We are modern. We see the world through modern eyes, in a modern context. It’s very hard to unlearn that perspective, or even to understand what it means.
From the modernist point of view, a lot of behaviors and institutions from times gone by make no sense at all. If you want to be entertained learning why the strange customs of the British pre-modern aristocracy were actually well suited to their times and contributed directly to a couple hundred years of Rule Britannia, read The Institutional Revolution: Measurement and the Economic Emergence of the Modern World, by Doug Allen.
That would be entertaining, but not as useful as a reading of The Great Transformation, written by Karl Polanyi in 1944. In the video below, I distill what I got from the book. I’ll offer some comments after it.
The three ways we stayed alive before: householding, reciprocity and redistribution. The three fictitious commodities brought by the industrial revolution: land, labor and money. Poverty, new in 1650; unemployment, new in 1750. The mind boggles.
I’m going to keep creating 5minUs of books that have influenced me, and I encourage you to, as well. Together we might be able to read our way through huge stacks of important works. Contradictions and debate welcome. That’s the point, too.
We tend to assume the school system as it is and proceed to try to fix it.
I went through it, half public, half private. I survived, and I’m pretty curious. Surely this is the only way to organize education.
But it isn’t. Once you start to look at the system we’ve built and the assumptions it contains, it’s a bit of a mind-blower how off it might be. The particular angle I take on it in this video is about scarcity and abundance.
I’m not surprised kids cause trouble in school and grades aren’t rising. The system is broken.
For a video from a teacher who is working wonders inside the system, watch this.
The genesis of my Relationship Economy thesis was a realization, back around 1994 when I was writing Esther Dyson’s monthly tech newsletter Release 1.0, that the word “consumer” made me really uncomfortable.
I followed that energy, and it proved invaluable. Ideas kept unfolding from that initial premise. I began to notice the consumerization of so many spheres of human activity, from how we educate our children to how we elect our governments and how we pray to our Gods. I paid attention to the language of marketing to consumers, to the metaphors and business models that had spun out as a result.
Creative people (and I mean all sorts of creative people, from sculptors and choreographers to inventors and mathematicians) are stuck in a dilemma: they would like to share their creations openly, and they need to make a living.
No wonder many of them freak out at peer-to-peer file sharing systems and other technologies and movements that are about open sharing. They see these movements as existential threats.
Imagine an infrastructure that makes it easier for them to make a living, so they might contemplate releasing their works more openly. This post builds toward that goal.
Sometimes a secondary attribute is as important as the first, obvious attribute.
For example, with broadband connections, most everyone focuses on the speed. Ooooo: Megabits! Gigabits! Given a choice between a slower Net and a faster one, faster is definitely nicer, but the element we tend to slide past is that the connection is always available.
Remember the days of dialup, or even of expensive calls to BBSes through mysterious packet networks? Remember how long it would take to get connected and logged in? Those days are pretty much history.
Here I’d like to appreciate a different attribute of our infrastructure, the attribute that makes it different from — and better than — the phone system, the TV networks and other technologies that might seem similar.
That attribute of the Net is that we can leave things in it and they persist. They’re there when we come back, and while we’re away they’re available to others. “They” can be essays, songs, movies, code or other things.
You can’t leave anything in the phone or TV systems. Before I steal any more of my thunder, let me take you to the REXcast:
The public side of REX — this blog and the various materials that weave into it — is a conversation about what a Relationship Economy means to individuals, organizations and society as a whole.
Here, we’ll compare this thesis to others, take the thesis deep into different sectors of the world economy, explore its many layers and possibilities (such as the relationship between the commercial economy and gift exchange, between scarcity and value, and between what is paid and what is free), and gradually make it more tangible.
There’s also a private REXpedition, a membership cohort that I convene and facilitate. This group will pursue aspects of the Relationship Economy thesis that it finds most compelling, shaping them and testing them in the real world. Occasionally, this group will run experiments or build prototypes, bringing to life some of the entities and services that are needed so we can all thrive in the Relationship Economy.
This video is my brief explanation of the REXpedition as a whole, with its complementary public and private sides.
If you’re interested in joining the private REXpedition, please contact me directly. If you’re interested in this quest generally, just follow this blog.