Saturday, July 11, 2009
Kevin Kelly wrote in Wired a provocative article portraying Internet as the new socialism.
Concretely he was referring to phenomena like user generated contents and user produced goods.
This article was brilliantly rebated by Lessig on the basis of the significance of concept socialism.
Lessig points out that Socialism implies using the power of the State to change society and produce a kind of outcome that wouldn't be possible without its use: the end of explotation of proletarians and the dawn of a new era of freedom.
Even if this is completely correct, I believe there is an omission, probably because the focus was on what is wrong in Kelly's article. Even if public production of public goods existed since the beginning of humanity, Internet brought two fundamental changes to this production: a) an effortless way of sharing and reproducing information goods and b) a complete democratization of the means of production of these informational goods.
This is the reason why some like Bauwens argue that this change is important enough to label it as a new mode of production: p2p.
Capitalism, markets and production modes are not static concepts written in stone and immune to technological changes. They are, like everything else such as organizational structures, limited by our capacity at a point in time, of creating technological artifacts to support them. As we progress we are increasingly able to incorporate intelligence and connectivity to these artifacts, therefore part of the coordination effort can be offloaded from human power (middle management) to the platform (e.g. wikipedia).
This process, by using abstraction as a resource, implies a simplification of the capacities that we need to operate and interact, allowing more of us to participate or use the resource. For example, you don't need to be an expert on a complex word processor in order to be able to edit an encyclopedia like in the 70's, now everybody can do it.
However, these new capacities don't exist in isolation, they coexist with traditional companies and interact - sometimes compete - with them. Companies recognize their value and try to use their potential, so do governments and non-profit.
Is this socialism? or on the contrary emphasizes the free will and individual action as a key driver of human history? I think it does!