Monday, June 13, 2011

OS Homo Sapien 2.0

"Both of these authors assert that the root cause of our difficulties lies in our view of reality. They contend that our shared worldview — based upon principals such as atomistic or mechanical materialism, duality, anthropocentrism, separateness and reductionism — has been heavily shaped by outdated scientific insights that formed the catalyst for the Scientific Revolution approximately 300 years ago. In other words, our crisis is one of software and not hardware."

This post on the UN blog speaks to something that I have been talking about, in one way or another, for the past several years. There is essentially a convergence occurring in our environment where we will be forced into a new set of revolutions on the level of the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution combined. This shift is fundamental because it not only requires a shift in our material experience of life - how we organize our economies - but also in our social philosophies - our consciousness needs to shift - in order for us to survive the current multiple crises.

I have tried to articulate this in my writings around an idea of a Somatic Future - a future in which our humanness is valued because we have "sense" of our environment. This means that we have to increasingly perceive our physical world, understand, relate and emphatically experience our interconnectedness in a way that we have never really imagined. I have struggled with this articulation in much of my research over the past 15 years. These issues of interconnectedness and the failings of a Newtonian and atomistic understanding of the world drove me to engage with questions of global corporations, and ultimately to study international political economics. The work of my academic mentor, Gillian Hart, greatly inspired me (and the work of Critical Human Geographers) who engaged the failings of an atomistic view of the world and of the economy. I worked in my MA research on trying to understand money not as a technology, or something that appears from the outside, but as something deeply intertwined and socially constructed.

All of this creates great complications but also the potential for empowerment but it must be based on some configuration of collaboration, new forms of social and organizational structures, and a view of the future that clearly realizes the future as a time of deep interconnectedness. We are approaching a fourth dimension of reality, one that will give us insight into the relationships between everything and one in which we may struggle to ever see apartness as something given and unbridgeable. In fact the idea of "individual" may come to be viewed as a total fallacy and a false god!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Data, Decision Making - Somatic Age?

This very interesting article appeared in the latest Mother Jones, "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science". It is a great article showing how we fail to make rational decisions - or rather fail to absorb new facts in a way that results in our changing our minds about a particular view we may have, essentially arguing that there is more to decision making then rational fact-based arguments. And, that more information and data is not how you get people to change their minds or accept a particular issue as important or otherwise.

The article is easy to read and does a great job of explaining some pretty complex ideas. My favorite line in the article goes, " In other words, paradoxically, you don't lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance." The author is arguing that we need to think about how we frame our arguments and thinking first about how it can be presented in a way that is not threatening to the value framework of a particular individual - that we are not trying to destroy that persons framework of values but trying to expand it in some way. Collaboration rather then hierarchy I guess! Emotion rather then logic. Engaging the irrational.

What this all points to in this age of information and head based thinking is that we are sooo far off still from understanding how our emotions are so critically involved in our decision making, and that our biases are built into what we actually perceive (much like what they say about us trying to observe quantum particles - that they are essentially impacted by our very viewing of them). In many ways I think the age of information overload and free access to data is slowly pushing us (or maybe not so slowly) towards an age where we focus on our emotion and spiritual and energetic beings. I think of this as a somatic age.

In other words, my believe is that the outcome of the somatic age will be a great enlightenment that will result in our understanding and exploration of the spaces of our existence that do not fit within rational frameworks or conscious thought. Many neuroscientists are starting to discover the role of our subconscious and that it is far far more important in our decision making process then previously believed or accepted. I see this as a wonderful thing - the age in which we start to become embodied, the age in which we start to sense our selves somatically is upon us. This, after all is what separates us from machines and technology - our somatic ability to sense our world around us, to process complex emotions that are co-produced by those around us.

I think this is already why we are exploring collaboration and other methods of connecting that allow us to realize our collective value and strength. The revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East show the role of emotion. No fact was released, no leader emerged that suddenly "reasoned" the people into action. Their emotional selves, and their subconsciousness made a decision to act and this was picked up on collectively. And they perceived this somatically feeling driven to collect and could not ignore the overwhelming feelings of their existence.

Those of us who explore long range futures and use scenario planning methods need to acknowledge that the future is not just about technological or "social" change, but about a transformation in our somatic understanding of our world and that this is by far our weakest muscle or skill. We know how to deal with data - even if we don't do it in ways we thought we would. As we as humans get more and more inundated by technology and as technology takes over the roles of our rational data processing minds we will gravitate to exploring this other side of our selves the side that will increasingly distinguish us from machines and technology as a whole.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fourth Sector Financialization and the Value of Pricelessness

"New layers of financialisation pose challenges for the sustenance of local ecological knowledges and 'biocultural diversities'. They rationalise human and non-human natures to conform with a particular economic system that privileges price over other values, and profit-oriented market exchanges over the distributive and sustainable logics of other economic systems." (Banking Nature? The financialisation of environmental conservation)

The above quote from a recent article published through the Open Anthropology Cooperative Press highlights one of my biggest concerns about the current trend in the development of what are being called hybrid business models, or fourth sector networks or for-benefit corporations. Essentially the same determinant is being used to guide the decisions of consumers and producers - price. If something can be produced cheaper then it is going to be more successful. So, it becomes about how can you produce goods in an enlarged framework of values at the cheapest price. Hence, the idea that you can include environmental or social costs into your overall final price will again be driven by reducing those impacts on the environment or society as viewed as costs. This I think can go both ways - you can either lower your negative impact on the environment or society, thereby reducing your costs and enabling you to provide your good at a lower cost, or alternatively you can add value to the environment or society that in someway enables you to offset other costs again with the aim of lowering the overall cost of your good. 

This means that the exact same metric is being used to guide our business decisions and our consumption decisions: price. 

This then reminds me of my idea of infinite value which I have expressed in other places on this blog. What I found so powerful about this idea is that it ultimately throws the whole "price" question into a bit of turmoil. It is both a price - but is also no price - it is priceless. So we have assigned it a price but it is a price that is infinite meaning that it can not be purchased. The flip side being that it can be destroyed, or reduced. Something can go from priceless to worthless - through destructive behaviours or through the compartmentalization of the whole. So a forest, seen and valued as a whole system, can be viewed as priceless. But, a tree can be assigned a price that is within the realm of reason.

In a conversation I had with a professor at UC Berkeley a few years ago it was this exact issue of price. The financialization of everything does not necessarily avoid its consumption or destruction. However, today the alternative has been focused about the zero valuation or pricing of most shared resources. Somewhere in there we need to give it a value that removes it from the ability to price it at all.

It is time for another metric to dominate - something other then price!

The point is that if we are able to price everything - the entire ecosystem - and then price the costs of reduced or increased value of this ecosystem - we will come out with a better price. Yet, this does nothing to reduce our destruction or consumption of the environment. If the price is low enough someone will buy it. And, as the luxury goods market shows - some people will even pay a higher price. A destructive product can still be produced, and its price may be high, but someone will purchase it.

Price is the wrong metric. What is the alternative metric? Is it about metrics at all? What is this deeper shift then that we require? Damn...I wish I had that answer.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wall Street Leviathan

Here is a decent look at what the Financial Commission's report on the 2008 Financial Crisis found (
). Though it fails to address the deeper issue of the actual systemic way in which we construct or create money. I think what is so striking is that even though we had financial regulation that was supposed to limit the instability of the financial system from roughly 1933 to 1999 we had a series of ongoing financial crises that led to in part the Lost Decade in South America, the S&L debacle, the need to end the dollar/gold standard, a massive increase in debt, and more. And, it only took 9 years from the time that the Glass-Steagal Act was repealed to have an almost catastrophic global financial collapse, this despite this long history of supposed stability! 

What has actually been going on throughout most of modern financial history, and including supposedly the stable years under the Glass-Steagal Act is a series of mini crises that have been viewed by the elites (regulators, politicians and bankers) as having been dealt with. The solutions have generally been focused on shifts in the regulatory environment. All of this has been presented as increasing the stability of the system. Then, the argument goes that in 1999 we ended the stable era by repealing the Glass-Steagal Act and before we knew it we had a full blown global financial crisis. The question is what is the more important data point to follow? Was it the ending of the Glass-Steagal era or is it the much bigger pattern of data seen through the lens of multiple mini-crises throughout the US financial system (and really globally). What is being argued often is that those earlier crises are not related to the current crisis. The current crisis is related to a shift in the regulations of 1999 and the solution is new regulations that will return us to the pre-1999 era of stability. 

Allow me to draw an analogy with the revolutions of Tunisia and Egypt. We can see them as one off events that "suddenly" emerged driven by say a prolifieration of social media technologies that due to a shift in technology (regulation) we have a break from the old pattern and the result is a revolution (financial crisis). Or, we can see them as the result of a series of efforts, strikes and demonstrations (mini financial crises), that had finally culminated and created enough momentum to realise a revolution (2008 Financial Crisis). The analogy I am making here is that for many of the elites in Egypt and Tunisian socieites those earlier demonstrations and strikes had been viewed as mere annoyance and requiring small shifts in regulation (and of course violent oppression) - but the sense was that they had been successfuly squished and represented no systemic problem. However, they were blatanly wrong - each little permutation was helping to build energy towards a bigger shift - a revolution - despite the best efforts of the elites (or regulators or authorities or politicians; call them what you want). 

This same thing is, I believe, going on in the financial system. We view all those earlier events as mere business cycle permutations that occurred under a given regime - a regime that was put into place in the 1930's and presented as stabilizing and unifying. The truth is far from that, instead we have had decades of financial crises slowly spreading and linking up around the world. And, despite all the efforts over the decades of squishing their bigger impact it culminated in the 2008 crisis. For the elites of this system they view the important data point as the shift in regulation they do not see a systemic risk, they do not see a major shift in their operating terrain and they do not see all of this history of events linking together and building momentum and energy. So, the question is does the 2008 crisis truly represent a culmination - a revolution? - or does it represent just a bigger permutation still to be followed by a bigger revolution/crash in the financial system? 

I think the fact that the answer from the elites has been to change regulations points to the fact that 2008 is not the revolutionary moment but rather another, though much bigger, permutation in our financial system. The last time our financial system experienced such a grand permutation was during the Great Depression which at first led to a series of regulatory responses, but ultimately led to one of the biggest shifts in global society and the horrors of World War II - though it took almost 6 years before America was fully impacted by that global revolution driven by WWII. 

We sit in 2008 and debate our regulatory shifts and solutions, our new presidents and banking brands. We view it as a one off event driven by a shift in the regulatory environment. Yet, my sense is there is something deeper here and that the forest is being missed, while we focus on a couple big trees. I have a strong sense that in the not to distant future we may witness another major financial crises and at some point it is going to truly culminate in a revolution - one that will require a major reconstruction of one of the most fundamental human concepts - money!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Viva the Peaceful: 9/11 and Libya

There is certainly the danger that this blog post gets a bit rambling. However, I have been dealing with many threads of thought with the recent events around the world especially those of North Africa (note - that Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco are all in Africa) and Wisconsin.

My feeling from the start has been of total awe and true support - despite what might emerge from these attempts at political revolution - for these local democratic efforts. All of these uprisings have essentially swelled up - though not without many decades of tyranny and abuse by the targeted regimes - without clear leadership, without a coherent plan and without violent aims. These movements remind me of what was going on around the globe with the rising international movement of activism at the turn of the end of the 20th century. These efforts focused on the multi-lateral institutions of the world that seemed to only pander to the interests of the elites. The lack of many of these institutions at having any kind of social voice was one of the biggest complaints. People felt that the interests of communities, of locals, of underprivileged and poor were not being heard or acknowledged. This led to the organic rise of a non-hierarchical globally connected movement. This movement was what created the Battle for Seattle in 1999 (an event that I had the privilege to attend as a photojournalist for the Independent Media Center), and the growing World Social Forum in Brazil and many such efforts.

Then came 9/11 and we had war! And our movement was derailed, our focus shifted, government now had increased power to crack down on demonstrators, to block access to countries and use new surveillance tools. At the time - and I think maybe somewhere on this blog - I wrote about how I felt that 9/11 was as much about our history in the Middle East as it was about ending the rising social movement. 9/11 became an excuse to crack down and switch our focus to a debate over violence - and acceptable forms of violence and war and more.

I bring 9/11 up because I believe in many ways what is going on in Libya is another example of this. The movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the ongoing demonstrations in Yemen, Morocco and those of Bahrain were movements focused on peaceful demands. Many of these efforts first met with violence and harassment, many of these movements were against US supported dictators. But, most importantly they were non-violent, they were spreading organically, they had no leadership and there seemed no way to stop them. Enter the use of violence - the effort to stop Qaddafi - who conveniently is an enemy of the West so we have a good excuse and a good history of indoctrination in the mind of Westerners to his evil ways (and I am not saying that he is not a tyrannical leader that should leave immediately). But, note that there was and still is no mention of protecting demonstrators in Egypt, Morocco, Yemen, Bahrain. I don't need to get into the geo-strategic questions of this reasoning. Rather, what I am trying to draw attention to is the way in which the use of American (and Western) violence has again come to control the debate. It has meant that the movements in these countries are now faced with the prospect of violence and of the divides between the West and Arab worlds. It returns us to the same rhetoric of violence, and us verse them, while moving us away from the awe-inspiring, hair standing up, immense voices of democratic peoples movements.

My point is that there seems to be a connection here. In both instances violence was inserted into the global conversation around the power of peaceful movements. It is as if we are being reminded, dis-empowered almost, by the fact that violence will inevitably enter the picture and that violence is the solution in the end - that peaceful movements (and by peaceful I don't mean that there won't be violence in the form maybe of self-defense against government forces - the same thing happened in Seattle and hence became the Battle of Seattle, but again in this instance the government inserted the violence and changed the debate) can't solve the problem.

The attacks on Libya deeply concern me. Yes, it is true that maybe Qaddaffi would have attacked and slaughtered people in Benghazi, maybe he would have retained power. But, in the end maybe his legitimacy would have been so weakened that he would not have been able to hold onto power. Now, we are at war, now we see the splintering return the Middle East verse the West - the insertion of US military power. Why in this instance is technology not all powerful? Why in this instance are the people not empowered? Is it because Qaddafi has chosen to use force? Has he not done this before? Did not Mubarak or the leaders of Yemen, or the leaders of Tunisia or other countries use violence and oppression?

I think that this decision to bomb Libya is the right decision for the elites and political powers of the world - because it returns the debate to a terrain they know and understand well. A terrain of violence and overwhelming force. I think this decision is aimed at ending the spread of these movements around the world. Leaders never know what to do with non-violent demonstrators. Thans Gandhi, thank MLK, thank Mandela for showing us this.

Viva the peaceful.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Japan and the need for Scenario Thinking

I am sitting listening to the radio about what is going on in Japan. There is much being said about how the government is not helping the local authorities around the nuclear power plant, how the American's are not playing a bigger role in providing food and other goods to stricken communities, and why there isn't a greater presence of the global nuclear power authorities housed in the UN.

And, there was one thing that each expert on the panel mentioned, the fact that there was no preparation for this scale of disaster. They said repeatedly that this "scenario" had not been thought of. This puzzles me in several ways - surely the global nuclear authorities would run a set of scenarios that would look at multiple environmental disasters - or was it just assumed that such a conflation of events would never happen? The American's obviously have no plans in place for helping Japan, or any other country that they have a large military presence in, for helping that country in the throws of a major catastrophe. And, there was obviously no plan within the Japanese government for a nuclear meltdown in a region that may not be accessible via road.

This event in Japan follows quickly on the heals of the series of North African revolutions. Again, here we see a bunch of events occur that no one had thought of, or had considered as within the realm of reality. We see this is in the failings of the American's to have any clear response to the revolutions - they failed to know where to stand with Mubarak, they have miss-stepped a couple times in Bahrain - between supporting the monarchy and now dealing with Saudi Arabia's military arrival.

All of these events over the past couple of months point to the need to fully explore multiple futures, and to take into consideration wild card futures (very unlikely) and other possibilities in a way that allows us to build resiliency into our system. The need to consider the range of unexpected events and the possibility of increasing convergence between environmental and human disasters - as our populations grow so will the devastation be increased.

At my company, Adaptive Edge <>, we work to provide this to companies and governments. We explore ways in which these entities can learn to adapt to unexpected events while helping to be part of the already existing shifts in our global political-economy. Ideas of involving stakeholders, engaging unexpected realties, and exploring the impact of already existing trends on our possible futures.

I think the big message here for people, governments and businesses, is that they need to prepare for multiple futures and possible scenarios of what could occur. Having those futures on their shelves with associated strategies is something that we all need - it is a way of being prepared, agile and resilient.

My prayers are with the people of Japan, New Zealand and North Africa as they all deal with the arrival of unexpected events and the sudden emergence of new futures - futures that many may not have ever thought possible.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Flipping the Switch

There is a lot of talk in many circles that one of the biggest unknown unknowns about our current ecological system is if a switch will flip. In other words, something like the last straw that broke the camels back, or the butterfly effect (basically a type of systems feedback loop). We see some of this kind of behavior with revolutions - think Tunisia and Egypt, were a long history of small things kept building pressure, building pressure, and then suddenly one small isolated event, or what appears to be an isolated event, suddenly triggers massive change.

One of the things that is going on in our environment right now is a massive loss of biodiversity, so a range of species and ecological environments are being destroyed and driven to extinction. While this certainly bodes badly for the continuance of the current ecological system, at least within the boundaries that support human existence, it certainly doesn't mean that the trend towards loss of diversity will continue.

My thought is, "Is it possible that we could see a sudden explosion in ecological diversity?", "Could the space created and the instabilities created through the loss of normal equilibriums result in nature being incredibly and explosively evolutionary?" "Could we see a massive series of mutations and new plants emerge in a way that we could never have been anticipated or expected?"

I am no ecologist, so I don't know that I can answer this question. What I do think is it is a possibility, and that this possibility could play out in at least three scenarios:

1) The sudden explosion in increased diversity is damaging to humans. This could mean an explosion in viruses and bacterias that we have no defense mechanism for. Or, a massive increase in invasive species that proliferate across almost all ecological environments killing our crops, taking over environments and generally being hostile to humans.

2) This increased diversity enables us to harvest new foods, discover new animals and other ways of harnessing the environment. In this scenario we are reactive.

3) We are able to co-develop this explosion through the use of new human knowledge of genetics and bio-engineering. This would help us to work and mold certain evolutions with an aim towards benefiting both humans and the overall sustainability and resiliency of the needed human eco-system.

In other words, could our massive killing off of the environment, coupled with our immense knowledge of the engineering of nature, allow us to counter-act and respond, positively, to the negative trends we have set in motion.

Could the loss of bio-diversity actually enable one of the biggest flowerings in diversity and evolution?

We know, based on the laws of thermodynamics, that what humans have done is transfer massive amounts of energy from one space (mostly fossil fuels) to another, releasing lots of stored energy into what could be seen as increasingly non-equilibriated systems. That energy is gonna produce something!

Just a thought!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Future philosophy

I predict that the rise of Asia will result in the emergence of new philosophical ideas that will enable us to have a political economic revolution on the level of the industrial revolution. This is because philosophically we have been constrained, within political economic theory, by the ideas of individualism and the rights of property, which in there ways were rebelions agianst the ideas that underpinned feudalism.

Our future is based on new philosophical ideas that will allow new economies to emerge that will appear as logical to us and therefore enable us to value things that we had not previously seen as valuable.

I can list a number of these but because I am writing this on my mobile phone I will try and update this post later.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wake-up we are all......

I stand with the people of Egypt
I stand with the people of the Arab world
With the people living under regimes of authoritarianism
Living in enslavement to capitalism

We are all united in our collective conscience
Knowing that this way is no longer the way

There was a time when feudalism broke
When churches crumbled and tribalism disintegrated

We are here together

Egyptian, Arab, Jew, Christian, Hindu and more
Together we must rise to create an era that frees us from this self destruction

It is a choice between co-creation or imposed destruction

We are all living under regimes that are not sustainable
That will destroy our planet and leave no hope for our children
We are all Egyptian

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sense of Change

My sense of change in this society is as if we are moving into a direction of newness without knowing what it is meant to be. Could this be the first time in human history where we have had the foresight to see that our current modus operandi will lead to demise of the human race, or at least of our societies and cultures as we see them? In the past the fundamental shifts in our economy have been driven by shifting dynamics within society - be it a new emerging wealthy class who challenge the previously entrenched political-economic configuration (I know that Political-Economy is normally not hyphenated, but because I don't see them as two separate entities - I can not understand a political or economic conversation without the one relating to the other - so for this reason I can not see it conceptually as two separate words/concepts), or a new form of trading or government/state structure emerges that challenges the already existing system.

Today we are trying to shift society without creating a discontinuous event - we are not wanting a revolution we are wanting a conscious shift to occur. We are counting on us as a group of humans to be able to make this shift through choice (though encouraged by circumstances), through reason, through a sense of shared future. This I believe is a unique event in human history. The question then is not what happens during a discontinuous event, but what happens when we have rapid, consciously chosen change? How is this done? How do we do this again and again and again while focusing on, creating and emphasizing a better future for all (including the poor, animals and other living creatures).

I sometimes find myself praying for a revolution that will allow this change to occur. However, I know what revolutions look like and they aren't pretty and they give no guarantee of the ultimate result. This then calls for a creating of a shared vision of what that better future is. Can we change incrementally? Can we change suddenly?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shared Vision

In my line of work spotting trends, seeing marco or large pictures is critical. Often these things are missed by people working and digging away at day to day life. I see this going on all the time - efforts around "green building" or "sustainability" and more are examples of people trying to attempt to define these terms without exploring or identifying with the bigger trend. These are loose terms, terms that we may not necessarily all share a clear definition on. And, it is this lack of clarity that in my opinion highlights several issues. First, these terms are only labels, they don't represent a "movement" or a shift of any fundamental nature (I will come back to why I think this) and secondly, these terms fundamentally don't redefine anything in our society.

My first point is very much linked to my second point. The very fact that the definition of these terms or any number of terms used are unclear or open to manipulation highlights the way in which they are labels and not defining philosophical ideas that can then be used to shift or build a new society upon. Think of this in terms of ideas like liberty, or private property, or something of a similar nature. I think what these terms miss is a deeper question, a deeper philosophical issue is going on.

Perhaps it is my philosophical nature that drives me to this point. However, I think that something will always be open to manipulation if it is a label used to try and band-aid over something more fundamental. What is green about? What is sustainability about? What are these terms, and their increased use and prominence, trying to highlight?

My belief is, as I have said in earlier posts, that it is about a question of values. A shift of values is what it is about and the definition of these terms is nothing less then an attempt at defining the new values of society. Yet, are we clear on what these values are? Are we really having a deep societal, global, cultural conversation around this idea? When ideas of liberty emerged in England during the Industrial Revolution (say the argument of Locke amongst many others) the question was not so much about private property, but about the definition of a new value - that of individual liberty being primary. (note that I am aware of the political economic shifts that occurred that led to the argument for private property but I think it still required/forced a reconfiguration of values)

We are faced with these sorts of questions again. What are the fundamental values that we are trying to highlight that form the basis of "green" or "sustainable"? In my opinion any attempt to define these requires us to define our values as a society. And, I think this only happens when the current system of values is shown to fail (and I think evidence is mounting for this - much as it did during the breaking down of feudalism).

We need to think about this in a deep way, but in a way that is rigorous in its logic, rigorous in its integral approach, and rigorous in its attempt to be global. These values are the values of the future, they are attempting to emerge, but in my opinion no philosophical argument has helped clarify or codify them in the way that earlier ideas were (I dream and wish and sometimes pray for the ability to write such a text).

Or perhaps they are being defined but they will only be seen as defining arguments when we have hindsight (historical perspective).

In the mean time think about what you believe are the new values of the world that will help us define and entrench certain terms.

I value relationships and I value individuality. How do we build a new philosophy that does this for us?

East vs West (Relationships vs Individuality)

I was listening to an interesting talk on the radio today - I think it was on NPR and the show was Philosophy Talk. Anyway, they had on a cultural psychologist who was talking about the concept of self and how we construct this sense of self. She talked about her experience in Asia vs the US or West. After many years of teaching Asian students, I think mostly Japanese, one of her Asian students said that her concept of the "self" and how it comes to exist makes no sense. After many more discussions and explorations it was concluded that the construction of self is so different in these two cultural spaces.

In Asia you, your sense of self and a construction of an identity, is built around your relationships and obligations to others in the world. In other words your self is in many senses positively enhanced by your relationships and gives it a sort of relativeness or relatedness. In this way everything can be seen as related and interconnected. While in the West we create a sense of self through being individual by finding ways to make yourself unique compared to others. Your sense of self is supposedly independent of others or your relationships or your history.

Without a doubt there is something incredibly liberating about the Western sense of self. It has allowed us on many levels to move beyond tribalism and other stuck social obligations. Yet, the power of relationships and the importance of recognizing the network of humanity is becoming increasingly critical.

We are moving into an age where we have to find a way to incorporate individuality with relationships. We have to define a new way of constructing values, of empowering relationships and giving individual freedom. This is in many ways this requires a revolution in philosophical thought. We can not merge the East and West into one grand globalized economy if our sense of self is constructed completely differently. Why you might ask? Well, if a sense of self it intimately tied to our way of identifying and informing systems of value, then the way we think of economies (systems of value creation/protection/recognition) will be in constant contradiction.

This is why I think the future is neither individual nor relationship it is "individship" or something like that. My point is that this merging of great philosophies of self - a product of our incredibly globalized world is going to require profound shifts. What is critical about this meeting of cultures, as opposed to earlier interactions is that in many ways it is done through non-hierachical relationships (the internet, universities, products). For the first time we have to come to an agreement, not a domination of one over the other.

Look out for new ideas of self to emerge!

Money and the conversations

I hope this is not another rant. But, it feels like one!

I am constantly confused by conversations that come from very wise people around money. The differences between a "currency", a "unit of account" and a "measure of value" are critical. Most people focus on the conversation of "currency". So, they talk about banks printing currency, or communities issuing currency etc. Who issues the currency is of critical importance, that I am certain of. However, a currency only has value because the unit of account is considered a reliable measure of value. So, if everyone is printing currency using the same unit of account - this may be a dollar or a pound, it may be an Ithaca Dollar or a Time Dollar or whatever you want to name your currency - they are going to need to establish a reliable measure of value via a unit of account. Some communities may come up with their own unit of account but almost always they link it or establish it in a relationship with an established unit of account. So Ithaca may have its own unit called an Ithaca, but they will almost invariably give it an exchange value, often fixed, with the established US dollar unit. So maybe 10 Ithaca's are worth 1 US dollar.

This is critical. The establishment of a unit of account requires the creation of trust as to its ability to reliably measure value. Part of this trust is established through the fact that it can be trusted that it won't be overissued and therefore cause an inflationary devaluation of that currency. This was the problem that went on in the USA during the height of free-banking. People were issuing currencies in units but their reliance, or ability to consistently measure value, were greatly limited and unreliable. So, the assumption that a community can issue a currency may be true but it still reliant on the value of its relationship to the chosen unit of account and its ability to reliably measure the value of an exchange.

My concern is this level of money, something that Keynes talked about, is often not spoken about by many of todays alternative money theorists.

The big question, is how do you establish a new measure of value, represented by a unit of account, that is then actualized in a currency (be it paper, gold, silver or digital bytes). You need to establish new measures of value, and these require concrete relationships of trust.

It can not be overlooked that any attempt at creating a multitude of currencies will invariably lead to a devaluation or threat to the reliability of that unit if they are over issued in aggregate. You can not maintain a fixed relationship between units of account - this has been very clearly illustrated through massive amounts of economic research. The crash of the Gold Standard and fixed currency regimes (the conversation around the Chinese Yuan is an contemporary example). This is true if a central bank continues to print (issue) money or if a hundred communities issue their own currencies. The value of something as it approaches infinity in terms of being able to measure an exchange will head to zero.

The challenge then is not about who issues new currencies (though this is important) it is about creating new measures of value that are reliable and are not directly related to an already existing unit of account. Part of the reason I believe that we have historically put all currencies into a relationship with each other is the homogenization of value measures. As countries align and attempt to measure the same sorts of exchanges in the same sorts of ways the can align the value of their currencies. However, if you are measuring things with your currency that no other economy sees as important it is next to impossible to establish a relationship between the two. The point is that exchanges are being measured and therefore what is measured and what is considered important to measure can and will shift over time.

It is not about creating new currencies it is about creating new units of account that measure exchanges and their values in new and unique ways. And, this is a far harder question to tackle because it is not about a technical solution, it is about a social solution. It is about a revolution in systems of value.