inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #26 of 62: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 9 Aug 09 13:34
    
Your book is timely in that it gets into root causes of the economic
meltdown we've been experiencing, which was tied to practices in
banking and in the mortgage industry that you discuss at length. When
the money hit the fan, we heard that we were in the worst recession
since the great depression, and that it could take years to recover. To
many of us, there seemed to be systemic issues from which recovery
would require economic rethinking and a commitment to sustainability
rather than persistent growth. Now we're seeing news pieces about
"signs of economic cheer"
(http://www.economist.com/world/unitedstates/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14177443
)
and cautious optimism within the administration
(http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/03/business/03econ.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=recovery&
st=cse).
Can we really expect to recover and get back to business as usual? Or
should we be conceiving new ways of doing business?  
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #27 of 62: Pendeo, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Tue 11 Aug 09 21:00
    
Any benefit to complementary currencies with regard to counterfeiting?

Is leveraging possible with such currencies?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #28 of 62: William Pauly (almedia) Tue 11 Aug 09 21:35
    

I think I'm going to have to get this book.

Um, can anyone explain the term "leveraging" in this context,
preferably in simple terms a non-economist might understand.

I might guess at a meaning, but can't count on it being accurate.

Counterfeiting would seem to be a problem for any system in which
anonymously exchanged tokens were employed.  It might be easier to
detect in a general sense if they were tagged to a balance of credit
which was quite personal.  But, then, it is usually obvious if someone
has stolen your credit card details and is ripping you off.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #29 of 62: Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 12 Aug 09 04:59
    
Local currencies don't use anonymous tokens. Counterfeiting is
impossible since no money is actually required. (Unless it's a currency
that decides to use tokens for some reason, in which case I guess
counterfeit is as easy as anything.) But if you're going to simply have
everyone start at zero in a transparent and public database, and then
make the only way for someone to go up from zero be that they did
something for someone else whose number goes *down* from zero, then you
have no faking. Someone's credits are dependent on someone else's
debits. 

Really, there are so many great books on complementary currency
systems, which ones to use in which kinds of communities and
circumstances, you're better off just going to the source. I've got the
best websites listed on my resources page (if the 4chan attack is
over). Read Greco. He's probably the easiest and most straightforward.

As for "leverage," I just meant that banks are allowed to lend out ten
times more money than they actually have. Then, through various other
instruments, they leverage it even more. So they can effectively lend
dozens of times more money than they have. Or bet with more money than
they have. 
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #30 of 62: Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 12 Aug 09 05:22
    
As to Jon's bigger question, I agree. The financial crisis was more
than just the exposure of a single industry, like the dotcom boom and
bust. It was a boom and bust of finance itself. 

Even if it was merely a turn of the "cyclical" market, people were
horrified by the cycle itself. You mean the economy is a perpetual
ponzie scheme? It crashes and takes losers with it? And that's how it's
supposed to work? Bankers and investors just extract capital from
workers? Like, Marx was right? 

People also saw that bankers had no idea what they were doing. That
was scary. And exposed the whole game as essentially fraudulent. A fix.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #31 of 62: Cogito? (robertflink) Wed 12 Aug 09 06:32
    
Isn't any medium of exchange susceptible to manipulation like other
abstractions such as language?  

Some people I know get frustrated when the dictionary provides little
help but the dictionary is merely a compilation of usage and not
normative.  We also live immersed in political rhetoric where the
medium  is in play as much as the "facts" and the ideas.


In the midst of turbulence we yearn for stability.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #32 of 62: John Payne (satyr) Wed 12 Aug 09 08:17
    
I'd like to point out that Mr. Rushkoff has a link to a video of his
appearance on Colbert at...

http://rushkoff.com/2009/07/16/life-inc-dispatch-09-colbert-report/
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #33 of 62: pardon my amygdala (murffy) Wed 12 Aug 09 09:47
    
>make the only way for someone to go up from zero be
>that they did something for someone else whose number
>goes *down* from zero

This sounds zero-summish. If everybody starts at zero, how does the
ball get rolling on this? If I'm the first person to produce something
in the new system, who is able to give me credits?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #34 of 62: John Payne (satyr) Wed 12 Aug 09 10:58
    
Back in my teens, forty-some years ago, I attended a weekend church camp
put on by another protestant denomination, during which we were all
pressed into participation in a trading game, with a small set of tokens
having a spread of values, and a few rules that made the trading itself
not quite straightforward, so the art of salesmanship factored in.

The game played out over several rounds of a few minutes each, and at the
end a few players had managed to acquire most of the value that had begun
equally distributed, while the rest of us were left paupers.  This was
very much a zero-sum result, and a stark lesson I've never forgotten,
although the lesson I took away from it seemed rather different from that
which the 'winners' seemingly learned.  To judge by what I overheard in
the few minutes following the end of the game, their belief in its nature
representing the way things unavoidably are in the real world had been
reinforced, with overtones of justification.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #35 of 62: William Pauly (almedia) Wed 12 Aug 09 17:16
    

There are winners and losers in any game.

I like the idea that other money games are possible, and should be
legal.

Fixing relative value amongst a range of money types might be a bit of
a trick, though.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #36 of 62: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 12 Aug 09 20:51
    
The question of relative value makes me think of the Austin Time
Exchange, where the exchanges are hour for hour. I've talked to friends
who are part of the Time Exchange about the question of asymmetrical
perception of time value. Where the exchange is hour for hour, an
attorney who charges $300 per hour might be hesitant to sign up in a
context that could involve exchanges with others whose time value per
hour is considerably less. However I learned that a core value of the
time exchange and other time banking systems is equal exchange. 

"Putting a price on people's time separates us by making some people
more valuable than others. Time Dollars excel in building relationships
because they place an equal value on everyone’s time." -
http://www.timebanks.org/faqs.htm#oneequalsone

New question for Doug: you say in the book how individuality was
"invented" and the concept of the "brand" followed. Many people think
that individualism is a good thing. How should we think of ourselves,
if not as autonomous individuals? What new social constructs might you
envision for the individual and society - what revisions to the social
context? Are evolving online social technologies potential solutions,
or do they lead us farther down the path we were already on?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #37 of 62: John Payne (satyr) Thu 13 Aug 09 06:46
    
Besides the ban on competing currencies, what other legal barriers are 
there to alternative approaches to organizing work and life?

I'm fond of the idea of cooperatives, which I suppose might be organized
as corporations which exist to support the well-being of their stakeholders,
which might include, for example, everyone living within a particular
township, but I wonder how far that model can be bent before it running into 
a legal wall.

Is it reasonable that the first step should be to identify and dismantle
legal barriers, or can that only happen as friction between old rules and
older/new ways of doing things develops?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #38 of 62: Dubito??? (robertflink) Thu 13 Aug 09 07:08
    
Regarding cooperatives and "it takes a village", remember Salem.

BTW, individual rights and protecting, to some degree, the individual
from the will of the group is a fairly recent development in history,
at least for common folk.  Where to strike the balance between the
interests of the individual and the group (which group?) is
challenging, shifting and messy.  

The "better" way today could well be the problem of tomorrow.  
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #39 of 62: John Payne (satyr) Thu 13 Aug 09 08:08
    
Douglas's Edge article is up at...
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/rushkoff09/rushkoff09_index.html

Also, there's much more than the Colbert video on his website.  I spent
two or three hours, yesterday, watching the videos he has available on...
http://rushkoff.com/
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #40 of 62: Linda Castellani (castle) Thu 13 Aug 09 16:04
    

Doug, your career has certainly taken you in some interesting directions!  
I haven't followed it very closely, but I'm curious about how you went 
from writing and consulting about Generation X to an in-depth look at a 
topic that is seemingly at the opposite end of that spectrum of interest.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #41 of 62: (dana) Thu 13 Aug 09 16:48
    
I've just started reading the book, and the history of the corporation
is a real eye opener. It dovetails rather cleanly with the artificial
way the leaders of the industrial revolution convinced people to become
consumers rather than have more free time (as diagrammed in Jeremy
Rifkin's "The End of Work", for example). 

I'm totally with you on the artificiality of our current economic
system, yet I can't imagine opting out in middle age -- but won't I be
propping up the system if I continue investing my retirement funds in
traditional ways? I imagine you address this question later in the
book, but can you summarize how you see change happening beyond kicking
the centralized currency habit? 

Your recent essay compares this struggle to the battle between
religion and science, but that fight has been going on for hundreds of
years, and isn't finished yet. Is it realistic to think we can change
this system while anyone reading here is still alive? I'd like to think
so, yet watching one industry battle change in the health care fight
makes me pessimistic about our chances of seeing much improvement with
the entire system fighting for its life. 
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #42 of 62: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 14 Aug 09 00:02
    

Northern Brooklyn artists encourage local spending with unique
currency

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2009/08/12/2009-08-12_northern_br
ooklyn_artists_encourgage_local_spending_with_.html
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #43 of 62: Bob (bob) Fri 14 Aug 09 00:20
    
I liked the brief bit about trying to raise a kid (and have one in the first
place) without drowning in consumerism. That there is such a thing as
Lactation Consultants (and that, for lack of other options, our two
appointments with them were totally worth it, as annoyed as we were about
having to shell out for it) really says a lot about what's happened to our
culture.

Though you might find that a stroller with big wheels and shock absorbers
(no, not a ridiculous Bugaboo) have their place if you'd rather hang out and
nap the kid under a tree by a dirt road than by a park bench. Meanwhile we
try to do our best with hand-me-down stuff from and for our friends.

Another interesting aspect is how babies are programmed for consumerism from
an early age. Jane Healy has a good book that talks about how TV (and not
just the ads), "educational" videos, and many toys (active toys -> passive
baby, as opposed to passive toys -> active baby) lead to a kind of
developmental crippling. It's not a stretch of her work to suggest that
these products don't just sell well, but are gateway drugs to the cultural
problems that you address.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #44 of 62: Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Sun 16 Aug 09 09:24
    
@33: "This sounds zero-summish. If everybody starts at zero, how does
the ball get rolling on this? If I'm the first person to produce
something in the new system, who is able to give me credits?"

In the system I am describing - the simplest form of Lets currency
(again - so much more and totally easy descriptions of this answering
all these very questions at http://www.gmlets.u-net.com/ and the other
resources I listed at http://rushkoff.com resources page) it is a zero
sum game exactly. The reason you accept a gift of someone mowing your
lawn (and the debits to your account) is that you intend to make it up
later by doing something for someone else. 

@36 "How should we think of ourselves,
if not as autonomous individuals? "

Well, I don't think we have much of a problem with our individuality
at this point. It's not a matter of erasing individuality as much as
celebrating other possible notions of identity - and looking at how to
do so in a non-racist/tribal fashion. The notion of the individual was
invented during the renaissance, and then celebrated at the expense of
all other identities. Even when people joined clubs and associations in
the early 20th century, this was seen as a problem by corporations
looking to promote consumerism and competition between individuals
(read Bowling Alone). So we celebrate a "you you're the one"
individuality at the expense of collective forms. We look down on
collectivism as something for the poor. Big land, big lawns, individual
homes, very separated. 

I'd also suggest that not only the individual is capable of autonomy.
But I'm talking about something different than fascism. More of a
fractal, systems thing. Probably another conversation.

@37 "what other legal barriers are 
there to alternative approaches to organizing work and life?"

You come up against them when you try to do anything. So I've come to
believe that it's best to start by doing and then seeing who/what tries
to stop you. The farm I buy from - the CSA - is not allowed to grow
chard on land that they bought (in order to meet new demand) because it
turns out the land was set aside by the corn lobby for corn subsidy.
Oops. The folks I know in Ohio are not allowed to install solar panels
on their roofs because of some arcane electricity monopoly rules. 

Currency won't be a problem until the banks decide they're losing too
much money, and then new laws will be drafted to shut it down. But by
current law, they're legal. Because they are actually worthless. They
are not an exchange of goods for services, but goods and services are
given as "gifts" in an asynchronous exchange. Again, more about this at
the great Lets and TimeDollars resources. 

@38: "Where to strike the balance between the
interests of the individual and the group (which group?) is
challenging, shifting and messy."

That's exactly the conclusion I came to in my first book, Cyberia, in
1992. I figured the Internet presented us with opportunities for new
collectivism, but that this would challenge people's notion of the
"personal" and "identity." But I also saw this as the challenge for
humans since the beginnings of humans: how to promote one's self while
also participating in the collective. How to get along. 

@Linda - Hey Linda! "writing and consulting about Generation X to an
in-depth look at a 
topic that is seemingly at the opposite end of that spectrum of
interest."

I actually never consulted about GenerationX. NYTimes is not really to
be believed. I collected an anthology of GenX writings, as a way to
prove that the marketers' contextualization of GenX as lazy people was
wrong. We were simply resistant to marketing. Of course, by GenY the
"problem" had been solved. And we GenX people are not even acknowledged
as the real GenX

As I see it, I've been writing about the same thing, from the same
perspective, since the beginning: how to extend the cyberpunk, open
source ethos to social engineering. How to help people see that the
circumstances under which they are living are not entirely God-made,
but social constructions, the results of decisions made by people. When
you look at it that way, everything from Cyberia to Coercion to Media
Virus to Nothing Sacred to Life Inc are about the very same thing. 

The world, however, has changed over the past 20 years. I don't think
the net is as nice a place as it was. 

@41 - My real answer to that is we have to start SLOW. Not through big
top-down reorganizations of society based on some new idea. But rather
through very small actions taken in consonance with our values as
human beings. And those very small actions will end up have big ripple
cascading effects. It's the only way to keep it "real," so to speak,
and not screw things up yet again. 

And yeah, that can be as real or big as thinking about ways to invest
locally rather than outsourcing retirement to Wall Street. What about
owning a piece of a local business that you believe in? 

@43. Totally. I'm struggling with that myself. 
  
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #45 of 62: Linda Castellani (castle) Sun 16 Aug 09 18:12
    

This is all a fascinating, fresh, and unique point of view, at least in my 
limited experience.

I haven't read the book, I'm afraid, so the questions I have might be
addressed there, but I'm wondering how you see your own life reflect what
you are writing about here.  What kinds of changes have you seen, or made,
based on "..extend[ing] the cyberpunk, open source ethos to social
engineering?"  

I'm also curious about how the problem of how Gen X was contextualized by
marketers was solved when Gen Y showed up.  And, on a more personal note,
I noticed a wedding ring on your finger when I saw you on Colbert.  Do you
have a Gen Y or two of your own these days?  If you do, how does your
experience of being at the forefront of cyberpunk, and your point of view
about the evolution of the net and social engineering inform your
parenting experience?

As far as the net not being as nice a place as it used to be:  I became
acutely aware of this the other day when I was looking at a topic here on
the WELL in g Words and noticed that it had been started in 1995.  I went
back to response 0 and started reading from there, and it really struck me
how different the tone of the conversation was then, at the dawn of online
community, from how it later became among those same people.  At the
beginning, it was entirely an exciting new way for people to connect,
people were generally respectful and bursting with ideas and enthusiasm.  
Membership was limited to those who had the technical chops to know how to
connect.  Gen Y has never lived in a time when there wasn't that
connection and the barrier to connecting no longer exists, so the idea of
cybercommunity is no longer novel, and so much of a given that it seems
like a birthright.  Is that how the problem has been solved by the arrival
of Gen Y?

In the last 20 years, we have observed exactly this "big top-down
reorganizations of society based on some new idea."  But it didn't seem 
like it was slow at all, did it?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #46 of 62: Cogito, Ergo Dubito (robertflink) Sun 16 Aug 09 19:12
    
Collectives of the past (early Christianity?) have eventually been
hijacked by political powers.  More recent collectives (supposedly
non-religious) have been more quickly hijacked by ideologues (or the
personally ambitious posing as ideologues) who "broke a few eggs" to
perfect their vision.  

BTW, perhaps we currently suffer from some types of "collectives" such
as boards of directors of large corporations or the US Senate or the
AMA or the bar association or professional sports.  These seem to be
working quite well for their members.  Can we model a larger collective
on such examples say the whole US of A as compared to the rest of the
world?  Come to think of it, the rest of the world has been voting with
their feet in this regard.
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #47 of 62: Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Mon 17 Aug 09 07:55
    
As far as my own life, well, I'm just trying to keep my head above
water. You don't make nearly as money writing books about how media
viruses promote an organism culture as you do writing about "social
contagion" as a marketing ploy. So I have been trying - pretty
successfully - to get conferences and corps to pay to get me to speak
about all this. They'll get four or five real business speakers, and
then me as the social conscience guy. 

But I've gotten too direct in my critique, which has really cost me
income. So for me, the question becomes how to survive in the current
landscape while trying to change it to something better. 

And so far, it's been little things. When I have extra money, I put
someone I know through graduate school or college, rather than donating
to a charity. I've done that twice. Or I invest in the local
restaurant rather than Wall Street. I source food through the CSA, walk
to work, make sure to support the public school through direct labor
and advice and stuff - and will be sending my 4-year-old daughter
there. (I don't think she's y or even z. More like c or d from the new
deck.) 
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #48 of 62: Linda Castellani (castle) Mon 17 Aug 09 13:55
    

Those things may sound little to you, but they sound big, and admirable to 
me.

I hope that you eventually write about your daughter.

What's the new deck, exactly, and what would A and B be? Or am I getting 
too far off-topic for this discussion?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #49 of 62: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 17 Aug 09 16:44
    
No, that's a good question, Linda. It's important to think about what
the future can be. And predicting the future is old school; cooler to
come up with a set of scenarios, pick the ones that feel right, and
figure out how to make them happen.

What would the future be like, for instance, if we stopped building
corporations and started working through smaller organizations that
could form ad hoc alliances to do larger projects, rather than growing
bigger companies? And how would an economy look that was based on
sustainability? Where costs were never externalized and all economic
activity assumed a livable future?
  
inkwell.vue.359 : Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.
permalink #50 of 62: Michael C. Berch (mcb) Tue 18 Aug 09 00:47
    
Joining the discussion a little late, but reading through the posts
the question that comes to my mind - and Jon alludes to it referring
to "smaller organizations" - is how alternative currencies and
alternative economic/financial paradigms scale: barter is fine for a
neighborhood or a town, and there are means of forming capital to 
raise a barn or a schoolhouse.  But what about a 747?  Or a laptop
computer? Or an office or apartment complex?  Or, in a different 
direction, a solar or wind-power plant large enough to achieve 
economies of scale?  

We know that financial capital (centralized currency) can support
these applications. We know that command economies based on State
monopoly capital (e.g., the Soviet system) can also support
large-scale applications, although less flexibly and with less 
innovation.  What evidence is there that alternative methods could
support projects like these as well?  
  

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