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Openness, a necessary revolution into a smarter world

By Michel Bauwens, founder and digital curator, The Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives.

Our current political economy has the weirdest DNA. It considers nature to be a perpetually abundant resource, i.e. it is based on a false notion of material abundance; on the other hand, it believes that intellectual, scientific and technical exchange should be subject to strong proprietary constraints, and subjects innovation to internet restrictions. Thus the paradoxical but also dramatic contradiction of the present system: while it is rapidly overburdening the carrying capacity of the planet, at the same time it inhibits the solutions that humanity might find for it.

Luckily, the emergence of peer producing communities that share knowledge, code and design for the common good of humanity using open licensing arrangements that enable and facilitate universal sharing are showing the way for a fundamental reorganisation into a smarter world.

First, the value is created in global open design communities that easily outcooperate and outcompete single corporations, no matter how big or rich they are, as no isolated can be smarter than a globally networked collective intelligence. Second, this collaborative value creation is enabled and protected by for-benefic organisations, the FLOSS Foundations such as the Apache Foundation and many others. These are mostly democratically run by contributors to the common pool. Thirdly, entrepreneurial coalitions make and sell the products, improving them in the process, which have been designed (and are perpetually and continuously improved) by the contributor communities, creating a vibrant economy around the commons (think of the free software economy, or the Arduino economy as examples).

«Global open communities can outcooperate and outcompete single corporations, as no isolated can be smarter than a globally networked collective intelligence»

This new way does not only enable perpetual sharing of innovation, but also ensures sustainability, as communities do not have vested interests in artificial scarcity. Hence, if you design as a corporation for the market, you design for scarcity, but if you design as a community, you naturally design for sustainability. If you build and sell sustainable designs, then you are becoming a sustainable market players, abandoning the pernicious pursuit of planned obsolescence.

There is one missing player in this picture, the overall society, i.e. the polis. This polis must transform from the current market state — which privileges extractive corporations that deplete the commons, endanger the biosphere and oppose innovation sharing ― into a partner state which enables and empowers the social production of sustainable value by creating civic infrastructures that facilitate its emergence in strong ecosystems. Through public-commons partnerships and the commonification of public services, a new productive matrix is created, which guarantees a smarter planet that combines the recognition of the necessarily sustainability of material resources with the infinite innovation capabilities of global knowledge commons.

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Ready for a SMARTer World?

Internet is all around us. Ubiquitous computing power and telecommunication technologies are growing at an astonishing rate. At the same time, the world is changing rapidly.

Computer simulation, artificial intelligence techniques, cloud computing, green tech-solutions, metaheuristics, location based systems… In this blog, we invite you to explore how technological advances and engineering new knowledge can help us to build new societies, new enterprises, new horizons; a SMARTer ones.

But… are we ready?