I want to take this opportunity to inspire you with the amazing world that is the Peer to Peer Foundation.
When you hear the words peer to peer your first thoughts might be illegal downloads. But this is like thinking of joyriders when someone mentions cars. Peer to peer is a entire phenomenon, a philosophy, an emerging universe of possibilities. It has the potential to bring about the change we desperately need, and all the movements for social change need to embrace it.
In a nutshell, the philosophy allows us, the people, to take back the power. As Bucky Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete”, and that is exactly what the Peer to Peer Foundation does. Pages upon pages of wikis describe its vast array of applications – real, tangible, solutions to rebuild society literally from the ground up.
Every possible area is covered, from culture to education, to economics and science. Most of the applications follow a common thread – calling for open information and collaboration - true democracy.
The Peer to Peer Manifesto details how Peer to Peer is undermining traditional notions of property, acknowledging scarcity in the material world, which capitalism doesn’t, and embracing abundance in the virtual world, which capitalism doesn’t allow. It therefore forces us to question the true nature of property.
Collaborative consumption is “A social and economic system driven by network technologies that enable the sharing and exchange of all kinds of assets from spaces to skills to cars in ways and on a scale never possible before.”
The movement is growing rapidly, with technology facilitating a vast array of new sharing, swapping, and collaboration platforms.
Physical sharing/swapping/freecycle networks are intrinsically sustainable, keeping waste out of landfill, reusing materials, reducing distribution, and reducing the need for new manufacture.
Peer to peer is not just about sharing, however.
In distributed systems, where there is no overt hierarchy, power is a function of design. Peer Governance and Democracy tends toward a stakeholder model, with active participants directing decisions, but also incorporating an auto-immune system to prevent the private appropriation of power.
Open and distributed networks are inherently sustainable, with manufacturing, agriculture, and industry naturally achieving efficiency from their “for-benefit”, non-reciprocal model, competing asymmetrically with for-profit corporations.
The potential for creation is immense. With Peer to Peer opening the way to free and open creativity, ideas are allowed to evolve and build off each other just as it was in the renaissance years, before individualism and corporations took over. With copyright laws clinging to obsolete paradigms and “patent warfare” becoming a poisonous influence to innovation, we run the risk of a new dark age of restricted progress.
However, the world of Creative Commons and Peer to Peer undermines these outdated constraints while the accompanying technology ignores legislation. It is a world of intrinsic motivation, with collaboration bringing benefits to both the creators and to the consumers.
“Bitcoin is an experimental new digital currency that enables instant payments to anyone, anywhere in the world. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology to operate with no central authority: managing transactions and issuing money are carried out collectively by the network.”
Yes, I realise it’s controversial, and that money creates more problems than it solves. But for an interim period at least, this could alleviate many of the problems caused by our corrupt, banker-run financial system by putting the power to control money back into the hands of the community. It’s a robust, non-manipulable system that is growing in popularity as people’s trust in it increases. In the end, it will still be subject to many of the same problems we face from the current monetary system. But while we still live in a monetary system, Bitcoin does to the banks what BitTorrent does to the record labels.
A New Paradigm
People all over the planet are using the interconnection afforded by technology to forge a new society – a society built from the ground up, rather than governed from the top down. We are realising the failures of democracy, and forging our own systems of fairness. We are starting to distrust the mass media. We are growing tired of our governments. We are losing interest in state led education, instead choosing to learn based on what inspires us, because we no longer need the authorities to provide for us.
And this is true of everything, we are losing faith in authority. Our peers garner more respect than our leaders. Our connections are becoming more valuable than our possessions. We are even learning to provide for each other.
This is the start of a new world, Society 2.0 – which will see many of the norms we take for granted, capitalism, consumption, and most of all – authority – swept away by a tsunami of social innovation. The elite will cling to their obsolete “top-down” paradigm as long as they remain profitable, fighting us with patent lawsuits, slander, and propaganda, but they know as well as we do – they have already lost.
Do Some Research!
Please, read the P2p Foundation site. I have barely scratched the surface here and that’s because all the information is already out there. This is just a taster, meant to inspire you to learn more.
So in the spirit of the commons, I call on the fruits of others. Because together, we know everything.