26 May, 2009

Hippie Days Are Here Again?

When it came along, it changed everything.  Back before computers and the Internet were mainstream or even available outside educational and military establishments, an MIT prof was already worrying and prodding at the problem.  The whole online food chain was and still is being turned upside down.  Now, even the economists who wrought the current financial crisis are having to admit that greed is not always good, and the large conglomerate is not always best. 

They can't avoid it - large institutions are crumbling and falling apart, the economy is no longer in "free fall" but you can betcha it will never have the authority and clout it has enjoyed...  With every company holding their hand out for a bailout, we'll never associate their name with "prestige" again, except in the sense of the conjurer's prestige.

It's the online food chain that interests me, in more than just one way.  We humans are truly a collective society of individuals.  We contradict everything we are, just by being...  We love to be individuals - and on that rests a large part of our success as a species, that different individuals were different and thought in ways others didn't.  At the same time, the acclaim and support of their peers didn't hurt those individual thinkers, either...  So we do have a large dynamic stress there.

In the beginning, there were ZX80s, VIC-20s, Commodore 64s, and a plethora of small computers.  They were slow and clumsy and primitive by the standards of today's PCs and Macs - but they immediately developed a following, of people that others considered individuallistic, or, less charitably, eccentric.  And those individuals - they most often formed or joined clubs...  Thus demonstrating most succinctly what I'm saying about our dual social natures.

In the social networks of today, you'll find a large percentage of Baby Boomers - because A) we still are a large percentage of the population, but also B) because we still do get what this is about.  We tail-ended on the Hippie Generation, remember?  We were, along with people a bit older than us, against corporate greed and despoiling of the earth, we were for peace and love and ecological and sustainable living.  younger Boomers won't have as much of this a the older ones, but it's there.

So the Boomers get onto facebook and twitter and msn and yahoo and friendfeed and wherever else, and they generally work it.  Hard and for all it's worth.  Because there is now a chance to decentralise and be less intensive.  There is now a chance to stop wrecking and start working with rather than against the earth.  And we're working SN for all it's worth because this way we can co-ordinate and inform one another, collaborate, and more.  It may be our only chance to save what's left in and on the Earth...

Expect to see that proliferation of small companies again soon, each armed with small scale machining technology, making projects that will blow your mind.  Expect to see online sites to share every bit of knowledge and experience, to tie together people from all over the world into individual projects.  Expect that the most incongruous things will pop up online - and succeed wildly.

Don't expect as many projects that are only out there to make money.  For a starter, what is the standard source of income for online ventures?  Advertising dollars, mainly from those same large corporate coprolytes that are being replaced by the web start-ups.  That money is going to dry up pretty quickly, if the web start-ups gain traction.  Second source?  Advertising dollars from other online organisations and start-ups?  Membership fees?

Expect to see some things more relevant and appropriate than gold take the place of the world economic standard.  carbon credits - now there's an idea - how about we give each person an amount of credit inversely proportional to their footprint?   There would all of a sudden be a surfeit of wealthy citizens in the very places that need an injection of wealth the most - poor third world countries where they can't currently even afford the carbon let alone the carbon footprint - and more developed citizens would be comfortable, but very broke.

We put value on a finite amount of material (gold) and to date our currencies have been restricted by that, and "wealth" has been a case of owning the most of a fixed and often dwindling amount of a commodity.  But "Cred" is inversely proportional to your ownership or use of a commodity, and is thus not tied to a standard, nor limited in supply.  The less damage you do, the more wealthy you are.  You don't even need to have a pocketful of Cred or a bank to broker your Cred trades.  All you need is to do less harm, and you will end up with more value.  Use that value to buy some luxuries, but remember that each luxury lowers your Cred.

There's a powerful argument to be made to change to such a system, and not to mess around now trying to flog a dead horse of economic proportions.  It would immediately disincentivise large corporations, and reverse the trend of destroying the world and weather system.  It would remove a lot of the barriers that artificially exist now between aid and those who need it.  And it would usher in a new paradigm in thought and action.

And that may sound all altruistic and hippie-like, but let me ask you this:  Who fucked the world and the economy to the point we've currently sunk to?  I'm pretty sure it wasn't the hippies and their live and let live, do no harm, love the earth ways.

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PS for those of you who made it through the article to this point: I have an idea for a website that embodies a great many of the ideals above, it's a LARGE project and the rewards are minimal, but the Cred would end up inversely large.  Contact me if you want to save the Earth and have skills at ramrodding, coding, or publicising such a beast.

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