7.1.C. Three scenarios of co-existence
7.1.C. Three scenarios of co-existence
In our earlier descriptive essay, we already described three possible scenarios concerning the entanglement of cognitive capitalism with P2P.
The first scenario is peaceful co-existence. There are a lot of historical precedents for that. In the Middle Ages and other agriculture-based systems, the system of authority ranking (feudalism), co-existed with the religious order, organized in a form of Communal Shareholding (the Church and the Sangha), which was the pillar of a redistributive gift economy. In South-East Asia, which accepts temporary spiritual engagement, people would move from one sector to the other. Similarly, we can envision a continuation of the present system, with knowledge workers making money in the private sector, but regularly escaping, as much as they possibly can, to participate in the edification of the Commons. In this scenario, the one we are currently living and that would be poised to continue substantially the same, the current version of capitalism would also remain mostly unchanged, though perhaps eventually to be regulated by bodies of global governance.
The second scenario is the dark one. Cognitive capitalism succeeds in partly incorporating, partly destroying the P2P ethos, and an era of information feudalism ensues, a netocratic oligarchy based on access to resources and networks, living on rent monopolies from intellectual property licenses, as has been described by Jeremy Rifkin in the "Age of Access", (and echoed by Jordan Pollack , John Perry Barlow and many others) and dis-appropriating any form of property from the consuming classes (the consumtariat, as Alexander Bard has coined them). It will co-exist with a total control society based on biometric identification, and will use highly advanced cognitive manipulation. But this scenario is predicated on the social defeat of the knowledge workers, and we are not there yet. In this scenario, access to information is predicated on the payment of restrictive licenses, which sharply reduce the freedoms and the creativity of the people who have access, while excluding many others from that access. Because of this loss of freedom, the loss also of the freedom to fully possess goods and to with them as we please, this scenario is often called one of 'information feudalism'.
The third scenario is, from the point of view of P2P advocates, the more hopeful one. After a deep structural crisis, the universal wage is implemented, and the P2P sphere can operate with increasing autonomy, creating more and more use value, slowly creating a cohesive system within the system, a 'GPL Society', as Stephan Merten would have it . At such moment, the new civilization is already born. It has to be stressed that P2P is not the same as a totally collectivized system, and that it can co-exist with markets and aspects of capitalism. But it does not need the current monopolistic system, it can reduce ‘market pricing mechanisms’ to their rightful place, as part of the human exchange system, not as its totality. In my opinion, we would have a core of pure P2P processes, surrounded by a gift economy based on shareable goods, a strong social economy run by non-profit companies, and a reformed market sector, where prices reflect more realistically the true cost of production, such as environmental externalities. This form of 'natural capitalism' has been described by Paul Hawken, David Korten, and Hazel Henderson. The main 'inspiring paradigm' would no longer be the competition paradigm based on win-lose scenarios, but the collaborative paradigm, where reformed corporations and other to-be-invented institutional and non-institutional forms, would find their purpose in creating added value to the commons, and would attract productive means to the degree they are perceived of doing so.