Connecting the Dots

This is an older post I actually wrote for the on the 10th of December 2010.

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We could dream of a planetary nervous system, of a united humanity, of a species cooperating on a marvelous magic satellite. We could philosophize over the destiny of mankind, over teleology and the universal mind. We could delve into collective intelligence, shifted consciousness, raised awareness, and speak of transcending boundaries, hierarchies, races, genders, of wonderful futures and shifted values.

Let’s look at what we’ve got though. We’ve got to a point where as a species we have threatened our own survival, and that of our fellow siblings on this incredibly wonderful planet. We’ve got a privileged few who are determined to take hold of their power, no matter what. We have a great majority who feels there’s something wrong with our world but don’t know what to do. And we’ve got an energetic restless bunch who is trying hard to creatively deal with the is-ness of the times and spearheading possible “other worlds”.

The current social arrangements grew out of a positive response to systems which attained their limits. Most of its banner wavers are or were well-intentioned, enthusiastic and idealists. We grew out of monarchies, slavery and spiritual monocultures. All the same we will grow out of the actual configuration, and a powerful unstoppable tide is already building up strongly. As like anything this ephemeral and unfathomable spirit called life brought forth, it is coming together in an organic form, unprecedented, emerging, unpredictable.

Countless organizations, individuals, and groups, are assembling and becoming active, feeling empowered by great ideas and new ways of imagining our human essence. I don’t fall prey to an ideal that everything will be better; as with any system before us, anything we will create will bear the seed of its own incompleteness, of its limits, and its demise.

Nevertheless it’s not difficult to identify the inevitable: collaboration, cooperation, sharing, relationships and networks are the new language, overriding concepts such as competition, economy, markets and corporations.

How does a lush ecosystem evolve? First you have pioneers, who colonize the ground. These pioneers prepare the soil with nutrients, inviting followers to come in; new relationships are built up, and slowly but steadily the place changes, and new species step in into an environment previously hostile to them.

This is how I see a new movement unfolding. We are blessed with charismatic pioneers and fiery colonizers. If you are reading this, I am sure you can list lots of sites and names participating in this blossoming I have never heard of. The Internet, born from defensive and military thought, is the unifying agent bringing people and groups together, like rhizome threads linking trees, shrubs and plants.

Thus, if you share this vision, our first endeavours could simply imply extending the reach of the rhizomes, so that more and more pioneers can start making new links and making connections. Nevertheless, I don’t see the need for a planning big mind supervising this expansion. Let’s let it grow organically, making small connections where there is affinity. A nitrogen fixer works best in concert with nitrogen consumers; a plant may be best rooted where it’s relationships with its most closest neighbours are optimal; a cell in my fingertips does (maybe?) not need to know about a cell in my foot, and yet both are beautifully contributing to such a complex being such as my body…

Most of us are bounded by national regulations, financial restrictions, cultural norms. We have only come to savour the power of limitless connections. Many of us feel the potential, but can’t envision its fulfillment. It’s time to connecting the dots.

This is a tremendously radical approach. It means tearing down national borders, racial differences, cultural trenches, idealogical blinders. It means putting those together who want to work together, directing resources where we want to see them, following where our passions are.

What it takes? Legal structures which allow people to gather around subjects and projects, irrespective of where they live. And adoption of an open source attitude to knowledge and work allocation, where contributors decide for themselves what they want to work on. As every experienced open source software developer has come to know, this does not call for frenetic anarchy; rather for reputation based leadership, open and transparent processes, and access to information and repositories. This might engender value based exchange schemes, evolving the profit-oriented exchange maxim. Trusts may be setup for the stewardship of commons.

Some of the seeds which sprout in this direction are ideas like Chris Cook’s open capital partnerships. In such a framework, investors may offer financial or other resources to a project; contributors offer their workforce as on-par elements of the arrangement, and a trust-like group takes on the steward’s role of managing assets. The project output is then redistributed in commensurate to the contribution share of each element. The group upfront decides upon rules and types of remuneration: a project may decide to redistribute financial gains, but it could also issue shares on the physical output, like vouchers on energy created, items produced, etc.

Thus we could imagine a bunch of geographically dispersed people help a small village in Africa become energy self-sufficient, by providing financial resources. Experienced clean-tech practitioners would contribute with their work in the construction of the physical energy generation equipment, all along locals who at the same time learn from these professionals and become proficient themselves. The “investors” get paid in kWh vouchers they could use to pay their local energy bills. During the whole process knowledge is accessed, captured, customized and made available for others in an open source approach – open data and knowledge.

People working in distributed environments need tools on which to meet, exchange, share ideas and documents, assemble into projects, and manage their tasks. Bettermeans.com is an example of where this could evolve: project management takes a community-embedded flair, tasks are transparently and democratically handled.

These are just pioneers, and I am sure many other such proposals will start to abound in the time to come, focusing on different aspects of distributed community management (for example different flavours of voting, reputation, inclusion schemes, etc.).

The work of the future will be delivered by horizontal assembling over vertical service providers. Such service providers could focus on different parts of project management: www.dreamfish.com for example is already excelling in facilitation, online interaction management and worker inclusion. I could imagine substantial need for such services for distributed teams! Thus everybody contributing “a service” to the project will be remunerated accordingly – as opposed to per platform, per contract, etc.

Accounting could be organized in reference to some external value. This could be kWh, Dollars, Euros – or some new exchange reference (like the Terra maybe?).

In short: seeding countless projects so that all those relationships emerge – by doing. That is the natural evolution of all those fantastic initiatives bubbling up through the digital mesh. It’s too big, too complex, we can’t control it in any way, but surf on its approach: each connection at the time. Not thinking in terms of platforms, but of people coming together in projects. This is one of a possible approach to effectively form swarms.

I have the hope that these are the first steps towards some planetary intelligence or society, living in dynamic healthy balance on its host. What may emerge and what not is not on me to envision, let alone foresee, but I am firmly committed to contribute to that ideal.

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