Hey there, I feel like it was a day or two that I started talking about Governance and Foundations of this little project I have in mind. Because... at the time of this writing, it was. I have no life. And most of the time, that is quite fine by me. Without Further Adieu, I'm gonna get into it. This one is a doozy, and possibly the most controversial of all, because if there's an asshole out there, an opinion follows close behind. That includes me. Keep your mind open, the flames to a minimum, and I love you.
Money, People, and Resources.
Before we delve deeper into this, I wanna talk about some of my own inspirations. What does the country of Chile and Jacques Fresco have in common? They both had some interesting ideas on economics, and how to keep things at an even keel. Let's talk about Chile first.
So, back in the 1970s, there was a fun experiment in the intersection of cybernetics (not like the Terminator, more like the science of logistics and decision making) and economics called Project Cybersyn. The mind behind the project - One Stafford Beer - used his expertise in cybernetics to create a system that would allow decision making to be done efficiently and recommendations sent to factories via Telex Machines. It took in data from these factories and made short term predicitions and adjustments as needed. This was fascinating because Cybersyn was the first time that:
1.) A distributed network was used to gather information and make decisions and,
2.) Use these things to make the process of production more streamlined.
3.) It looked like goddamned Star Trek. Awesome.
Of course, this being Chile in the 70s, the project was never completed due to political instability (and eventual CIA-backed coup). But, keep the politics in the back of your mind. That's not in the scope of the discussion, more than cybernetics and the ideas of Beer. This project isn't something you hear much about unless you're in the know about these kinds of things, and it is really unfortunate. In a word, organizational management and computing technology has the potential to do great things in the context of economic development.
Beer went on to work on several other projects related to cybernetics after Cybersyn, but one thing he left to the world before his passing in 2002 was a Series of Lectures that cover the basics of cybernetics and its potential implementation in communities. If you pardon the pun, I wish this man was still alive, because I definitely wouldn't mind having a beer with Beer.
Outside the context of organizational decision making, you have Fresco who was also interested in the economics of the future. In his mind, and end goal to the project of creating the Society of Tomorrow was to implement a new type of system that didn't involve fiat currencies, but leveraged resources as the currency. This is rather involved, and I wouldn't do it justice in one post such as this, but the basics are clear. In a world of managed resources for the good of people, society might eventually converge on a common concept in Futurism called post scarcity. In such a world, resources would be so abundant that the manufacture of anything would be close to zero, making anything from toothbrushes to computers nearly freely available to anyone who needed it. Think of it as economies of scale on steroids, in a manner of speaking. On top of this, Fresco envisioned that the idea of ownership in this world would become deconstructed; ownership beyond perhaps sentimental tokens would be weird. I do take issue with this in its pure form, but I will elaborate on this later.
In these inspirations of mine, you have two ends of the spectrum; on one side with Beer, you have grounded, actionable work that could be done to find logical balance in an economic system, versus with Fresco, an idealistic extrapolation to the future exploits of Humankind and how these actionable things could help us get there. There's something poetic about it, looking at it from the outside like this.
ALL OF THIS BEING SAID, we need to take a step back and remember that no man or woman is perfect. As in a society, the Macro-Societal Destabilizing Factors are things that work within us too, since within us is the seed of society. No, the concepts of Beer are not fully realized in a community project as of yet, and Fresco, bless his soul, was far too idealistic in practice. Realistic expectation, while actively seeking REAL improvement is the key here.
In order to get a real good grip on things, I think we need to develop a motivation from the ground-up and then take a look at it after the fact.
What of People? Why does economics exist? Why does currency exist? Why? Essentially, it reduces to a simple thesis; There are Those That Have Things, and There are Those Who Do Not. Anywhere in the world whether it be here or China, people more or less are stakeholders in the continuance of their own lives. As a result, people require things to make that life continue in one way or another. But what exactly do they need? Fortunately, there was a guy named Abraham Maslow who had an interesting take on this with his Hierarchy of Needs. Essentially, it goes like this: there are basic needs, psychological needs, and needs of self-fulfillment for people. These can be put on a cool little pyramid with basic stuff at the bottom, and self-fulfillment at the top. This super awesome Wikipedia Commons image really fleshes it out:
"Now if you build your downline, you'll eventually make enough money to earn the bottom stuff."
Don't take this as an absolute template for how we find the needs of everyone individually. In fact, many of Maslow's peers have criticized his hierarchy for being something not necessarily universal to all humans, with some studies demonstrating that the hierarchy doesn't necessarily stand. The definition of "Self-Actualization" has been criticized as being ambiguous, or how those things necessarily demarcate from "psychological needs" Others have contended with the idea of sex; where the hell does that fall? If I had to choose between boning and a sandwich right now, I can't guarantee that I'll choose the sandwich, even if I'm hungry. Is it a physical need? Is it in the category of pyschological needs? Who the fuck knows?
It doesn't matter because the idea is clear; no matter how you slice it, some needs come before others, and if we really consider the societal context, we might be able to suss out some generalities that would really help us to get a good idea of our prioritization.
The Prioritization of Well-Being. All other things being equal, I think that we can establish some priorities in what people need in order to find themselves in a state of Well-Being. In this context, I know that "Well-Being" can be rather ambiguous, but like with the Hierarchy, we can find ourselves some generalizations. Some of these would be Life is Preferable to Death, Health is Preferable to Sickness, Satiation is Preferable to Starvation, and so on. We also know that some needs are easier to reach for if other needs are met. For example, someone might have a hard time say, having sex if they have the flu, or painting a picture if they're in the way of an active shooter. Obviously. Don't try that at home.
So, with this being said, I have my own Needs Structure that I call the Walls of Well-Being:
Now That's a Slightly Better Potato Quality.
In this diagram, we consider that two major things: Basic Life and Safety Sustaining Measures are often hard roadblocks to realizing other normal psychology sustaining measures (which in this model includes anything from love/intimacy to to accomplishment or creative activities). Wanna day off to decompress? Too bad. You need health and safety in order to reach that wall. Wanna run a marathon for charity? Well... You can't because you broke your leg.
While for the most part, these two are the walls we must negotiate in order to reach these other psychological goals, we must also account for situations where these things are placed on the back-burner in pursuit of the psychology sustaining goals. For example, you REALLY gotta go to work today, but you know... your girlfriend is off and her folks aren't home and, well, you know. So you call in sick and let the bangin' good times roll. A more serious example would be to take a bullet for a child, or to give your sandwich to a hungry person. These are real - albeit exceptional - situations that would not fall in lock step with Maslow's traditional Hierarchy. In short, Altruism and life sacrificing measures are those things which upend the Hierarchy.
So, What's The Goal? We know that economics is primarily for stakeholders in continuing life to meet objectives. We know that some of the most basal objectives - barring exceptions - are those that relate to health and safety. If these objectives are met, it allows the individual - and the society at large - to apply their talents, interests and skills in other places that can be beneficial to life moving positively forward.
Getting people to place their attention on something other than basal requirements makes for getting people to think. If you didn't have to "work" to survive, what would you do? I know I would take math and physics courses (or whatever else I wanted), spend more time with my son, do woodworking, electronics, find love, write more, all kinds of things. This isn't to say that we would get rid of work entirely; until the point where automation can take say, 80-90 percent of any job a person would do, this would be unrealistic. Instead, we give the individual maximal power to pursue that which they find fulfilling as a whole. In a manner of speaking, their job becomes to improve themselves and those around them. This isn't new; people like Andrew Yang and others have been talking about it for years.
In short, and with many details missing, here is the bigger picture: Society can and will benefit from science, technology, and the freedom to leverage these things in order to accomplish something. The economic system by which we maximally encourage this path is one that doesn't give merely freely, but Invests in The People in to give them the ability to improve. On top of this, we encourage innovation. Get people to expand their knowledge base, to think in a tangential direction, and to temper their innovation with Humanity.
I know, I know, the high level description can sound... "handwavy". But believe me when I say that there are things that can easily be improved if it were only for a mindset to change in that direction. 2020 is a Red Letter Year for Humanity, and no other time in Modern History have we found a greater need to invest in the people, fill them with knowledge, and get them to think.
Toward A Concrete Plan
So, Now that the flowerly language is complete, we have successfully invoked our inner Fresco. Let us now Invoke Beer; What actionable things can we do in order to create an economy that accomplishes these objectives?
1.) Resources, supply and demand should be managed using the methods of modern computing, cybernetics and automation to fulfill needs. This will work in close lockstep to The Governance Protocol that I have laid out in Part 2. This is because if the community as a whole can achieve consensus on a particular goal and meet it, the economic system should also be adjusted to help meet that goal as well as ensure homeostasis so that people have the time to meet that goal.
2.) In order to maintain consistency with Axiom 4, interoperability with the current system of economics at large is a must. In order for the community to work and maintain itself in the early transitional years, we must not eschew the monetary system and traditional capitalism. We must embrace it... with conscientiousness. We must decouple ourselves from the notion that money in and of itself as a need, but rather see it as an intermediary to acquire needs. This means we need an output that is valuable to others in the wider economy. My beginning idea is to suggest innovations in manufacturing and automation, engineering concepts applied in the community can be leveraged and applied to other places. Knowledge and education can be another. Imagine having an accredited university that - for a nominal fee - teaches people what the community has learned. Establishment of a cryptocurrency that acts as an intermediary between the inside economy and outside. Anything that both furthers the community and enriches others outside of it is a good idea.
3.) Monetary considerations should not restrict living for residents. Anything from produced food to shelter, education and medical requirements, as well as the outlets necessary to innovate should be provided by virtue of being a part of the system. Remember, this is an investment in people so that they be encouraged contribute to some of the things in number 2 (but not forced) as well as their own personal pursuits. Some may suggest that such a system only sets up to make people lazy, but I would disagree. Part of the intake of a new resident would be to explore what it is that they love to do. What they would want to achieve if they were provided a way to get to it. Encouragement and facilitation are the first and last measures of motivation.
I think the last one is a little difficult to get on board with, because it is SO out of the ordinary. I get it. To the right folks, it invokes... particular economic concepts with baggage that I'm not advocating. This is another reason for Axiom 4. Folks need to see that interoperability with the current system is necessary to make progress, because despite the inefficiencies and problems it has served us relatively well. The idea in a nutshell is to make governance and economics work for the individual as well as the people at large, because there are bigger problems to solve.
As for the issues of resources, supply and demand and applying cybernetic principles, this is closely related to infrastructure and architecture, which I'll cover in more detail in Part 4.
So, I think this is a good stopping point. Then again, there is much to be fleshed out here, which is something I intend to do as I move forward. A singular post could not possibly accommodate all the fine-grained details. That being said, the broad strokes here give you an idea of the motivation.
So, the next stuff on the list:
Part 4: Infrastucture and efficient architectural design of the experiment.
Part 5: Roadblocks of Experiment implementation.
Part 6: Growth.
Thanks again for reading.