like the recentralization of the Internet, and about economic nationalism and the expansion of corporate rents that it entails, which are typically accompanied by the exaltation of over-scaled financial markets, and therefore necessarily destructive. But we’re also talking about narratives that present growth, technological development, and productivity as enemies to beat.

In upcoming essays in this series, we’ll go into more depth on the new basis of abundance, to start them to imagine the possible world that they are drawing for us.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ June 1st, 2015 ~ 1

The “why” of everything in just over 1000 words

The nature of the human race

NeoliticoSince the origin of our species, we humans have grouped ourselves to satisfy the needs of our own existence, which is to say, to produce everything that makes our survival possible. By joining into community to produce, humans make it the essence of their social organization to transform nature. However, in the course of time, a new result appears, which surpasses the initial objective of the mere production of tools and food: knowledge.

Applying knowledge allows humans to make their work produce more and more results. Acquired knowledge, by collectively transforming Nature, which is to say, by working, will materialize in new tools and ways of producing: what we call technology. Because production is a social, collective act, technological development will also drive changes in the organization of labor that, at certain times, will call into question the relationships of power between the different groups in each social organization.

Scientific truth and social stories

foucault y sartre mayo 68This inherent conflict makes it necessary to understand and justify alternatives. That is, knowledge of social matters appears as a result of the change promoted by knowledge and the evolution of ways of transforming of Nature through technology. But while the empirical knowledge about Nature that is materialized in science and technology of each age objectively expresses the transformative power of the species as a whole, knowledge of social matters will be always mediated, because in the discussion of social matters, each interest group, each power group, will understand as true those values and stories that effective at transforming or conserving the relations that align with their own interests and uncertainties.

In the same way, every community tends to define itself and explain the world, within the general conditions it lives in, according to a story that is effective for its objectives. That’s why what serves to describe the origins of the great tendencies, motivating stories, and ideas about historical change do not necessarily explain the behavior of the path of a real community in history. The Hutterites of the sixteenth century can be told as a product of the gigantic scenario of politics and class conflicts in the Europe of that time, but their descendants, current Hutterite communities, cannot be explained except as the result of the endogenous dynamic of a series of real communities of their descendants, reaffirming themselves until they are frozen into a set of beliefs and traditions that have been tremendously effective in their setting for almost five hundred years.

The base

cerditoepicureoWe real communities and individuals tend to define ourselves by ideas that are really just a set of answers to questions which we have only partly chosen to ask and which we constructed using the elements we had at our disposal. We have limits on knowledge of our times, on our historical context, and on the place we occupy in society. But also we have autonomy within the limits of the general development of knowledge and of social relationships existing in every age.

A ethic of autonomy, an ethic that can try to be emancipating for individuals and communities, must begin with knowledge. As we saw, knowledge is the result and the central tool of the human experience, our main weapon against uncertainty, and the point of connection between our species and Nature, between technology and society, and between historical change and social relationships. It’s not developed in a sort of big, open general chat, but within given contexts, under certain rules, and starting from a particular identity among those who take part in the conversation. All knowledge is, to some extent, community knowledge. That’s why the projection of an ethic of knowledge is not “political,” a theory of the State, but a theory of human communities that uses them to explain the societies in which they exist. To see the social world not only as an inter-communitarian terrain with many social “truths” in play, and also many kinds of truth, means accepting conflict as inevitable, but also understanding that, most of the time, the framework of that conflict can be agreed on.

Abundance as a goal for communities and species

Crates_e_Hipparchia_ en Villa_FarnesinaNot being “political” in a strict sense does not mean, however, that being founded on an ethic of knowledge necessarily condemns us to a story without a goal.

While transforming Nature is the original definition of the species, which is motivated by the need to overcome uncertainty and scarcity, the development of knowledge—which turns species time into historical time—is the only creator of meaning in the great macro-story of the human experience. Obviously, this tale is not linear, always ascendant, or predetermined to reach any specific place. Knowledge is a product of the transformation of nature and in good measure is dependent on it. That’s why eras, societies, or communities where that transformation stops end up “forgetting” knowledge and technologies that were previously known and losing skills and structures, until they revert to subsistence economies; societies that, like several tribes still existing today, find a fragile “stationary state” in isolation, or communities like the Amish or the Hutterites, which simply “choose” not to grow. These are not more authentic or “human,” but just the opposite, the most dehumanizing and alienating, because they deny and abort what is central to the human experience on the basis of a social system in which passion for knowledge and diversity suffer what can only be iron control.

futurismoThought founded on an ethic of knowledge has to be projected not only onto the knowledge of a community, but also onto a Socioeconomics oriented towards abundance. Abundance means that knowledge has been developed to where it allows the species to transform and produce to make freedom possible for each of its members. What constrains everyone’s freedom in every social order, what makes such constraint necessary, is the need to organize according to the best technology possible to overcome scarcity. A society of scarce surpluses is a stratified society, supported by the power of the groups that manage it. Abundance as a historical stage would therefore mean the end of uncertainty as a primary engine of knowledge, and the end of conflicts that result from a social structure determined by scarcity.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

las Indias

las Indias 24 ~ May 27th, 2015 ~ 2

OuishareFest 2015: Interview with Juan Urrutia

juan ouisharefest 2015¿What did happen in the nineties? How a distinguished professor of Economics, well known academic writer, got involved in communitarianism and started trying to build a New Economic Theory of the transition towards a society of abundance.

Las Indias and I were bound to come together around the issue of communitarianism. Yes I was a professor of Economics (completely orthodox) but I could not forget

  • May 68 in Europe and USA
  • Frankfurtian ideas (Marcuse)
  • Specific kind of psychology centered on Fritz Pearls¨Gestalt Therapy

And some young people around (members of las Indias today), a bunch of hackers indeed, showed me that something called ICT (Information and Communication Technology) could give rise to a new way of economic thinking called at the time «New Economy».

This New Economy developes around two important ideas:

  • abundance is possible
  • networking is crucial

The Great Recession forgot about the dotcom firms and it is only now that they (the hackers) and I (the old professor) can face the intellectual challenge of building up a new basic model of the workings of the economy build upon, not the I, but the «WE».

But it has to be done unless we are ready to accept to be lost in transition.

Identitarian communities and abundance

ouisharefest2015But in the course of your research you found this «we» is not every possible «we», but a very particular «we» called «identitarian community», product of the modelization of networking. So, in order to be clear, everybody has an intuitive concept of «networking» but… what really networking is from the point of view of formal economic analysis and how does it produce identitarian communities?

We call networking the formation of networks of persons through a process that can be modelled as an evolutionary game among them. The game is played among all pairs of persons formed at random and connected in the network at a given moment, a network that as time goes on increases the number of connections.

The interaction generates «memes» (social habits) that change as the network becomes more and more dense (or closed knit). In the limit this evolutionary game generates an equilibrium called evolutionary stable stategy in which the “memes” attained cannot be changed by mutants.

The corresponding society is what we call an identitarian community.

Both in practice and in economic modeling the distinctive culture of identitarian communities is fraternity, and old philosophical subject from Epicurus to the French revolution and so on. How does fraternity change the game, how does social results become subverted by the kind of fraternity an identitarian community produces?

Fraternity is in its foundations the pleasure of being together as it was already defined by the epicurean concept of «friendship», which in turn sustains mutual trust and credible commitments. And in such a society scarcity is overcome, abundance is possible.

  • Based on changes of costs
    • Transaction costs disappear because of mutual trust
    • There are increasing returns from the demand side. For example the «net effect» also called the «Mathew effect» produces these increasing returns becase “those who have will get more”
    • The economies of scope increase their importance
  • But also based on “rent dissipation”. Monopolies have disapeared because nobody gains anything threatening to leave the identitarian community because this threat is not credible since the equilibrium is mutant’s proof: perfect competition has been reached.

Revolution

ouisharefest 2015 foto julie«Rent Dissipation» is the main concept of your 2003’s book «Capitalism to come», the book in which you defined by first time the possibility of a sharing economy. But little time before you also published a brochure I would like to refer to now. It became very relevant those days because newspapers, specially conservative newspapers, said you cooked in that book the theory for the mobs against the government that followed the march eleventh alqaedas’s attacks. To me the relevant thing of the economic models you worked there is to show how «revolution» happens inside an identitarian community and how it is related to network architecture.

Yes, the identitarian community is always threatened by revolution which is possible or not depending on:

  • The threshold of rebellion: the number of other members of the network who would support the change, something I need to know for eventually changing my behavior myself.
  • The epistemic condition, i.e. who knows what.
  • The density of the network.

And this creates a paradox:

  • Classify communities in conservative (high) or progressive (small) according to its threshold of rebellion.
  • Resulting that in the conservative societies the revolution is easier the less dense is the structure.

An example could be the UK a collection of conservative and isolated overlapping communities in which nobody has sufficient knowledge about the threshold of rebllion of others.

Consumption and producction

So, you modeled how networks and communitarianism defined the horizon of abundance, then in detailed mechanisms of how it tend to happen as rent dissipation, and then you researched social network dynamics explaining revolution in networked behavior. Finally your work in las Indias focused in the creation of «new basic economic model» upon all those pieces…

For our desired new basic model there are two fundamental pieces: consumption and production.

  • On consumption. I know no theory of consumption based on WE and not on I. I only know first approximations like Marx’s Communist paradise, or Marcuse’s 68 ideas in California or, indeed the way of life in the Esalem Institute in Big Sur.

    So, we in las Indias work hard in formalizing the notion of the “good life”.

  • On production. We already know, in the context of abundance, of the Mathew effect and related economies of scales and economies of scope. But we have to take into account
    • Strategies: two well known strategies became impossible:

      • to take a possition.
      • to establish an standard
    • Rules of management. Two are selfdefeating:
      • conservation of clients.
      • education of workers. In fact distinctions between workers and clients disappear.

Commons

juan y david ouisharefest
In the Economics’s and Philosophical tradition, abundance is the opposite to the mere existence of merchandises. Is it possible even to imagine a path towards abundance based exclusively in market dynamics? Markets interchange merchandises and money, so… And on the other hand, markets offer universal solution that probably no other tool different of them could offer…

After Information and Communication Technologies in the New Economy the percentage of non tangible goods has increased heavily. And most intangibles are commons ( communal goods) characterized by non-rivalry and more or less exhaustibility.

Therefore, in our effort To rebuild the Economy, commons are a very important piece, although we cannot forget markets.

There are however no obvious and universal solution to the problem of common goods. All solutions are ad-hoc and local. Some are good solutions and some are bad.

Today’s examples of local bad solutions on commons:

  • Intellectual property laws are examples of local solutions which are already known as bad solutions
  • knoledge in general and how to finance it
  • Ranking of scientist or universities according to sociometrics distort incentives.

Politics

Well, then if you accept commons as a key piece of the path towards abundance, you will agree this way cannot be only an economic or cultural path, it has to be necessary a political path too which has to produce a change in political institutions and relationships

Yes, our basic model cannot be isolated from politics. The Sharing Economy generalization has to be diverse because of the local nature of identitarian communities making the whole. The political form we in las Indias cherish is confederation which preserves diversity. In a confederation there is no ultimate authority. But it is better to accept it than to try to bould one artificially. Remember the Central Bank Syndrome:

  • the only agent which cannot be forced to honor its promises.
  • Unless its promises are based in the common language and correspond to idiosincratic memes.
  • If we accept diversity
    • optimality might not be reached
    • but survival is maximized (as in Biology) under limited rationality and suboptimizing
    • Stochasticity is therefor implanted and his stochasticity lead to an unique equilibrium.
las Indias

las Indias 24 ~ May 21st, 2015 ~ 2

«The book of community» in English

el libro de la comunidadWe proudly present you today The Book of Community which you can buy now in Amazon. It was written by the whole team of las Indias and translated by Steve Herrick.

From the introduction

We know that most people who propose to “create” a community don’t want to “live in community.” They are looking for guides to design a way of life for themselves and their circle based on sharing more than what they share so far, even if they feel like it’s excessively risky to have “too much” in common. We believe that this book can serve them to do better without having to reestablish the borders that have been set. It’s not that the different dimensions are independent from each other — not at all — but what we learned in each one of them will be interesting even for those who only want to go deeper into one.

This book, rather than a typical “manual,” should be read as an “advice book.” Its focus is practical, because it was practice that guided our evolution. Like Borges, who “wrote” Quijote in the middle of twentieth century, discovering that “what was coming out of him” was identical to what Cervantes had written, though he had not read him before, we realized little by little that that that we’d learned by trial and error, what defined the lifestyle that we were discovering, followed the steps of a long tradition that began in the garden of Epicurus and which we recognized in our era in the Icarians and the Israeli kibbutz. Still later, we met other communities in the US, Germany and Austria that, with years, sometimes decades, of history, and dozens, if not hundreds of members, that had arrived at very similar lessons and models to ours. They are productive and egalitarian communities that give special importance to conversation, learning, and debate, but also to production in common for the material needs of all.

Because we didn’t start from any concrete model, and because we didn’t have “blueprints” from which to build, we have organically incorporated tools and techniques that go far beyond the scarce current community bibliography. This bibliography is, almost entirely, of North American origin and suffers from the need to “invent” what was invented in South America and Europe long ago: the forms and practices of the housing cooperative. What’s shocking is that by dressing it with new clothes (“ecovillage,” “intentional community”), it can find a market in places like France, Spain, Argentina or Uruguay, where there’s a very long tradition of this kind of cooperativism. In contrast, there is little, by which I mean almost nothing, written half-decently about the topics that we usually share, when we “communards” from different places in the world meet each other: how to create an environment helps everyone to overcome their fears and laziness, how to enter the market, how to integrate new members, how to avoid community self-absorption, etc.

These will be our central topics on the following pages.

We think that communities that share everything have a treasure of valuable experiences for anyone who proposes to strengthen their real community and the people they value and feel close with, by sharing some dimension of life in common, whether it’s the economic dimension, the intellectual, or everyday coexistence. Unfortunately, these experiences are mostly part of the “oral culture” of each community network. They are shared but rarely written down. This book is one of the first attempts to do so in Spanish [originally]. It does not answer to any ideological label in particular, but attempts to collect learning from many communities that do not hide from such labels. It attempts to collect a “communitarian consensus,” but also make its contribution, except that this contribution has more to do with common sense in caring for the people and things around us than with any political or social theory. It is intended for those that are considering joining a community or who want to experience community practices with their friends.

If we’ve done it well, it will save you time and learning that sometimes can be painful. If we made assumptions or left out important things that are not obvious, we hope you’ll write us so we can improve new editions.

English translation already in Amazon

Translation by Steve Herrick

las Indias

las Indias 24 ~ April 20th, 2015 ~ 4

GNU social will hold its global “Camp” together with the “Shareable Lab” in Asturias

shareable-logo

The discussion about collaborative consumption is reaching pretty clear positions on the role of business. As Neal Gorenflo said this week:

As for Uber, Airbnb, and the other giants of for-profit sharing, “they do a service in a way, which is to open up a new frontier,” says Gorenflo.” They’re taking the risks, so maybe they are entitled to the rewards.” He adds, however, that citizens would be foolish to not take advantage of this new frontier and create cooperative versions of Airbnb and their ilk in order to truly share the wealth.

gnusocialThe issue, as we’ve known for more than a decade, is that every recentralization, even if done on a citizen platform, has a high social cost: the devaluation of the conversation and the emergence of control. All it takes is experiencing distributed architectures to enter a completely different world. That’s why, if we want create a strategy of civic reappropriation of the “sharing economy,” we have to look to what is spearheading distributed architectures today: GNU social, the Free Software Foundation project that is having the most social impact and growing fastest in users and instances.

Activists, social entrepreneurs and hackers

ancovoligoLast October, Anĉovoligo held a meeting in Gijón of experts in the Sharing Economy from across the world. Among them was Neal Gorenflo representing Shareable.

The main concrete commitment that came out of that was locate Shareable’s first European activities in Asturias, Shareable Lab, an open laboratory with a clear objective: design and promote the first free and distributed reappropriations of the Sharing Economy.

But what to use as a base? The opening of la Matriz and the conversation that this opened, gave the answer: create the first global “camp” to drive the development of GNU social, the GNU social Camp.

The package of GNU social Camp and Shareable Lab could well become the starting point for a true alternative the corporate sharing economy and even the corporate models of the “smart city”.

Reserve the days between the 9th and 16th of September. You have an important appointment, so important it may change the world… of sharing.

Translation by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ April 15th, 2015 ~ 18 ~ 1

The invisible fabric of social cohesion

barrio de la luz avilés

We’re so used to seeing the world from the point of view of institutions, that the most important things are hidden from us. We all “feel” it when a neighborhood or a city begins to decompose, even before anybody tells us to only call “trusted” taxi drivers, not to be on the street after six in the evening, or that we have to pay the rent in cash. It may even be that a society, like in many countries in eastern Europe before the fall of the Wall, is not insecure simply because the repressive capacity of the state prevents security, but because it is so decomposed that as soon as the State withers, the vacuum is immediately filled by organized crime of a new kind that, to everyone’s surprise, is woven into the culture overnight.

It’s true that it’s difficult to define, because even though it can be measured, it’s produced in a space so intimate that the crude tools that a sociologist or a city hall has can’t do it. But it’s there.

vidaIt’s there when we leave our child in the care of the neighbor to go and do some last-minute shopping; when the cashier tells you “you can pay me tomorrow”; when we trust a kid from the neighborhood school to give us private classes, or when there is always someone quicker with their wallet than the neighbor who lost his job when it’s time to buy a round.

All these micro-interactions between people, outside of any institutional framework, not only start from a general trust in the surroundings, they also build it. If we listen to the studies that massive businesses do of their customers, each positive experience earns the trust of one person, but each dissatisfaction, each negative experience, alienates nine. Which is to say, for the fabric of social cohesion to be strengthened, at least nine out of ten interactions with the neighborhood have to be satisfactory.

This means that, if we want strengthen the fabric that sustains social cohesion, the best possible strategy is to increase the number of interactions based on sharing between people, while we also create the conditions so that less than 10% go badly.

Space, identity and the logic of connection

bilbao barriosBut we can’t bring everyone into a big plaza to do that. The panopticon, a building in which everyone sees everyone, functions as a control mechanism in prisons and schools, when there is a watcher and fear of that watcher. When there is not, as we’ve seen with Twitter, the result is the devaluation of conversation, a culture of being “on edge,” and recurrent and sometimes terrible episodes of harassment.

But even in cases where there is effective control, like in many centralized services of the “sharing economy,” trust is placed in a third party, the organizing business, not in others. That’s why they have not had a positive impact on urban identity. And that’s also why, looking at the city, the natural space for sharing is the neighborhood, not the city as a whole.

But neighborhoods are not isolated entities, nor should they be. Any strategy to develop “sharing” in a neighborhood also has to promote “going outside,” understood as a projection of that trust that we’re looking to maximize by supporting daily sharing. The technical solution is nothing more than a replica of the way in which networks grow in the real world, a mechanism called “federation.” In the end, something as simple as knowing about someone requires someone from our broader environment to give them some minimal trust. Then we will be able to choose if we also want give it to them or not, but either way, they will be able to come up in our conversations.

A strategy to develop social cohesion in neighborhoods

lamatrizLet’s take neighborhoods as cells of a distributed structure, and let’s federate them with each other. Let’s include everything that the “sharing economy” has taught us, all those demands that we know that are there because there are already dozens of centralized platforms trying to turn them into businesses: from car-sharing to get to work to exchanging hours of language practice, from offering babysitting to offering hospitality to people who speak other languages or are part of our hobby network. And let’s add all those microentrprenuers who bring food to your office or make a website for you. And life-long businesses that want provide services or set up activities. Let’s turn them all of them into more forms of communication on a virtual network, the same way we share photos or videos. And let’s add to all that, like in Daniel Suarez’s novel, a mechanism that allows us to identify those neighbors who are most active in collaborating with others, most ready to lend a hand.

Wouldn’t that be a true “sharing city,” a “smarter” city, than than the ones the corporate giants are installing? And above all, wouldn’t it promote the development of sharing, of small daily gestures made with community spirit, of cohesion and of the feeling of belonging?

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

Manuel Ortega

Manuel Ortega 8 ~ April 8th, 2015 ~ 16

GNU social: Federation against the social model of Twitter

15m

The Facebook and Twitter socialization model, the FbT model, is like a large plaza where everyone can shout their slogans, while barely listening to each other and without taking responsibility for looking at context and understanding conversations. The result is like a big chicken coop, a “fray,” where any attempt to maintain a conversation on any topic is immediately cut off by an avalanche of slogans and aggression by users who, quite possibly, haven’t even read the article that led to the conversation.

Why does GNU social create more value in its conversations than Twitter?

lamatrizIt is no coincidence that what users most value is having “fewer links that on Twitter, more characters and more conversation,” “a space without noise for calm conversation,” “speaking calmly and dealing with other topics,” etc. All these messages point to the intimate relationship between the value of a conversation and the trust that has already been established within the nodes. It is a consequence of the distributed structure of GNU social. Thanks to it, GNU social is free of any recentralizing tendencies and builds the network based on independent nodes — generally formed by affinity between groups of friends who communicate with each other thanks to the federation of content.

What is “federation?”

villa locomunaThe connections between the nodes of GNU social are established by the users who follow each other. Through these “following” relationships, all nodes can communicate and form a network. It’s what’s known as “federation,” and could be understood as a network of agreements.

All it takes is for me to follow a user on another node for everything that that user publishes to be visible to all members of my node. Thanks to this, you can see not only messages from the people that you follow in your inbox or on your personal time line and messages that are published in your node on the public timeline of the node, but also a much broader collection of messages, “the whole known network,” where, in addition to previous messages, you’ll be able to see messages from people in other nodes who at least one user in your node follows.

This creates wonderful things, like “the whole known network” being different in every node, because its composition is based on the people you follow and who follow your nodemates (or “nodies”). This is a very valuable aspect because it means joint exploration of the network. And starting from the existing relationship of trust between the members of a node, each time a member of the node follows — which is to say, establishes an agreement with — a user on an external node, the space of trust is expanded.

The key to creating space and favorable conditions for conversation is that the federation of content is based on what the users of each node follow on others, and not the general aggregation of all content by all nodes. The result is that if a person that neither I nor anyone else on my node follows says something in a conversation, I won’t see their posts. This might seem like a “bug”, but it’s really the result of an agreement, an implicit contract: to be part of a conversation of another node, I first have to have received the trust of someone who is taking part in it.

“Federation issues”

federationissuesThis model of federation is criticized by many new users who land on GNU social having had the experience of socialization of Twitter and Facebook. They label this difference “federation issues” and complain that conversations they participate in only show messages from the person that they themselves follow or other people in their node. The solution is as technically simple to implement as it is dangerous.

What such a request would do, in reality, is break the federation of content based on implicit contracts and open the doors to the aggregation of everything, everywhere, breaking any chain of trust. That is, it would remove the basis for allowing the nodes to create spaces for real conversation. By breaking this model of federating content, we would be importing the social model of the great centralizers, the Facebook-Twitter model, into the spaces and networks that we built on the basis of tools like GNU social, Diaspora, Friendica, etc.

Massive socialization through Facebook and Twitter has impoverished conversations and cut off the birth of new identities. It has done so by imposing a narrative about how the more accessible any conversation is to anyone, the better a network and its interactions are. In other words, when it is not necessary to have a minimum of prior trust to be able participate or interrupt the conversation of others. However, the search for this kind of accessibility obscures the very basis of distributed networks: the fact that a distributed network is made up of nodes, of independent groups that communicate among each other.

Conclusions

The problems or defects of the federation of content are only such if we accept and approve of the FbT socialization model. Really, we should call them “federation advantages,” because if which we’re seeking is to build enriching and conducive spaces for conversation, what we have today in GNU social is the structure that makes it possible.

The federation of content based on following relationships — agreements between people — is the base on which to build enriching and conducive spaces for interaction and for conversation. This is a determining aspect to not give in to centralizing pressure and turn spaces built with GNU social into a new version of the chicken coop that Twitter or Facebook currently offer us. The distributed structure of servers is “invisible,” and if we change the spontaneous logic of federation so that the user sees the network and behaves the same as in a centralized network, we will have changed everything to keep everything the same.

The world of the federation of content is passionate, and will largely determine the future of the web. Speaking concretely of the model of the federation of content, we sincerely believe that the challenges that we have to confront are in developing private communication and enlarging the system of exchanging short messages to a system where we can share everything useful — creating networks of hospitality, supply and demand, music, etc. — for our circle of friends, associations, community and surroundings.

That is, we believe it would be a mistake to replicate the centralized model and its culture. That would serve information without agreements between people, and therefore, approve of irresponsibility and encourage confrontation. For us, GNU social’s priority should be on becoming the “Swiss Army knife” of distributed networks based on sharing, by developing a culture of socialization based on trust within the nodes and the responsibility for understanding what is being talked about when someone joins a conversation. And for that, the key is to connect through federation, as has been done so far, on the basis of the minimum responsibility that comes with the fact that, to be an equal on another node, someone from that node has to considers what I say interesting enough to follow me.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte 91 ~ March 18th, 2015 ~ 9 ~ 2

On the “naturalness” of the commons and the self-interested invention of the cult of Elinor Ostrom

vacas comunales

When you live in a community, you see how it’s the most natural and spontaneous thing in the world that everything is shared, that everything must strengthen everyone to work… and precisely because of that, it never seems like a big thing, it doesn’t seem to have a special value, it’s “spontaneous,” “normal.” But when you go to the everyday institutions of society — the businesses, the communities of neighbors, the administration — it’s hard to find an iota of everything that you take for granted, and you wonder if it really is as “natural” as it seemed to you.

But if we think about it a bit, that “naturalness” is quite present in our culture. All languages have a specific word for communal work: in Spanish, using the Asturian word, we call it “andecha;” in Portuguese, “mutirão;” in Euskera [Basque], “auzolan;” in Russian, “toloka;” in Finnish, “talkoot;” in Norwegian, “dugnad“…  And also for community property: the traditional peasant common lands and associations of fishers, or “procomún,” as it begins to be called in the fifteenth century in Spain, is equivalent to the Japanese “iriai,” or the English “commons.”

trabajando las tierras comunalesThat’s because agricultural and hunting commons are the original form of ownership and work, long prior to State property and private property… and for the time being, the most persistent: commons institutions remained vigorous throughout the world up through the Middle Ages and resisted Modernity with relative strength until the “amortization” of nineteenth-century liberalism forced them to evolve into modern cooperativism. But don’t be fooled: even today, there are large European regions, like Galicia, where more of the 25% of the territory is made up of common lands. We have always been surrounded by the commons and by community values. Our culture kept more than just the formula for us.

If it wasn’t enough to observe the survival of large expanses of communal land and herds on all continents, it must be said that in all of our community experience we’ve never found a single case where problems arise because someone had consumption patterns such that endangered common resources. In community life, there are problems and conflicts, but in our experience, that’s not one of them, and if it does happen somewhere, it certainly isn’t frequent or relevant.

The “Tragedy of the Commons”

hardinAnd “The Tragedy of the Commons” has a trap. It is a theoretical model created in 1968 by Garrett Hardin, an neo-Malthusian ecologist, a forerunner of what would later be called “degrowth,” obsessed with what he believed to be an “excess of population.” Hardin starts with a definition of the behavior of individuals according to which they would look only at their short-term interests, but would be blind both to the social result (which is to say, the impact their actions would have on the sum of individual results) and on their own total results over time. The model also means that the commons in question is not reproducible (with free software, this is not applicable, because it doesn’t run out when we use it more).

With these initial restrictions, according to which people would literally behave as if there was no tomorrow and there were no other people — surprise, surprise! — the result is that the shared resource runs out. The results were implicit in the conditions of the game, and the result is the one that was desired: the “demonstration” that the reality that surrounds us doesn’t exist, because it is “irrational.”

zemstvo rusoThis is a very different path from the one followed by the classical economists and Marx himself. They had not used an abstract and self-reinforcing model, but had had to explain and model why existed commons in a good part of the arable lands in Europe and, above all, why the peasants didn’t want privatize them. The history of the nineteenth century in large countries like Russia, Spain or Italy is the story of governments like that of the Spanish minister Madoz, trying privatize the commons by force, with little success. It was a drama for the liberals of the times, who thought that without individual property rights, the countryside would never become technological, nor would enough labor flow to the cities to make industry viable. It was a theoretical problem for Marx, who was continuously asked by those in Russia what to do with the countless peasant commons there, and whether they could evolve “directly” to an economy of abundance without going through privatization.

omontenonsevendeBut, by 1968, when Hardin writes “The Tragedy of the Commons,” the commons is no longer a political problem. It is simply a settled reality that economic theory could explain easily, without the need to include internal regulations or external, whether with game theory, modeling the commons as Nash equilibria, or even with neoclassical theory, including the way that would make Gary Becker famous, models of long-term rationality.

Only in the Anglo-Saxon world, where the nineteenth-century amortizations were really effective and put an end to common ownership of the land, could Hardin’s story come to be “common knowledge,” because by 1968, nobody in the USA or Great Britain co-existed with common lands and shared usage. But in reality, these were part of the everyday geography of millions of inhabitants where neither had the liberal revolution ever totally triumphed in its agrarian policies, nor had Soviet or Chinese socialism been imposed — a large area which included, on a continuum, places as disparate as Indochina, Galicia, Mexico, la Araucania [Chile], or South Africa.

The self-interested sanctification of Elinor Ostrom

olstromHowever, in 2009 the Swedish Academy gave the Nobel Prize in Economics to a political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, for having “challenged conventional wisdom [sic] by demonstrating how local property can be managed by a local commons without regulation by central authority or privatization.” Ostrom soon became a sort of patron saint to all those in universities who were interested in the community experience in general and the commons in particular. The central idea they took from her work is that the management of the commons requires a complex set of norms and equilibria that remain “artificial,” products of a very sophisticated social construct.

This is true, but their political-academic claim is not disinterested: when a social organization is described as “artificial” and “sophisticated,” it is implicitly being argued that it is necessary to have “special,” academic, or “technical” knowledge to make it work. Ostrom thus became excuse to argue the guardianship of groups of theoreticians and academics over the social process, with their consequent industry of advanced degrees, courses, and seminars for training “specialists.”

Reality is stubborn

indianasBut 2009 was also the first real year of crisis in Europe. Millions of people were left without work. In countries like Greece, Spain or Portugal, thousands and thousands of families lost their houses. Spontaneously, the social network — first, families, and then, communities — started to reorganize for survival. Hundreds of small “communes” appeared, houses that were shared between families that had been left without regular income, in which everything that that was obtained went into a common fund. Nobody needed design or certify a sophisticated set of rules. While it was a precarious response to an emergency situation, the “naturalness” of the process is noteworthy. The model already was there, in the cultural inheritance and in the traditions of the working classes.

And that’s really the key: the community is, in point of fact, a sophisticated cultural construction. And what’s more, so are the traditions of sharing that are profoundly embedded in popular culture. When an egalitarian community is born, when we create a new commons to be shared, we’re not starting from zero. We are putting “into production” all that code, all that community rationality that we inherited from the learned reactions and way of managing common belongings in our families. That is why we experience it as “spontaneous,” why it feels “natural,” and why it appears again and again in such different environments all over the world. Our “rationality” is definitively not what Hardin and the neo-Malthusian theoreticians of degrowth attributed to us when they presented the irrational destruction of non-renewable resources as a product of our “nature” and not as the result of over-scaled corporations dedicated to looking for rents at all costs.

No, to understand the shared economy, to work together to manage the needs of all in a community economy, we don’t need great treaties or consultation with university technicians. We just need to go back home.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish).

What is «las Indias»?

la Matriz

Natalia Fernández13 ~ ~ February 22nd, 2015 ~ 0

Own the change


A few days ago Shareable published a post about a new documentary that seeks to promote cooperativism and show how local economies based on cooperatives contribute to creating more resilient surroundings. It’s noteworthy in the first minutes of the documentary that the main idea, the drive shaft that connects pieces of the story, is none other than ownership.

A cooperative explained in the very simplest terms is an organization that, in an egalitarian way, practices the formula of one worker, one share, one vote. Our emphasis on this message, without a doubt, has to do with our fascination with discovering a form of organization that, traditionally in the English-speaking world, has been used for consumption. Transferred to production, cooperativism in the US is coming together as a real option to recover the economy of the great industrial cores devastated by the crisis. And also the world of professional services, of commerce, or healthcare.

We discovered it with Evergreen a few years ago. Cooperative pride has a lot to do with making business ownership accessible to many who never dreamed of being able to move on from being employees, or of the possibility of modifying and transforming the productive system. It’s exciting!

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

Manuel Ortega8 ~ ~ February 22nd, 2015 ~ 0

An inevitable collision: Centralizing networks against personal autonomy

warm_bodies-wideIn recent years we have been through “a zombie attack” against the socialization and culture born in the Internet. This is known as the stage of recentralization, whose best-known proponent is the FbT-model. This is a socialization model that cut off conversations, wherever they took root, and the birth of new identities and the abundance of the Internet generally. There was no lack of strategies, and in fact, the distributed world worked for the creation of vaccine against the virus. But the response to this attack finally came from something much more basic and fundamental: Personal autonomy. Already, the debate on net topologies is a debate about the autonomy you have to participate in the creation of information, the definition of your agenda, and the possibilities you have to be authentic. The collision was inevitable, and — just like in the great movie “Warm Bodies,” something was alive in the zombies, they weren’t completely dead — our desire for personal autonomy was still alive. This explains the birth of, perhaps not numerous, but more and more islands in the net that are betting on a distributed world. The key words of the future are autonomy and sovereignty.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Esperanto)

David de Ugarte91 ~ ~ January 13th, 2015 ~ 0

The New Global Militant

ucraniaYesterday I watched a PBS documentary about the rise of ISIS. Around minute 43, a phrase caught my attention. Explaining how ISIS arrived to a tipping point in recruitment, the script noted that the group itself had been surprised at the massive response of a generation who

wants to be part of something special, they want to be part of something successful

Today, an report in “El País” quoting “Le Parisien” includes a statement of the lawyer of one of the murderers of the massacre of Paris describing him as:

a clueless guy who did not know what to do with his life and who met people who made ​​him feel important

I guess it is quite clear in jihadism but in reality is the generalization of these feelings that make militant movements of all kinds reach their tipping point. What happens these days is that we are nearing the time when the new political movements begin to be credible winners. And people are pointing to star in a historic change… the most credible in every different place or circumstance.

Of course will not produce the same results if is ISIS who capitalize that feeling in Syria and Iraq or if it will be the new PKK in Kurdistan. And if we look at Europe Ukrainian nationalism has not the same values than SYRIZA or Podemos. But from the point of view of network analysis it is a very similar phenomenum: The protagonist of the great social movements is changing worldwide.

The time of the young European jihadist who was able to destroy himself as a way to defy an unquestionable power has passed away as the time of the cyberactivist who wanted to change social consensus promoting new social conversations.

Lets remember two slogans from the quotes: “feel important” and “be part of something successful”. Those will be the magic words of all the mobilizing discourses during the coming years.

Manuel Ortega8 ~ August 24th, 2014 ~ 0

“Not-English” is the world’s most spoken language

bla_blaIn many conversations about the expansion of languages and the use of English as a lingua franca, we hear statements about English being the most spoken language in the world. It is important to remember that the reality is quite different, the most spoken language in the world is “not-English,” i.e., all the other languages. The figures, which can be found in “The World Factbook,” clearly reflect this reality. In the light of this fact, it should also be noted that beyond the figures, the important points to note in the discussion about overcoming language barriers and the adoption of a lingua franca, are others, namely the rents and power structures supported by the adoption of a national language as a lingua franca, in this case English, and its limitations beyond superficial interactions.

Functional English, like all jargon, is useful for superficial interactions. For example, when a waiter in a cafe in Antalya describes the view of the sea as very beautiful. But it reaches its limits in the context of university education, a higher intellectual function that fully mobilizes our language skills. Because only on rare occasions do we see the same level of precision and nuance in a learned language as in the mother tongue. That iron law of linguistic competence is confirmed even in countries known for their knowledge of English.

David de Ugarte91 ~ July 26th, 2014 ~ 1

Bruce Sterling against the disguised recentralization of the “Sharing Economy” and “Smart Cities”

brucesterlingWhat happens if the taxis of major cities are replaced by Uber? What if a central part of your urban transportation system depends on an app based on California? Do you think that a city hall could stand up to an multinational with the kind of battles it wages against taxi unions? What happens when your streets and your cars are commodities that are coordinated thanks to software and a set of rules that you don’t control? And perhaps the most clarifying: Do you really think that in California would let its transportation system be run from Barcelona?

All these questions are part of the conclusions Bruce Sterling draws about “Smart Cities.” The discourse on the “Sharing Economy” has detoured the debate and hidden the project of recentralization of networks and the power of the Internet giants. But it’s still there. And as the father of cyberpunk reminds us, it not only has political consequences in the city, but globally, and geopolitically.

So, does Sterling want to close the door on the “Sharing Economy” or the “Smart City?” Absolutely not. He’s simply reminding us that is a battlefield on which the different subjects must recognize what network structures and what architectures of power create a world where we have space. And in recentralization, there’s no space for citizenship.

Translated by Steve Herrick from the original (in Spanish)

David de Ugarte91 ~ ~ July 13th, 2014 ~ 2

Community and happiness

imageThe Philosopher’s Mail, the blog of Alain de Botton and the followers of atheism 2.0, published an article about the Epicureans. Its most interesting aspect is that, in a nutshell, it proposes that Epicurean communitarianism is based on its founder’s minimalist definition of happiness:

With his analysis of happiness in hand, Epicurus made three important innovations:

Firstly, he decided that he would live together with friends. Enough of seeing them only now and then. He bought a modestly priced plot of land outside of Athens and built a place where he and his friends could live side by side on a permanent basis. Everyone had their rooms, and there were common areas downstairs and in the grounds. That way, the residents would always be surrounded by people who shared their outlooks, were entertaining and kind. Children were looked after in rota. Everyone ate together. One could chat in the corridors late at night. It was the world’s first proper commune.

Secondly, everyone in the commune stopped working for other people. They accepted cuts in their income in return for being able to focus on fulfilling work. Some of Epicurus’s friends devoted themselves to farming, others to cooking, a few to making furniture and art. They had far less money, but ample intrinsic satisfaction.

And thirdly, Epicurus and his friends devoted themselves to finding calm through rational analysis and insight. They spent periods of every day reflecting on their anxieties, improving their understanding of their psyches and mastering the great questions of philosophy.

Epicurus’s experiment in living caught on. Epicurean communities opened up all around the Mediterranean and drew in thousands of followers. The centres thrived for generations – until they were brutally suppressed by a jealous and aggressive Christian Church in the 5th century. But even then, their essence survived when many of them were turned into monasteries.

De Botton forgets that that Epicurean, familiar, and mixed monasticism of the 5th century, common and even dominant in places like the Iberian peninsula and the island of Ireland, was gradually enclosed from Rome and finally removed with the Gregorian reform. The spirit of Epicurean communitarianism would then begin to thrive in a very different environment. But that’s another story.

Translated by Alan Furth from the Spanish original.

las Indias24 ~ May 17th, 2014 ~ 1

Market activism

Aesires en acción (From Indianopedia) Market activism is our term for the design and trade of products with the goal of spreading values and ideas. The name was coined in 2012 by Juanjo Pina from “aesirs,” based on a previous debate on entrepreneuralism held by “las Indias Group of Cooperatives” since 2009, linking the idea of the phyle to the medieval arts and guilds:

We believe the kind of knowledge that enables us to make beautiful and socially useful things cannot be reduced to technical knowledge. It must contain a social meaning, a work ethic and a worldview. Goods offered in the marketplace carry with them a vision of the world, of social projects and a moral points of view.

Some examples

  • In 2007 the indianos combatted «rankism», a narrative on the blogsphere spread by the media that we saw as a danger to its distributed structure. As a response, we developed feevy, the first dynamic blog-roll for blogs. It not only made it easy to link and share audiences between blogs, it made it obvious that the “star blogger system” was just a media myth. Feevy had soon 60,000 users/blogs, making it possible to map hundred of thousands of blogs in Spanish and how they were connected. We called this map the map of flowers, and was, itself, a refutation of the narrative imposed by the mainstream media. Feevy, carefully developed not to use personal data, was programmed as free software, and its platform sold later to a a big firm.
  • Since 2011, the whole “neovenetianist milieu” did its best to transform its knowledge into useful tools to combat the European unemployment crisis:
  • In 2010, Alain de Botton launched his atheism 2.0. His main tool would be “The School of life,” an international chain of stores supplying consumer goods, courses and motivational seminars for businesses

las Indias24 ~ April 22nd, 2014 ~ 0

Vote for Guerrilla Translation in the 2014 OuiShare Awards


Our friends of Guerrilla Translation are among the nominees for the 2014 Ouishare Awards. You can vote for them or in any case know a little more about them and this Awards.

las Indias24 ~ February 11th, 2014 ~ 3

The fruits of an interesting life

festival-de-las-linternasToday our front page has a new banner: series. That’s what we have called the thematic threads that have been forming since we started to focus “El Correo de las Indias” on the idea of an interesting life. And in fact, the first series tries precisely to answer the question what is an interesting life? This leitmotif that was born in another series, the only one now finished: “Towards a new narrative,” by Juan Urrutia. And of course, we can’t leave out our love of cooking, our pulp heroes, and Go. They all continue growing and will appear again in the future. For the moment take a peek, and we hope that you’ll like them.

(Note from your translator: if there are older posts you want to see translated, please leave a comment!)

David de Ugarte91 ~ February 7th, 2014 ~ 0

What’s left when the state falls?


These days, the press all over the world is talking about the Michoacan self-defense movement, since the Mexican State is confronting them, after letting the “Knights Templar” camp there for years. This mafia was the beneficiary of decomposition, accelerated by the State itself, of the formerly, and sadly celebrated “Michoacan family.” The debate is now the typical trap of decomposition between the defense of the monopoly on violence by the state and the verification of a captured and corrupt state that for years abandoned the life and treasure of thousands of people to a terrible mafia.

So rather than entering the debate, I’d like to draw attention to an element of “self-defense” and the form that its process of legitimation took: the reemergence of a series of forms, like open town councils, which come from the birth of urban democracy in medieval Europe.

These forms are not “natural,” but rather cultural and historical. Born with urban development, they became revolutionary in community revolts, and reappeared in the open crisis of the Napoleonic wars – which led to the birth of the Mexican State – and during the large civilian conflicts of the 19th and 20th centuries. And now they return in the middle of decomposition. Quijote told Sancho on the path to the island of Barataria to “be careful of your vassals or they will take the government from you or form communities by themselves.” The “Long live the commoners!” shout is heard in the Michoacan town halls. In my view, there are issues here to reflect upon and learn from.

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