On Socialism

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

As the recovery after the Financial Crisis fails to improve the conditions of the working and middle classes, the ideological-political hegemony of “supply-sided economics” and “market politics” have started to unravel. In Central Europe, this has led to a growth of right-wing conservative parties, while in southern Europe – in Greece, Italy and Spain – large left-wing movements have grown. Now this unravelling has started to reach the Anglo-American countries, in the forms of political leaders such as Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn who are challenging the establishment hegemony within their own parties.

Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist”, has gained widespread support amongst progressive voters, and is threatening Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign, while Corbyn leads the race to become the next leader of the British Labour Party.

While it is very uncertain if these two old males will eventually end up as representatives of their reputable parties, it stands clear that both enjoy a significant support amongst younger voters, and that this represents a trend where the political hegemony of an entrenched establishment is fracturing.

Even if the party establishments on both sides of the Atlantic are managing to stop this rebellion, it stands clear that the solutions of the 1980’s and 1990’s are ill-adapted to deal with the situation of today, and that it has opened up for alternative interpretations. Therefore, if the establishment continues to defend a system that cannot provide the young generations with what they learnt they should expect, it is not impossible that we within five to ten years will start to see neo-socialist governments gain power in major western countries.

The questions are: Will this be a beginning of a socialist or populist political revival in the West, will neo-socialist governments gain power and will they achieve their aims?

TL;DR notes

  • During the 1970’s and 1980’s, a political shift occurred from demand-driven Keynesian economics to “Neo-liberal” supply-sided economics, creating a political-ideological-economical orthodoxy which has dominated in the western and developing worlds since then.
  • The supply-sided economics have managed to create financial stability and growth until 2008, after which their reliance on credit has become more emphasized and apparent.
  • Despite a large influx of credit into the system and a recovery, structural and long-term unemployment have stabilised on a higher percentage level, and wealth has become more concentrated amongst the elite of societies.
  • Democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are running on a platform espousing re-regulation of the financial sector, which they blame for the development for the last decades.
  • The reality is of course both simpler and somewhat more complex, and even if left-wing governments are elected into power, they will not be able to re-create the conditions of the Keynesianism of the 1960’s.
  • An improvement of the strategy would be a wider analysis, which would lead to policy prescriptions of yet deeper reforms pointing towards overhaul of the tax systems and the introduction of basic income schemes.

What is Neo-Liberalism?

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In general, people espousing Neo-Liberalism generally are disliking the term, since they either view themselves as ideologically committed classical liberals, or view themselves as politically neutral economists who just are advocating what they believe is the optimal solution for the economy. Detractors on the other hand, are viewing Neo-Liberalism as the cause for the reduction of western welfare states, unemployment, environmental devastation and much more. Most likely, both people seeing Neo-Liberalism as a positive development for western and developing societies, and people who dislike it or even hate it with vitriol would dislike this entry.

Originally, the Neo-liberal analysis originated from the University of Chicago, where Milton Friedman and other economists analysed the development of Keynesian economics which was the dominant paradigm during High Industrialization (1946-1973). The Keynesian model advocated that the state should take an active part in the economic development of societies by “smoothing out” the business cycle, by restricting the markets during good times and stimulating them during bad times.

During the early 1970’s, the western world entered a period of recession and “stagflation” (periods characterised by both high inflation and high unemployment). The Keynesian imperative had been to use the money supply as a way of allowing both high (nominal) wages and stimulating high employment, with the price of increasing the money supply thus increasing the inflation. It was however noted that the effects of these stimulus packages became smaller and smaller the more they were utilised, which the Neo-Liberals (this was before it became a slur word) meant showed that the expectations of the public was that higher inflation would neutralise the effects of wage increases, which meant that they responded by demands on more wage increases.

While the Keynesians saw unemployment as the big threat towards social stability, Neo-liberals tended to see inflation as the main problem during the 1970’s, since it undermined the savings of the middle class and thus their willingness to consume, thus in the end creating high unemployment.

The neo-liberals advocated more restrictive policies, which they interpreted as higher interest rates (by central banks reducing the money supply by swapping currency for bonds), thus reducing inflation, and more restrictive spending policies on the part of government, making cuts in social safety nets. Since most neo-liberals also were believers in classical liberalism in the sense of a smaller state, they also advocated lowered taxes (though that is understood as an expansive policy approach by Keynesians). The argument was that by lowering taxes for the wealthy and for the middle class, there would be increased room for private sector investments, and thus a higher demand for labour – reducing unemployment.

Initially, neo-liberal policies implemented in Chile, the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries saw an increase in unemployment figures (due to higher interest rates). Growth did however rebound during the 1980’s, partially due to cheaper raw materials and partially due to capital deregulation and the new innovations within the Computer Industry, which started to transform the entire economy. In the third world, a giant debt crisis began during the same time, leading to social instability in many countries, due to higher interest rates.

Due to the capital de-regulations, the new technologies and the lower taxes for the highest earners, income inequality started to increase, and more of the new growth ended up in the top percentiles of society.

The cat might have been dark blue, but it did catch mice, and when left-leaning governments retook power in many western countries during the 1990’s, they had done so by transforming their programmes to not worry the middle classes, which increasingly had come to see these policies as in alignment with their interests. At large, however, the policies prescribed had abandoned the idea of restrictive monetary policies for the idea of cheap credit during the Happy 90’s. This was not only a vice of the rebounding middle class, but also of governments such as the US – which already during the 1980’s had increased government expenditures by taking loans.

In 2007-2008, the credit bubble finally burst, leading to a world-wide Recession. Governments across the world increased their spending by initiating stimulus packages in a Neo-Keynesian style in order to save large banks and capital markets, on which they believed that the economy had grown dependent. This intervention succeeded, but the gains of the stimulus packages as well as the recovery at large came to benefit largely the super-rich, while unemployment (as during the 70’s and 80’s) had frozen on a seemingly permanently higher level.

Moreover, the stimulus packages had been a large wealth transfer from the public to the financial sector, and had created or deepened deficits in the state budgets, creating a debt crisis in many European countries. Thus, austerity measures were either implemented by governments or de-facto forced upon them, in a manner reminiscent of how many developing countries had been treated during the 1980’s and 1990’s by creditors.

Hardly surprising, it is difficult for policy-makers, governments and wider establishments to defend the idea that banks and financial institutions which have tanked the economy through irresponsibility should receive an influx of money from the tax-payers, and that said tax-payers should then pay for their previous payment by tax increases, lowered benefits, wide cuts broad and deep into the economy and indirect effects such as higher prevalence of homelessness, poverty and unemployment. This creates an atmosphere where populist politics and politics challenging the established ideological hegemony can thrive.

We’ll leave the issue whether or not Neo-Liberalism has “caused” this crisis, or whether a failure to adhere to Neo-Liberalism was the cause of it. Cases have been made for both, and ultimately what matters is that things don’t follow the expectations any more.

What Neo-Socialists want

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During the 19th century, there were several socialist movements. Democratic Socialists, Marxists, Anarchist Socialists, Syndicalists and Utopian Socialists. As the 20th century dawned, with world wars and unparallelled technological advances, the social democratic governments of the western world generally embraced progressive government interventionism coupled with regulated capitalism – in short, Keynesianism, in some cases and during some periods more or less happily married with more “pure” socialist concepts.

While some commentators probably believe that political leaders like Sanders and Corbyn wants to outlaw private property and install totalitarian dictatorships, both politicians have stressed more than enough that they are democratic socialists, with Corbyn probably being somewhat of the left of Sanders – who have said that he strives towards a Scandinavian-style welfare state.Grease-grease-the-movie-512431_1920_1291

If we look beyond the policies intended to mobilise supporters, we would see a clear pattern emerge. Capital must be regulated and made to pay its share to society. With these regulations, both as a doorstop for predatory financial racketeering and as a way to gain funds, reforms could be made to benefit the working class and increase consumption amongst ordinary people, thus driving the economy to regain its confidence.

To a large extent, this can be seen as a conservative or even reactionary approach, in that these policies aim to restore the pre-1973 economic equilibrium to as much an extent as possible. What Sanders and Corbyn are aiming for is not some kind of communistic utopia, but a world which a lot of people remember that they have experienced during their formative years, the years when things looked bright.

In short, anger and nostalgia is what drives the support for candidates like these. And there is nothing wrong with these feelings.

What Neo-Socialists don’t get

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Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders are both very honest leaders who strive towards a society they believe will increase fairness in society, reduce inequality and be better for the majority of the people. Their policies are hinging on an analysis where the development which they see as counter-productive can be blamed on the implementation of a worldview – Neo-Liberalism – and associated policies such as financial deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations. If we roll back these reforms, they reason, we will reclaim some of the lost gains from the period of 1946-1973.

Alas, as a certain Russian has stated: “The struggle between Capital and Labour is over, and Labour lost.”

Due to new technologies, production can either be off-shored to the cheapest supplier, or – increasingly – automated fully, leading to a reduction of labour demand in the economy at large. This process has probably been exacerbated by the policies implemented from the 1980’s and onward until today, but will inevitably transform the economy into one where the demand for human labour has been reduced to a fraction of today – meaning that more people will either compete for less jobs that cover less hours than before, and either live on social security benefits (which rely on funds gained from taxes from those who are working) or grow potatoes in their backyards.

Progressives, Social Liberals and Socialists are to a large extent mentally locked to a paradigm that stipulates that taxes should primarily be levied as income taxes. If people are not hired to the same extent any more, due to reduced demand for labour, every subsequent crisis in the capitalist system will inevitably lead to higher long-term and structural unemployment – which would undermine the state’s ability both to gather income and to fund social expenditures.

Under these conditions, it is impossible to recreate the society which existed during the early 1970’s.

Alternate transitionary solutions

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The Earth Organisation for Sustainability is believing that this current form of civilization that we are having on Earth is destroying our eco-systems, not by accident but as a logical conclusion of how it is constructed. We are researching and striving to field test post-monetary models on how to arrange the production factors in order to achieve a sustainable future.

Having said that, we believe in a gradual approach towards a fully sustainable society. This means that we must discuss how money should be designed and used during the transition period, and identify policies that could help in the transition.

Ultimately, the process towards greater automatization should be welcomed as a way of reducing human labour and increasing human quality of life. During the current society, it serves to create a higher degree of uncertainty and a more predatory competition for jobs.

Thus, the idea of a welfare state primarily aimed towards making people find jobs under a situation of full employment is probably moot for our generation, and will only become increasingly unfeasible as automation marches on. Therefore, instead various income floor schemes have to be investigated and discussed.

The tax systems will also need to be reformed, as the shift from Labour to other production factors mean that even if the GDP is growing, the actual tax revenues may either decrese or not increase enough in comparison to the increased expenditures due to more retirements. Therefore, a shift from Labour to Land, Capital or Technology must take place under ordered forms.

If Neo-Socialists can discuss these issues, they will build a firmament on which they can realize many of their aims regarding human well-being and creating a new political narrative. Otherwise, the pendulum will probably swing towards Market Libertarianism, or in the worst case, Fascism.

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Refugees: Present and future

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By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

Out of soon 8 billion people, around 50 million are refugees. That means that for roughly every 150th person on Earth, there is one refugee. Even though the numbers of wars have decreased generally since the 1950’s, there are more refugees than ever on Earth, and a lot of the refugee situations have been permanented – that means, refugee camps have turned from forests of tent into jungles of concrete, administered by the UNHCR and other organs, and the inhabitants have for several generations been trapped in a “ghost existence”, barred from their right to nationality, to travelling and in many cases to find a meaningful existence even within the confinements of the refugee camp. Many refugee camps are characterised by corruption, crime and violence.

Worse, many millions of refugees are living entirely outside of the system, undocumented in host societies which most often are unwilling and incapable of giving them basic human rights (remember, most refugees are in what until recently was termed “the Third World” (now being called “the Developing world” or rather “the Majority world”). Internally displaced people cannot flee the zones of conflict and are exposed to the horrors of war.

Worse even, is that there is a high risk that the problem of permanented refugees will grow during the 21st century, this time due not primarily to war, but to destruction of eco-systems and climate change. Therefore, it is essential that any form of transition which we – no matter what – must undertake, should transcend the established forms of thinking and problem-solution and approach the refugee crisis holistically on a global level.

First, the TL;DR summary

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  • The main cause of permanented refugee crises are failed or fragile states, as well as the idea that refugees should primarily return to their place of origin.
  • The global nation-state system is inadequate in managing refugee problems, due to the very logic of nation-states.
  • Climate change can easily increase the number of refugees world-wide five times, and will change the regional conditions on the planet, increasing crops fertility in the north and south while reducing it in the traditionally most productive region on the Earth, the temperate zones.
  • Refugees need to be integrated into the zones they settle as soon as possible.
  • The logical thing would be to create systems that allow people to redistribute their numbers to “regions of development”, while protecting the rights of settled communities to their own values and identity within the constraints of basic human rights and individual freedoms.

Refugee crises historically and contemporarily

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Refugees have always existed. Even before the industrial age, massive wars were fought and hundreds of thousands were displaced, as in China during the fall of the Tang and Song dynasties, or in Europe during the Hundred Years War, the Thirty Years War or many of the other political and religious conflicts throughout the continent. Just one thousand years ago, Asia Minor was culturally Greek and Armenian, and the Turks had just entered Iran from Central Asia and converted to Islam. Entire populations in Europe such as the Avars, the Celts or the Khazars were either expelled or genocided from large swathes of territory, or forcefully assimilated into new ethnic constellations. There were also refugee populations that moved into and between European countries – for example the Walloons who fled France for Sweden in the 17th century, and the Roma community throughout Europe, which has migrated from today’s India during frog-leaps for little over a millennium.

After the Second World war, millions of Germans and Poles were moved west, and around a million Finns were moved from Karelia into Finland proper. One could expect that Europe would be cluttered with refugee camps up until this day – yet no one today talks about Silesian refugees in Germany or Karelian refugees in Finland as a matter-of-day contemporary political fact.

Some might like to attribute this to some claimed innate European ability to organise societies. However, if we look at Europe in 1945-1950, we would see a continent largely impoverished and in ruins, receiving massive aid from the United States in the form of the Marshall Plan. The influx of credit and machinery opened up the opportunity to rapidly rebuild and develop the Western European economies following the war. Even though the Marshall Plan only provided a small fragment of capital transmissions, it proved enough to restore confidence in the European recovery. As the economy recovered from a very low level, the refugees were needed as labour in the reconstruction of European towns and European infrastructure.

If we instead postulate that the Marshall Plan had not been initiated, the recovery would have been much slower which could have permanented or semi-permanented the refugee crisis. If the refugees instead of staying in Europe had moved to the Americas, it would also have effected Europe badly since it would have meant a labour shortage during a time when the European machine park and infrastructure necessary to build machines was damaged. Also, the European refugees in North America would have had to integrate to a labour market which – despite being feverish hot – could hardly take in millions of people at one go, thus affecting both the time it would take for the refugees to be integrated and the wage increases for all workers. However, developing the European economy was good for the US and Canadian export industries and led to an americanization of Europe which led to a massive European consumption of US culture.

The situation today is not comparable to the world of the 1940’s. Today in most of Europe, North America and East Asia, labour is on its way out as a production factor, and the economy is becoming both simpler and more complex. Soon, the four production factors will become three, and then at the end of this century (if we do not destroy the biosphere) two. This means that even if developed economies grow, the demand for labour is not growing indefinetly but rather fluctuating, for a long-trend in a slightly downward motion (within twenty years, half of the jobs in developed economies will vanish, while the replacement rate has not increased in the same amount).

The world today is characterised by uneven development as well. We have previously mentioned on this blog that all levels of human societies are existing simultaneously in our world today. Ten million human beings today are for example stone age hunter-gatherers. Billions are living in feudal agricultural societies. Many societies are collapsed or rapidly growing industrial-age economies. And then the most developed societies are in a transition phase towards post-labour economies. This means that the skills learnt by adult peasants from agricultural feudalized societies are difficult to adapt to the needs of an industrial economy – and the more so to emerging post-labour economies (which themselves have not yet solved or even been willing to solve the contradiction of social safety nets adapted for industrial mass-labour societies under the emergent paradigm). While just a small trickle of the world’s total number of refugees have arrived in developed economies, we can already today see a trend of alienation, unemployment, anger and social exclusion.

Yet, what we can learn from the displacement after the Second World War was that it was solved in a comparatively very smooth manner by an influx of capital and technology, as well as a massive demand for labour. While it is unlikely that the demand of labour would emerge in today’s economies – developed and developing apart from those totally wrecked by war – it stands clear that investments and resource transfers are necessary, and that interventions – rather than to be primarily directed at the refugees themselves – should be divested into the economies as a whole to create the space to include those newly arrived.

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Nowadays, unlike during the 1940’s, refugee crises tend to freeze in time, the first being the Palestinian exodus of 1948-49. There are still people today living in refugee camps who are grandchildren or great-grandchildren of those original Palestinians who were displaced in 1948. The refugee camps in their turn have been transformed into crammed towns, characterised by poverty, statelessness and few opportunities to live. Yet, these refugees are living comparably good lives in comparison to the populations displaced from Afghanistan, the wars in Central Africa and recently Syria.

When such situations emerge and the fabric of society collapses, resulting in the collapse of the state itself when the base of the social order is removed, results in the emergence of black holes in the globalized nation-state system established during and after de-colonization. The world today consist of roughly 200 “nation-states“, but most of these nation-states are not founded on nationality or any other form of sense of common identity. Rather, most of these states are the remnants of colonial territories in old maritime European empires, consisting of either pseudo-racially based hierarchical systems imposed by the imperialists, or of internally suspicious or even hostile tribal nations that often exist on all sides of the border in various sub-state institutions. Thus, many of the world’s states are relying on the passive consent of the population rather than on active support, and when there is a weak sense of nationality, there is a risk that violence can erupt when resources turn scarce or when elites are struggling for state control.

Many states in the world can thus aptly be described as time bombs set to detonate. And some have already detonated.

I am of course referring to Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Right now, the Iraqi state is collapsing as well.

Other states in the developing world have collapsed partially during their years of independence, but are still having a central government trudging on. Some have even recovered somewhat. There I am primarily thinking of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Tajikistan, Colombia, Haiti and Ethiopia. Most of these states are however fragile, and fluctuation on the raw materials market or in the grain and rice prices can create shocks that destroy many years of development in one go. These states can very well collapse if they become unstable again.

There is also a third category of states, namely time bombs which have not yet burst. Countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Tanzania and Nigeria. Most of these states are very large, with humonguous populations, and just if one of them would collapse or become more unstable, the crisis could spread in the near regions and also worsen the situation in poorer, less developed neighbouring states, especially as fourth-generation cross-state insurgency groups like the IS are developing and taking hold.

Climate Change and state fragility

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The process of climate change points towards the direction of a relatively warmer climate, as well as an increase in carbon dioxide. This points towards a wetter and warmer climate in some regions, and drier and hotter climate in other regions. Traditionally, the population of the Earth has generally been concentrated in a belt from South-East and East Asia to Western Europe, the so-called temperate zones of Eurasia. Most of the great civilizations you’ve read about in history have been located there.

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The thing is, this region will become comparably less habitable for human  beings if climate change is accelerating, affecting glaciers in the Himalayas, droughts, changing monsoon patterns and affecting the sea level and habitability alongst the coastlines. Thus, resources would either need to be transported to these regions, or the population would have to adapt by either consuming less or shrinking (through emigration, or in the worst case-scenario, a population implosion due to epidemics, resource wars and genocides). Due to the relative poverty of many of the economies in the region, we can expect that the number of climate refugees grow to exceed the number of war refugees currently in the world, by several factors.

6m_Sea_Level_RiseAs you can see on this map, the regions most vulnerable to changed sea levels are also those regions that tend to be populated, especially Bangladesh, the Nile Valley Delta, the Niger Delta, the Yangtze Delta and other great cradles of civilization. This would not displace tens of millions of people, but hundreds of millions of people. Of course, there is the possibility to build great dams and walls to adapt to the changes – and that would most likely be done around large cities in the developed world (and possibly China). But impoverished countries like Bangladesh and poor countries like Nigeria have little resources to invest in such a transformation, and thus would most likely suffer collapse and near-total displacement into nearby regions, which themselves will be coping with their own problems.

This domino effect could risk an increase in armed conflicts and ethnic cleansings, leading to a situation where Syria-like civil wars burst up in fragile states all over the world, leading to anarchy and chaos.

How to address the refugee issues

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Everyone knows that our system for managing refugee crises today doesn’t work. It creates a culture of helplessness, dependency and vulnerability where it works. Where it doesn’t work, it subjects millions of people to lives short, nasty and brutish. Even though the entrepreneur Jason Buzi’s recent proposal to create a “country” for all refugees is – for all accounts – unrealistic and utopian (there needs to be significant aid to that country, it needs infrastructure and an educated population to manage that infrastructure), it still can be seen as a step in the right direction in terms of how we discuss these problems. As for the EOS perspective, it needs to be discussed amongst the EOS members, members of our affiliate organisations and of course within the Board – but these are my own personal notes in this regard.

  • Refugee camps and refugee shelters shall be standardised on a level that allows electricity, fresh-water and education, and shall primarily be run in a democratic manner by those who inhabit them, though with as much support as necessary from the organisation responsible for the sites.
  • Education, gymnastics and mental counseling should be available and of a high quality. There should also be a minimum of delineation between the camp/shelter and the surrounding areas, allowing the refugees considerable freedom under controlled forms.
  • Large refugee camps shall be counted as international subjects, thus giving stateless refugees a passport that can allow them to travel and set up residency in other places, or study in other places and return.
  • There must be a concerted effort to intervene in conflict zones and to predict where conflict zones can emerge. In terms of collapsed states, this means that the primary concern should be to end the conflict as soon as possible, and force through a settlement. If it is judged that there needs to be an external policing force there, they shall always be mandated by an organisation with global responsibilities and influence from actors representing as many human beings as possible. Such a global organisation can also delegate the mission to either one or several regional peace-keeping forces.
  • A larger share of all defence budgets should move towards international crises to reduce them, since they present the largest political threat against regional and global stability today.
  • All forces assigned with keeping or establishing peace should be subject to the IPCC or equivalent organisation.
  • Instead of trying to build or support dysfunctional nation-states, the forms of government established should be fitted towards 1) the will of the local population, 2) the complex needs of the region, 3) the need to protect human rights, through distributing power in a de-centralised manner.
  • When a state or territory has collapsed, there must be efforts to rebuild it and engage displaced people in the reconstruction efforts.
  • If there is a need to relocate a large population a long way, it must be met as a logistical issue and treated holistically, which means that it must be taken into consideration  how the relocation will affect both the region where people are leaving and the region where they are entering, in relation to how large groups we are talking about and the ecological, social and economic factors in both regions.
  • There must be created legal and safe ways of people to move, acclimatise and settle.
  • When looking at refugee crises and refugees to relocate, there must be efforts to ensure that vulnerable groups such as children and females (in often very patriarchal social contexts) are given extra focus.

Regarding the for every day increasing risk that the entire population distribution of this planet will shift from the temperate to the sub-arctic regions, that would need to be addressed by establishing “regions of settlement” in the sub-arctic and sub-antarctic areas – especially then areas with low population density given the damaging effects that mega-cities have on the environment. Thus, Canada, parts of Oceania, southern South America and eastern Siberia would probably need to be transformed into regions of settlement, to absorb at least a part of the problem.

Ultimately, what has caused the refugee crisis that millions of people currently are suffering is an inadequate nation-state system imposed by a “one-size-fits-all” view on human organisation. If we want to avoid collapsing states or lawless black-hole territories, we would need to focus on more inclusive, communitarian and localised solutions for distributing control and guaranteeing civil rights.

The Internet of Things: A Proto-technate

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via inoviagroup.se

By Enrique Lescure

Introduction

It becomes increasingly clear that the future we are shaping for tomorrow will be considerably different from today, and that the 21st century can potentially become even more dramatic than the 19th century in terms of techno-social development. While the future is indeed shifting, we can see two competing trends which will shape the future. The first one is the increasing exponential pace of ecological devastation, which threatens to destroy the current biosphere and usher in a new dark age for humanity. The second trend is exponential technological development, in terms of computational capacity, information technology, miniaturization, bio-tech, renewal energy and space research development.

These trends will undoubtly transform not only our civilization, but our planet as well. Therefore, it has never been as important as now that we establish a common ground on which we can shape the future existence of the human species and its interrelationship with the planet. To a large extent, social and technological development is not intentional, but a result of emergent processes – meaning that when a new technology is introduced, it will change the way in which human beings interact with the environment and thus eventually transform society and even – in the far perspective – human culture.

While it is difficult to predict the future, it is far from impossible to see towards where technological development could lead us if taken to its logical conclusion. While some are believing that the history of the human civilization is deterministic and will naturally lead to its end-state – the post-1991 realignment in most cases – that is only appearing to be so. In fact, while emergence strives to flow like mighty currents, we fundamentally do have the power to steer it towards the direction where we can see the optimal goals from the perspective that our civilization has chosen to embrace.

We argue that one of the potential logical conclusions of the implementation and development of the Internet of Things is the establishment of an intelligently managed and integrated infrastructure. Such an infrastructure can be utilized in order to create a near-total overview over the usage of resource flows, energy, trade, production and distribution. Thus, from the emergence of the Internet of Things, a technate can be formed.

TL;DR Summary

  • Integrated computer technology and miniaturization means that applications can interconnect to optimize communication and information to optimize functionality within various fields.
  • This process leads to the formation of intelligent cities, which in their turn will interconnect with one another and form larger and larger networks.
  • Eventually, this could mean the establishment of a global integrated network which allows for a total overview over energy-, infrastructure- and resource management on our planet.
  • This would present a great opportunity to exponentially increase our ability to manage resources sustainably while providing a good quality of life to all human beings, but also increases the risk for totalitarian centralized control.
  • Therefore, it is paramount that we establish a dialogue on whether this transition is desirable, in what way it should be implemented and how we could ensure popular influence over the transition process.
  • Fundamentally, the struggle is about who and how technology should be controlled during the 21st century.

Technological determinism and evolution

via kryptonradio.com

via kryptonradio.com

It is easy to imagine that the world we are living in today is the natural consequence of capitalism, industrialism, the scientific revolution and parliamentary democracy. To some extent, it is also true. For example, the rationalization process that the growth-oriented economy initiates when it transforms eco-systems into mono-cultures is the direction towards which the logical conclusion of Smithian Economics point. However, some characteristics of our current economy are to a large extent dependent on co-incidences.

One example is the ascendancy of the private automobile. Motoring has for three generations been such a natural part of western civilization that most people generally are taking it for granted. In the United States, a large part of the surface territory consists of highways, parking lots and the suburban regions made possible by the culture of motoring. The reliance on combustion engine cars have greatly affected climate change during the 20th and early 21st centuries.

However, neither the culture of motoring or the reliance on fossil-based fuels was a historical inevitability. During the early 20th century, there were cars that were powered from various differing sources, and it was not at all certain that the combustion technology would win the techno-evolutionary competition and become the dominant energy model for transport during that era. It was due to a series of historical accidents and investment patterns that this model won out.

Another example of a historical co-incidence was how the wild horse was hunted to extinction in North America during the older Stone Age, but how a small group survived on the Eurasian landmass and was domesticated. If the horse had gone extinct in Eurasia, or survived in the Americas, history as we would have known it would have been entirely different.

Thus, we need to look at technological development not as deterministic, but as evolutionary. Technology is developed on the basis of what has been tried before and proven to work, and thus constantly improves with baby steps. When new technological areas are discovered, the same process generally applies to them (unless these new technologies are outcompeted by established rivals that achieve the same aim). This also means that we can consciously choose what technological development we want to emphasise, and to a limited extent direct what effects on society this progress will have by consciously adapting our infrastructure to the future we are setting the course for.

On the Internet of Things

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The Internet of Things can be defined in many ways – one of the simplest if to say that it is an observed trend. More and more, the minaturization of applications have allowed for a digitalization of previously non-digital technology. This means that the operational intelligence of everyday household items and infrastructure will increase, and that these items will be able to be a part of a large communications network.Picture-6

If this technology becomes widely available in the market, we can imagine that it would not be unusual to see integrated homes, which reminisces of the kind of computerized homes seen in old sci-fi shows from the 1960’s, where people are operating their home environment through their voice or through small chips placed inside their own bodies.

Let us think further. These systems can make homes inter-communicate, allowing for example a more optimal energy distribution between houses within the same neighbourhood, or why not integrated fire warning systems, that would alert the nearby homes of a fire in an application? Or what about integrated waste management systems and automated aquaponics production systems within every habitat, as envisioned by Alexander Bascom?

Eventually, there will be smart cities where all of the infrastructure consist of fully integrated systems, that can monitor energy and resource usage, set up alternative plans for resource usage or assist in the making of such plans, and also to some extent self-manage.

This interconnectedness will grow out from the cities, connecting through power grids, roads and railways, and eventually entire states and continents will be interconnected. This will inevitably – if taken to its logical conclusion – make the existing economical, social and political power arrangements outdated and lead to a complete transformation of not only the human civilization, but of the very concept of civilization itself.

Eventually, what will emerge will be a planet united through a network which allows for the transparent overview and the centralized, de-centralized or integrated management of energy and resources. In short, humanity will be within the reach of establishing if not The Singularity, so at least a Singleton.

The risks of neo-totalitarianism

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While there are many causes to celebrate aspects of the ascent of the Internet of Things, there are also profound risks that need to be analyzed and put into context. The foremost of these risks is the issue of power. Already today, we are seeing tendencies towards a greater and greater concentration of wealth and power in supranational financial institutions and in multi-national corporate entities.

If such structures are given control over the Internet of Things, we would most likely see a very predatory process, the reduction of popular sovereignty and the increase of surveillance and centralization. What could become a system that can help save the biosphere and empower humanity, can under the wrong conditions instead become a virtually un-overthrowable neo-totalitarian Brave New World scenario.

Therefore, the role of the Earth Organisation of Sustainability – and similar organisations aiming for a socially, economically and ecologically sustainable world – should be to increase the availability of this knowledge, but also of the applications and the ability to construct the applications themselves, to the general public and to local communities, within the context of a consciously evolving proto-technate.

What is a proto-technate?

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A proto-technate (a term defined by dr. Andrew Wallace), is a consciously evolving infrastructure management system, which includes and empowers all participants through transparency, de-centralization and constant availability for education. The system is evolving by learning from its previous mistakes, and the goal is increased sustainability, as explained in The Three Criteria.

This means that the control of the Internet of Things within the context of a proto-technate would be given not to corporations, governments or supranational institutions, but to local, voluntary groups that would utilize these technologies to manage their own local environment and the sustainability of their neighbourhoods. This would also allow for a more diverse array of solutions adapted to the local and regional needs of communities and individuals.

In the city of Umea, we in the new EOS Board are aiming to establish an intellectual and practical centre for the development and utilization of technologies to be adapted for the transition towards a sustainable society. The first step would be the establishment of an eco-lab in Umea, through which many local groups – as well as the public – can become connected and learn how to make their imprint in the process of developing and implementing techniques.

Ultimately, if we have a vision of how the world should look like in 100 years, we must work locally and together with individuals and communities to make this a reality. Our main goal in this respect should be to help ensure that the control of the knowledge and the new technologies is in the hands of the people and that it is used in a context of forming a sustainable civilization.