Saturday, April 6, 2013

Technology & Revolution: The Crowd Salon

  - What have you been doing?
- Reading Chesterton.
- Any particular reason?
- I had the idea that, writing a hundred years ago, he understood our times better than anyone. Here, take a look at this:
....that attitude of mind which makes revolution possible and which makes religion possible, an attitude of primary and dogmatic assertion. To be a revolutionist it is first necessary to be a revelationist. It is necessary to believe in the sufficiency of some theory of the universe or the State. But in countries that have come under the influence of what is called the evolutionary idea, there has been no dramatic righting of wrongs, and (unless the evolutionary idea loses its hold) there never will be. These countries have no revolution, they have to put up with an inferior and largely fictitious thing which they call progress.
- Because people rely on technological progress they never can be revolutionaries. Interesting. I never heard that argument before. Do you agree?
- Yes. Progress lets us go further in the direction we are already going, diverts attention away from the question what direction we should be going.
- Therefore no revolution.
- Chesterton says the idea of progress leads to collapse. With no one looking to see where we are going we crash, economically, politically, socially.
- What do you think?
- We've been down this road before.
- Remind me what you said.
- I said people have to have convictions in their private lives, and compromise in public life.
- Do you mean technology is a compromise like political compromise?
- Something to consider: is it the same mistake to expect anything good to come from perfecting our political arrangements as to expect something good to develop from technology?
- You've answered that question. You said there must be a technology of good. Technology that did not progress on its own terms, improve efficiency, but made life better. You told Google to use their search engine not to help people communicate with each other but do things with each other.
- They are making communication more efficient, but not making life better.
- Well, you've only communicated that idea, you didn't do anything about it. At least you should tell us exactly how we can get this technology of good rolling.
- Ok. You know about crowdfunding?
- Sure. I can invest in making a movie, and get in return a t-shirt or admission to a preview. It's a joke. The government said only gifts were allowed, to publicly request investment in a business you need a security licence. A new law was passed last year, not put into effect yet, to allow investment, but still subject to unformulated regulation.
- Not much progress.
- You said it.
- We want our technology to work to make our lives better, not merely more efficient in exchanging information or products.
- So we shouldn't care that the crowdfunding market is being held back, kept inefficient?
- We should look for another kind of efficiency. Imagine we have our own crowdfunding site, call it CrowdSalon.com. We do what existing sites do, allow "gifts" for contributing funds. But we don't stop there.
- What do we do?
- We set up a gift economy.
- Where every one gives without demand for return, I know.
- A gift economy requires a closed community. When a limited number of people are involved, and everyone gives, everyone is likely to receive, just by virtue of being in.
- Unless everyone gives to the same person.
- Why should they?
- I was just thinking out loud.
- So on our site CrowdSalon everyone has a admission certificate in the form of a record of their past funding activity. When businesses succeed they'll tend to want to fund people more identifiably in their community, or likely to make their community stronger.
- And have the site use the tool Google didn't want, the "what do you want to do" search, send people to each other as suggestions of people to work with and form enterprises with. Wouldn't the government see through the subterfuge and shut you down when successful businesses "repaid" investors?
- The government might do anything. But there is no subterfuge: repayment would be entirely voluntary, and would as likely as not come from a business not directly invested in.
- Why not repay their own investors first?
- That's not the way it works: the investors may not need the money, and may not even want it.
- Not want the money? And you want to sell this idea?
- The idea is free.