Symbionomics: Stories of a New Economy is a new film in the making from hit DIY film maker Alan Rosenblith director of of The Money Fix. I was first acquainted with Alan’s work in the Money Fix and was excited to see that film featured my permaculture instructor Scott Pittman of the US Permaculture Institute. What I liked about that film is it’s in depth analysis that blended economic theory with ecological principals. Similarly, Symbionomics will examine some the major themes changing are economy today, such as the open source movement, the open production movement, social currency, p2p software. If you feel there is an answer to fixing our financial system that won’t come from manipulations of central banks then symbionomics will open your eyes to a world of new possibilities. Please take a look at their Kickstarter page (2 weeks left) and please help spread the word about this amazing new project.
Themes to be explored:
1) New Media: In the last twenty years, a wave of new tools has transformed the way we communicate. Twentieth century media tools used the broadcast, or “one-to-many” form, but today, with the advent of social media, we can, for the first time, communicate on a large scale in a “many-to-many” pattern. This ease of communication has profoundly affected how the economy is organized. We will explore how tools like blogs, mobile devices and social media have transformed the way people live and work.
2) Networks: These new forms of communication have enabled the geometry of our organizations to evolve from pyramidal to networked. In the past we needed top-down hierarchical organizations to organize on any scale larger than a village. Today, we see highly effective organizations that have embraced a networked structure. We will explore how living in a networked world changes the incentives and dynamics of economic interaction.
3) Letting Go of Control: As we have transformed into a networked culture, we have developed new ways of deriving value from our work. We formerly depended on capturing value through the ownership of assets and the control of production. Now that access to knowledge and information is at most a few connections away, many people are opening up control over their property –physical, virtual and intellectual- in favor of sharing amongst their networks. The value of visibility in a culture where attention is the scarce resource is such that access is more important than ownership. We will explore how new social contracts of ownership and control are gaining traction in an age of hyper-connectivity.
4) Open Production: As individuals and organizations have loosened their grasp on their products, an entirely new form of production has emerged. In contrast to the industrial production models of the 20th century, today, people are leveraging commonly-held platforms like open source software, Wikipedia, and Creative Commons, and a myriad of free web 2.0 tools to produce significant value. The ubiquity of personal computing has lowered the cost of access to the means of production to nearly zero. We will explore the success and future possibilities of this new mode of production.
5) Motivation: With new modes of production come new incentives for participation and value creation. Since both monetary reward and power over others are largely non-existent in the open production model, motivation has shifted from extrinsic to intrinsic. What’s more, as Daniel Pink points out in his book Drive, intrinsic motivation is far more successful at educing creative problem solving in individuals. We will explore this new motivational landscape and find out exactly why people do contribute at such large scales to Wikipedia and other such projects.
6) Post-Scarcity Economics: In the old economy, the surest way to profit was to control a scarce resource. However, many of the products of the digital age are virtually free to reproduce and distribute. Industries such as newspapers and music have been slow to embrace this new reality, and have subsequently fallen into decline. The Industrial economy was based on the increased throughput of material goods, and since natural resources are now increasingly scarce, for the next economy to enjoy sustained prosperity, it must be driven by abundantly available resources such as information, knowledge, and human creativity.
7) The Future Work: Our new communications tools have also changed the way we organize at the workplace. The rise of co-working environments such as The Hub has brought into question whether the 20th century conception of employment is still a necessary foundation to the economy. Agile developer teams that spontaneously arise to build software have proven that successful teamwork no longer depends on an employer. We will explore this shifting landscape around how networks enable self-organized teams create value.
8) Social Gaming: The recent explosion of smart phone technology has also seen an widespread integration of gaming into everyday life. Services such as Foursquare, SCVNGR, and CheckPoints, have provided windows into new ways of coordinating economic activity, supporting consumer preferences in the process. Thought leaders such as Jane McGonigal and Jessie Schell have emphasized the potential of using game dynamics for social benefit. Game theory provides a deeper look into how value can be created via self-organizing networks of players driven by the joy of play.
9) Collaborative Consumption: In addition to new modes of production emerging in the economy, we are also seeing the rise of new forms of consumption. Rachel Botsman and Lisa Gansky have outlined how new business models are using web, mobile and social media to enable the efficient sharing of physical goods, where access trumps ownership. We will explore how this new trend in consumption is affecting the broader economic landscape.
10) Making and Growing: New economic patterns of the information age are no longer limited to the Internet as the rise of maker communities and DIY (Do-It-Yourself) demonstrates. 3D printing has made decentralized manufacturing a real possibility, with designs shared in a global knowledge commons. On the agricultural side, gardening and local food has surged in popularity as the economy continues to languish. We will explore how people are using peer-based, open, and collaborative approaches in the broader economy beyond the digital realm.
11) The Future of Currency: As our economy transforms, conventional forms of money –optimized for an industrial, capital-intensive model- may no longer serve the needs of an information-rich world. Money itself is merely a form of information, and we’ve begun to see people adding virtual and social currencies into their business models to drive participation, measure reputation, and creatively access resources. Much of the new economy is outside of the formal market entirely, which begs the question of whether new forms of currency may out-compete money itself as an economic coordinating system. We will explore how 21st century information systems are beginning to reduce the need for conventional money to get things done.
12) Collective Intelligence: As our civilization goes through this massive transformation, there is a clear need for the intelligence of organizations to rise to meet 21st century challenges. Where the 20th century was about smart employees, the 21st century will be about creating smart organizations. We will uncover some of the most promising work being done to maximize collective intelligence and wisdom.