dot.bubble passive/aggressive game
For almost three decades I have been thinking about the structure of our economic system, the deep effects (and often unintended consequences) it has on many aspects of our lives, and how this drives the decision processes and life-choices of most individuals. About 15 years ago, I started to outline a book. This has remained, largely, a gotta do although many pages of notes have been filled and hours of thought have been consumed. In DesignShop after DesignShop - and in the many ins and outs of starting an enterprise - I have watched the workings of an economic system based on the assumption of fundamental scarcity. This leads to the desire (of many) to over control the work process and spoil the commons which, in turn, creates more sacristy. It is a closed-loop system. A positive feedback loop - self fulfilling and reinforcing until there is a system break and the system fails, resets or leaps to another order.
The following Chart shows one way this works.
Page 693 - Matt Taylor Notebook - 11 Jan 85
Driving an economic system from the assumption of fundamental sacristy will inevitably lead to war - time and again. It will also, with the same certainty, lead to the unnecessary exploitation - and destruction - of the planet. There is a logic to this, essentially, closed loop response, that overwhelms good intentions and fosters unintended consequences.
Even now, as a new economy is starting to emerge, the Scarcity Trap dominates. This is distorting the new economy and its potentially great economic benefit is being subordinated. We are not yet seeing a new economy although some parts are emerging. We are witnessing the old economy on steroids.
Notes from Matt Taylor Notebook, January 1985 - Pages 693 to 695:
The main theme of this inquiry is the question of what happens when an economy (or system) starts to turn against itself and create the opposite effect it was designed to facilitate - my sense is that the U.S. economy, and the system we presently practice, started to do this in the mid 70s. While still producing enormous wealth for some - and with disregard for long term consequences - the system itself seems to be under increasing strain.
It is my conviction that the existing system of value measurement and trade does not sufficiently map, facilitate nor account the economy we have - let alone - the economy that is emerging. This has many consequences - the most costly are those where the wrong policy or decision is logically driven by as set of essentially flawed economic assumptions. We have some wealth we can see yet we have many negative consequences we cannot account. We take actions that destroys nearly as much as is produced. People structure their lives around a set of activities that makes no intrinsic sense involving actions that most of them do not enjoy.
The reason that this economic engine (shown in the diagram) works as it does is that Humans are rule-based systems. They are self programmable (Lilly, Jaynes). To the limits of the system, they follow the commands generated by their beliefs. If there is fundamental sacristy, if others will kill and steal to get what is mine, if I must protect myself and my tribe, what choices do I have in a given set of circumstances? What actions will I take? How will I treat you, other life and the planet? The range of these actions are not infinite and fairly predictable in mass (Psycho History).
...1988 Chapter Outline of the Book:
The following is a Chapter by Chaper outine that I made in 1988. While not necessarily the best way to organize the book, in todays context, it does present some content elements that are important and can focus a lively dialog.
I have placed links for this outline to other parts of my web site that explore similar issues, as well as, reference my earlier work related to this project.
A general explanation of the outline follows and is linked from the Chapter numbers.
It is time to put our house together. This HOUSE is our planet, the armature by which to manufacture and trade goods and services and the mental framework by which the economic organization of our society is pursued.
Sacristy economics drives competition of the wrong kind. Not the competition of goods in a fair marketplace of buyers, but the competition for position, privilege and resource control. Abundance economics recognizes that creativity is the source of economic growth not the resources or people you control. This is a fundamental shift in awareness. Sacristy and abundance are two non compatible propositions. They lead to opposite outcomes. (return to Chaper Outline)
A societies Paradigm is, in effect, its collection of hidden design assumptions about how the world works. Economics is still trapped in the cause and effect, linear, thing-focused paradigm of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Yet, we are now starting to apply late 20th and 21st Century tools, ideas and organizational capacities. This is like putting a 400 horse power engine in a go-cart. Something is going to break.
Increasing returns is a natural mechanism of an economy - the important question is increasing returns of what. If we do not think our way into the consequences of what we are making, we will increasingly get huge self-reinforcing, unintended consequences that are not to our liking. It is not that the emerging economy can be understood or controlled - it is not about these old ways. It has to be, however, co-created - and it can be. (return to Chaper Outline)
The modern industrial corporation is the last remnant of the feudal society. People enjoy less freedom inside these organizations then in the social-political realm. These organizations, as Drucker pointed out in the 60s (and again in the 80s and 90s), are not capable of dealing with the rise of the knowledge worker.
Much of our economy, today, is composed of producing worthless goods in a push market to employ people to earn a living so they can buy more (often worthless) goods that give them little utility or pleasure. On and on. Round and round. Are we robots?
Yet, it will not be easy to get off the track of this relentless machine and even trying can destroy the economy itself. We are on a drunken positive feedback bash with no clear way out.
Yet, inside this, a new economy is emerging. We put it at risk, however, when we insist on measuring and regulating it based on models from the old system. We put both it and ourselves at risk when we attempt to use this social tool as we did the old economy. (return to Chaper Outline)
The struggle between Capitalism and Communism was but a morality play based on the old soul-body dichotomy doctrine - the cold war is gone but the dichotomy is not. Until it is gone, it will find another expression - one more dangerous than the last.
There exists individual wealth and common wealth and both are necessary for the existence of the other.
Most of which passes for economic information to the average person is propaganda designed to keep the old gang in power - and their hand in the till. Do the SEC rules protect, more, little old ladies in tennis shoes from unscrupulous investors or investment houses from startups raising their own money on the Internet without letting the old gang in the game with the resulting distortions typical of the present funding process?
Meanwhile, where are the stockholders? Absentee landlords only interested in maximum short term yield. (return to Chaper Outline)
In board rooms and in the political dialog, we assume that there is some intrinsic conflict between Spotted Owls and the ability of people to earn a living. What are they going to earn when the last tree is gone? What will they have when the unique viewpoints of other species are gone?
Profit is necessary to every living system - this is true for Spotted Owls and General Motors. This, they have in common. A sustainable system, ecological or economic, has the requirement that profit must be generated and enjoyed. Traditional economic systems intrinsically depended on ecological systems to work. Future, complex (it is simple now) systems will be ecologies and they will work by ecological principles. There is not conflict here - only, now, a great deal of ignorance and a fixation of short term thinking.
Planet Earth, now, is an artifact. Actually, it has been for a long time. How we think about and engage with this evolving system is important beyond description. If we get it wrong the results will be deadly. We have to rebuild Planet Earth as a work of ART. (return to Chaper Outline)
October 1988 was a watershed. The market crashed and the economy went right on chugging. This was the beginning of the new economy. It continues to befuddle - and excite. I dont know if it is safe to exploit it, however.
Since then, an unbelievable amount of value has been created by the markets which are oscillating in wider and wilder cycles. New jobs, new markets, new technologies, new everything. You would expect people to be relaxed and happy. Look around you. What happened? (return to Chaper Outline)
For a hundred years, the Industrial Nations have been fighting a global civil war. We know some aspects of this by name: WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Cold War. This is a struggle of scarce resources and who controls them. In the mean time, the real resource turned out to be organized Human intellect. The fall of the Soviet Union signaled the beginning of the end of a very old idea. The Soviet Union lost economically. This does not mean that we now think of as Capitalism is the BIG idea. It means that it was maginally better than a really bad idea.
Humans have spend centuries thinking the good was the elimination of the bad: Health, the elimination of disease; prosperity, the elimination of poverty; freedom, the elimination of despots. Well, many of these bads are being eliminated - does this add up to good? (return to Chaper Outline)
It is not too hard to destroy a planet. We are well on our way to learning how. Another decade or two and we will have the power. In the meantime, we are putting the habits in place that will inevitably lead to that result as soon as we do get the power.
I have never met anyone who actually wants to do this, it is strange, then, to see so many acting like they must.
We cannot push today into becoming a successful tomorrow. Us versus them is not going to lead to a sustainable social system - not when everybody has the power of gods. The first time a terrorist group blows away a major city this will be clear.
It is a global village and has to be treated as such.
Whose vision are we in pursuit of? (return to Chaper Outline)
There are several questions we must answer - or at least ask: What is a complex system and how do you participate in its governance function? What are we doing with this system? What will be the future consequences if we keep on doing what we are doing today?
With longevity, we may be the first generation to leave the consequences to ourselves. I am sure we will call this “bad luck.”
How do we simulate the World Game? (return to Chaper Outline)
The story of the Monkeys Paw is our story. We are developing the power, do we understand the consequences? (return to Chaper Outline)
We can choose to live in harmony will all life forms including our own. We can make our technology lifelike. We can live in a Cybernetic Meadow. Or, our technology can evolve on its own like a child left in the street to grow up as s/he can. What will it really be like to live with semi-smart, powerful, pissed-off, disenfranchised, free-ranging technology that evolved without a moral base? The closest thing to it I can think of is living under a modern, vicious dictator with lost of wealth and modern war-making technology. It wont happen? Are you willing to bet your life on it? Your are.
Or, do we fear life, success and sustainable wealth? (return to Chaper Outline)
We need a new set of Game Rules. And, many more feedback loops of the right kind.
Whatever, this is one game Humanity will win - or lose - together.
The next 25 years will be exciting and critical for humanity. In this time period, more change will take place than the entire prior history that Humanity has experienced. In this time period, the power to redesign almost anything will be in our hands. In this time period, economics as we know it will completely disappear. Most of what we think of a normal human experience will disappear. (return to Chaper Outline)
...From Philosophy to Action:
My thinking about this subject has not been entirely philosophical. Declaring that we really live in abundance will not get it done. A new economy with new means of transacting has to be created. There are many mechanical and process issues related to how the economy runs today that limits its ability to evolve to something else. I have addressed a number of these in our Patent. Some aspects of these are outlined (below) in the Rutgers conference notes.
This work involves the creation of intelligent agents who know their condition that can execute agreements that are built in to the agents themselves - contract and money become the same thing.
...The One Exposure of These Ideas:
This work stimulated a number of dialogs with Mike Bednarek (our patent attorney between 1997 and 2000) including discussion about the entire area of Intellectual Capital (a process for which is covered in the Patent).
Mike has been writing and speaking on this subject, and in due course, an opportunity to address some aspects of it materialized, by his efforts, at a conference held at Rutgers University in January 1999.
A Systematic Approach to Structuring and Facilitating Value Exchange ....Including a solution to the problem of valuing intangible assets is the first publication of these notes, material from the Patent Application and the dialogs that Mike and I have had over the last several years.
The conference was on the valuation of intangible assets and this material was received in a mix of disbelief and shock. I am sure it was mostly dismissed but a couple of seeds were planted here and there. I was surprised that the majority of the attendee's - academic and practicing economists - were almost totally naive about what is going on in computing today. Mike and I had a hard time convincing them that everything we were talking about was, in fact, being developed somewhere by someone. Their tacit assumption was that governments would maintain control of money and the economy and that there was no technical system that would wire around this ability. I question this assumption.
...Steps To Develop the Thesis:
Over the years, I thought that much of the material that I had envisioned for the book would become moot as others published on the subject. Surprisingly, it has not. In a way this is disappointing. Much of what has been published in the last several years, however, does lay a good base for the books central ideas. Perhaps it needs to be written after all.
It is my intention to gather old and to develop new raw materials for the book on this page. By the beginning of 2001, a page will be set up on the iterations site that will start the systematic expansion of these ideas. It is the intention to establish a by-invitation, interactive web site and publish electronically first, then later in print media. If sufficient energy builds up, iterations can host a number of Virtual and face-to-face events related to the subject. This way, the book can be developed as an open source document and reach some distribution while being written.
It may be feasible to approach the development of the technical systems and agents in the same way. Russ White and Yolke Incorporated is working on this aspect. Jeff Johnston took the lead with iterations starting the second quarter of last year (2000) and Vlasta Pokadnikova is taking on the research, co-authoring and organizational aspects of the UpSideDown Economics project.
SolutionBox voice of this document:
posted February 2, 1999
revised February 5, 2001
note: this document is about 35% finished
Copyright© 1985, 1988, 1999, 2000, 2001 Matt Taylor
update to Matts Notebook
Certain aspects of the system described are patent pending by iterations