Speaker Session with Michel Bauwens – the commons-based-society goes beyond Peer2Peer

On April 18 the HUB launched the Speaker Session series with Michel Bauwens. As a Peer2Peer thought leader, he drew a crowd of P2P frontrunners, supporters and researchers. He went in deep – in the first round the listeners were challenged to keep with the pace of the narrative. The speaker was honest about his politically charged ideas about a necessary transition that followed from his analysis of everything P2P. The crowd did not let Michel Bauwens off easy in the second round. This blog: three central ideas by Michel Bauwens and two questions from the onlookers.

“We live in an age of pseudo-scarcity and pseudo abundance”. First, goods which are not actually scarce are produced to be scarce because this is how money is made in the market economy. No light bulb company will create a light that lasts a hundred years. However a community that designs for itself and not the market, will. Second, things that should be cherished and will run out are used as if they are abundant. We need to save energy and materials, thus we need to move from an economy of scale, to an economy of scope. Open source creates the economy of scope, it is the mutilization (mutual usage) of e.g. knowledge (Wikipedia), car and homesharing (AirBnB).

Michel Bauwens shares his ideas in intimate setting

“Peer2Peer needs to be more than Peer2Peer”. We need to look beyond the simplest forms of open source, which just eliminate the hierarchical institutions previously needed to organize interactions between peers. Being able to directly sell or lend to your neighbours or to work together freely with peers which you find using apps, is nowhere near the possibilities of the new economy Michel Bauwens proposes. In the ‘commons-based-society’, we work together with others to create (non-monetary) value. This can and is happening, show the examples Bauwens shared (see links below).

“We are living in a candy economy. Those who produce the value just get a little candy to keep them satisfied. Entrepreneurs are the new proletarians”. Often, value is extracted from our clicks or views which is sold to advertisers while we get a little candy in the form of a YouTube video. At other times, we contribute to the commons – goods that can be used freely by all – but are rewarded little. The problem is that the current economy is based on a division of labour. We need to move to a division of tasks, explains Michel Bauwens. What tasks needs to be done can easily be made visible with current technology and communicated to the connected group. Your contribution matches your skill, knowledge and capabilities and is rewarded by peer validation. You produce, because of intrinsic passion, not for the external motivator of income. 

Irina Enache asks question

“What do you consider efficient alternative currencies, as they seem to be very important in Peer2Peer initiatives?” – Irina Enache
Alternative currencies can become successful to a certain local scale. Once they scale up, they lose focus and become less social. However, the possibilities of an alternative currency lie in the design and how the currencies are used. For more on currency and the difference with money Michel Bauwens referred to metacurrency.org.

“On collaboration platforms there are always a few that make the largest contribution and a large group that does a little, some because they aren’t able to contribute (as in the current system), how do you solve that?” – Ciara Byrne
It does not matter who contributes a lot or who contributes little, because firstly contributors work from their passion and secondly, in a system like Sensorica, contributors get reviewed and rewarded by their peers according to their contribution. 

What would you add to the answers given by Michel Bauwens? What did you take away from the Speaker Session? Share your thoughts in a reaction to this blog!

– Tessa van Mechelen, HUB Connect Lead

Curto Café aims to make great coffee and does this fully ‘open’. Open supply chain / Open book accounting / Shared design of coffee / Open research / Crowdfunded retail expansion – with investors that get paid in coffee.
Fora do Eixo has created a national movement of culture by aiming not to sell music but to sell tickets to a festival. They do this while designing an alternative world. Alternative currencies / own university / own media / own political party.
WikiSpeed opensource automotive prototyping.