[p2p-research] The Higher Educational Bubble Continues to Grow
Paul D. Fernhout
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Fri Nov 6 17:01:59 CET 2009
Ryan Lanham wrote:
> On Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 8:14 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
> pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
>> Nobody (especially an unschooling parent) would have the time it would take
>> to visit all these links anytime soon.
> Division of labor is an odd concept under P2P economics. The fundamentalist
> P2Pers tend to focus on individual autonomy...self does most or all. One of
> the best justifications for division of labor is profit. We specialize to
> achieve efficiency. But under P2P, efficiency is less important than the
> commons. So, we go back to something like autonomous frontier
> If pleasurists or ludists drive the discussion, I suppose specialization
> could arise from fascination. But it is hard to find anyone who is truly
> fascinated and interested in something enough to do it continually. If
> robots did all, then I suppose it doesn't matter. But in the reality until
> that time, how does division of labor unfold or collapse without markets?
> And if markets are used, how does P2P stay wholesome?
All good questions.
Efficiency is less important than the commons in the sense that the p2p
network is a parallel processing resource. And a voluntary one. So, the
dynamics are different than a command hierarchy with some central resources
that get doled out for some purpose. People have used the phrase "herding
cats" which is an aspect of it, but even that is from a central management
perspective that misses the scale of it all. There was recently a
discussion/argument about something someone who maintains the Linux Kernel
about how things looked from their perspective, where they were willing to
waste the time of thousand of developers to save themselves time (and
arguments about how that time might be better spent). So, that's an example
of those kind of discussions in the free software arena. I can't find it
just now again though.
I think cooperation can unfold stigmergically, like with Wikipedia, everyone
adding a little bit. But it can also unfold as a "learning community" where
everyone is learning from each other. But all these things interact -- we
build a resource stigmergically through this mailing list that might be
useful to others for years to come, and in the process learn things and
interact with each other as a community (or communities).
The market is one way to "cooperate" in a stigmergic way. But not the only
way. I'm convinced we probably could coordinate our entire society through
email and mailing lists at this point, if we really wanted to. :-)
But in general, from a cybernetic view, we can break apart the layers of
physical reality and the control systems we build on top of it:
Here is a sample meta-theoretical framework PU economists no doubt could
vastly improve on if they turned their minds to it. Consider three levels of
nested perspectives on the same economic reality -- physical items, decision
makers, and emergent properties of decision maker interactions. (Three
levels of being or consciousness is a common theme in philosophical
writings, usually rock, plant, and animal, or plant, animal, and human.)
At a first level of perspective, the world we live in at any point in
time can be considered to have physical content like land or tools or fusion
reactors like the sun, energy flows like photons from the sun or electrons
from lightning or in circuits, informational patterns like web page content
or distributed language knowledge, and active regulating processes
(including triggers, amplifiers, and feedback loops) built on the previous
three types of things (physicality, energy flow, and informational patterns)
embodied in living creatures, bi-metallic strip thermostats, or computer
programs running on computer hardware.
One can think of a second perspective on the first comprehensive one by
picking out only the decision makers like bi-metallic strips in thermostats,
computer programs running on computers, and personalities embodied in people
and maybe someday robots or supercomputers, and looking at their
characteristics as individual decision makers.
One can then think of a third level of perspective on the second where
decision makers may invent theories about how to control each other using
various approaches like internet communication standards, ration unit tokens
like fiat dollars, physical kanban tokens, narratives in emails, and so on.
What the most useful theories are for controlling groups of decision makers
is an interesting question, but I will not explore it in depth. But I will
pointing out that complex system dynamics at this third level of perspective
can emerge whether control involves fiat dollars, "kanban" tokens,
centralized or distributed optimization based on perceived or predicted
demand patterns, human-to-human discussions, something else entirely, or a
diverse collection of all these things. And I will also point out that one
should never confuse the reality of the physical system being controlled for
the control signals (money, spoken words, kanban cards, internet packet
contents, etc.) being passed around in the control system.
As for people being fascinated or otherwise motivated, isn't Debian
GNU/Linux enough of an example for you? :-)
"Study Reports On Debian Governance, Social Organization "
They coordinate that entire venture mostly through email, and some IRC chat
What if that free software ran the machinery of an automated economy?
Anyway, markets are just one more coordination mechanism. It is a pretty
dysfunctional one if externalities are not accounted for, or systemic risks
ignored, or other factors, but it is what we have and it can be used (up to
a point) to "meet society's unmet needs" (as William C. Norris used to say).
In fact, the whole reason companies exist (including universities) as
creatures of the government is "to meet society's unmet needs".
"William Norris saw this coming: In business, greed isn't always good"
"Nevertheless, Norris proved his company could do well and do good at the
same time as the Minneapolis-based firm grew into a $5 billion worldwide
computer giant with more than 60,000 employees in the early 1980's. Norris's
strategy of pursuing "unmet societal needs" launched dozens of ventures that
sought to use computer technology to rehabilitate decaying inner cities and
revitalize depressed rural areas, improve education and healthcare, reform
the penal system, produce cleaner, less expensive energy, promote job
creation through innovation, and help its employees improve their lives."
I think that works up to a point. You might enjoy reading more about his life.
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