Our strategy and its critics
(“Our” refers to http://mikorizal.org/ )
Let the critics (Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek) go first. I'll do some point-and-counterpoint with them. But first, what I think is their most valuable idea.
All quotes from Alex and Nick are excerpted from http://www.cs.gettysburg.edu/~duncjo01/assets/writings/library/accelerate_manifesto.html
In The Economic Prospects for Our Grandchildren (written in 1930), Keynes forecast a capitalist future where individuals would have their work reduced to three hours a day. What has instead occurred is the progressive elimination of the work-life distinction, with work coming to permeate every aspect of the emerging social factory...Capitalism has begun to constrain the productive forces of technology, or at least, direct them towards needlessly narrow ends...The properly accelerative gains of neoliberalism have not led to less work or less stress. And rather than a world of space travel, future shock, and revolutionary technological potential, we exist in a time where the only thing which develops is marginally better consumer gadgetry. Relentless iterations of the same basic product sustain marginal consumer demand at the expense of human acceleration.
Accelerationists want to unleash latent productive forces. In this project, the material platform of neoliberalism does not need to be destroyed. It needs to be repurposed towards common ends. The existing infrastructure is not a capitalist stage to be smashed, but a springboard to launch towards post-capitalism.
That was what I think was their most valuable idea and why they say “accelerate”. I'll come back to that idea later, below...
On to some point-counterpoint. (Their points, my counter-points.)
We believe the most important division in today’s left is between those that hold to a folk politics of localism, direct action, and relentless horizontalism, and those that outline what must become called an accelerationist politics at ease with a modernity of abstraction, complexity, globality, and technology. The former remains content with establishing small and temporary spaces of non-capitalist social relations, eschewing the real problems entailed in facing foes which are intrinsically non-local, abstract, and rooted deep in our everyday infrastructure.
We are guilty, to some extent. We work local-first and spread horizontally. We get their point about globality (more about that later), and we agree about technology.
We believe that any post-capitalism will require post-capitalist planning. The faith placed in the idea that, after a revolution, the people will spontaneously constitute a novel socioeconomic system that isn’t simply a return to capitalism is naïve at best, and ignorant at worst. To further this, we must develop both a cognitive map of the existing system and a speculative image of the future economic system.
We have a combined 80+ years of large-scale software systems development that says their speculative image will not work, unless they do it in smaller pieces, working all the time with communities on the ground. That approach of starting with your speculative image is called “Big Design Upfront” or “Build It and They Will Come”. That approach has mostly been abandoned in favor of agile and incremental development, always working with the people who will use the system as soon as possible, at first in small pieces loosely joined.
Lenin (whom they quote) would roll over in his grave. But then he had a revolution behind him and an army to support him. We are two old people living in a canyon in the woods supported by US Social Security, for as long as that lasts. So we do what we can do, which might be a lot. We’ll see.
But back to our strategy.
I’ve been working since about 1995 on a precursor to our current strategy, which you can read about at https://write.as/economic-networks/about
Lynn and I have been working on a subsequent strategy that came out of a project called Open App Ecosystem, of which many variations have emerged which you can find in this search: https://duckduckgo.com/?t=h_&q=Open+App+Ecosystem&ia=web
What it meant to us, was different people developing different software apps that could all work together and cooperate to form larger systems with replaceable, loosely-coupled components.
In the discussions for an Open App Ecosystem with an organization called Enspiral, we decided that the open apps would need one or more common vocabularies to communicate with each other. So Lynn and I, along with some other people listed here https://www.valueflo.ws/introduction/contributors/ , started to work on a vocabulary for economic networks called https://www.valueflo.ws/ .
From the start, we intended Valueflows and its open apps that used it to grow into the administrative support for whole anti-capitalist economic systems. We don't pretend that we can do this by ourselves, or even that we would be a big part of the effort, but that's what we want and are working toward and collaborating with whoever else is working toward the same goals.
“Systems” instead of “system” because such systems would need to start locally or regionally and then join together place by place until they might organize together into larger economic systems. Maybe global? We don't know, but we have collaborators in more than one continent.
Depending on how I understand their Accelerationist strategy, our strategy might be the opposite in some ways. They might want a global system now (which will not work). But as I read more of their manifesto, they temper their enthusiasm and end up with something more like what we want to do:
Any transformation of society must involve economic and social experimentation. The Chilean Project Cybersyn is emblematic of this experimental attitude — fusing advanced cybernetic technologies, with sophisticated economic modelling, and a democratic platform instantiated in the technological infrastructure itself. 15. We do not present any particular organisation as the ideal means to embody these vectors. What is needed — what has always been needed — is an ecology of organisations, a pluralism of forces, resonating and feeding back on their comparative strengths. Sectarianism is the death knell of the left as much as centralization is, and in this regard we continue to welcome experimentation with different tactics (even those we disagree with).
So they might (or might not) welcome our experiments….
But there is a problem with our strategy, as it has evolved from large centralized platforms to decentralized networks. A platform has a center, a place to make decisions and set rules for all participants. A decentralized network does not. As in the poem by William Butler Yeats called “The Second Coming”,
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
...and we are not anarchists.
The popular way that decentralized agreements have come to be implemented is via Blockchains, which created the first practical method for global consensus. But we don’t want to use them, because blockchains are huge, recentralized via all participants needing to use a copy of the same chain, and consensus decisions get slower all the time. An Internet search now says “In general, Bitcoin transactions usually take from one to one and half hours to complete.” That’s a long time to wait for your lunch transaction to clear.
And most of the time you don’t really need global consensus. All you need is agreement among the participants in a single decision. So we are working with implementations of local consensus, in two different decentralized technical environments: https://www.holochain.org and https://www.w3.org/TR/activitypub/ otherwise known as the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fediverse
Why do we imagine that we can create the operating system for a new economy? Well, first, we continue to organize as much help as we can get. But second, both of us have a lot of experience with large-scale economic software. I worked on several https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enterprise_resource_planning systems, the kind of software that most big capitalist organizations use, and Lynn worked on the software used by the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Reserve . So we have some basis to understand what is being used now, and what is needed for a better future. And as described above, we will work on it in as many experiments as we can manage, and learn as we go, and organize other people to take over and move forward, because we are getting old.
Back to planning...
Here’s a survey of different proposals for a new and better economic system: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1NwEcKf-AlD3WlvHFNCmGmDKp9NerPeAaHeTHTrdF628/edit?usp=sharing
The one that I like is called “Information Technology and Socialist Construction” or the “General Catalog” of provisions that should be produced. Assuming all of the producers on each level of the production chain have something like our https://www.valueflo.ws/concepts/recipes/ for production, all of the provisions can be planned recursively and all of the production processes, with their inputs and outputs, can be tracked and documented. It would be like you are Cuba and know what needs to be produced for the whole island. And I assume Cuba knows and plans accordingly.
Harking back to “Accelerationists want to unleash latent productive forces” ...
Using Valueflows, people can coordinate their activities peer-to-peer with no bosses. They can organize projects in their communities to feed everybody and house everybody and provide for all of the human and ecological needs in their communities. They can pool their resources and produce what they want and need.
They can, but will they? We'll see. The first network that aims to try is https://www.newyorktextilelab.com/ . We are working with them and a bunch of people from https://hrea.io/ on a network coordination system.
If anybody read this and gets interested in doing likewise, give us a yell at ???