William Pauly (almedia) Tue 18 Aug 09 20:56
Reading Media Virus brought me to the WELL, for which I would like to thank you personally, Mr. Rushkoff. I came seeking a new kind of collective organised around information. What I found was somewhat different than I expected, though not altogether disappointing. I like the idea of forming ad hoc alliances for real world projects, and always felt that the WELL has had real potential to incubate and proliferate such entities. Would you agree? Do you feel that the WELL has lived up to its potential in this regard?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Wed 19 Aug 09 05:54
I wouldn't try to build a 747 with local currency. Only the makers of centralized currency have insisted on the use of a single tool for every job. We can use local currency for local transactions, locally sourced goods, and locally created value. We can use long distance currency for long-distance goods, products manufactured in multiple locations, or long-distance import and export. That's the way it worked in Renaissance Florence, for example, or all the Ottoman regions under the Millet system. The Millet system didn't require colonial expansion for economic sustainability, though, so unlike the Europeans, they didn't need to go on giant conquests. (Sure, they had violence of their own, but it was not an economic requirement.) Centralized currency works GREAT for some things. But we need to distinguish between the stuff it does, and the reasons and ways it was implemented. The reason Kings developed it was not to promote long distance transactions (the Floren already worked for that, as did the Gold Dinar). It was developed to prevent local transactions and monopolize commerce. This does not mean it has to go away. More than one currency can work. Just like many people have more than one bank account. But don't confuse local currency with barter. They're really different. As for the WELL, well, I was around about a year after it started. Straight dial-in and all that. And it was a much kinder community - at least kinder than it was by 1996 or so, when I just couldn't take it anymore. I'm not sure whether the Internet became a nastier place, or whether the world became a nastier place and the Internet came along with it. I think spaces like this are great for modeling new mechanisms. I don't know if they're great for actually carrying them out. But incubating, sure. I don't know if it's lived up to its full potential, though. There was a moment when it looked like some of the "original" folks were going to fight for the original Well ethos, but then they just split off and went about their own projects. And it felt like the first instance of "white flight" - like what's happening as richer, more educated Myspace people migrate to Facebook.
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Wed 19 Aug 09 07:00
I apologize for coming to this conversation late. Thanks to the vagaries of the military postal system, I only just received the book, and I am burning through it. I will certainly have to go back and read it more thoughtfully in the future, but both the subject matter and the approaching end of this conversation are driving my reading right now. One thing I haven't seen raised here is your discussion of the corporatism of the military in the chapter "No Returns." I spent a third of a my life as a soldier, and I was astounded at how much corporations become an essential part of a military at war. Even before 9/11, however, I saw the effects of corporatism on military systems. One thing that struck me as a young NCO was watching some powerful Unix-based computer systems switched out for much more expensive and much less reliable Windows systems. If we begin with the premise that some form of standing military is needed to provide for national defense, do you see a way to seperate corporatism from the military? Or do you believe that the modern standing military is inseperable from corporatism?
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Thu 20 Aug 09 08:08
Well, there's two main effects at work. First, is the very simple marriage of real corporations and the military. That's as old as colonialism, where the government works with and through corporations to fight wars. In those days, it was British East India both having its own army and being supported by the British Army. The company could carry out the more dastardly military maneuvers, just as Blackwater was hired by the CIA to do assassinations and such in Iraq and Afghanistan (yesterday's NYTimes, I think). Then there's the corporaticization of the military, which is really just an organizational principle that has replaced more traditional values and logic with that of the corporation. They look for efficiencies, etc. that may or may not be the best way to run an army. And finally, I suppose there's simple corruption and contractors bidding for stuff and bribing generals and senators to pick certain contractors for tech or planes or whatever. Everything is "bid", corporations seek to create needs for the things they fulfill, and most of them last much longer and become more entrenched than the people doing the deciding of whose products to use.
Cogito??? (robertflink) Thu 20 Aug 09 08:50
As well as "economies of scale", we probably have "corruptions of scale", "hubris of scale", "stupidities of scale", etc.. Larger systems of any kind have basic benefits and problems. Small systems of any kind probably have basic benefits and problems. It is notable that those that would "fix" things seem to have many of the same problems once they are in charge. Could they be up against something fundamental about human systems similar to the essential complexity problems in software? BTW, I'm all in favor of checks and balances as well as trust-busting,limitations of power and other tools to keep accumulations of power restrained wherever and whenever they are found.
East India Company (echodog) Thu 20 Aug 09 10:26
You're absolutely right that a lot of the corporate interest in "efficiency" tends to run counter to the right way to run an army. Redundancies are considered inefficient in a corporation--but in an army, they might be what saves your ass when you start taking combat losses. We used to joke in Iraq that if they kept telling us to do more with less, pretty soon we'd be able to do everything with nothing at all. What really concerns me with regards to military corruption are indications that many former senior officers were hired as military experts for news outlets, while simultaneously (and in a non-disclosed manner) working for various arms and military logistics corporations. Hard to understand why there's no conflict of interest there.
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 20 Aug 09 13:01
Just wanted to thank everybody who posted in this conversation, and to note that the two weeks visit is over, by the calendar, but that everybody is certainly welcome to keep discussing the book and the issues while some attention shifts to the next conversation. Life, Inc. certainly raises some interesting questions! Thanks for a great discussion.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 20 Aug 09 15:31
Thanks, Gail. Sorry I dropped off at the end, I was traveling. Doug, I want to thank you for joining us here, and also for the evident grind you went through to create this book, which has set in motion a few wheels I didn't even know I had. I'd be happy to continue the conversation, if you can make time for it.
Douglas Rushkoff (rushkoff) Mon 24 Aug 09 16:39
Hey, it was a pleasure. I had to run off to see the Blizzcon convention for the Frontline documentary I am working on. Insane but wonderful to see a virtual community gather in realspace like that. Inspiring even. Thanks to everyone for showing up and caring enough about these issues to bring your own experience and perspective. I learned a lot. I really am convinced that the problem we are running into as a society is that we base so much on scarcity - and we just don't know how to deal with abundance. If we could easily feed everyone, house everyone, and provide energy to everyone, how would we get anyone to *pay* for anything? It gets to that reverse efficiency problem. I'll be interested to see whether we devise a new model, or surrender to the old one as default and only. Time will tell.
Gary Gach (ggg) Mon 24 Aug 09 20:45
Congratulations all for such a scintillating discussion. Having lurked thruout, I wanted to nudge just one micron or two along: <24> Am not expert, Brian, but have heard an expert on international complementary currencies cite Bali's economy as an example: in so doing, he pointed out how inextricable the currency was from the culture, in which it is said a newborn child's feet don't touch the ground until it is two, because from birth it is always passed around from villager to villager, who hold it close to them, in love. I'd also cite Arayatne's community-based movement in Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya, eventually seeing more of their own complementary currency in circulation than the gov't's. -/ sarvodaya.org
Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Wed 7 Oct 09 02:11
I realize this discussion is no longer current, but based on Mr. Rushkoff's remarks about the importance of local currencies, I thought people would find this interesting: The Economic Revolution Is Already Happening -- It's Just Not on Wall St. By Maria Armoudian, AlterNet. Posted October 7, 2009. Thousands of alternatives to the punishing corporate model have sprouted up across the US, building up an alternative economy as Wall St. crumbles. "Over the past few decades, thousands of alternatives to the standard, top-down corporate model have sprouted up -- worker-owned companies and co-operatives, neighborhood corporations and trusts, community-owned technology centers and municipally owned enterprises. In fact, today, involvement in these alternative models of business outnumber union membership as the means by which private-sector workers and community members are taking their economics into their own hands. The story is revealed in the 4-year-old book, America Beyond Capitalism, written by University of Maryland political science professor Gar Alperovitz." http://www.alternet.org/rights/143102/the_economic_revolution_is_already_happe ning_--_it%27s_just_not_on_wall_st._
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 28 Oct 09 05:24
Thanks for posting that. I think many of us are aware of innovative approaches emerging below radar, facilitated in part by the Internetl and new media. Coworking is another example.
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