[p2p-research] what to think of the market

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 6 12:56:00 CEST 2009

On Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 2:13 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> Michel Bauwens wrote:
>> As for abundance, that is indeed a strand on this list, with charles
>> collis,
>> nathan cravens, and many on the open manufacturing list ... it's not a
>> perspective that I share. On the contrary, I think we will experience a
>> powerdown and a return to more moderate material wealth, for a host of
>> reasons to do with global warming, resource crises, etc... My perspective
>> is
>> immaterial abundance combined with a steady state economy that grows
>> sustainably. Yes, this sounds utopian, but is there any other choice
>> beyond
>> dislocation of the infinite growth engine?
> Sounds *dystopian* to me. :-)

I don't see anything dystopian about living in harmony with the earth's

> I feel it is a false choice that we either do things the way we are now, or
> are forced to change to some lower level of technology.

Who said so. Sustainable technology must be a higher form of technology.
Steady state simply means that we use what we can regenerate. If we want to
continue with the same level of material technology, that means a lot more
smarter technology than we have now.

> Just what already exist as off-the-shelf technology, like Nanosolar's
> printed PV panels, could give us an amazing infrastructure, because energy
> is at the heart of so many issues about sustainability. And there are so
> many other possible energy alternatives from biofuels to wind power to even,
> someday, fusion energy. Nanosolar type technology by itself alone is likely
> scalable to supply all our power needs.
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanosolar

This is a technical issue. But most experts that I've ready seem to say the
conversion won't work without pain. Do you have any data/studies that
suggest, apart from a general belief in the magical power of technological
advance, that the transition will occur without serious problems?

Look at the work of Jeff Vail for example, or at Global Guerillas, or any
Peak Oil researcher.

I personally think we can have a great life, but it is likely to entail some
level of substituting immaterial for material, relationships for ownership,
collective resources for personal ones (think public transport vs.
individual cars, carsharing etc...)

> The only issue is how soon we do that or something similar. People are
> naturally a little hesitant in seeing how well stuff works in practice
> before they scale up. Plus, there are so many things in the pipeline, even
> when you see a good technology, sometimes you wait to see if something even
> better will work out (given we have centuries of fossil fuels like coal).
> And then, there are the inevitable bottlenecks and SNAFUs and so on that
> need to get dealt with.
> Global climate change, while real, is possible to deal with by engineering
> and migration. It may be expensive, and a lot of people may not want to
> move, but we have a huge industrial base to deal with it, like building
> artificial islands, or building new cities in the Russian heartland, and so
> on. For example, the global defense budget (more than a trillion dollars a
> year) is enough money at $10K per person to build new (small) homes for 100
> million people every year. In ten years, that a billion new homes. Clearly,
> the resources are there to solve this problem. The USA literally could print
> several trillion dollars of fiat currency tomorrow to relocate hundreds of
> millions of people into nice new homes or floating islands over the next
> decade, and the USA economy and US workers would be better off for building
> them (maybe inspired by Bucky Fuller's Dymaxion house design but with newer
> materials? :-).
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dymaxion_house
> And that is even without limiting carbon emissions.

That it can be done with financial resources, I have no doubt, but that it
will be done is another matter. But having financial resources is another
thing as having material resources. All calculations point out that we would
need 4 or 5 planets to have all world citizens enjoy U.S. standards of

> Resources naturally substitute in a market. The market may not distribute
> wealth well, but it certainly can create it and substitute for it (as long
> as external costs are controlled).
>  http://www.juliansimon.com/writings/Ultimate_Resource/

There is nothing natural about it, and so far, it hasn't worked. What makes
you think it will work in the future? or more positive, what are the
conditions that need to occur to see your ideal emerge in practical reality?
You have only to look at the current swings in oil prices to see the
mechanisms are not working. I think less and less people will have blind
faith in the market and ignore the other mechanisms that need to be in
place. Why are governments worldwide purchasing huge land for agricultural
production, if they have a believe that the 'food market' would 'naturally'
solve their problems?

> There are huge problems we face, but the global world product is about
> US$60 trillion a year, which is a lot of money to do a lot of things. The
> real limits are skilled labor, tools, raw materials, and energy, of course,
> but we really, truly, still have vast amounts of all of that, and could
> easily have more if we stopped wasting so much on various things (like
> school, intended to keep people out of the labor force, or tobacco, or lots
> of other junk). The issue is all about the control system, as well as
> containing pollution, not the raw materials. Now, we may not be able to
> resolve those social conflicts, but social conflicts are not really
> technical limits, even as better technology may make some social conflicts
> easier to solve (like if we just sucked carbon out of the air with some new
> technology -- I just read about something like that the other day).
> For me, the only variable is do we have Armageddon before we transform to
> an amazing economy, with Armageddon perhaps driven either by accident or
> intentionally in brinksmanship by the old guard using post-scarcity
> technologies as weapons to prop up their artificial scarcity world view.

I wish I would share  your optimism, both on the 'amazing economy' and on
the easy way to get there.

> Unfortunately, your sentiment contributes to the old guard's
> justifications. :-(

what kind of sentiment exactly, and how does it contribute to the old
guard's ideas?

> That's not to say much of our society in general might not *choose* a
> simpler infrastructure, including one with less obvious technology using
> less obvious energy day-to-day. Ursula K. Le Guin describes such a
> civilazation in "Always Coming Home". But, short of a major war, "powering
> down" will be a choice, not a necessity, IMHO.

Simpler structures are a sign of mastering greater complexity, this is how
progress work, by subsuming greater complexity in a 'simplification' of a
higher order.

Some things will be abundant, others less. I'm suggesting quite a bit of the
things that are abundant today, may not be in the future, and some of the
things that are not abundant now, will be. I suggest there will be more and
better food for more people, more possibilities to enjoy culture, friends
and family, but less big cars, big houses, and military hardware.

Anything that is not sustainable will go,

If you want to keep it, you must find a way to make it sustainable, and
there's no magical wand to achieve that.


> --Paul Fernhout
> More on abundance here:
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/post-scarcity-princeton.html
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