Discussions on the Future of the Economy

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Contents

Introduction

This is a series of webconference sessions on the future of our economy. In this conference, we will be discussing key ideas on how to transform our economic infrastructure for the sustainable future. Due to the strong coupling between a proper treatment of this topic with necessary insight into current and future technological trends, this area has been poorly explored by mainstream economists, and will blossom with interdisciplinary perspectives.

Location and Time

Weekly meeting on Google+ or Skype, usually on a Thursday.

People

  • Mr Michel Bauwens, Founder of the P2P Foundation
  • Dr Marvin T. Brown, Professor, author of "Civilizing the Economy"
  • Dr Adam Arvidsson, Professor, author of "Ethical Economy"
  • Dr Christian Arnsperger, Professor, author of "Full-Spectrum Economics", creator of the "Eco-transitions" blog [1].
  • Mr Paul Fernhout, Post-scarcity intellectual.
  • Dr Meera Sitharam, Professor, Complexity expert
  • Dr Amit Dhurandhar, Machine Learning researcher at IBM
  • Mr Martin Bramwell, Creator of FactoRipo CC
  • Mohamad Tarifi, PhD candidate in Computer Science

Topics Outline

Please feel free to add new sessions, topics, modify existing ones, or otherwise change anything you want. I will act as moderator:

  • Session 1 (August 4): Technology and the Economics of Abundance and Scarcity.
    • Overview of the conference
    • Automation and Work
    • Stability vs Efficiency and Environmental impact


  • Session 2 (August 11): The Relationship between the Individual and the Society
    • What do we mean by Economy?
    • Top-down, Bottom-up, P2P organization
    • Philosophical, Environmental, Ethical considerations


  • Session 3: (August 25) Currency Systems
    • Scarcity based systems: traditional, bitcoin, the terra, etc
    • Abundance based systems: ripplepay, LETS, community hours, etc
    • Lessons learned from currency experiments in Ecuador.


  • Session 4: (September 1) Economic transition in Egypt after the Arabic Spring (Part 1)


  • Session 5: Transition Challenges Ahead
    • Political, Social and Economic barriers
    • From possible to probable and preferable solutions


  • Session 6: Panoply
    • Discussion on how the system works
    • Implementation challenges: continuous versus discontinuous change


  • Session 7: Unscheduled

Pre-Reading list

List of short introductory material:

Session 1 Synopsis

The first session was introductory - with the participants getting to know each other. We debated how automation affects jobs and environmental sustainability concerns. The discussion was light and was designed to touch on current challenges rather than find solutions (which is left for the next sessions). A list of points discussed:

  • A fundamental economic shift need not rely on hypothetical future technology or trends - it can and should be achieved within current technological capabilities.
  • However, the rising impact of full automation, accelerating trends, and environmental concerns make the need for change ever more pressing.
  • Labor should be viewed as relatively abundant resource in the current world - whereas it is classically viewed as scarce. This is due to increased population, automation, and rise of the commons.
  • Pending a fundamental organizational shift, the job market will continue to decline in the short term especially for middle-income jobs. On the longer term, low and high income jobs are set to vanish as well.
  • Natural resources should be viewed as relatively scarce - whereas it is classically viewed as abundant. There was some debate on this point - with a refinement: natural resources are abundant to satisfy our basic "human needs" but not necessarily for our "wants/indulgences". A proposed system therefore must address resource allocation - debate on this is subject of future sessions.
  • The Biophilia hypothesis was debated - with the consensus that technological optimism must be balanced with a skeptical attitude demanding sustainability.
  • There is a tradeoff between efficiency and resilience in networks: current monetary system is structurally unstable.
  • The increased interconnectivity of the world poses security and stability challenges, but also establishes an opportunity for a global identity.

Related Reading List:

Session 2 Synopsis

TBD

Session 3 Synopsis

TBD


Session 4 Synopsis

TBD

Meta

We are constantly trying to improve this session series.

New concrete suggestions:

  • Meera Sitharam:
    • I would suggest to everyone to approach the whole thing as a thought experiment: "suppose a few of us decided to build a community that we would like,
      • (a) what should the community achieve
      • (b) what features should the community have
      • (c) how would such a community operate and sustain itself, once it has constructed itself (add on hypothetical technologies that this community would possess, but only if such technologies become necessary)
      • (d) how to go about constructing it
      • (a), (b), (c), (d) are intertwined views, but different people might prefer different views.
      • "Few" above is sufficiently many -- start with a community that is perhaps a network of cooperatives, each with a few hundred members. Each cooperative caters to one aspect/commodity in a member's life. This network of coops is supplemented by another HUGE cooperative,i.e, today's traditional society/economy. We are allowed to keep increasing the size of the community (each cooperative, or number of cooperatives), as it becomes necessary.
    • 2. Keeping a running transcript of the discussion and split off threads corresponding to key questions that arise several times.
    • 3. Some people prefer audio/video. I prefer just chat. If you can have many threads in the chat, then people can move around to the different threads.
    • 4. Then after a few discussions, you can zero in on those questions that arise most often.
  • Paul Fernhout:
    • From co-Laboratories of Democracy: "We have all experienced the benefits of dialogue when we openly and thoughtfully confront issues. We have also experienced the frustration of interminable discussion that does not lead to progress. Co-Laboratories of Democracy enable large, diverse groups to dialogue and generate positive results. Many group processes engender enthusiasm and good feeling as people share their concerns and hopes with each other. Co-Laboratories go beyond this initial euphoria to:
      • Discover root causes;
      • Adopt consensual action plans;
      • Develop teams dedicated to implementing those plans; and
      • Generate lasting bonds of respect, trust, and cooperation.
      • Co-Laboratories achieve these results by respecting the autonomy of all participants, and utilizing an array of consensus tools including discipline, technology and graphics that allow the stakeholders to control the discussion."