Techos Solares Medellin

This is another project proposal for Medellin, where I live. It is a project I am going to pitch for the new mayor here. The idea for this one is to use roofs of poor neighborhood houses to install solar panels. Clean electricity generation will be very important for the future, and the tropics are certainly very suited for this…

People often have told me to not just openly share your ideas as they might be “stolen”. I don’t really believe in ideas being able to be stolen. In any case, I don’t really care if any of my projects may be realized by someone else, in fact I’d be happy. But for the records…here it is.

Este es otro proyecto que voy a proponer para la ciudad de Medellin, donde vivo. Se trata de usar los techos de los barrios marginales para instalar paneles solares. Generar electricidad limpia es muy importante hoy en día, porque no hacerlo en el lugar, agregando al proyecto elementos sociales?

A menudo la gente me cuenta que no deberia compartir ideas de proyecto abiertamente, porque podrían ser “robadas”. La verdad, no creo mucho en que ideas puedan ser robadas. Pero de todas formas, no me importa mucho si alguien llega a realizar unas de mis ideas, de hecho, estaría muy feliz. Sin embargo, para la posteridad…aquí va.

MedeChain

Here I am sharing a project proposal for Medellin, where I live. It is a project I am going to pitch for the new mayor here. It’s main goal is to push Medellin as a crypto city. People often have told me to not just openly share your ideas as they might be “stolen”. I don’t really believe in ideas being able to be stolen. In any case, I don’t really care if any of my projects may be realized by someone else, in fact I’d be happy. But for the records…here it is.

Este es un proyecto que voy a proponer para la ciudad de Medellin, donde vivo. Se trata de promocionar la ciudad como una ciudad “blockchain”. A menudo la gente me cuenta que no deberia compartir ideas de proyecto abiertamente, porque podrían ser “robadas”. La verdad, no creo mucho en que ideas puedan ser robadas. Pero de todas formas, no me importa mucho si alguien llega a realizar unas de mis ideas, de hecho, estaría muy feliz. Sin embargo, para la posteridad…aquí va.

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations

This is just a short text I wrote for the https://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/decentralised-future-prize/ challenge from early 2020. It was limited to 500 words and had some characteristics to fulfill. I did not pass to the second round. there were > 100 submissions it seems, but I though I would share it nonetheless.


Life unfolds. Nature evolves. Humans create. Societies are organisations of humans living in nature, they embody these principles, they unfold, evolve and create.

Through historic records we got to know many different organizing structures for human organisations: clans, villages, city states, monarchies, nations…These structures reflect at each point in time the world views, the morals and beliefs of the humans of which they are constituted.

We count the 21st century. Internet, cryptography, connectivity and ubiquity are characteristics of modernity which are idiosyncratic of our contemporary civilisation, essential elements of it, without which we can’t fathom our daily lives.

However, our organisations are still built around structures which were conceived of hundreds of years ago, a time of steam power, telegraph, patrons and even slavery.

It’s not a question if these structures can be redesigned. Because they will, emerging from minds embedded in the fabric of present-day, it is as inevitable as the toppling of monarchs when their time had come. History text books will in retrospective compress these decades of uncertain experimentation as a time of transition.

A major aspect of the interconnected digital age is that human coordination is no longer limited in space. People can organize around projects, themes, causes, ideals or whatever catches their attention, by coming together and populating virtual spaces. Such collectives can be the wealth creators of the future. Participants in these groups will be rewarded for their participation. Digital tools make it transparent to quantify, register and value individual contributions and compensate members, which will become self-reliant independent contributors. Traditional roles like CxO will vanish. Work will be allocated based on interests and skills. People’s motivations rather than their location will determine more significantly how they make a living.

These ideas are epitomized by the DAO concept. The pioneers in this space have identified the potential to make these visions real and have spearheaded first implementations. However, more experimentation is needed to mature these initial attempts. Legal considerations are to be probed further, notwithstanding new juridical constructs will follow suit. More importantly, challenges to DAOs come from governance and coordination points of view – from human and social aspects. Writing rules which define the behavior of an organization in the form of software is relatively easy, but dealing with human interactions and dynamics is much more complex, because these are not determined by mathematical calculations but by individual motives. Thus, different types of DAOs will be devised, with different flavors, configurations, rules, and use cases, comparable to different business types today.

The coming years will see a blossoming exploration of the convergence of DAO principles with social facets and a refinement of the technology. How do participants build up trust? What models work best in rewarding participation? Which governance approaches are best suited to work on this technology stack of decentralisation and cryptography? What approaches to coordinate contributors will prevail?

When participating in DAOs will become as easy as using email and their added value tangible for people’s lives, their success will be unstoppable.

Back live

This blog has been very quiet for many years….more to this maybe at a later time.

For the time being though I’d like to upload a couple of recent writings and project ideas. Just to have them documented…and available. Not sure anyone will look ever at these things…but as I created them, and I am paying hosting anyways…why not 🙂

Energy backed crypto-currencies

This post serves as documentation of an email exchange I initiated about setting up crypto-currencies based on (renewable, benign) energy created. It is very dense with information but it’s a great resource for sharing. Invitation open to participate in the conversation and/or extend/work on these ideas.

I formatted my initial proposal in bold, and decided to put the responses as-is from the email thread – if they responded inline, they are inline, if not they are the bottom.

This maybe does not help much for reading, but there’s quite some dense information which could be valuable to someone.

Participants in the conversation:
Shann Turnbull, Green Money Working Group
Leander Bindewald, New Economic Foundation (Josh Ryan-Collins had been initially invited for the conversation; Josh appointed Leander to respond)
Chris Cook, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies at University College London
Graham Barnes, Feasta


Hi all,

Please allow me to humbly plead for a bit of your most precious time in addressing this self-compiled group exposing and synthesizing some ideas in relation to energy backed currencies and money, with the simple goal of kindly soliciting feedback about their validity and potential for implementation. I tried hard to write this in a most concise way in order to minimize impact on your valuable time.
Essentially, we have been witnessing the rise of crypto-currencies, with bitcoin as flagship, but with also ripple and all the forks and imitators.
I personally have come to the conclusion that digital currencies hold an intriguing promise through their technological foundations (p2p technology), which make them very difficult to be manipulated and controlled by any elite, institution or government.
Barnes: I agree. I think the significance of this is that their ‘uncontrollability’ might encourage more of the mainstream to realise that there are indeed alternatives to the money monopoly, and will be more and more alternatives in future. Therefore not a series of developments to be marginalised and ignored.
However, in short, the current incarnations suffer some important flaws from monetary, sustainability and community point of views. The lack of intrinsic value to me is a central point here.
Bindewald: Depending which basic function your currency is meant to serve, “intrinsic value” is not a necessary problem.

Barnes:I agree with Leander in terms of technical design – exchange currencies just need trust – but there is an attraction in relating the currency unit to something tangible.

A store of value currency could operate as a hedge against future energy price rises but
there are practical issues surrounding its redemption within any single renewable energy
project.  i.e. is the generation capacity there at the time the instrument is redeemed? Easier
to achieve if there is a collective redemption ‘pool’ (Chris’s thoughts I think) to smooth out the
supply and demand. But if this were in place it facilitates capital investment which (he
believes and intuitively seems should be right) is more cost effective than interest-based euro
loans.

Bindewald:We tried to defferentiat by CCs serving as 1) Medium of Exchange 2)Unit of account 3) store of value in the Energy Currency Report, all pre-determine your choice in currency design to some degree, but even more so reflect on the most important question: What kind of (today underserved) collaborations is your currency supposed to facilitate?
Barnes:I know this is the classic ‘unfulfilled needs meets underused capacity” model beloved of John
Rogers and others, but the unmet need does not have to be for goods and services today.
And its not the only guiding principle for a currency.
Here’s then a proposal: What if a digital currency unit would be backed by renewable energy produced? In practice, I could think of a kind of “energy” coin which would be “minted” for every kWh produced. Minting could be a managed process, akin bitcoin, virtually unbreakable, but linked to energy production (technically this would need further detailed analysis of how it could be done).
Barnes:Not just technically. How could you restrict the ‘mining’ to participants who have the ability to generate electricity.Theres a permissions regime needed isnt there?
I suppose that a unit being redeemed in payment for a unit of energy should be destroyed (?).
Barnes:I’d say so.
Some demurrage could be built in as well, but that’s already a detail.
Bindewald: When energy, particularly renewables, is/are “produced”, they are more often consumed very soon, not stored. This raises the question if the kWh produced or ToBeProduced is the backing to your currency.
Barnes:Kwh produced but not yet consumed by participants. Any renewable energy project like this
has to have connections to the grid – a bidirectional power purchase agreement. As smart
micro grids are established they decrease the reliance on the PPA but its needed whatever.
Bindewald:Or, if the units are not destroyed when redeemed for the energy that then gets degraded/”consumed”, what is the currency really reflecting?
This would empower any energy producer, namely and most interestingly transition movements, to create their own currencies. Having all of them a common unit of account, any transition movement or affine organization could start trading internationally,
Barnes:A common unit of account might seem to be of value in these future interconnections, but
Kws carry different values at different times, so the exchange is not a simple process.

fixing problems of value asymmetry and/or clearing with traditional community currencies (time banks etc.).

Whoa. I have a real problem with exchange of currencies that are based on different
value-sets. This is grounded in the work we did with DRA over here when Spice were
involved and explained to us the negative effects of setting a cash value against ‘hours-in’ in
a timebank.

Bindewald: Just as a point to consider: Michael Hudson stormed out of a session at the Teslaconference in Split last year, screaming “This is Enron all over again!”So, how do you make sure your currency differentiates or even discriminates between the energy producers?

Barnes:Unfortunately I wasn’t there but Ciaran Mulloy was so I will ask him what the fuss was about. I don’t understand Leanders question – is there a need to exclude big energy producers? I’d say they will probably exclude themselves.

Bindewald:This really relates to the questions that seem more relevant to successful currencies, then any (technical) design-feature: What is the user story, how do you get people to accept it, what is the benefit to them? This is always closer to social engineering then to currency issuance.

Barnes:This is an important perspective I think. On the Irish island group we are working with there is a deep distrust of outside ‘interventions’ and a key part of currency design is the social inclusiveness/ marketing aspect. Don’t like ‘social engineering’ – sounds like a project being done to them rather than with them.

Bindewald:You are raising such questions in the two paragraphs below, but you will have to answer them before anybody could engage in the implementation.

With this basic “protocol” in place, it can evolve to provide infrastructure for  cooperation, empowerment and support for (sustainable, green) entrepreneurs, by creating functionality for payments and marketplaces, but also for credit creation and/or even a “gamified” investment platform/market: individuals could invest in participating green-tech/sustainable/etc. businesses (worldwide or local), which would have to perform according to selected criteria, generating rewards for the investors.
Such currencies don’t need to be based on energy “only”, notwithstanding the technical nature of energy generation which makes it naturally very much a good match. We could think of such (parallel, non-interchangeable or rather interchangeable through the same accounting unit, energy) currencies for (every kilogram of, or a basket of, organic) food produced, for (every month worth of) land rentals, or (every minute worth of) mobile air-time (the latter being another pretty interesting one as technical in nature).

Response by Shann Turnbull

Hello Graham et. al
I agree that the core problem is to establish an independent unit of value as stated in my “view to share” sent yesterday as pasted in below to “Simon Lelieveldt the chair of our COP in The Hague<
I nowdays do not favour a currency redeemable into energy except for financing renewable energy projects but a currency whose value is defined by the retail value of benign sustainable energy created by those who create wealth by producing, consuming and investing as set out in the paper Josh presented for me on March 6 at the ECOBATE conference. Refer to: ‘Might sustainable energy money have a future?’ posted at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2178533.

I will be presenting this paper on June 11 at Aix-En-Provence, INFINITI conference on International Finance,[http://infiniticonference.com] , June 27 at Nottingham University International Finance and Banking Society Conference, (IFABS), and June 29 in Milan at the Society for the Advancement of Socio-Economics (SASE) conference. The ICCCS conference did not accept it!

Begin forwarded message:

Dear Simon, et. al

May I respond to your request for information in regards to your topics as follows:
A (Bio note)
Shann is a founding member of the Sustainable Money Working Group introduced at http://www.gtne.org/?q=node/337 with details posted at www.gmwg.org. His presentation is motivated by the objectives of its members to establish an emergency source of funding in the event of another financial crisis and establish a sustainable source of low cost funding. After obtaining an MBA from Harvard Shann became a serial entrepreneur founding a number of enterprises with three becoming publicly traded on the stock exchange in Australia. As a partner in a private equity group that acquired a dozen public companies in seven years he participated in their re-organisation as their chair, CEO, executive director or advisor. His PhD research established the science of corporate governance and risk management. Since writing Democratising the Wealth of Nations in 1975 Shann has been a prolific author on reforming the theories and practices of capitalism based on adopting ecological property rights to land, buildings, firms and money.
B (View point to share)
Governments and their regulators urgently need to facilitate if not initiate the introduction an objective stable unit of value to anchor and so sustain the 5,000 community currencies operating around the world when the current financial system next fails. The disruptive potential for cell phone money to replace current forms of money and banking needs to be used to reform the financial system from the ground up so that it is no longer back-to-front, upside-down, inside-out as explained here. Our discussion needs to empower members of parliaments around the world to create laws that allow new types of cell phone money to be trialled that can by-pass the official banking and payment systems to insulate host economies from any financial crisis. Regulation must prohibit cell phone money being created or controlled by any non-mutual organisation that is not democratically and transparently controlled by the users of the money. Only negative interest rate money would be permitted to eliminate money being used as a store of value that creates inequities, inefficiencies and inflation. Any units of value used by the currency that was not defined by a sustainable service of nature of the host bio-region would be subject to regulatory approval. Sustainable Energy Dollars (SEDs) or $Z would meet these conditions as explained here. My discussion paper is posted here.
LINKS to be embedded:
Democratising the Wealth of Nations, at:  http://ssrn.com/abstract=1146062
$Z would meet these conditions as explained herehttp://ssrn.com/abstract=2178533.
My discussion paper is posted herehttp://ssrn.com/abstract=2261519

Chris Cooks response:Shann

I agree and this is precisely what I was saying in Tehran this week.

The Iranians – like us – must move from a ‘least dollar cost’ economy to a ‘least energy cost’ economy, and the Danes demonstrate empirically how this looks in practice since they have essentially mandated least energy cost as an overall policy requirement since the Oil Shock of 1973.

Naturally, it can’t be done with conventional legal and financial structures, but it can straightforwardly be done with updated versions of structures and instruments which pre-date the bank credit financing and conventional ‘equity’ funding.


My response to allThank you all very much for all the very valuable responses. Greatly appreciated.

Instead of going into responding each of your contributions, which I will take the time to study seriously first, I’ll quickly lay out just a few points better of what I was thinking.
The idea of energy currency, of course, is to enable a break-through in ‘complementary’ currency thinking. Most currencies in that space are designed to be local – while our world today is undeniably global. This creates a tension which IMHO doesn’t allow regional currencies to take off. We travel, trade on the Internet, we buy computers, cell phones etc. which are a difficult fit (yet! 3D Printing to the rescue…) for local currencies. Thus many initiatives languish or die after the initial excitement.
I thought that having a unit redeemable in actual energy would enhance the trust in such a currency. While you don’t have to redeem – you can. I am not attached at all to this, seeing that most of you in this circle seem to not favour this approach. Rather I would like to learn how simply creating a unit in reference to say kWh can attain acceptance. How will I accept a unit issued in some corner or the UK and spend it in South America? If my local entities knew they can redeem it with energy (or air-time, organic food, land rental…) I was guessing it’d have better chances.
I was mixing crypto-currencies with digital certificates technically, and I am not sure that works at all. I was thinking that Transition movements (or any such bodies) could form an entity which would function as certificate authority (CA). Then, every participating movement would also be a CA – signed by the trusted main CA (think VeriSign etc.). With this certificate chain, transition movements would then sign a digital unit (e.g. for every kWh created), of which authenticity can be verified with established procedures – every browser does that today when you access secure sites. Multiple CAs are possible, there is no need for a central authority only – like it works today for server certificates. With this approach, non-green non-renewable non-participating energy generation bodies would not be able to participate (they could create their own circles though with the same tech).
I know it’s all maybe a bit fuzzy but maybe there are some grains of value which can be tracked further.

Another response by Shann Turnbull

Hi Fabio

I have attached my ops from my seminar of the the Australian Working Group on Financialisation held at the University of Sydney last Friday.
They describe $Z that are a global unit of account that has a local unit of value in each bio region to allow each local environment to define value, prices and costs.
Unlike the comments below I believe it is important to connect value, prices and costs to the environment to provide feedback information for allocating real resources including the distribution of the plague of people on the planet on a sustainable basis.
However, to provide sufficient supply of $Z without fractional banking they are not required to be redeemed into kwhs of benign sustainable energy.
The retail value of kwhs simply provide a reference value for individuals and firms to create contracts to trade goods and finance investments.
Insured contracts with part of the insurance cost attached create the money that is a self-lquidating asset to avoid monetary bubbles as well a bubbles of financial assets and liabilities that are now unsustainable.

Last response by Chris Cook

Shann
I have said for years that a standard unit of energy – as the only absolute there is – constitutes the natural candidate for a standard unit of measure for value.
Such an energy standard should therefore be the benchmark for exchanges on credit terms of the various forms of energy, and of other forms of asset-based and people-based value.
Most important of these is the use value over time of location/land (which is distinct from the energy and intellectual value embedded in or passing through it a location). The use value of land/location underpins perhaps two thirds of fiat currency in existence today, having been created as mortgage loans, and is what I call deficit-based but land-backed.
So in my view we will see geographically fungible national and regional currencies based upon land use value, and more generally fungible non-geographic currencies returnable in payment for energy eg an electricity-based currency (cf Bob Hahl’s Kilo Watt Card) or a currency returnable in payment for MMbtu; or a currency returnable in payment for carbon fuel.
These asset based currencies will change hands by reference to the energy standard (and note here that any government could mandate an energy standard tomorrow) on credit terms within a Guarantee Society framework of mutual credit insurance (which I first advocated in Scotland maybe 8 years ago).
While renewable energy is important, the cheapest energy of all is carbon fuel saved, and as I was pointing out to ministers in Iran last week, they should be drilling for oil and gas savings, and keeping physical oil and gas in the ground. Key to this is the monetisation of energy, and the concept of ‘energy loans’ whereby investment may be made directly in energy savings which I outlined here
I agree entirely that mobile payments and mobile credit (where the SIM card is a credit card) will enable the developing world to leapfrog us, through bypassing our barriers to entry and rent-seekers. Indeed I was making precisely that point four years ago at the Digital Money Forum in London.
That is where community P2P credit creation and clearing comes in
There is no more role for a centralised government intermediary in such a resilient networked monetary enterprise architecture than there is for centralised private sector intermediaries.
Pretty much all the elements are now in place for a new monetary and fiscal architecture introduced bottom up: all that is lacking is the agreement, and the will.

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Enabling rhizome-P2P endeavors

Introduction

Although the web enables to connect across geographical boundaries, there is an ever growing need perceivable for people to create, join, leave and let decay organizations on the fly. On the Internet, individuals can come together based on interests, skills, passions, and relationships, to collaboratively address an issue. In such a context, contributors are not coerced into joining a formal traditional company, with all the logistics implied. Rather, affine minds can be recruited all over the planet. They might join for the duration of a project, or just even a task, but they are free to choose to stay forever (or for the lifetime of the organization for that matter); they may be inclined to concentrate on one specific undertaking, or participate in countless projects.
To address the global challenges of our times, a possible approach is to scale collective intelligence. Could not the effortless creation and graceful shutdown of organizations at the click of a button, akin popping mushrooms, enhanced with facilitation of participation, search, match and exchange between people go a long way in providing the necessary interactions? What is needed for such p2p organizations to be possible?

The Self

There are countless current projects on the web addressing issues of identity, privacy, etc. For me, these are some of the important issues:

How to describe myself

  • How to present my profile, so that searching, matching, connecting can not only be automated, but so that the profile also conveys a holistic picture of myself to the world.
  • Express different levels of “self”, depending on audience and choice (privacy)
  • Self assessment
  • Legacy (“this is what I did”).
  • Visual representations

How to assess my peer

  • How do we find each other
  • How to match needs
  • Trust
  • How to understand who the other is
  • Visual representations

The organization

Here as well, there is a plethora of tools on the web for working together. Nevertheless, it’s probably fair to say that there is none that “quite cuts it”. Here the challenges are (again, just a selection):

    • How to engage in a common undertaking
    • What do we do together
    • How to work together
    • How to assess each other’s work
    • How to share workspaces and artifacts
    • How to distribute tasks
    • How to reward contributions
    • How to share the organization’s successes
    • Visualizations

In nature, everything is a coherent whole but also part of something bigger (‘holons‘), so issues from “Self” would apply to the organization as well.

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Holistic science and the overcoming of separation

Indigenous populations, and early civilizations, did not know a separation between spirituality and matter. All was intertwined, and everything sacred.

That was at large extent also true for our own civilizations up to the scientific revolution. However, the religious institutions of the Middle Age increasingly were not able to explain things to curious humans; Galilei and the likes were making observations that differed from the canonical views of the Church. And with the advent of Descartes and his fellow philosophers, humanity introduced a fundamental schism between the self and the outer world, the self and the environment, the self and nature. Progressively we started to understand ourselves as individuals, separated from our surroundings – and then also from each other. The world entered a mechanistic world view, in which things were tried to be explained without the need of a god (although it is important to point out that the first scientists, like Newton, very much could see a place for God in their investigations).

It was a logical evolution of our thinking that if there was no divinity involved, that things needed to work “somehow”, and the analogy to a machine was obvious. Throughout the following centuries, we thus have refined this world view; we have created ever sophisticated machines, dissected things into ever smaller pieces, from atoms to disciplines to taxonomies of plants, animals, things. We came up with geology, biology, engineering, physics, psychology, chemistry, and strictly separated them from arts and social sciences – not to speak of morality or spirituality.

We thought we could measure and master everything.

However, we are finding out that the world is not a machine. That things play together, and in fact are all part of the same Oneness.

This is an inevitable realization of our quest for truth. As soon as we split particles and found no more smaller entities, but probabilities and uncertainty, a new science began to arise. A holistic science, a science of qualities, a science of the human as a holon; an entity in itself but embedded in an infinity of other holons, and itself built up by an equal infinity of smaller holons.

We will witness now a dramatic shift from pieces to wholes, it is inevitable and will be accompanied with turmoil and unpredictability, as we are leaving a mindset which no longer fits what we observe and experience, but we have not yet found what’s next.

Interesting times. The environmental degradation has been a logical consequence of viewing things as confined, limited, with boundaries. And with ourselves separated from nature, we were no longer embedded in its cycles and thus it seems also from this point of view more than logical that we just dump stuff into the oceans, the atmosphere, the land.

Only when we internalize broadly how interconnected everything is, we will be starting to move away from seeing short-term cycles. What machines might we devise, when we think of our creations as embedded in the whole of the planet? Or even the universe? We might create living machines, which plug into life’s secrets, but as we are aware of the connections, these “organisms” might enrich the web of life, not destroy them.

What can we achieve when we drop the separation between arts and engineering? Why is an artist an artist and an engineer is not? Art is a word that in its etymology describes a skill, a craft, an activity. Everything we do could be art… It is our innate gift as humans that we are able to create. We are bound to re-create this world, in a way we can not yet imagine, because this imagination is emerging as we speak. It is a collective imagination, a consciousness of things as interconnected, and if seen that way, we cannot do anything else as to care, and not only care for beings, but also create in a way that nourishes and develops this same consciousness. When we internalize that everything is interconnected, and as we are re-discovering how playful, joyful and enriching collaboration, sharing, community and mutual support are, a new way of living on earth might mature, one where terms like economy or capitalism will become meaningless. A way where we share values as inhabitants of this fantastic planet, where we strive for the good of all beings. We’ll still be humans, we’ll still suffer heart ache and pain from love, loss, disillusions, we’ll still be hit by natural catastrophes or calamities; but we might be using our talents to cooperate rather than compete.

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Humanizing smart cities with open source

This blog post has been inspired by the following link: The Automation of Rio: Smart City or Digital Tyranny?

The article talks about how technology can contribute to improve the living environment in cities, but, making reference to another article, asks also the question “is it really a good idea to give a computer company (IBM is not an urban planner!) so much control over one of the world’s biggest cities?”

Now, it is a reality that, notably in the global South, in cities there are many brilliant people but not enough jobs. With the surging need to adapt cities to modern technology, the proliferation of ubiquitous tech, the drive towards transparency in municipalities and government (read “Open Government” and “Open Data”), often city administrations resort to big companies to solve their IT problems. And often this results in huge amounts of money paid for proprietary licenses for software for which open source alternatives exist, all the while the solutions offered by those companies are imported.

Often the argument against open source is the missing support in case things go wrong. I was wondering, what if cities, maybe in collaboration with universities, hackerspaces, collectives, institutions, businesses and independent entities, would actually train locals in the administration of the infrastructure for running a city?

A reason why I think this might have huge impact is that locals are much more interested in the city’s flourishing than an external business. The budget for licenses would be spent in training locals, the money would stay in the city and not be drained, while new opportunities would be created. Furthermore, and very important, also the knowledge would remain locally. Being this knowledge based on open source technology, if could be openly documented, maybe involving local library facilities and staff.

And being it open source, we could think of a network of open source cities, where knowledge about running city tech infrastructure would openly be shared. This would offer tremendous advantages for the prosperity and adaptation of new technology.

After all, cities are run by public money. Why not invest this money in public infrastructure? I can imagine that this may increase the level of participation by citizens in city affairs. If this is accompanied by sincere efforts in open government and open data, a new sense of taking responsibility and participation may develop in city inhabitants, blurring the divide between “them” and “us”. Open data anyway is a still undervalued tool not understood by many. Politicians not supporting open data would appear as secretive, as wanting to hide something. Voting for candidates openly advocating open data contributes to improving transparency.

The advantage of open source is that anybody can adapt code to their needs. Thus, if a team of open source technologists are in charge of running the infrastructure, they may come up with new ideas on how to adapt technology to local requirements. Finally, smart, intelligent cities is more about citizens, about humans, rather than technology alone. Thus if the technology is open source, managed and run by local people, the smart intelligent city becomes more than a buzzword for business; rather it has the potential to become reality, in that intelligent people contribute to create the intelligent city they want.

To me this sounds like a very reasonable thing to do, and see it as a tremendous opportunity. But maybe my idealism is again too far away from reality?

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Interchangeable energy backed currencies?

I have been thinking a lot lately about why most complementary currency schemes do not work very well. I think I have some ideas.

Most projects start off with lots of inspiration, commitment and excitement. There are often some very charismatic project leaders and lots of volunteer efforts and loads of idealism. The community gets instigated to participate, accounts get opened, talks about the downsides and ugly sides of the current economies happen on and on, and a new way of doing things is propagated. Great.

Then after some time hits reality. There’s not really a lot going on through the chosen platform. People post their skills, and sometimes, a few needs. Maybe a few trades happen, notably by the most engaged in the project. Maybe a bit more. But no world changing movements.

Well, a reason may be that those currencies maybe even would work well. They are designed to strictly work locally. But our reality today is global.

So while it sounds marvellous, as soon as I have to pay the rent, as I have to ponder how to buy a new computer, how to buy a smart phone, etc. my local units do not apply. Thus faith in the system starts to fade away…

Can we do something about it?

Well, I have been thinking: even a small country can have its own currency. See Switzerland. Or Iceland, with 320’000 souls living there. In a way, that is also a local currency. So why does the official currency work that way?

The answer should be convertibility. You can convert those (notably intrinsically worthless fiat currency) units into something else – Dollars, Yen, Euros.

Could we do that as well with local currencies?

It would be difficult to agree on something which would be of value in all communities working with local currencies. Mutual credit can help but does not scale that much.

Something we all need though is energy. Lots of people are talking about energy backed currencies right now, notably Chris Cook has published ideas. However, often energy is a thing which is not in our hands. Some big companies produce energy.

What if local decentralized energy feeds would be actually the issuer of currency? This would mean that for every kWh of energy generated, the correspondent amount of currency unit would be emitted. This would be circulating in the community as money, and could be redeemed for actual energy by the local producers! The nice thing about this is that most of decentralized energy production is green clean energy – solar, wind, biomass, etc. This could encourage and actually fire up quite some wave of innovation and local entrepreneurship, as there are advantages in being the issuer of currency.

Thinking the idea further, some VISA kind of network could be setup, ideally with strong participation by Transition Town movements and the like, which would ensure convertibility. Thus the Totnes pound, being backed by kWh, could be spent in the São Paolo transition movement because there they participate as well in the network and their local currency is also backed by energy.

To ensure playing fair, we could even think of some sophisticated electronic support on top of exchange and such. For example, each generating facility yes, can emit currency, but it would need to have its units electronically signed, in order for counter-parties to trust those units. The signing authority would be a chaordic-commons-kind of organization with open and transparent participation, its sole role would be to ensure units signing. This might be accomplished by get sneak-peaks from bitcoins and get some ideas there.

Nevertheless I can’t see an energy backed currency to be the only currency. I still believe that the future is full of a plethora of currencies. Bitcoins, with derivates and similar designs, could play huge role for virtual commerces on the Internet. Local currencies, backed by energy, or land use, as Chris Cook suggests, would still me geared towards local use. This gives us choice. If we want to stay only local, we might concentrate on acquiring local units. If we interact a lot globally, we’d need to engage with virtual communities in order to acquire those units.

These are just a few ideas I throw out there. I have no idea how much they are worth, but as I believe in collective intelligence, maybe they lead to somewhere, or maybe not. For example a unit being backed by energy produced means that growth is reflected with some real value. And it is boundless, abundance based. There is no limit on the amount of energy we create. I confess I am not sure though if that would have some serious implications (I am not an economist!). Would we get inflation, with too many units created after some time? Not sure about these things, and I am open to critique and comments ( 🙂 ).

But these words are more worth wasting a few bits on a blog than staying forever in my head.

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Why am I here in Medellín?

I now live in Medellín, Colombia, since 7 months. I came here because life put a lot of hints in front of me, one of them being love. But also because investigating about this city I realized there’s a bunch of interesting processes going on in this city.
Medellin went through a undeniably special period in the 80s and 90s during which drug-related violence was ravaging, on top of the known events of colonization, independence processes and following convulsions in the access to power, more or less common to the reality of the whole continent generally. This and socio-economic issues with inequality, access to resources, education and markets resulted in that creativity became a major quality with which to stand out from the masses as an individual in order to make a living. In my observation Medellin is full of extraordinary and highly creative people.
In the meanwhile, the design of society as suggested by the West is in severe crisis; the EU for example is on the verge of collapse. The abstract model of perpetual growth is crashing into physical realities, revealing intrinsic limitations. Apart from serious problems of pollution, lack of sustainability, inequality, exploitation and injustice, an important characteristic of this model is the tendency towards fragmentation and isolation of human beings, which comes with profound social and psychic stresses. It does not surprise at this point that other tendencies towards collaboration, collaboration, sharing and community start to appear: people go back contemplating the ontological essence of being a human. Modern science is also undergoing transformation, from going into bisecting everything into ever smaller distinct and smaller pieces towards relationships and commonalities. Quantum physicists express themselves more like eastern philosophers as we are used from science lingo. We are rediscovering what ancient wisdom always promulgated: that everything is interrelated and that separation is only a lense of perception.
Electronic media have facilitated for people to re-introduce ancestral practices of communication in their lives, practices which went forgotten with the consumption mantras of the markets. Individuals restart communicating directly, to share freely, to collaborate, work together. All this goes against market logic as conceived by mainstream economists, and according to these economists, for example, a computer operating system like linux, free and jointly produced, should not be possible. What these new media allow is to amplify and extend our innate propensities to relate to others towards the whole globe. We can communicate with anyone on the other side of the world. We can form networks with anyone and share information with people with affinity to our passions, interests or study focus. Notions of time and space get diluted.
In parallel to this, there’s a revaluing of the physical meeting. Finally – we can assist to the expansion of the “lab” phenomenon – laboratories of techno-social experimentation, where folks meet up to share knowledge, learn together, and feel part of a group, creating community. In these communities things get produced, created and shared freely for the simple wish of wanting to do it, and because it confers to participants a feeling of belonging and satisfaction – let’s say it, of happiness. Not by chance a very symbolic periodic event happening twice weekly in Medellin has been named “Lo doy porque quiero” (I give it because I want: a series of talks, presentations – whatever really – in which anybody can stand up and talk about something).
The practice of producing open source software revealed to the world what is possible to achieve with the commitment of a few individuals with a shared goal. This also inspired and stimulated the exploration and experimentation with open source principles in other areas of human activity. There are already communities which consecrate themselves to themes such as open hardware, open government, open data, open university, open science, open cities, open business, to name just a few.
Thing is, many brains coming together generate many more ideas. And not only more ideas, but every contribution can be seen as a piece of lego for a bigger edifice, a more complete vision, a more holistic approach. Collective Intelligence.
We are confronted with tremendous challenges. And global ones. Too big to be solved by only a few individuals, singular entities or nations. On the other hand, ideas do not know frontiers nor barriers, knowledge flows freely, it is immaterial. Thanks to Internet, ideas, knowledge, information and wisdom can be divulged easily in their digital form, getting to whatever device being capable of presenting it. Digital technologies we have today at our disposal, contrary to massive conventional media like television and print, are bidirectional, and allow participation. We thus have at our reach the possibility to combine and let confluence knowledge of ever more souls.
Also, the majority of human beings flourishes in community with other humans, being in company, sharing. The first European cities grew on the base of areas of convergence in which distances were of more or less 20 minutes walking. In Latin America the life in “barrios”, neighborhoods, is still very alive and tangible. It is the natural configuration of human beings.
In contrast, current economic life does not respect these configurations. It creates an incessant flux of materials and people displacing themselves constantly, causing congestion and contamination. Decision processes are governed by criteria of finance and profit, resulting in apples being grown in New Zealand be sold in Switzerland which is replete of apples; that cocoa is shipped from Latin America to Europe for processing and sold back to the continent at much higher cost; and that natural resources are extracted from the earth and garbage deposited onto the earth itself labeling environmental and polluting costs as “externalities”. The market lives from advertisement, which incites us to more and more consumption, nourishing itself from the need of keeping us always unhappy, creating more and more wishes and converting more and more corners of the world to this religion, generating more and more expectations and with it again more consumption, resources extraction, and pollution. The mantra going with all this is the one of “growth”.
But there are a growing number of individuals which are realizing that this cannot go on like this indefinitely. They are looking for alternatives.
And if we’d go back to organize ourselves more akin the natural configuration of human being, like pondered before? If we go back forming communities, fulfilling most of what we need locally? If we’d take advantage of the qualities of digital technologies, which would allow to divulge information freely, spreading what we have learned, at the same time assimilating contributions by others, synthesizing everything into new knowledge, new realizations, creations, advancements, innovations? Transforming this knowledge into local adaptations, to solve local needs, creating artifacts locally?
That’s where I envision the confluence of the emergence of labs with the potential of technology. Local production based on the free flow of global knowledge. We already do not need gigantic production facilities for everything, and this tendency, with technology, is going to consolidate. Fablabs, spaces of collaborative creation, 3D printers, can lead to provide for many necessities locally, on-time, on-demand, personalized, without the need to inundate a market and producing unnecessary garbage. Labels and designs circulate freely, fostering new solutions, produced in the lab of the corner of our neighborhood. In a not-so-distant future I may be able to “print” my smart-phone there; the needed resources for that are sourced locally, by the local people, in a commons-managed way, thus not under foreign exploitation by entities insensible to local effects. Likewise, organic agriculture, in symbiosis of urban and rural, creating systems of bioregional supplying, covers food needs. Energy is generated decentrally, many buildings and constructions generate their own energy, feeding a local smart-grid; bio-hackerspaces provide us with indispensable modern products, like biodegradable products; many artifacts are assembled reusing and recycling materials; and economic questions are organized for the benefit of the community, not of speculators.
The first cities grew weaving an ecosystem of local entrepreneurship. The socio-economic fabric is more resilient by the measure of relationships which constitute it. With more diversity of production and artisanry, and interdependence of the local actors, a community is more strong and resilient, can thus bounce back much better from outside stresses. A community based on local business links and local resources then becomes stronger, resilient and independent from global market turbulences. This does not mean that there would be no interregional, international, or intercontinental trade. This always existed and will continue to exist in some form. Nevertheless, by strengthening local actors first, fostering local exchanges and building on local relationships first, communities consolidate their identity and coherence and are less susceptible to outside perturbation.
I think this postulate is not anti-progress, nor anti-business, not anti-anything. It is a proposal which is being built step by step. It is a proposal in which Medellin and South America in general can emerge as a model for the future, with all the creative potential initially mentioned. Also I think that community and cooperation, epitomized by the ancestral processes of the “minga”, or communal work, are still more alive and present on the continent.
I think that Medellin can play a exceedingly important role in the urgent transformation of society, towards a sustainable, just model impregnated with joy of living. Nothing is perfect, and not by chance right here very worrying factors continue to exist, like violence, exploitation, and oppression. Nevertheless, for those who are fed up with all the dismal of this world, we don’t have other options as to continue trying to create new realities.
This is why I want to participate in the processes currently unfolding in Medellín, I want to contribute the way I can, linking with active people and projects, interchanging thoughts, knowledge and ideas. I want to see what is possible to be birthed from things we are pondering collectively, to give life to longings of a society which instead of destroying itself treating their very nourishing base, the earth and its people, very badly, matures towards a society which cooperates to resolve huge challenges, and which resolves to care and even to enrich the cycles of life.

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