Review of “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens

In an unprecedented way Michel Bauwens hijacks the commons. While the commons practiced deliberative and participative democracy in the high middle ages, that weakened from the 16th century, we do not find any defense of alternatives for our faltering representative democracy in “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens. No mentioning of the most recent experiments in deliberative democracy defended by David Van Reybroeck, applied in Ireland and Iceland. The “citizens’ assemblies” as proposed by Marcin Gerwin and adhered by Extinction Rebellion or “Red de Democratie” of Manu Claeys for the moderates do not figure in his picture of the future. P2P dominates his discourse.

One thing that strikes you when you start reading, is vagueness. Expressions as: “philosophers like Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas”, “approach is related to the theorization of ‘revolutionary reforms’ by Andre Gorz”, “The State (capitalized) in the Hegelian notion is the guarantor of the common good”… He also refers to some authors that excel in vagueness themselves: David Boillier, De Angelis, Hardt and Negri and Hegel of course, the philosopher of absolute idealism.

The wide spectrum of authors referenced surprises. Bauwens worked as a cybrarian, this might explain it, but there are to many extremes. Maybe the author wants to hook on as many readers as possible, a kind of eclectic universalism. Mentioning does not necessarily mean he backs the many points of view he presents, though it is suggested and for all he is not clear about it. Karl Marx for the leftist (who didn’t read him), the Dominicans Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas for the Christian community, David Graeber for the anarchists, Schumpeter for the libertarians, Jeremy Rifkin for the utopians…

When Michel Bauwens refers to valuable research he mistreats the work of the researchers, cherry picking and stretching the meaning of concepts until they become meaningless.

He summarizes his entire program in four axioms:

“1. P2P is a type of social relations in human networks, where participants have maximum freedom to connect.

2. P2P is also a technological infrastructure that makes the generalization and scaling up of such relations possible.

3. P2P thus enables a new mode of production and property.

4. P2P creates the potential for a transition to an economy that can be generative towards people and nature.” (Michel Bauwens et al., 2019, p. 1)

In the first two axioms he puts the world upside down. In what sociological, psychological or communication theory is P2P a type of “social relations” in human networks? Only in Bauwen’s brand new theory, there is no other one. P2P is just an internet protocol that can be used to exchange files and data, like email is a protocol to exchange messages, computer mediated communication. Using the P2P protocol to exchange files you do not need to have any relation with nobody, just pick a file out of the computer generated list and you have it. That is the depersonalisation effect all kind of computer mediated communication has.

In point 2. he claims that P2P is also a technological infrastructure. It is not. Without internet there would not be P2P, Internet is the technological infrastructure that makes P2P possible. So we have two points with no meaning in the real world. Since point 3. and 4. are deducted from 1. and 2. The whole theory is pointless. It is not only pointless it also useless. The far most important argument which makes the “P2P turned into commons” exercise completely irrelevant is the need for f2f communication when building commons. Bauwens claims to rely on Ostroms theory of common pool resources and collective action, he just stretches it a little by making it open access. But talking about the empirical base of collective action Ostrom says:

“A behavioral commitment to theory grounded in empirically inquiry is essential to understand such basic questions as why face-to-face communication so consistently enhances cooperation in social dilemmas or how structural variables facilitate or impede effective collective action” (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p.1)

(…)

“Yet, consistent, strong, and replicable findings are achieved when individuals are allowed to communicate face to face.” (Id. p. 6)

So computer mediated communication does not support building commons, only f2f communication. You can not build trust by computer mediated communiction, because you can not solve ambiguity without f2f communication (Daniël Verhoeven, 2006).

Formal model for rational choice theory of collective action, proposed by Elinor Ostrom (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p. 15),.Copyright American Political Science Review, Copy for educational purposes only.

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Confronting the social engineering of Zuckerberg and alike

Will Mark Zuckerberg run for President of the USA one day?

Will Mark Zuckerberg run for President of the USA one day? In a apologetic article in C|net about internet.org Dan Farber suggests: “Who knows, one day… Zuckerberg could try running a real country.” Internet.org is the latest promotion campaign Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, and Qualcomm to connect every person in the world to the Internet. The group wants to bring Internet access to the roughly two-thirds of the world’s population who aren’t connected.

They show a lot of ambition but have no Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, nor Time-bound plan of realisation. Though this is what you would expect from engineers. Is this mere a reaction on Google’s blue-sky scheme, Project Loon, a plan to deploy Wi-Fi-transmitting balloons over the world’s most remote areas, as some say?  Of course competition plays a part, but there is more. It is about social engineering and it is about time people start to realise that.

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Antwoord op Zuckerberg’s missie

Brengt Mark Zuckerberg het ooit tot president van de Verenigde Staten?

Brengt Zuckerberg het ooit tot president van de Verenigde Staten? Dan Farber hoopt blijkbaar van wel. Hij sluit met deze suggestie een kritiekloos artikel af in Cnet over internet.org. Dit laatste is een promotie initiatief van Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, en Qualcomm om toegang tot Internet te verlenen overal in de wereld.

Twee derden van de wereldburgers hebben momenteel geen toegang tot Internet. Door projecten op te zetten, kennis te delen, en regeringen en industriëlen te mobiliseren wil het partnerschap 5 miljard internetgebruikers extra creëren.  Binnen de tien jaar willen ze de kost voor mobiele internet-toegang brengen op 1% van de huidige kost.

Zuckerberg wil zich duidelijk profileren nadat Google al eerder een project opstarte met draadloze Internet toegang te experimenteren voor  ontwikkelingslanden door ballonnen in de stratosfeer in te zetten: het ‘balloon powered Internet for everyone’ project.

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Conspiracy theories… a long history and a new trend

Conspiracy theories in retrospective

Claims that rich capitalists are no longer out to make a profit, but to create a one-world government go back many decades now and it is always said that it is really going to happen this time, but it never does.

Since these claims have proved wrong dozens of times by now, it makes more sense to assume that leaders act for their usual reasons, such as profit-seeking motives and institutionalized roles as elected officials. Of course they want to make as much money as they can and that can lead them to do many unsavoury things. Revolving door policy, demagogy, manipulation and corruption must be denounced, but not be buried in intangible myths and conspiracy legends.

Dorling refers to sociologist Zygmund Bauman for a refutation of conspiricism. Look here for a video of Zygmund Bauman explaining his view on conspiracy theories. Both claim that there is not and never has been conspiracy of the rich:

“There has not been any great, well-orchestrated conspiracy of the rich to support the endurance of inequality, just a few schools of free-market thought, a few think tanks preaching stories about how efficient free market mechanisms are, how we must allow the few ‘tall poppies’ to grow and suggesting that a minority of ‘wealth creators’ exist and it is they who somehow ‘create’ wealth.”

“That there is no great conspiracy was first realised in the aftermath of the First World War, when it became clear that no one ‘… planned for this sort of an abattoir, for a mutual massacre four years long’ (Bauman 2008: 6). The men they called the ‘donkeys’, the generals, planned for a short, sharp, war.”

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Het cyber-industriëel complex

Wikileaks Spy Files
Overal bewakingscamera’s, Google street view, … er is geen plekje nog veilig voor gluurders en pottenkijkers. Het Internet is waarschijnlijk het meest bespiede terrein van allemaal. Het valt niet op, een cookie droppen, niemand die het merkt maar het gebeurt continu.

Einde de jaren tachtig zagen hackers en ngo’s het internet als nog goedkope manier om informatie snel te verspreiden.  Democratisering van de informatiestromen. Goedkoop wel, maar nu is er een ander probleem. Ook al zijn alle rekeningen betaald, het is alsof er voortdurend een deurwaarder geflankeerd door twee dienders onze internet-huiskamer binnenstormt om de inboedel te inventariseren.

Waarom doen ze het? Machtswellust? Voyeurisme, of simpelweg omdat het kan…  Op het net kan iedereen het woord nemen. Democratie van het woord. En dat was niet de bedoeling. Dus moet het gajes in de gaten gehouden worden. De legitimiteit van het regime zou wel eens in vraag kunnen gesteld worden.

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