Sharing: What Happens When Consumers Rethink The Economy

Back in April, Nick Clegg restated government resolve to pursue ambitious environmental goals. The Deputy Prime Minister rebuffed rumours that the credit crunch had killed environmentalism. On the contrary, “going green has never made so much sense” and sustainability, in fact, coincides with economic recovery; “lean times can be green times”, he repeated. Clegg called his idea “environmental thrift”, which is basically just good housekeeping. Indeed, it seems quite possible that Mr Clegg’s speech was inspired by our grandmothers war-time abilities to make a little go a long very way. And good on him for that. The global economy has a thing or two to learn from sound home economics.

Mr Clegg’s position makes a lot of sense, but he’s missing one important factor in the equation. His speech draws our attention to two areas of government action: cutting consumer energy consumption to reduce emissions and alleviate financial pressure on households and building up low carbon sectors to create a competitive green industry for Britain’s economic future. That’s all well and good, but it misses the crux of the matter. Clegg’s proposals are top-down initiatives. Real “environmental thrift”, honest, hand-on, efficient and effective housekeeping, is not happening top-down, through policy. It’s happening bottom-up, through consumers.

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Art/Eden

I see Art as a materialised thought process, a public conversation the artist has with his or her existence, his or her world. This work of Kim Holleman does just that, opening a conversation about a subject that is very important to me: our (broken) relationship with nature, especially as city dwellers.

Coming Out for Introverts

Back when I was in school, I read a lot. I used to read during break time. I was teased about it but there was nothing doing. Spending half an hour sitting on a bench “alone” in my world of fiction made me happy; standing around chatting in a group did not. This is still the case today. I love to read, I hate to small talk. I leave parties early to sit in bed with a book. I just don’t have anything to say during conversations that meander all over the general subject of absolutely nothing in particular. I get bored. I feel useless and excluded. It’s not that I’m anti-social, I love talking to people, only I prefer to do so with only a few people at a time, on identified subjects, in a setting in which I can concentrate. This social orientation has a name: I’m an introvert, meaning that I prefer to focus on my inner world, and avoid excessive stimulation from without.

In this video Susan Cain, author of the new book, “Quiet”, explains her research and theory on the place of introverts in todays society, especially in business. She suggests there is a cultural bias towards extroversion, as this personality type is (wrongly) preferred for leadership, social charisma being confused with talent. She also points out that because of this bias, a generation of introverts like myself experience a secret sense of shame about their social preferences and how they like to spend their time (like sitting at home blogging on a Sunday). Introverts force themselves, at great personal expense to behave gregariously, because they know it’s necessary to succeed in their environment. I know I do everyday. Her message is that we’d do better to bet on our power as introverts, than waste our energy trying to be someone we’re not. I agree.

Lettuce In The City
If you watched the video in my last post on Biosphere 2: this is the sequel. It presents The Plant, a retired 
meatpacking facility, being repurposed into a net-zero energy vertical farm in Chicago. Their aquaponic farming concept is a mix of hydroponics and fish-farming, with some beer making going on too, each part of the system helping to close the resource loop. What’s amazing about this project is that’ it’s radically innovative while being totally down to earth. For example, The Plant aims to create 125 Carbon neutral jobs in its’ difficult neighborhood.

One’s Place In The World
Scientist Jane Poynter recounts her almost unique experience (only 7 other people in the world have done it), living in Biosphere 2 for 2 years & 20 minutes. The purpose of this larger than life experiment was to find out if it is possible to (re)create the conditions of sustainable life. Turns out, and that’s what I love about this talk, she also found some more esoteric answers along the way.

Who Owns Downloadable?The elephant-in-the-room question that 3D printing brings up is who owns stuff, if anyone can just print it from a downloaded blueprint cf P2P file-sharing. In his illuminating white paper Michael Weinberg highlights the opportunity this technology presents, and warns that there will be naysayers, especially those that have a vested interest in protecting proprietary manufacturing. In his own words:

No one suggests that these concerns are unwarranted. After all, the ability to copy and replicate is the ability to infringe on copyright, patent, and trademark. But the ability to copy and replicate is also the ability to create, expand upon, and innovate. Just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer before it, some people will see 3D printing as a disruptive threat. Similarly, just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer, some people will see 3D printing as a groundbreaking tool to spread creativity and knowledge. It is critical that those who fear not stop those who are inspired.

Who Owns Downloadable?
The elephant-in-the-room question that 3D printing brings up is who owns stuff, if anyone can just print it from a downloaded blueprint cf P2P file-sharing. In his illuminating white paper Michael Weinberg highlights the opportunity this technology presents, and warns that there will be naysayers, especially those that have a vested interest in protecting proprietary manufacturing. In his own words:

No one suggests that these concerns are unwarranted. After all, the ability to copy and replicate is the ability to infringe on copyright, patent, and trademark. But the ability to copy and replicate is also the ability to create, expand upon, and innovate. Just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer before it, some people will see 3D printing as a disruptive threat. Similarly, just as with the printing press, the copy machine, and the personal computer, some people will see 3D printing as a groundbreaking tool to spread creativity and knowledge. It is critical that those who fear not stop those who are inspired.

Public Libraries: From Learning To Making
This presentation of 3D printing explains how the technology can democratize manufacturing. It also joins in the conversation around a recent article, calling for 3D printers in public libraries, since these spaces are historically the seat of public commons and democratic empowerment. I love libraries, always have, but this is just so cool, it actually makes me want to drop everything and become a librarian.

One Lean Car
This guy has done some very radical things: First, he collaboratively built a 100 gallon/mile car, called Wikispeed, in a couple of weeks. How? He applied test-driven development methods from the software world (agile, lean, scrum) to revolutionize the manufacturing processes. It’s very possible that this new distributed approach to design & manufacturing will do to our world, what the assembly line did almost a century ago… Watch to learn how.

Ideas That Shape Us
I’d like to showcase this series of beautiful posters by designer Genis Carreras, illustrating complex philosophies with simple shapes. He calls them philographics. Off subject I hear you think? Nay, for our future comes from the way we see the world. Chosen here are a couple of my favourites.

(Source: geniscarreras.com)

The Third Kitchen

As every good cook knows, one’s method of production affects the nature of the outcome. In short, how you make your food, matters. In much the same way, the production methods we base our society on affect our quality of life. Recently, with the bitter after-taste of the financial crisis still in their mouths, an increasing number of citizens of the industrialized world have begun to take a closer look at just what is going on in the kitchen.

Our means of production of wealth, our kitchen, if you will, is capitalism, which, according to Wikipedia, is an economic system “generally considered to favor private ownership of the means of production”: this is my kitchen not yours, pay me if you want to use it, or come work in my kitchen. The thing with capitalism is that it demands economies of scale and concentration of capital: really big kitchens make more food and buy more kitchens to make more food and buy more kitchens… You get the idea. This necessarily leaves some people with no kitchen and no food (i.e. no means of production of wealth and no wealth). The opposite of capitalism is communism: the state kitchen. A bit like the school canteen, but worse, that’s an alternative I’d rather avoid.

Three Acres and A Cow
In a powerful paradigm shift from the capitalist v communist duality, there emerges a third way. It’s nothing new, two papal encyclicals first came up with the idea in the early 20th century, it later became know as Distributism, I call it the third kitchen.

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The Downside To Curing Smallpox
Professor Ian Goldin explains the emergence of systemic fragility in our new globalized economic structure. He argues that the connectivity and interdependance of our globalized economy have fabulous benefits, like increased literacy and health break thoughts, but we have failed to create a body capable of managing and controlling these new commons, or able to protect us from the risks they present:

We need to understand that the governance structure in the world is fossilized.  It cannot begin to cope with the challenges that this [globalization] will bring. We have to develop a new way of managing the planet, collectively, through collective wisdom.

If you’ve got a bit more time to spare (like an hour), watch another interesting talk of his, given at the Oxford Martin School, of which he is director.
I got the info for this post from Ted.Ed, which, if you haven’t heard, is a revolutionary new horizontal learning platform, and a good example of connectivity making massive positive impact on the world :)

G+ is huge and you probably have no idea why

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you pimp your Linked In profile at least once a month, adding new contacts to your professional network, checking who’s moved where and what new degree of pretension job titles have reached. Important stuff. Pretty sure you’re on Facebook everyday too: who’s getting married, keep in touch, Peter went sky diving, it’s Beth’s birthday! If you’re one of those early-adopter types, a cultural creative exploring the frontiers of social mutation and such, then you’re on Twitter as well. On the other hand, if you don’t have much to say but you really like wedding bouquets and exotic salads, you’re on Pinterest (if you don’t have a job, you’re on both). Chances are, however, you’re not on Google+. Because you don’t see the point of Google+, which is normal, because you’re already on Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, Pinterest, 4sq, Quora, Tumblr, Scoop.It, and for a person with only one life, nine social networks is plenty, thanks very much. Plus, none of your friends are on Google+.

G+: Another Dead-pool Dunk?
So what is Google doing? Have they caught their feet in their super-secret all-knowing ever-changing algorithm and tripped straight back into the dead-pool, having only just shaken off the sludge from their Buzz dunking. Not this time. They’re onto something, it’s going to be huge and it’s not in the least surprising that you can’t see why. 

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About me

Creative thinker, technological optimist and learnaholic, I worked as an Art Director for almost ten years, in communications agencies, also independently consulting for a variety of companies of different sizes and sectors. Read quite alot. Been around. Currently thinking about life, the future, and what to do about it.

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