Archive for ◊ December, 2010 ◊

• Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

The existing power structure on Earth is like a pyramid. All information and secrets are kept by few at the top of the pyramid who then distribute the information downward through the pyramid.

Economically, this is known as the “trickle-down” system of the rich giving jobs to the poor. In governments, the military and corporations, we have chief executives who make decisions which trickle down the organizational chain of command. When you want to defeat an organization in battle, it is said that you need to “cut off the head” and then the body will die.

All these are examples of the current pyramidal power structure that is the matrix lattice which controls our lives. It forces us to pay rent for shelter, spend money for food and water, and have a job that often leaves our souls wanting more.

Pyramid schemeAnother disadvantage of pyramid systems is that they are inherently unsustainable. Take for example the “pyramid schemes” seen in chain-mail, multi-level marketing (MLM) and Ponzi schemes (Bernie Madoff). Sooner or later, they all collapse leaving most participants wondering how they could be so foolish. Historically, I think we’re in a similar point where we are waking up and realizing that our society is one big pyramid scheme that is collapsing upon us.

We need a  new model, a new system of organizing ourselves that leads to sustainable prosperity.

Holographic Power Structures

Holographic power structures refer to systems of organization that distribute power equally across all members. This is not done for ideological or idealistic reasons, but for the practical reason that it is more sustainable and stable.

The Holographic power structure is a new paradigm where vital information is not controlled by a few at the top of the pyramid. Information is distributed equally amongst members, like a holographic image where every pixel contains all the information for the entire picture.

It is also like the open-source software movement where the entire code base is shared openly to everyone. Nothing is secret, no one is an executive controlling the movement.

The Open source movement is also inspiring new ideas about money which is one of the primary mechanisms of the pyramidal power structure. By reforming the way money works from a pyramidal to a holographic paradigm, we may be on the way towards vast, meaningful, sustainable changes in our lives.

Source: BetterMeans and the Open Enterprise model

The Open Enterprise is a new organizational design. Unlike organizations using traditional management structures, Open Enterprises replace the command and control hierarchy with a meritocracy based on collaboration and open participation.

Organizations that adopt this new organizational structure can make decisions faster and respond quicker to their markets. They look more like living dynamic networks, and less like pyramids. People working in these organizations will have (and feel) more ownership. They’re more engaged in their work, and have the freedom to work on what they want, when they want to. Most importantly this model enables people to once again bring their full humanity – values, beliefs and passions – to the workplace, removing disconnect between organizational and personal values.

See also: Global Guerrillas

Basically, what this metacurrency project is about (at least my intent) is to find a way to rapidly build successful open source ventures (and over time: build an open source economy).  These open source ventures:

  1. generate incomes for the participants ($$, yen, Gold, Euros, food, etc.),
  2. automate the allocation of rewards based on contribution, and
  3. don’t require a corporate hierarchy/bureaucracy to manage them (which ultimately dooms every corporation to stagnation/death/inefficiency).

The short term objective of the project is to build a social network enabled Internet venture, using metacurrencies, that proves the concept.

• Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

The Wikileaks controversy has stirred up old debates about openness, government, corporate secrets and society’s right to information about its institutions. Few writers have acknowledged that the current, free Internet is the foundation, the sina qua non, of the debate.

Remarkably, the Internet has survived for 40 years because it is sustainable. It is open. It is honest (at least at the network level). And costs are shared, more or less, equally.

Without this sustainable foundation, Wikileaks and the surrounding debate would not exist. Ironically, it may be the Wikileaks controversy that destroys the open, free Internet.

Already, many law makers in Washington D.C. and Ottawa are calling for stricter network controls on the Internet in order to maintain national “security” secrets, to prevent the formation of other web sites like Wikileaks and so that “terrorists” don’t get us.

In countries like Russia and China, web sites are routinely blocked from the Internet and communicating to the rest of the world. Now, England is urging ISP’s to ban any web site that may be “pornographic” in the name of keeping children safe.

Daniel Ellsberg - Time magazineAs Americans have known for 200 years, free speech is messy and sometimes dirty and even offensive. But that is the ironic principle behind free speech: once you start restricting some speech because it is offensive, eventually all of it gets censored, free thought is aborted and people cease to be free. Our free-flow of information on the Internet didn’t happen by accident or without the effort of thousands of early pioneers who shared a vision of open, free communications between free peoples.

That vision of free speech online is under threat by the Wikileaks scandal. At its heart, the Wikileaks scandal looks like a replay of the Pentagon papers released by journalist Daniel Ellsberg in 1971 that shamed the U.S. government and showed that the Johnson administration deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress about the war in Vietnam. The response then was the same as today: shut down the source of the information leakage (rather than admit fault and take responsibility). The U.S. government sued the New York Times and won an injunction preventing the paper from publishing for 15 days in 1971.

This was the first successful attempt by the federal government to restrain the publication of a major newspaper since the Civil war. Luckily, the Supreme Court overturned this case and the Times resumed publishing the Pentagon papers.

This time around, however, the Supreme Court may not hold jurisdiction over Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, because he is not an American and his web site is hosted in Europe.

If free people don’t stand up and defend the right of whistle blowers to spread facts about the unlawful and dishonest actions of government and corporations, then we don’t have much to stand on. The continued existence of a free Internet and free people depends upon it.

Source: The Atlantic

It is possible for tiny actions to occasionally have huge consequences on the Internet – like the creation of a Facebook or a Wikileaks by tiny teams – because many thousands of people over decades set up the underlying structure of that seeming magic trick.

It seems to cost nothing to send an email, so we spend billions of dollars on spam. The existing Internet design is centered on creating the illusion of no-cost effort. But there is no such thing. It’s an illusion born of the idylls of youth, and leads to a distorted perception of the nature of responsibility. When there seems to be no cost, the idea of moderation doesn’t seem sensible.

Source: Wall Street Journal

Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government’s reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.

• Monday, December 13th, 2010

When the siren sounds from well-educated, highly paid business managers and entrepreneurs, you know the party is  over (R.I.P. Don Meredith).

It has been clear, for anyone who cared enough to notice, that our modern economy generally could be classified into a few self-destructive categories: resource exploitation (mining, agriculture, construction), labor exploitation (service industries), death management (health care), technology (cell phones, PC’s, game consoles) and entertainment.

Luckilly, some awake individuals have sat up and noticed the unsustainable treadmill that society is on and have decided to jump ship (I am enviously watching them swim away).

Source: Management Information Exchange

I’d suggest that today, nothing characterizes industrial age business like the Five P’s. Business is Pedestrian (in its vanishing smallness of ambition), Predictable (in its furious obsession with the trivial), Predatory (in it’s hyperaggressive selfishness), Pompous (in its unvarnished self-importance), and Pointless (in its lack of usefulness to people and society). What it really excels at is pumping out inauthentic, unsustainable, illusory value–instead of the real thing.

Does this sound harsh? Consider some recent, everyday, humdrum headlines.

*GM using bailout money to fight higher fuel standards

*Banks having destroyed the mortgage title process perhaps irrecoverably

*Cigarette makers fighting global regulation

*Marketing by almost literally brainwashing

You might, then, begin see my point. Predictable, pedestrian, predatory, slightly pompous, and, effectively pointless. Argue with me if you like, add a nuance here and there, bring the hoary B-school 101 defensive arsenal to bear if you want, but I’d suggest that the institutions of business as we know them might just have outlived their faded triumphs. In fact, I dare you: pick up the business section–and ask yourself how many articles don’t meet most, if not all, of the five P’s.

Of course, I’m not the only one who finds himself brain-crushingly bored of predictable, pedestrian, predatory, pompous, pointless business as usual. The people formerly known as “consumers,” once easy-to-placate investors, legions of snoring managers, tuned out “human resources,” scores of low-cost global competitors, thousands of fed-up startups–they are too. Apathy is skyrocketing. Activist investors are doing less fist-pumping with boardrooms–and more fist-punching at them. Entire new categories of insurgents (think social entrepreneurs), hell-bent on revolutionizing capitalism as we know it, are starting to succeed.

• Saturday, December 11th, 2010

A minor accounting change in the U.K. (see below) is another small step towards sustainability entering our public accounting system.

Once the costs of ecosystem degradation start to be accounted, the current price/demand equilibrium in most markets will start to wobble driving businesses to be sincerely concerned about environmental preservation.

Perhaps one day we will look back at Bhutan’s decision in the 1970′s to measure Gross National Happiness (GNH) rather than Gross National Product (GNP) as a pioneering and visionary step forward for humanity.

Source: Sustainable Cities Collective

The euro crisis could be the start of reconfiguring global finance to build a more resilient global economy. This is the big change and a crucial aspect of the Sustainable Revolution.

The small change is David Cameron’s instruction to the Office for National Statistics to devise a measure of quality of life. This does not seem like an important issue, but it is a stage on the journey towards a sustainable society. We must bring ecosystem integrity on to the balance sheet and devise appropriate measures for society that include health and happiness. The Sustainable Revolution will make the old measures of development based on pure economic measures, such as GDP, obsolescent.

• Wednesday, December 08th, 2010

The most difficult step in any journey is the first one…

Source: Montreal Gazette

EV Charging StationWhile the Sheraton Centre was first in Quebec to offer public charging stations, it won’t be the last.

Among various EV projects in the province is a three-year, $4.5-million venture in Boucherville, involving Hydro-Quebec and Mitsubishi’s all-electric i-MiEV.

That project will test charging stations made by various manufacturers, Pierre-Luc Desgagne, Hydro-Quebec’s senior director of strategic planning, said yesterday.

One key consideration is how the charging stations will handle winter, Desgagne said.

One reason Quebec is a leading Canadian jurisdiction in the electrification of ground transportation is the relatively low cost of electricity here.

The cost of charging the Ford hybrid, part of Hydro-Quebec’s test fleet and yesterday’s demonstration vehicle, was about 60 cents, Desgagne said.

The hybrid will travel about 50 kilometres on a charge before fuel is engaged.

The cost of charging a Nissan Leaf, which will run about 160 kilometre on a charge, is about $1, he said…

Le Centre Sheraton and its sister hotel in Toronto decided to offer charging stations as part of their sustainable development initiatives, said Michel Giguere, Centre Sheraton’s general manager.

Access to the charging stations will be free, at least until June, to Sheraton guests and any Montrealers who want to charge electric vehicles, including scooters and bikes, he said.

• Friday, December 03rd, 2010

We need a new counting systemA major problem with our economic system is that future environmental and health liabilities are not counted in any transaction. This is dishonest because these costs are hidden from us.

If markets could see the real, long-term costs during the buying decision process, all food would be organic, our transportation system would look nothing like it does and consumer products would be built to last nearly forever.

Until we learn to “count” differently, we’ll continue the same unsustainable practice of environmental degradation.

I dream of living in an honest, sustainable world.

Source: Family Eats

The impact on our society is greater when you decide to buy ‘cheap’ foods.  On the shelf, the cost of non-organic food may be less than organic, but when you look at the true cost of production, everything that it took to bring that product to market, it is by far more expensive and non-organic food is the most expensive option we could buy. Whether it is your tax money in form of the $60 billion farm bill each year, or the cost of environmental clean-up of soil, air, and water, the price of non-organic foods is not what you see on the shelf.

Sustainability is really just a definition for honesty. If there is something dishonest in our relationships, then it is not sustainable. If the production of a product has a substantial negative environmental impact, then it is not sustainable.

• Wednesday, December 01st, 2010
Mayor Tremblay

Mayor Tremblay

The new 2011 $4.5 Billion Montreal city budget released by Mayor Tremblay has many goodies for car-free folk:

  • 8% increase ($32 million) to the STM and AMT for metro/train/bus service
  • $45 per car tax to further fund public transit (not really a benefit)
  • $28.3-million over 3 years to further develop Montreal’s bike paths

While these are good things, keep in mind that the city will still spend about $265 Million on roads, tunnels, road crossings, bridges and traffic lights!

There are also other nice sustainability perqs:

  • 245,000 high-volume recycling containers (which also help keep the recycled waste out of streets and sidewalks)
  • The construction of 5 large scale composting facilities by 2014 (despite NIMBY protests)

The biggest criticism I have is that the tax increase to pay for all these goodies is unsustainable. Home owners get hit with a 2.5% property tax increase which seems higher than current inflation (zero?). Why not zero tax hikes? That’s sustainable!