Saturday, July 11, 2009

Is the Net the New Socialism?

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!

Labels: , ,

Thursday, July 09, 2009

I was with a Pirate today :-)

Today we had lunch with a pirate :-) Amelia Andersdotter from the Swedish Piratpartiet that is about to get a seat as a member of the European Parliament.
As my friend Artur says, in Spain we send old people to the European Parliament while in Sweden they send young ones :-) !!!
She has all the ingenuity, the boldness and the courage to fight for difficult things of a 21 year old Swedish - maybe what we need!
Some of you may think that we need politicians that know how to manage things, let me disagree. Civil servants know how to manage much better than politicians, we need politicians with vision and goals and tight to their voters.
For the ones that are not familiar with their proposals, they aim for a 5 year limit in copyright and abolishing patents. Even if you may find this quite extreme, their discuss makes sense in some points. Take for example the case of rights on works subvention with public money and consumed by public organizations, such as drugs or clinic trials, mostly supported with public money and consumed by public health organizations, even in these cases, drugs companies enjoy rights on products for which they didn't pay the research, neither the clinic trials ... A similar case happens in movies or cultural events which in Europe are mostly subvention with public money ... In all these cases, the reasons why rights on goods are granted are far from clear.
Anyway, we really enjoyed having Amelia in Barcelona - CitiLab!!

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Venture Capital and location

A study about the geography of American Venture Capital by Henry Chen and altri posted in the SSRN network finds both expected and unexpected results.
The expected ones portray that american VC prefer to invest in States and in the traditional zones that have a proven record (SF, San Jose, Boston and NY.
However, they also find that the most successful investments are the ones made outside their one zone.
The explanation is probably very simple, the screening is tougher for the ones that are outside the area where they can control regularly.
That boils down to what my Finance teacher told me in NY more than 25 years ago: if you are a foreigner here, the rules are simple, just work twice as hard and expect half. He was from Iran, flew to NY trying to escape the Ayatollah revolution. I must say that most of my life I followed this advice, sometimes it worked, others didn't but recognizing that you are at a disadvantage is the first step to cover for it.
This is probably what the startups outside these regions do, and this is why it works. Somehow again this transmission between personal and organizational behavior seems to be not only an explanatory mechanism but one that works.