Life Inc: Everything's Open Source but Money

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25 Responses to “Life Inc: Everything's Open Source but Money”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t america’s auto/big 3 demise because detroit can’t make a car better than a honda/toyota for the same or cheaper price?

    sincerely patrick

  2. Rindan says:

    Rushkoff, your posts always lead me to the exact same question. Yeah yeah, the world sucks. So what exactly was your solution again?

    I need a computer. The computer was put together by Dell, or whomever. Dell bought the components from a dozen manufactures that put together the various boards. Those dozen manufactures bought chips and electrical components from a dozen other companies. Those companies bought equipment from another dozen which in turn bought from a dozen more, so on and so forth. You can hit exponentials to make your eyes bleed in a few seconds of thinking. My computer took the cooperation of literally millions of people with billions of hours worth of education and the investment in hundreds of billions of dollars of capital. Sprinkle this with liberal uses of processes that use some god awful ugly chemicals that if used improperly will very quickly kill a human (try a few drops of HF on your hand and see what happens to your arm).

    My point? There is no other way humanly possible to organize the creation of such a vastly complex product as a simple computer without a capitalistic system. Further, there is no way for any human to get a hold of such a system on a human scale price except using that evil money stuff to make the exchange.

    If you have a DIY ethos or believe in local involvement you can perhaps skip Dell and buy the components directly and pay someone local to toss it together. Great. You just cut out one corporation in the production of a computer leaving the other ten-to-some-exponent. You still need to buy the circuit boards put together in China, and those still need a multi-billion dollar semiconductor fab working with toxic chemicals for the components that were slapped on that circuit board.

    I am all for local community involvement and I am a big fan of DIY culture. That said, I don’t delude myself into thinking that the lifestyle I choose for purely social and aesthetic reasons is the key to toppling the evil corporate world and over turning the current economic order. The vast majority of physical “stuff” is far outside of the reach of your average person or group of persons to produce. Accept it, deal with it, and shoot for personal happiness. Avoid trying to obtain happiness through materialistic things, make good friends, eat good food (preferably with friends), and don’t let advertising get to you. Is that going to save the average idiot from an empty life of SUVs and over priced clothing with a corporation’s logo smeared across making them into a walking billboard? Nope. I say leave them to their own diluted attempt at happiness while you pursue yours. If in your attempt to pursue happiness you happen to buy a few hundred LEDs and coin batteries from a Chinese supplier instead of digging up the raw metals from the ground, don’t let it get you down.

  3. Takuan says:

    “There is no other way humanly possible to organize the creation of such a vastly complex product as a simple computer without a capitalistic system.”

    How did the Cold War happen then? Or were the communist bombs illusionary?

  4. ramses says:

    @Rushkoff

    Have you ever read any of the Deleuze’s works on Capitalism? His work has a similar tone to yours in its acceptance of Capitalism and its puppeting of culture for its own interests. His answer, if i can claim to understand it, is that we should accept the capitalist system, even indulge in it in a Dionysion way. He suggests that by indulging in the power of the system new forms of interacting with it will arise that will eventually overcome it. The open source movement itself could be understood in this way.

  5. ab5tract says:

    @Rindan

    You are committing a logical fallacy by claiming that capitalism is the only way to achieve a computer. The capitalism-uber-alles shtick is a little played out, akin to saying slavery is the only way to grow cotton because that is How It Is Done. Please do yourself a favor by allowing the possibility that there could be another economic system possible. Or cling like a cleric to a Ptolemaic outlook, if you wish.

    @Rushkoff

    Have you encountered participatory economics (par-econ)? Can you explain why this robust theory is so rarely discussed?
    Thank you for posts and for Life, Inc.

  6. joev says:

    @Rindan:

    Your reply is essentially the watchmaker argument, applied to econ. Changing its context doesn’t make it an acceptable argument.

  7. rushkoff says:

    I think it’s rarely discussed because, in the current way of thinking about economics, “participatory economics” seems like an oxymoron. Collaborative competition? Capitalist Communism? It just doesn’t compute for people.

    As for the negativity, I really don’t mean it to come off that way. I do believe we need corporations. Absolutely. I know this sentence will be ignored by those who want to see what I’m saying as anti-corporate rather than simply anti-corporatist. And there’s a big difference.

    I am all for corporations. I want there to be corporations. I think corporations can be great for assembly and distribution of things that require large groups of people, or highly internationalized, non-local assembly. Stuff like computers, absolutely. Stuff like central currency.

    I think corporations are great for this and should be kept for this and celebrated for this. I don’t think corporations should go away.

    My concern is with a landscape that has been systematically changed to benefit the functioning of corporations and to discourage all other forms of commerce. I am dedicated to pointing out that our own corporate heritage involved not just corporate charters but chartered monopolies, and that this bias towards monopoly and long-distance value extraction still dominates corporate thinking and practice.

    I’m trying to show how the spread and internalization of these priorities has changed the business environment from one of potential collaboration to one of extreme competition and scorched earth tactics, as well as to a policy environment that favor debt-based central currencies, and lending-based economic development.

    Yes, things have gotten pretty difficult, and I don’t think we can sugarcoat it all much longer. But we really will need to at least supplement our corporate capitalism with a few other scales of commerce.

    Just because you buy your computer from Dell doesn’t mean you have to buy your chard from Big Agra or your soldiers from Blackwell. What works for one product might not work for all of them.

  8. rushkoff says:

    Blackwater. But nice slip…

  9. blackanvil says:

    ‘How did the Cold War happen then? Or were the communist bombs illusionary?’

    Playing devil’s advocate here, but the Russians and Chineese both relied heavily on espionage both to create their atomic and thermonuclear bombs, and to create their computer industries during the Cold War.

    So, no, the bombs were not illusionary, but a logical conclusion would be that if it were not for capitalism, the Communist Bomb would have come later, if at all.

    That said, the atomic and thermonuclear bomb programs, the development of the computer, and related industries were all created via socialist programs, all organized, paid for, and owned by the US Government. If there ever was a working example of a centrally-run planned economy, it is the Millitary-Industrial Complex.

    Of course, the question of who is running who is still up for grabs.

  10. Rindan says:

    @Takuan

    I really don’t want to get into an argument over how awesome central planning was and how much actual central planning went on. Sufficient to say, even Stalin paid in cash. Communist regimes always ended up resorting to money because they could find no other alternative. You might live in a communist utopia, but if you wanted ‘stuff’, you still paid in rubles. Further, when the munitions factory need more steel, they still had to pay in cash.

    @ab5tract

    You are committing a logical fallacy by claiming that capitalism is the only way to achieve a computer. … Please do yourself a favor by allowing the possibility that there could be another economic system possible.

    I certainly allow the possibility. Hell, I can even think up a way to do it. I am sure sufficiently advanced AI a few orders of magnitude more powerful than a human could sweep this whole system under the rug. You could also kill off 99% of the population and go back to hunting gathering. We could kill of just 80% of the population and develop a moneyless agrarian feudal system. There are options, but none that anyone can or would want to take. Hey, there might even be options we could take right now. I don’t claim omnipotence.

    Which brings me back to the very first question I asked in my original post…

    “Yeah yeah, the world sucks. So what exactly was your solution again?”

    I see post after post about how much the current order sucks. Ok. I agree. That still doesn’t explain where you get your computers from. You say that there are alternative solutions. What are they? Believe me, I’m interested, which is why I asked the very first question that I asked. I still fail to see an answer.

  11. mannakiosk says:

    Where to get (new) computers (once there is an anarchist socialist revolution)?

    Just sit people down all over the internet and figure out what needs to be produced and where it needs to be produced.

  12. rushkoff says:

    Why can’t I still get my computers from Dell?

  13. carborundum says:

    @Rushkoff

    I’m curious as to your opinion of the buy-in cooperatives à la Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy.

    How I vaguely remember it: Everyone bought their way into the corporation as an equal partner/investor and worked for profit as usual, taking equal wages and investing in their own company. The director and management were simply the people who prefered to organise rather than to produce, and both management and production were equally respected(and equally paying) tasks.

  14. mannakiosk says:

    “Why can’t I still get my computers from Dell?”

    Maybe you still can get Dell computers, if the people of earth will decide to still brand computers Dell in the future anarcho-socialist utopia.

    If they want to, the same people producing computers in utopia will be the people that used to produce Dell computers before utopia.

  15. Takuan says:

    the`question isn’t; “what economic system can we build to best serve us?”, it’s “how can we best work with the economic system that happens to us?”

    Too many variables, it’s always been beyond our conceit.

  16. KingofthePaupers says:

    “Rushkoff, your posts always lead me to the exact same question. Yeah yeah, the world sucks. So what exactly was your solution again?”

    Jct: I think it’s pretty clear that his suggestion to start an interest-free local currency is the solution to not enough federal money.

  17. KingofthePaupers says:

    “If you have a DIY ethos or believe in local involvement you can perhaps skip Dell and buy the components directly and pay someone local to toss it together.”

    Jct: Would you say trucks and tractors are as hard to barter for as computers? Then consider how Ford and GM had to accept farmers’ IOUs for grain during the Argentina crash because there was no other way to sell their products. All Dell has to do is accept farmers’ IOUs for grain or anything too.

  18. Anonymous says:

    @Rindan “So what exactly was your solution again?”.

    Here is the answer to your question, refuse to participate in what you find objectable or goes against your moral belief. Ex: If I was opposed to a computer corporation for out sourcing or because, I believed there practices to be bad, I have the choice not to buy one. Stop trying to figure out away to fix everybody else problems and start with yourself. (that’s not a personal attack on you Rindan it goes for everyone). Corporations are not making people anti-social, we are; self included. Maybe when the virtual world dies and the keeping up with the Johnson’s mentality passes, maybe only then we will be force to confront reality and each other.

    “I would never get the opportunity to feel guilty or angry for all the immoral people and practices in the world if I just didn’t feel so damn obligated to pay attention to them” …Me.

  19. ab5tract says:

    @Rushkoff

    Soryy, but that is a really lame reason for people not to discuss parecon. Because of the name? You make a good point, perhaps the name should be changed.

    So a more direct question: Are you familiar with Robin Hahnel’s work? Why do you feel that his market-based economic model geared for economic democracy is not even given airtime by people like you when it could really give you a lot of technical ammunition in response to the “So what do we do? kthxbye” refutations of your system.

    @Rindan

    If you don’t claim omnipotence, stop asserting that capitalism is the Only Way short of genocide. Do some research.
    @

  20. DGCmagazine says:

    Community Currency Magazine has the AOCS this month, which is bartering with silver. I think there are also about 7 new local currencies in the list.

    Mark

  21. rushkoff says:

    @ab5tract, May 18, 2009 10:19 AM

    you say:
    “@Rushkoff

    Soryy, but that is a really lame reason for people not to discuss parecon. Because of the name? You make a good point, perhaps the name should be changed.”

    I do think Lakoff is right about the way people avoid subjects that don’t make sense to them in the right ways. But I think the real reason people don’t discuss parecon is the same reason they don’t discuss Hahnel or anyone else like that – because they are associated with “anarchism” which seems to people like terrorism. Who is going to protect my *stuff* if there’s anarchy? They don’t see the possibility for cooperation between people, and don’t relish the notion of some kind of ongoing negotiation. They would really rather not think or make choices.

    Not naturally, I don’t think. Just through acculturation.

    As for Deleuze, yes. And a real influence.

  22. ab5tract says:

    @Rindan

    Sorry, that got cut off, and I look churlish. Do some research on Participatory Economics ( wikipedia has a page, google will find you some stuff).

  23. mannakiosk says:

    Takuan, I think we can ask and talk about both those questions.

    In practise, the “what to do now” question is probably more important.

  24. @mro says:

    An amazing parallel to the Metaverse Manifesto which states
    “We see then, that the means of experiencing reality itself were gradually “acquired”, and then monopolized by mainstream media and corporations.”
    It’s a root text.

  25. artbrock says:

    I don’t understand how these religious fanatics of capitalism think that free markets are good for everything EXCEPT MONEY.

    We can’t have a free market nor a democratic government while we have monopolized money.

    That’s why we’ve been building the core underlying infrastructure for “open sourcing” currencies: http://MetaCurrency.org

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