The following is a rough transcript which has not been revised by The Jim Rutt Show or by Michel Bauwens. Please check with us before using any quotations from this transcript. Thank you.
Jim: Today’s guest is Michel Bauwens. Michel is the founder and vision coordinator of the P2P Foundation and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer, production, governance and property. There’s an amazing collection of content at p2pfoundation.net, and there’s a very interesting daily blog, which they put out, blog.p2pfoundation.net. It’s also well worth following Michel’s twitter feed. There’s all kinds of interesting things there.
Jim: This is part two of a previous discussion that Michel and I had back aways. It was EP 63 on the Jim Rutt Show. You can search EP 63, Jim Rutt Show, then you’ll find it. We’ll, as we were doing then, basing a fair amount of our conversation on the book, Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto written by Michel and two co-authors, Vasilis Kostakis and Alexis… Maybe you can say their names for me, Michel, you can say their names better than I do.
Michel: Their great names are not always that easy. But I think it’s Alex Pazaitis, but I could be wrong.
Jim: Anyway, pretty close. While it’s not necessary to hear the previous episode, it would be helpful or particularly if you find this conversation interesting, go back and here, basically about the first half of the book. Before we jump in, though, I am going to ask Michel to review two main topics which are critical to understanding what we’re going to be talking about, and those two topics are what is Peer to Peer, at its simplest level. And then another concept, which goes through all of Michel’s work is the idea of the commons. So, I would ask Michel to give us a little review about what he means when he says the commons. Let’s start with what is Peer to Peer?Jim: Right. Well, I think a lot of people in your audience will know that it was used in the technology field about 15, 20 years ago, when we had this new configuration where any computer could talk to any computer without going through a server or any centralized entity. What I’m saying is, this is also social relationship. We have now technologies which allow peers to permissionessly connect with each other. Communicate with each other, organize things with each other, and also, actually produce value together and distribute value together.
Michel: It’s much more than just communication technology, it’s a way to create alternative value circuits that may or may not be market oriented. To understand the historical significance, I imagine a little village 10,000 years ago, you know everybody, everybody’s your uncle, or your nephew, or your niece. If you have any conflict, you basically talk it out. As long as it’s inside the village, you can peacefully arrange any conflict.
Michel: But then as we got bigger as humanity, we create a bigger organization, and it’s just impractical and too expensive to do everything, everybody talking to everybody. We basically invented a hierarchy. Once you have centralized hierarchy, then it’s very difficult to do peer to peer, because you’re competing with armies and other countries. That was really something that I think was very determining in our human history.
Michel: But I think today, we are able technologically and socially, to create vast projects like Linux, the Free Software operating system, or Arduino, open design electronics. We combine thousands and thousands of people who are not necessarily working in a hierarchical relationship to each other. To be a bit provocative, I call this peak hierarchy.
Michel: The idea that distributed networks can be as strong as centralized entities. It’s an open dynamic, but I think this is very interesting. Then of course, how both try to adapt to each other and create hybrid configurations. The second point, the commons, is the idea of shared resources. Basically, you can allocate resources through the gift, which is in complex tribal civilizations, one family, one clan, one village gives something, and that creates a duty of reciprocity and that’s how you basically create social relationships and keep the peace.
Michel: Then we got into wars of conquest, and it becomes redistribution. Basically the empire, you get overrun, and you get lots of advantages, but of course, you have to have disobedience and pay tributes. The third one is the market, and the fourth one is the commons. This is a totally different logic. Anybody can contribute to a shared resource, like the Linux free software system, and everybody can use it. This can be done also in the physical space.
Michel: There’s a tenfold increase in urban commons in cities, so 10 times more in just 10 years time. But you can do all kinds of things using that dynamic. You have to put it next to the state, which is about redistribution, and next to the market, which is about equal value exchange. This is about building things collectively, which have an advantage for all the participants who are contributing. This is the time of the reemergence of the commons, because as we are overusing resources on the planet, historically, what has happened after such extractive periods, is that humanity uses the commons as a kind of healing mechanism, because pooling and mutualizing the resources is absolutely the best way to bring down the human… There’s nothing else even beats it closely.
Michel: That’s why the comments today are such important. Then you put the two together, peer to peer dynamics creating comments together. That’s the era we’re in, in my view.
Jim: Yeah, very good. That was a good, crisp discussion of those two key concepts we come back to lots of times. Let’s jump into chapter three of the book and talk about peer to peer and the new socio-technological framework. You say, in theory, the internet should provide a capacity for many to many communications, using all other forms of media, and a capacity for self-organization that is a result of permissionless communication, and the capacity to create distribute value in new ways, i.e. self-organization could be put to use in the sphere of production. Tell us what you mean by that? What are the benefits? Because those are seemingly all positive attributes? Then maybe we’ll talk a little bit about maybe some of the negatives that seemed to have emerged from this ecosystem.
Michel: Right. Absolutely. There’s nothing in the world that is pure good. It’s always two sides of the coin. I’m very happy to discuss the negative side. But, just as like 10 years ago, people were exaggerating the positive sides. People are exaggerating the negative sides, and they’re forgetting all the benefits that we got with it, right? It’s a question of finding the right balance within those two polarities.
Michel: I don’t know if you remember this, but maybe 10, 15 years ago, Pekka Himanen wrote a book, The Hacker Ethic. It was kind of updating that book by Max Weber called The Spirit of Capitalism, which described the emergence of capitalist values, capitalist ethics, after the Reformation. He makes the link between how the religious reformation at the same time meant that markets became something positive, right?
Michel: Pekka Himanen describes this emerging field of free software, and he noticed a complete change in mentality. Basically, the two values are passion and freedom. We now have social technical systems, which allow people to join them by choice. They’re open, collaborative systems. That freedom creates passion. The fact that you can actually choose your activities, the ones that you love the most, that you find the most meaningful, creates, at the same time, these very huge motivational extra.
Michel: Think about, to make it a very simple example, you have Encyclopedia Britannica, which I used to use, an absolutely excellent resource. But then you have the Wikipedia where 100% of the people there are there because they want to be there, right? No matter how much money you have, how big you are, how expert you are, it’s very hard for that kind of entity to compete with this kind of open network.
Michel: What will happen is that, usually is one or more individuals will say we want to do this. We need an alternative operating system to not having to use Microsoft, for example, or we want direct access to organic food in our neighborhood without going to the big store and paying 30% more. Whatever the goal is, we now basically have the freedom to broadcast these projects and then people will adhere to it and they will do so with a substantial amount of enthusiasm.
Michel: Most of the time these projects start with passion. But of course, you can’t eat passion. The second step is usually how can we make a living, and continue doing this because we really like and love to do this, right? Around these open productive communities, you’ll find an entrepreneurial coalition. I call it sometimes the [inaudible 00:10:27] coalition. Because of course, ideally, around the commons, you want a vibrant market system that actually benefits the commoners and also takes good care of the web of life, the natural resources that are used in that project.
Michel: Around this productive community, you try to create a generative economy, an ethical economy. That’s step two, step three is you have to manage the infrastructure. What you do there is you create neutral associations for benefit associations, which enable and empower the collaboration to occur. So, typically, for example, the Wikimedia Foundation will not order people to write articles, but they will have editors that have the power to say no. That’s very important, because that defends the integrity of the system.
Michel: It’s not a command hierarchy, but you still have a control hierarchy. The free software and associated technologies is one sixth of GDP already since 2011. This is a substantial part already of the US economy and the global economy. Now, I want to explain one important dynamic, once you have a system where some people get paid and others don’t get paid, you have a question, do I want to do things for free, and see only a few people benefit from our common work?
Michel: That creates a whole kind of dynamic where these communities are going to try to do things differently to have more equity. This is sometimes called pre-distribution. Imagine you create a membrane around your productive community, you get market income, maybe you get subsidies, or whatever you get from the outside, but internally, you can redistribute the value in a different way, and that’s called contributory accounting, and there’s hundreds of examples that I have in my P2P accounting section of my wiki.
Michel: We’ll try to create new types of relationships with the entrepreneurs. For example, we are big fans of something called reciprocity licensing. The basic idea here is knowledge is free, knowledge can be shared. But if you want to use it commercially, you have to become a member of the association or some kind of reciprocity arrangement, which is a promise of reciprocity, basically. This is less important than free software, because everybody can use it. It requires fairly, relatively low capital. But if you want to do some project with machines and buildings and actually produce something, you may want some protection from purely predatory companies who just take the open source, but don’t reciprocate.
Michel: What we’re seeing is, first we have the free software, and open design communities, then we have the urban commons coming on in 2008, with a tenfold increase. Now, we see the first premises of distributed manufacturing. We call it cosmolocal, because everything that slides is global and shared, and everything that’s heavy, is local, and potentially cooperated. Just to give you one example of this, this is called a multi-factory system. It’s a coalition of 120 crafts, factories in Europe. These are usually people who do materials. Converting plastic or working with wood or iron or steel, or 3D printing, and they look for cheap, abandoned factories in the ports of the cities and stuff. But they do this cooperatively, they use open source methods, and they have what they call the invisible factory, which is the place where they work together, independent of the place where they are working.
Michel: They have their own commons, if you like, where they’re building this collective experience and knowledge for their whole network. This is a typical example of what we call cosmolocal production. This is very, very important because we spend three times more transporting stuff than making stuff, right? If you can produce at the place of need, on demand using distributed manufacturing, this should have a substantial effect on the human footprint. If you pool your resources, you mutualize parts of your provisioning systems, then you get enormous benefits.
Michel: Because we calculated it in a report called The Thermodynamics of Peer Production, and we looked at agriculture, and it was about 80%. Produce as much food, but with 80% less matter and energy usage.
Jim: Yeah, that’s very important. It’s one of my own personal passions is the local agriculture movement. But unfortunately, as it turns out, the economics are still hard to get to work right, so long as we don’t have a strong carbon tax. Because all that moving of food from California to the East Coast, or, even worse, a salmon caught in Alaska sent to China to be processed and then sent back to the United States gets a free ride by not paying the full cost of the transportation.
Jim: My own calculation, say, if you put an honest carbon tax, say $100 US dollars, or 100 euros per ton of carbon equivalent, suddenly, local agriculture can out compete the industrial agricultural machine. But until then, it’s going to be hard, especially in places that are optimized like the United States, very, very efficient, industrial agricultural systems. Hard to out compete it on price.
Michel: Absolutely. Maybe I can say something about this, because this is very important. We have a value machine, we have decided in the 18th century that wealth is created through extraction. You need scarce commodities in order to be able to price them, and that’s how you realize the surplus. Typically, anything that’s generative or regenerative, and anything that creates abundance, becomes cheap, or free, right? So that you have a fundamental contradiction in our system where an organic farmer who improves his soil every year will get finished because the farmer who destroys his soil every year will get much more subsidized and all kinds of stuff.
Michel: That’s fundamental. If we don’t change to a contributory value regime, the things that we need to change in the world are not going to work very well. Unless you’re willing to be two extremes. I was recently looking at the Bruderhof Communities, which I’m quite impressed with. It’s not the kind of life that I would lead, because you have to promise obedience, and pretty much forget about your personal development, it’s a religious system. But I don’t know if you’ve ever seen them. They’re very productive, and they have everything they need.
Michel: What they’ve done is some kind of radical mutualization like the monasteries did in the Middle Ages. They’ve grown to 3000 people. It’s worth looking at. I don’t know if you can confirm this, but I learned that the Amish also very collaborative in their community, actually have the most productive agriculture in the US. I find it hard to believe, but I’ve read it in two or three articles. It’s probably worth looking at whether that’s true or not.
Jim: Yeah, it’s interesting, The Bruderhofs, I actually drive right by one of their industrial facilities on the way to visit my daughter. Someday, I’m going to have to stop in and visit up in Pennsylvania, in the United States. With respect to the Mennonites and Amish, there’s a lot to be learned there. But I would also caution you that they are exceedingly industrial in their agricultural processes. Heavy users of pesticides and fertilizer.
Michel: Oh, really?
Jim: Yeah. They’ll use up land and then move on. Yes, they are amazingly productive, and their farms are very prosperous. But I would say they are not at all on board, at least most of them with regenerative agricultural and permacultural techniques. There’s a lot to learn there, but I would say that they’re by no means the perfect model. They’re one of the models that I’ve been studying lately, the Mennonites, and also the Israeli Kibbutz. Now, the Israeli Kibbutz is another extremely interesting model, which I would suggest might actually be more appropriate in many ways than the Mennonites. Though, I do advocate the Mennonites style of local collective decision making about technology, right?
Jim: In the Mennonite world, the communities are organized into something kind of like parishes in regular Protestant or Catholic religion, but they’re quite small, 25 to 50 families. The technological decisions about whether we should adopt a technology or not are made at that level, and often after years of debate. They’ll come to different conclusions. People think, oh, yeah, the Amish, they all do this, they all do that. No, they don’t, they vary at the local level.
Jim: For instance, some will allow electricity in the barn for the milking machines for the cow and refrigeration, but no electricity in the house. Then some will say no electricity at all. I think there’s a lot to be learned there. But I would caution that their agricultural practices tend to be more industrial than you would think, because they’re tightly coupled to the monetary system.
Jim: The other thing that’s worth learning from them is they have an alternative form of finance. They essentially have collective banking, where if you’re a Mennonite or Amish, and you want to start a business, and many of them get into businesses, like furniture building or construction or small factories, they don’t go to banks, generally speaking, they will go to their community, and they have a form of collective capital with return built into it, so they can avoid the exploits from the commercial banking sector, and whatever interest or implied interest comes back is kept within the community. I think there’s a lot to learn there.
Michel: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: Another distinction I’d like to make, you call it the light and the heavy, I think. In our Game B world, one of the distinctions we make which is very similar and maps almost on to light and heavy, but not quite is the distinction between rivalous and non-rivalrous. Non-rivalrous means things that can be replicated very inexpensively. That can be digital, like, an MP3 file, obviously costs very little to replicate. But it also could include drugs. Many, many drugs now can be manufactured for one penny, one cent per pill. Yet, they may still charge $20, a pill.
Jim: Things that can be duplicated at a very small fraction of their competitive market equilibrium value really ought to be made in as large a possible volume as people want. Should not be constrained by intellectual property, at least to the point where it’s usurious. While rivalrous goods like a ham sandwich, either you eat it, or I eat it, right? It may not be heavy, but it’s rivalrous. There’s a very different dynamic there. And there’s always going to be issues about who gets what. I will also suggest laying that framework on top of thinking through alternative systems, and we should encourage the widest possible use of non-rivalous goods, and put our attention to reforming how we think about the cooperative signaling related to the creation and distribution of the rivalous goods.
Michel: That’s exactly how I started my P2P work 20 years ago, with the kind of conclusion that our society treats immaterial goods as if they were scarce. We basically do everything we can to make cooperation difficult to intellectual property and all kinds of rules. We’re creating artificial scarcity in the immaterial world, in a world of light. What we said, and we treat material things as if they were infinite. We don’t take into account that there’s only so much copper and so much oil, and so much of a resource in the ground.
Michel: It’s the opposite of what we should be doing, right? We should take into account that we do live in a relatively finite world, and we should make it difficult for people to solve problems together. Because that’s the issue that the system that we have is creating all these kinds of systemic crisis, but then it creates really heavy barriers about how to solve them.
Michel: I used to work for BP a long time ago in the early ’90s, which is at the time that they were buying up all these solar companies and electric cars, and basically destroyed them. That was physically destroyed the electric cars back in the day because they didn’t want this to compete with what they had. That’s only possible because of copyright and intellectual property. If you had open designs, then other people could have made these electric cars. In my view, we lost 30 years because of this.
Jim: Yep, and it’s a fundamental problem. Whatever comes out on the other side of the crises we’re headed to, I certainly hope that people will remember that we should make that which is easily reproducible without being burdensome upon the Earth, reproducible. As you implied, to my mind, the number one mission of the human race in the 21st century is to learn to live within the boundaries of what the Earth can continuously produce, and not just for our own good, but also for the other species that we share the Earth with. Those two things together, strike me as the first two pillars of creating this new world.
Jim: Now, we talked about the cool things that can be done on the internet, and sure enough, there are a lot of them. I was involved with building the internet and the pre-internet. I actually started working at the very first consumer online service back in 1980, a company called The Source. In fact, I designed one of the earliest email systems, and I designed one of the earliest forum systems. I was also a product manager for one of the first precursors to what we might call today, social media. Wasn’t exactly the same, but it was close enough.
Jim: Anyway, I’ve been watching this stuff and participating in it since the very beginning, and I will say we all thought we were doing the Lord’s work, right? We thought that we would be building tools that would make democracy better, that would make everything fairer, many things we just talked about. Indeed, those things are happening.
Jim: As you point out, it’s important to focus on the positives, too. But unfortunately, maybe I’ve been a little late to the day, I’ve come to realize that there are some serious negatives we have to think about this emerging internet world. In fact, I did quite a long podcast yesterday with Daniel Schmachtenberger on sense making on the internet, and how the internet as its evolved and not by design, I will say there is no conspiracy for this to happen, it’s the emergent result of capitalistic signals, essentially. We’ve ended up with a set of very strong network attractors amongst the quasi monopoly platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram, et cetera, and these things have taken… Essentially combined, very sophisticated cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience with machine learning to create a system where we’re actually being controlled in ways we do not understand.
Jim: I tend not to be a believer in conspiracy theories and wackadoodle shit like that. But I think in this case, it is true that we have developed an emergent world, what should have been these tools of liberation, have instead been, I think, what you called, cognitive capitalism. Where our behaviors, our information and our data are essentially turned back around against us for the purpose of selling us ads, and the ads are sold for the purpose of turning us into something that we are not.
Jim: While there are gigantic potentials and accomplishments for the internet, I do believe it’s now time to turn our attention to the problems with it. In fact, I like to call out here, a great movie that just came out yesterday, and I watched it last night. It’s called The Social Dilemma. It’s on Netflix, and it is Tristan Harris, if you [inaudible 00:28:08] place, he plays the narrator in it. It’s an incredibly powerful examination of how these platforms are controlling us in ways that we don’t understand. I strongly recommend people watch that.
Jim: The other, and she appears in the film is called Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, who focuses mostly on Google, but also a bit on Facebook, and how these tools that should be core to human emancipation have, again, not through malicious intent, but through these mega companies responding to the signals of capitalism, particularly as they transition to an advertising model, no longer our friends. In fact, are destroying our ability for collective sense making and may well be driving our whole society insane.
Michel: Well, I’m very close to that analysis, because I’ve been a curator for almost 15 years now, longer because I’ve been a librarian since my first job in 1981. But, as a curator, the simple fact that you want to be pluralistic in your sources, has become extraordinarily difficult. We had this idea of the filter bubble some years ago, which, these algorithms tend to present to you what confirms your interest and your opinions. But now, we’ve come to weaponizing of this, which is that, as communities are fragmenting, what happens is that I actually don’t want any other information. They actively try to protect themselves from anything that disturbs the righteousness or whatever it is that determines their being together in a community. That’s really, really painful. I’ve lost a lot of joy doing this kind of work in the last two years because of this.
Jim: Yeah, it’s a very real thing, and in fact the film, the Social Dilemma focuses on that. We think, intuitively that everybody, and historically this was sort of true, had more or less similar sources of information. We could assume that at least people had some agreement about the facts, if not about what should be done about them. But because of these filter bubbles, and these algorithms, which select things that outrage us, which press the dopamine buttons in our brains, it’s now the fact that people have very different flows of information. They’re not similar at all right?
Michel: No. But even if you do a search in Google. I will do it on my computer, you’ll do it on yours. Even that we want to find the same things anymore.
Jim: Yeah, let me think of a very good example on climate change. If you type in climate change, the auto continuations, i.e. the suggested searches you do are radically different depending on where you live. If you’re in Texas, it’ll say you type in climate change, and some of the suggested continuations, is a hoax, is nothing et cetera. If you do it in New York City, it will say, is a existential risk to humanity. It’s interesting, nobody at Google made those decisions. These were machine learning based extractions from patterns of what they saw, which, as you say, creates a filter bubble, does not present objective view of reality, but rather reinforces a set of prejudices, so that New York and Texas now have radically different views about climate change, even though there’s only one set of objective facts, which neither side sees in a pure form.
Michel: Right. Maybe one thing we can do, and this is what I’m trying to do with the P2P Foundation. This is called object-oriented relationality. It’s one of the branches of, maybe sociology, I’m not sure. But the basic idea is that, what is the commons about? It’s a shared object that you want to make. In this case, what you’re doing is that you’re congregating but you’re congregating to build something, right? You look for commonality, and you organize around the commonality, which is a lot of that object, be it free software, or… It’s a bit similar to, I was reading an article in Jacobin Magazine today about how unions back in the day were able to create unity between the workers of different races and other differences, because they were all had this common identity. We’re workers, we will struggle together. It’s good for us, if we all fight together around some common priorities.
Michel: As opposed to the fragmentation that we have right now. You’re probably familiar with the work of, is it Peter Limberg with Culture 2.0, this mapping of 30 different thematic tribes that all have their own logic, all have their own convictions, and are not seeing or reading anymore the same things. I see commoning has a potential, also strategy to overcome at least some of that fragmentation by focusing on this common priority that we could have if we build things together.
Jim: Yeah, I think that’s really what we have to work on. But we have to be realistic about the fact that these monopoly attractors armed with machine learning are not attempting to do that. We have to find ways to either overcome it. One of the things for instance, I find, Facebook, for instance, for all of its evils, if you stay out of the broad public Facebook and spend your time in private groups, many of the dynamics go away. They don’t run very many ads in the private groups. Private groups have their own algorithms, which are objective, actually, and they’re not driven by the Zuckerberg algorithm, et cetera. One can adapt one’s usage to not be quite as sucked into these attractors.
Jim: The other one, I’d recommend to everybody, turn the goddamn notifications off on your devices. Don’t let them pop at you, because they are trying to get your attention. Turn all the notifications off. The other two things I personally do, which I’d recommend is I take a six month break from social media every year.
Michel: That’s pretty good. I should do that as well.
Jim: In fact, I’m at the end of month two of this year’s break from July till the end of December, and it’s amazingly liberating. The other is, even when I am on social media, and this has to do with other things too, like email, is once a week I take a days break and have a cyber Sabbath typically on Sunday, where I don’t touch any device at all except my Kindle. I have like the good Mennonites, I say, well, Kindles are all right. Kindles are like a book, right?
Jim: Again, these are habits that we can get into, to free us, at least a bit from cognitive capitalism. Let’s go on now to a model that you have in the book, which is about how we can use this network infrastructure and other things, then you basically create a two by two good management consultant fashion, centralized versus global, and for profit versus for benefit. You have four different boxes, and maybe talk about that a little bit.
Michel: Right. Let’s take each quadrant in turn. The ones that we’re just discussing is basically the idea of centralized, peer to peer infrastructures with a for profit goal. The Facebooks, the Googles, they still do allow peer to peer connectivity, but everything, except the front end is actually centralized, right? It’s centralized property, it’s centralized governance, they own your data, et cetera, et cetera. We know where that is going, and that’s not good news.
Michel: Then the other one is distributed, but for profits. Here’s what I’m thinking is the Bitcoin world, the blockchain world, the crypto world, because if you look for example, a Bitcoin is very clearly designed as a commodity currency to go up in value. In other words, it is designed to make a profit. The ideology behind it is a libertarian ideology, which sees every individual as separate from each other. Then you can engage in market transactions. What they don’t see though is that any competition for scarce resource creates oligarchy.
Michel: Whether you’re competing for land or you’re competing for money doesn’t really matter. In any iterative game, for scarce resource, want people to look at cleverness and hard work, whatever the reason is, will end up having more resources than the other, and then for the next interactive game, you’re stronger, and you’re concentrating resources. Not only that, but actually they’re really designed to do that. They have oligarchic protocols like proof of state, and proof of work, which gives more to people who already have.
Michel: That’s a group apart, which claims to be peer to peer, but actually creates oligarchic systems in their effects. Then you have on the other side two for benefits models, and one is the local distributed for benefit models. That’s really what’s happening in the urban commons. There were 50 urban commons in the city of Ghent in 2008, and 500, in 2016. There is this explosion of local initiatives faced with state and market failure, people are really mutualization a lot of their provisioning system.
Michel: What we saw in Ghent, for example, was that every provisioning system had already a commons based alternative. Whether it was a community land trusts, housing coops and co-living arrangements for housing. Whether it is shared transport, but not Uber, but associations and coops that do similar things, but way better. Whether it is shared the food, like collective purchasing with farmers for organic food. The whole field is filled with those local, bi-regional, regional effects. Maybe, 2%, to 3% of population is engaged already in these alternatives.
Michel: We’ve seen it with the Maker Movement during COVID. In the early phase of COVID, the hardware wasn’t there. The ventilators, the masks, everything was missing. You saw the extraordinary mobilization of maker spaces to do this kind of cosmolocal production. That brings us to the fourth quadrant, which is the global quadrant. This is about the global open design communities. I’m looking forward to the days when we can have planetary guilds that protect workers that work on these global systems.
Michel: I look forward to what I call protocol coops. To give you an example of this, there’s this coalition called C40 of cities in the world, which want to do climate change. For example, one of the things they will do is looking at regulations to rein in Uber and Airbnb. But that’s just the negative regulation, what I want to see is Fairbnb and Mooney rights, in other words, multistakeholder, mutualized facilities that are managed by the people who produce them and use them.
Michel: One of the things I’ve been proposing to the cities that I work for is, okay, you create a global open design depository for let’s say, shared mobility. You make a deal with a coalition of cities. Like, in the Middle Ages, the Hanseatic League, for example. You create ethical finance, impact finance coalition, and you create solidarity, economy cooperative, economy social entrepreneurship. With all of those things, you can create, based on common protocols, local adaptation, so that you can utilize transportation much faster than any other way could achieve.
Michel: You still have those four alternatives. It all depends how you design the cyber physical infrastructure. Ideally, this is kind of my vision of the future, I want an integration of the best of the best. We have open source and the comments, we learn how to do mutual coordination, [inaudible 00:41:37] the capacity to see the signals of all the others working on the same project, so that you can coordinate and adapt in real time to what others are doing.
Michel: Market pricing works very well to allocate really scarce resources. We can work on generative markets. Finally, what we call orchestrated planning, which is the role of the state. But we can also imagine global governance institutions that, for example, the Global Thresholds and Allocations Council, which is proposed r3.O, Reporting 3.0, which is actually holding its conference right now. The idea here that they propose is to have a council of scientists monitoring the availability of resources, matter and energy globally. Then come to some type of agreement about what is the fair distribution of those allocation rights? That would then be reflected in accounting systems. So that you everywhere you would know how to use resources without going over the planet boundary.
Michel: It’s like, the donut economy idea of Kate Raworth. But integrate it in one accounting system. This is why, despite my critiques, I still am very interested in the blockchain world because what they’re doing is going from an internet of communication to an internet of transaction, right? Distributed ledgers can allow us to create, at scale, open ecosystems to produce something together on a world scale, both locally and globally, and to adapt to each other and to be able to respect the planetary boundaries. That’s what I’ve been working on recently.
Jim: Yeah, I think those are all important things. First thing I want to talk about is shared ledgers? You didn’t quite say it, but I’ll say it. I don’t like Bitcoin. I think Bitcoin is bad. It’s a replication of bad patterns from the past, it was explicitly based on gold. As you point out, it makes the rich richer, it’s got lots of other problems. It’s consuming electricity at a ridiculous level, et cetera.
Jim: While it was a very important proof of principle, and in fact, when I read the Bitcoin paper, when Satoshi put it out, I read it, I don’t know, a few months after he published it, I slapped myself in the head and said, this is fucking brilliant. Why didn’t I think of that? It’s not that difficult, actually. But it was a brilliant innovation. But the Bitcoin implementation, I would say, much of the Etherium work, but not all of it is in the wrong direction. As you say, it’s reinforcing a libertarian, hyper-individualist, dog eat dog epic.
Jim: On the other hand, blockchain can be used in much more positive ways, too. I pointed before to the Holochain project. We’ve had Arthur Brock on the show a couple of times to talk about Holo-
Michel: Which is not a blockchain. It’s a distributed ledger without being based on the blockchain.
Jim: It’s a different style. It’s in the same general family, but it’s very, very different and it’s really designed for what I would call them mostly good purposes. Then there’s other kind of things which are more purely written on the blockchain, such as The Ocean Protocol, which is a very clever way for people to own and share their data, et cetera. That’s also worth looking at. Yeah, this is an area that’s a big innovation, and I hope will eventually produce a major win for society, and toolkit that we can add to work with. But, not all examples are good. We have to curate the tools that we use from this domain.
Michel: That’s why I talk in this latest report about value sensitive design, right? If you’re libertarian, you design a commodity currency. If you’re commons oriented, you think about the mutual credit currency. If you’re a libertarian, you think about smart contracts. If you’re a commoner, you think about Ostrom contracts. You can make a list of about a dozen things how you would definitely design a distributed ledger system, if you are inspired by commons values versus libertarian values.
Michel: I think it’s very important for people to understand that technology is not just neutral. It’s an active terrain of struggle or construction, if you like that better. But the way your values are reflected in the way you design those systems, which then will be influencing everybody else who is using them. It’s not a simple thing. You look at the Internet, first is the noncommissioned officers of the US Army that’s stressed that it has to be peer to peer to survive nuclear war. It’s taken over by scientists, then it’s taken over after ’93 by the public with the web. Then the companies take over with reintroducing client server, and then the surveillance states wants to control everything.
Michel: It’s one technology, but it has different layers of design principles, which are actually not that much in harmony with each other.
Jim: Could you send me the link to that? I want to make sure we put that on the episode page.
Michel: Yeah, will do.
Jim: That sounds absolutely central, a design ethos is what can help technology liberate us, not enslave us, I would say. Again, we get deep into these issues. We’re moving along here in time, I’m going to move from this topic, which we could talk about probably for two hours, and move to your chapter four. I personally found this extremely interesting, and that was P2P in the structure of world history and the various modes of production and organization of production and exchange, which has happened over time. I do want to make sure we have plenty of time for governance, which is something dear to my heart. But let’s spend at least a little bit of time on your take on the P2P in the structure of world history.
Michel: Right. When I started with the P2P Foundation in 2002-ish, I started with discovering the relational grammar of Alan Page Fiske. He’s the one, and we talked about it, about 40 minutes ago, who distinguish between commoning, working together on a common project that is a shared resource. The gift economy, he calls it equality matching, where you give something that creates an inequality and a desire to give back. The markets, and then what he calls authority ranking, which is about redistribution.
Michel: Then I discovered the second author, which is called Kojin Karatani and he wrote an amazing book called The Structure of World History. He says that, these things that Page Fiske mentions are actually also active in history, but in different modes of combinations. There’s always a dominant mode. Human history actually starts with a commons.
Michel: You have very small tribal groups that usually are nomadic. When the hunters come back with, let’s say, a deer, it’s not for the hunters, it’s for the family, and there is a protocol for distribution of the pieces. Actually, usually the hunter, he gets the least because he has already the prestige of the hunt. The idea that it’s for everyone at the same time in a particular group, that’s really the very first modality of human exchange.
Michel: As we get more complex, bigger villages and tribal federation’s, that’s where the gift economy comes in, equality matching, because that’s social obligation that allows you to pacify tribal warfare. Because as long as you can move along in small bands, you don’t have to go to war, you just move out. The world is big enough for everyone. But once you have tribal federations, the gift economies [inaudible 00:50:21] Then comes what he calls authority ranking. Once a tribe decides to invade another tribe, well, you can have a gift economy, right? Because it says form of domination.
Michel: You have to justify your domination, and basically is going to say, we protect you, we bring advantages in exchange for tribute and obedience. According to your rank in the hierarchy, you get more than another person in lower rank of the higher. Finally, market pricing. Another way to put it is that capitalism is a combination of capital, state and nation, right? Capital drives everything, the accumulation of capital is the name of the game. The state creates a framework in which this can happen, and is also the place for keeping a balance at the meta level of society. So, the state has a double role, if you like, and the nation is the community.
Michel: They emerge at the same time, and it’s one system; capital, state nation. What I’m saying is that, if you look at the micro foundations of open source and be production, you might actually deduce a new combination, which is, values produced not in the market alone, but to all the contributions in civil society. So, the value regime changes and becomes common centric. The commoners need to make a livelihood and create livelihood organizations through a generative economy, which includes market dynamics. Then you have these for benefit associations, like the Linux Foundation and Drupal Association, which manage the infrastructure of cooperation, unlike a common good institution like the state. It’s transformation of the state.
Michel: My political program, if you like, Jim, is to transform civil society, the markets, and the nation, all at the same time.
Jim: A modest little project.
Michel: Very modest. My first book was actually called, Changing the World. But of course, I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, I’m saying that all pears should be changing the world. I would like to add something to that. I’ve been very interested lately in what are called wave pulse theories. The idea is that societies move from one polarity to another extractive periods of competition usually tend to an overuse and a collapse, and that creates a balance towards going to the other polarity, which is a period of regeneration and healing of society.
Michel: You look at society, and you see this continuous polarity changing, and, remarkably, the commons is the healing agent in regenerative periods. There’s a fantastic book by Mark Whitaker, which is called Ecological Revolutions and the Axial Religions. He basically shows us in the past, and he looks at China 12th century, Japan, 15th century and European the eighth century. He sees the same thing. The system is in crisis, like the fall of the Roman Empire. What happens? Mutualization at a big scale to heal society.
Michel: This was, of course, going on in regionally limited periods within regional planetary boundaries. But now we have arrived at global planetary boundaries. That tells me that we have to achieve this next transformation, and we have to escape the pendulum, we have to escape the pulse, because we now have nowhere else to go than keep the planet in a steady state, right?
Michel: That’s what a lot of ecological thinkers will tell you is that we need some kind of degrowth period where our amount of usage of matter energy has to go down to a certain degree. Part of what we save can go to solving the huge global problems that we have, with people are homeless and still hungry in many places. But the aim is to arrive at a steady state system, where humanity knows what to use of its bio capacity.
Michel: You could say that we have to move from a capital labor compact, which was the basis of the welfare state, to a compact between humanity and nature. To a recognition of our place in web of life, and towards interspecies collaboration in maintaining the health of our planet. That’s the challenge, and I believe that peer to peer dynamics and the commons are a crucial part of that transformation.
Jim: Very good. Let me make a couple of comments. One, it strikes me that, as you said, we have to avoid it this time without the pulse, right? Because we have too far to fall. We built a very high stack of infrastructure and systems and should we fall we’re going to follow a very long way. We have used the power of this Game A hierarchy, as we would call it, to allow population to grow to 8 billion. If the hierarchy collapses, or if underlying structures collapse too rapidly, many of those 8 billion people will die, I’m afraid.
Jim: Second, I think this is very important, is when people talk about degrowth, I think that that can be perceived as overly simplistic. Now, you did caveat it, and this is absolutely critical that we have to degrow our imposition on the regenerative powers of Mother Nature. We have to stop fossil fuel use by 2050, probably. We have to get better at recycling metals and things. But there’s still lots of room to “grow” in ways that aren’t material. I call that growth into the microcosm, rather than growth into the macrocosm. For instance, better poetry, or a new song is growth, in some sense, right?
Jim: In fact, my friend, Tyson Yunkaporta, who we’ve had on the show three times, he’s an Australian, indigenous people background, he says that in their culture, they make a big distinction between increase and growth. For instance, if the crops you grow, get better on the same land without any material inputs, but you just take good care of the land, that’s increase. While if you open up new land and destroy the native habitat, that’s growth, and increase is better than growth.
Jim: I would ask people to have some nuance about this, that degrowthing doesn’t mean things can’t get better. But they require a different concept.
Michel: Yeah, absolutely. One of the concepts that we use is sustainable well being, which is, how can we actually increase the well being of people within the framework of sustainability, of planetary boundaries? I fully agree with you. I will not use degrowth in my public communications, because when people are struggling to survive, you’re not going to tell them that they have to be even poorer. That’s not what this is about. This is about stopping waste, and it’s about directing life towards the growth of the things that make us really happy.
Michel: I just see degrowth at a material usage as an objective necessity. But it’s absolutely not a way to communicate politically about these issues. That’s why I think commoning is also important, because, when you do meaningful work in a group, that’s a huge boost to your personal happiness. It’s an expression of your being. There’s a lot of things we can do that go in that direction, that make people a lot happier than the mere accumulation of material stuff that you actually don’t use that much.
Jim: Yep, absolutely. Again, we both know that an awful lot of capital could be shared, and things like tool libraries, or transportation as a service run the right way. By the way, I want to revisit that even though we talked about in the last show, you talked about a better Uber. There actually are a few examples like the City of Austin, Texas, about 50% of the market for rideshare is by a driver owned coop, which is interesting. But to your other point, it would be really nice if somebody documented how they did it, what their legal structures were, how they dealt with regulation, et cetera, and make that available as a package for other people around the world to be able to take those seeds and plant them elsewhere.
Michel: Yeah, that’s what I call a protocol corporative. Because the protocols are publicly available so people can take them and adapt them to other contexts.
Jim: Interesting. Yeah. All right. Let me introduce another concept here, which is relatively new and quite new. It comes from one of my collaborators, a guy named Jordan Hall, and he has five or six YouTube videos on the concept that he calls Civium C-I-V-I-U-M. So, YouTube, Civium Jordan Hall will bring it up. It’s informed by the work of Geoffrey West and Luis Bettencourt, who are both affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute. Their work showed in a very convincing fashion that cities are quite unlike biology. Biology is sub linear.
Jim: Compare an elephant to a mouse, an elephant might be 10,000 times heavier, but it does not use 10,000 times as much energy or water, it goes down at a sub linear scaling at the three fourths power as it turned out. Maybe an elephant uses 200 times the energy of a mouse even though it’s 10,000 times bigger. But the opposite is true for cities. As cities get bigger, they are super scalar in a whole lot of dimensions. Some positive and some negative.
Jim: For instance, we know patterns are generated at a higher rate per capita in larger cities, economic wages are higher in larger cities, per capita, but also crime is higher, and disease is higher et cetera. The super linearity has some very interesting consequences, particularly… It’s one of the reasons why we’re developing these mega cities all around the worlds with populations of 20 million or more and particularly in the third world, many of them are fairly horrible places in terms of quality of life and impact on the local environment at least. Of course, in the West, these super cities become dominant in the economy in the region, and are sucking resources in from all over causing people around the world to degrade the environment and come up against the limits, and I would say at this point, beyond the limits of growth.
Jim: Further, this is I think the new addition that Jordan adds to this analysis is that cities make people crazy. You look at the rate at which people go to psycho therapists. You just think about the kind of life you have to live in a big city, where you’re looking down at your feet in the subway, not talking to your neighbor, you don’t even know who your neighbor is in the apartment building you deal with, everything has been reduced to the transactions of the market or the government, there is no face to face community. Most people who moved to the cities don’t bring their whole extended family with them. So, they’re social isolants.
Jim: Jordan has proposed taking some of the things you’ve talked about, the ability of the nets, that we start to recreate society from the bottom up in small groups, few hundred people in mostly rural areas, that create extraordinarily high quality of life, to a degree that’s reasonable that they be self-contained with respect to things like power and water. Depending on where they’re located, they may be able to be self-sufficient with respect to food too, but they also should be open to the wider society to trade for things that they can’t do. For instance, they’re not going to make their own computer chips anytime soon, or airplanes or other things.
Jim: But, and this is the key, so they can contribute to the global, shall we say, increase, they need to be coupled to the wider world and to each other, so that they can have the good parts of super linearity of large groups of humans interacting, and yet still provide a very humane and low impact quality of life. I find this synthesis completely interesting and engaging. I’ve been starting to dig into it in some detail. Love to get your thoughts on the idea that we can capture the good that comes from large groups of humans interacting and yet build humane and low impact ways of living at the same time.
Michel: Well, it sounds a bit like our idea of cosmolocal organization, right? I have opened the tabs, I’ve never actually taken the time yet to look at the whole series, but it sounds like something that is totally interesting. I have some friends in France who have calculated that if we want 100% organic food, we need 12% of the people back in the countryside. What we also have to know is that, Italy, Spain, Portugal, France have hundreds and hundreds of empty villages. Yes, the villages are actually there, nobody wants to live there anymore. But if we can create a non-isolated culture life, I think we could have this type of global villages that are both local, but also intensely connected with intellectual and cultural life of the world.
Michel: I think basically with internet there is no reason anymore to make that huge distinction between the countryside and the city. I have a friend from the global villages projects called GIVE, G-I-V-E, which is doing a virtual University of the villages. Because if you’re in a village, it’s hard to get a good professor to come by and give a lecture. So, they mutualize, and they invite the best professors in Austria to teach people in the villages. I think those kinds of things go in the same direction of what Jordan is trying to propose. I’m definitely interested in learning more about it.
Jim: I think, to point people to, it is something that I would suggest is highly congruent with your ideas, and then combines them with the West Bettencourt findings about super linearity of cities to produce what is a pretty compelling way to think about ways forward. We’re getting late here in time again. Damn it, we have so much interesting things to talk about, and so little time. Let’s move on to the payoff, chapter five, A Commons Transition Strategy. What do we need to do?
Michel: Yes, I can’t exactly recall what I wrote in that fifth chapter. I must say, I’ve been a bit in a more doubtful mode, because I think what we see happening is that the social collapse is speeding up much faster than the ecological collapse. The political situation is becoming hugely complicated. Basically, what I’m advocating is a new model, and I focus around the idea of partner state, and Public Commons Cooperation Protocols.
Michel: Moving away from this idea of a top down state, to an idea of a partnering state. That can happen at all levels, including global governance institutions. But let me give you an example, I don’t know if we did it last time, but you have the Bologna Regulation, for the care and regeneration of the urban commons. It creates a lab, it allows all citizens in the city to say I want to care for this as a commons.
Michel: Abandoned buildings, parks that are not kept well, even the cleaning, the river sides, there’s many, many things that can be done. There’s a process of negotiation of validation. Then a commons accord is signed, and the city then becomes the coordinator of the support, and they have this system called the quintuple helix system, which is the city, the Chamber of Commerce, the research organizations, and the official NGOs. All these four, combined together to have number five, which are the common centric social innovators.
Michel: I think this is a great model, and it has been copied by 250 other Italian cities, and it has mobilized 1 million Italians in working for the commons, at their local, urban scale. I think this is something that actually needs to be done everywhere. Because if you recall what the maker movement was doing with COVID, they were very, very fast at producing those things. But then the hospitals were afraid to accept their material, because of all kinds of legal and liability issues that they didn’t want to cross those lines.
Michel: That is a huge waste of potential in value. I think this is very important that we need to step away from the binary state or market and move at least to a triarchy where, what’s the best combination of economic activities from the markets, orchestrated planning, and regulation from the partner state, and support mechanisms, and then, of course, the autonomous activity of the commoners.
Michel: That, for me is very important that we start moving in that simultaneous transformation of civil society, the markets and the state function, using those concepts of Public Commons Cooperation Protocols. I don’t know if I wrote anything else there.
Jim: Yeah, and some other things. But I think you hit the big picture. Things I wonder about is trying to do all three at once, is that feasible? I would say our Game B movement at the present time is focused on just doing proofs of principle at the local scale, and including some of Jordan’s Civium ideas on how the local communities would have protocols for interacting with themselves and the wider world in a way to have a superscalar ability to have increase, if not growth and leave the state reforms to later. Though, as you point out, the current meta crisis may not let us do that. I guess our perspective is that the politics is so broken, particularly in the United States, but increasingly across the west, that it may not be worth participating in partisan politics at this time.
Michel: Yes, I fully agree, it’s difficult, but I think we still need to have an integrated, holistic approach. Don’t forget, not everybody has to do everything, right? I fully agree that, if you’re engaged in doing a local project, that your energy is going to making that work, but I think at some point, you do have to create a relationship with the public authority.
Michel: At a local level, it might not be as bad as at the national level, right? All these games that national level politicians can play, because they can put up one group against another. When you’re at the local level, if there’s a riot, there’s nowhere else to go, all right? There’s, I think, a strong motive for local politicians to behave substantially differently than at a national scale.
Jim: Yeah, absolutely. If we do say that.
Michel: Yeah. I’m advocating the creation of Assemblies of the Commons and Chamber of the Commons, and Commons Transition Coalition. The first one, assembly, is where all the people who are engaged in creating and protecting commons can find each other, and arrive at a consensus of what needs to be happening in terms of regulation. Then we have a chamber of commerce, which is all the livelihood organizations. How can we make healthy businesses around the commons?
Michel: Then the Commons Transition Coalition is the people who have a more of a political consciousness and wants to work directly on those regulations. I frankly think we do need to do everything at the same time, and give you an example, for example, the economy for the common good, is a proposal to create a common good accounting system with 17 clusters of impact, which already exists, they’ve been doing this for 10 years. When you have an investment policy, you can start saying, well, we’re only going to invest and support those industries that have a positive impact.
Michel: You lower your taxes and higher subsidies for generative businesses, and you lower it for the grading practices. You keep the companies, you keep the CEOs, but you change the entire incentive system around them. We need to find those things which can accelerate the change. My view of the companies is a bit like, can’t live with them and can’t live without them. They have often a predatory DNA. But we’re not going to get rid of them within 10 years, which is what we need to do for rapid transition.
Michel: We need to find ways to work with them and guide them, and push them with a framework that still allows them maximum amount of freedom and autonomy, but guided by those regenerative principles.
Jim: Now, this work on the chamber and the assemblies is that actually happening now? Because I sense a strong interest in all the various groups that are working, that are more or less pointed in the same direction that with different emphasis, and a different theory, starting to communicate more and sharing practices. It’s something I’ve been calling the big change coalition. I’d love to see something like that happen.
Michel: This is happening at a not big enough scale. But for example, in France, who have about at least 15 now, they’re called fabric of the commons, or they have different names, but it’s essentially a place where commoners get together. There’s also more and more food transition councils, energy transition councils. I come originally from Brussels, and there’s a regional transition coalition. There is even in France already a website, Politics of the Commons, which has prepared solutions that can be given to politicians during electoral periods when they are looking at their planning and their agenda. What to do with habitat, what to do with transport.
Michel: Those things exist already. If you want to do commoning of housing, you need a community land trust approach, you need cooperative housing, and you need co-housing, right? Those are three different models that cover the ground, the houses and the functioning of the houses internally. These things exist, but they need to be interconnected. We suffer fragmentation, that’s for sure.
Jim: Yeah, I would say I would go even a step further and say that while the commoners and commoning is a great approach and has a lot of richness to it, there are other approaches that are, I think, pointed in the same direction. For instance, the Regenerative Ecology Movement, it’s similar but not the same. And another one that I’ve become quite interested in lately is political metamodernism, the Hanzi Freinacht stuff. Our own Game B, I think fits in that category, and I know, a half a dozen, or maybe a dozen more that are each taking a somewhat different approach. But we can think of it as having a coherent pluralism. There’s a small group of things we agree upon, and there’s a broader group of things we agree to disagree about. I think an association at that level could be really useful right at this time.
Michel: Yeah, it’s about mission, it’s about meshing perspectives. Each perspective brings something to the table that others didn’t see. But it also, because of its filter doesn’t see other things, right? The more perspective you can mesh together, the more you shine light on the problems and objects. I wouldn’t put ourselves in a situation where we say only the commons is the answer, or only metamodernism is the answer, but interweave those different approaches, and then discuss solutions and enrich the solutions through this intermeshing of an encounter. I think that would be a big way forward.
Jim: I’m glad for you to hear that, because I’ve been talking to a number of people about this, and they all say they’re ready to do it. I may call some people together to try to get this rolling sometime early next year. You will certainly be high on my list of people.
Michel: I will be happy to participate.
Jim: Very good. Well, I think we’re getting close to the end of our time here. Any final thoughts on the way forward, and particularly in the context of the suddenly pretty hot meta crisis we seem to be finding ourselves in?
Michel: Yeah, it’s a real problem, because I think we discussed it in private before we opened the recording, or maybe we discussed in the beginning. I can’t remember, sorry, but the way social media are weaponizing difference is extraordinarily disruptive. Now, I’m a curator, I’m a pluralistic curator, I’ve done that all my life, and I’ve never been under so much pressure to limit my sources. On both sides, there is extraordinary exaggeration where, when I hear somebody on the right saying Bernie Sanders is radical leftist, I’m laughing because it’s Scandinavia, which is totally normal, Europe is nothing radical about it. Really 100 years old, right?
Michel: The same way on the left, even the slight descend is not called right. Most people don’t even know what it means. This kind of inflation of demonization is a huge, huge problem. I am very much for projects like Protopia Lab, or new discourses or others that these places where people can learn to talk to each other again, because that’s very, very important.
Michel: If you have multiple perspectives, and as a curator, I do this every day, I look something up, and I look first at the factual basis, is this likely to be true or not? I can double check and triple check certain things. But I also try to understand the narrative frame. How do these people come to these conclusions? It’s almost never out of evil, it’s almost always out of fear.
Michel: What I’m trying to say here is that we have to really learn to talk to each other and to accept divergent perspectives and to find ways to transcend those differences, to a certain degree. What you can do in the commons is, put some difference on other brackets. You say, we are here to do free software, you are libertarian, I’m a social democrat. Well, that’s not a problem in this context, because we both want to have good free software. You see what I mean?
Michel: So, creating constructive projects that allow us to put certain things on the brackets. Even people who believe in [inaudible 01:19:46] can be very nice and friendly people. I wouldn’t agree with them. But, as human beings, I can have a conversation, a respectful conversation about, don’t we need a good neighborhood? Don’t we need to improve the schools? You know what I mean? That’s I think what needs to happen.
Jim: I call that concept alignment beyond agreement, that we can be in alignment with people on some big picture things. We may need to make human life more humane. Very few people I think, would disagree with that. Then we may disagree about the techniques to get there, and let’s talk about our disagreements. As a librarian, you know that one of the ways to help make sense of disagreements is try to get to the facts first, and that’s what’s really breaking down in our society is that people have their own facts, which is extremely dangerous, when people think that they have facts that are not compatible. There’s only one reality people, one set of facts is true, and both sides need to back off of their tribalism.
Michel: Unfortunately, some people question that very basic fact.
Jim: Yeah, that was a goddamn post-modernism, at least the flattened form, I got no use for them. There’s some interesting things in post-modernism, but that one that all points of view are equal is just ridiculous, right? A witch doctor is not the same as Johns Hopkins Medical School, sorry. Astronomy is not the same as astrology.
Michel: No, we need some common methodologies to educate differences. That has to be there, otherwise, we will never make any progress on these issues.
Jim: Well, I think at that point, we’re going to wrap up here. Michel, it has been, again, another remarkable conversation, which I think will help the world actually. You’ve pointed to a number of great resources, I think our producer will probably reach out to you to get links for some of the ones he can’t find. I think we paint at least a reasonably hopeful road forward.
Michel: Yes. Thank you so much, Jim. I enjoyed both our conversations, and thank you so much for bringing all this material to the people.
Production services and audio editing by Jared Janes Consulting, Music by Tom Muller at modernspacemusic.com.