Background on the FLOK Project
The National Plan of Ecuador recognizes and stresses that the global transformation towards knowledge-based societies and economies requires a new form for the creation and distribution of value in society. The National Plan's central concept is the achievement of 'Buen Vivir' (Sumak Kawsay) or 'good living'; but good living is impossible without the availability of 'good knowledge', i.e. 'Buen Conocer' ('Sumak Yachay'). The third national plan for 2013-2017 explicitly calls for a open-commons based knowledge society.
President Correa himself exhorted young people to achieve and fight for this open knowledge society.
The FLOK Society is a joint research effort by the Coordinating Ministry of Knowledge and Human Talent, the SENESCYT (Secretaría Nacional de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación) and the IAEN (Instituto de Altos Estudios del Estado) to develop transition and policy proposals to achieve such a open commons-based knowledge society.
FLOK refers to:
- Free, meaning freedom to use, distribute and modify knowledge in universally available common pools;
- Libre stresses that it concerns free as in freedom, not as in 'gratis';
- Open refers to the ability of all citizens to access, contribute to and use this common resource.
A free, libre and open knowledge society therefore essentially means organizing every sector of society, to the maximum degree possible, into open knowledge commons, i.e. the availability of common pools of knowledge, code and design that are acceptable to all citizens and market entities, to create dynamic and innovative societies and economies, where knowledge is available without discrimination to all who need it to develop their civic and economic activities.
The FLOK project is commissioned by the Secretary of Knowledge Rene Ramirez and SENESCYT, and carried out by the IAEN under the leadership of its rector and Dean of Research, as well as the FLOK Society team leaders Daniel Vazquez and Xabier Barandiaran. Michel Bauwens, the author of the research plan in collaboration with the FLOK Team, is the research director, assisted by five research stream coordinators.
The aim of the research plan is to combine the best advice from the global commons, and Ecuadorian civil society, in order to propose an integrated transition plan and the associated policy framework and proposals.
The research plan builds on the original FLOK Proposal, i.e. Designing the FLOK Society, by Xabier E. Barandiaran & Daniel Vázquez. It builds on this proposal and specifically calls for an integrative or 'wholistic' approach, which goes beyond technology, and calls for measures that take into account different aspects of social change that need to occur if not simultaneously, then at least linked a positive feedback loop in which various measures reinforce each other. It also broadens and deepens the call by looking at commons-based infrastructures not just for knowledge, but for other social and productive activities.
The Framing of the Proposal
The Three Value Models and the transition to a Social Knowledge Economy
In order to frame the transition to a 'social knowledge economy' or a FLOK-based societal model, we use a framing of three particular 'value extraction and distribution' systems, which determine how economic value is created, extracted, and distributed.
The traditional capitalist value model is of course well known, but the emergence of a knowledge society has already changed these dynamics to a fundamental extent.
In the traditional model, before the era of networked and cognitive production, private capital actors invest in capital and labour, and sell the industrial and consumer products with a surplus value.
But the new models of cognitive capitalism work with different models of value extraction and distribution, and we distinguish three different models, which includes the post-capitalist model of the social knowledge economy. We define cognitive capitalism generically as that model of capitalism where the ownership and control of information flows is the key factor for the extraction of value.
Of the three models we will distinguish, one form is still dominant, but rapidly declining in importance; a second form is reaching dominance, but carries within itself the seeds of its own destruction; a third is emerging, but needs vital new policies in order to become dominant.
The first model: 'Classic' Cognitive Capitalism based on IP extraction
The first form is the classic form of cognitive capitalism, based on a "rentier" capitalism that extracts rent from Intellectual Property, and in which financial capital dominates. A good description of this form is McKenzie Wark's Hacker Manifesto, in which he describes the logic of "vectoral capitalism", where the 'vectors' of communication are in the hands of mass media and the multinational corporations that organize production. This first form of cognitive capitalism was dominant in the first era of networked computing, before the emergence of the civic internet and the web, when the networks were exclusively in the hands of multinational companies and/or governments and their centralized public channels. In this system, the profit of capital is increasingly dependent on 'intellectual property' regulations that keep technical, scientific, commercial and other forms of knowledge artificially scarce, and therefore allow the realization of super-profits. The profits of purely industrial production have become low, but the benefits of IP and the control of the networks of production through IT, allow for the generation of huge monopolistic profits. This first form of cognitive capitalism is far from dying, is still in fact dominant, but is nevertheless undermined in the second era of networked computing, where internetworks are now diffused throughout society, and the vectors of production can no longer be monopolized. Furthermore, the ubiquity of digital technology, and its ability to reproduce informational products at marginal cost, severely undermines the maintenance of an intellectual property regime based on maintaining artificial scarcity, through legal repression or technological sabotage (DRM).
The second model: Netarchical Capitalism based on the control of networked platforms
Indeed, the second era of massively networked computing, born with the publicly accessible internet, has undermined the control of the "vectoral" class, and created a new class of controllers, that of "netarchical capital", the type of capital investment that controls proprietary social media platforms, but that nevertheless enables direct peer to peer communication between individuals.
This second form of netarchical capitalism, is a form where capital no longer controls the direct production of information and communication, but extracts value through its new role as platform intermediary. This model relies much more marginally on IP protection, but rather allows p2p communication but controls its possible monetization through the role and the ownership of the platforms for such communication. Typically, as in proprietary social media such as Facebook or Google, the front end is peer to peer, i.e. it allows p2p sociality, but the back end is controlled, the design is in the hands of the owners, as are the private data of the users, and it is the attention of the user base that is marketed through advertising. The financialisation of cooperation is still the name of the game. This form is a hybrid form however, because it also allows the further growth of p2p sociality in which media exchange and production is largely available to an ever large user base.
This form thus co-exists with multiple forms of grassroots p2p production and exchange, and sees for example the emergence of more monetary diversity, in the form of more localized complementary or community-driven currencies which act as, and of a global reserve crypto-currency like Bitcoin, a shadow currency that is useful as a 'civic' post-Westphalian currency but at the same time exhibits the features of financial capitalism in an exacerbated fashion. Netarchical capitalism suffers from a severe 'value crisis', in which the logic of use value strongly emerges and grows exponentially, but in a demonetized form. The remaining monetized value rests on speculative valuation of cooperative value creation by financial markets.
The Value Crisis under conditions of netarchical capitalism
Neoliberalism was characterized by a particular 'value crisis' which exploded in the systemic crisis of 2008. Under the general conditions of the neoliberal regime, the wages of the workers have stagnated, and the part that goes to the owners of capital increased, creating a crisis of accumulation, which was solved through credit. When corporations, governments and the general consumer's credit became over-extended, by 2008, the neoliberal system entered into a systemic crisis. Already under neoliberalism, the material value of the assets of production, are but a small part of the evaluation of a company's value, and the excess value can be considered already as a form of extraction of the human immaterial cooperation. Under conditions of cognitive capitalism, especially under its netarchical form, this value crisis is exacerbated.
The period since the 1990s, when civic internetworks became increasingly available to the wider population, and commons-based peer production, and other forms of networked value creation became possible, saw the birth of a mixed regime.
Through the different forms of peer production and networked value creation, use value is increasingly created independently of the private industrial and financial system, and takes place through the civic contributory form, where immaterial use value is deposited in common pools of knowledge, code and design.
In 'pure' peer production, which we can call a form of ‘aggregated distribution’ of labor, contributors, voluntary or paid, contribute to a common pool where the immaterial value is deposited; for-benefit associations, such as the FLOSS Foundations, enable the continued cooperation to occur; and entrepreneurial coalitions of mostly for-profit capitalist enterprise, capture the added value in the marketplace. In this model, though there is continued creation of use value in the commons, and thus, 'an accumulation of the commons' based on open input, participatory processes of production, and commons-oriented output which is available to all users; capital accumulation continues through the form of labour and capital in the entrepreneurial coalitions. But an increasing amount of voluntary labour is extracted in this process. In the sharing form of networked value, characterized by social media/networking taking place over proprietary platforms, the use value is created by the social media users, but their attention is what creates a marketplace where that use value becomes extracted exchange value. In the realm of exchange value, this new form of 'netarchical capitalism' (the hierarchies of the network) may be interpreted as hyper-exploitation, since the use value creators go totally unrewarded in terms of exchange value, which is solely realized by the proprietary platforms. Finally, in the form of crowdsourced marketplaces, what we call ‘disaggregated distribution’ because the workers are isolated freelancers competing without collective shared IP, capital abandons the labour form and externalizes risk on the freelancers. According to preliminary research by 'digital labor' researcher Trebor Scholz, communicated orally, the average hourly income does not exceed 2 dollars, which is way below the U.S. Minimum wage. A typical example is the skills marketplace TaskRabbitt, where the workers cannot communicate with each other, but clients can.
Under the regime of cognitive capitalism, use value creation expands exponentially, but exchange value only rises linearly, and is nearly exclusively realized by capital, giving rise to forms of hyper-exploitation. We would argue that it creates a form of hyper-neoliberalism. While in classic neoliberalism, labour income stagnates, in hyper-neoliberalism, society is deproletarized, i.e. waged labor is increasing replaced by isolated and mostly precarious freelancers ; more use value escapes the labour form altogether.
Under the mixed regime of cognitive capitalism in its netarchical form , networked value production grows, and has many emancipatory effects in the social field of use value creation, but this is in contradiction with the field of exchange value realization, where hyper-exploitation occurs. This is what we mean when we say that there is an increased contradiction between the proto-mode of production that is peer production, and associated forms of networked value creation; and the relations of production, which remain under the domination of financial capital.
In this new hybrid form, a sector of capital, netarchical capitalism, has liberated itself to some significant degree of the need for proprietary forms of knowledge, but it has actually increased the level of surplus value extraction. At the same time, use value escapes more and more its dependency on capital. This form of hyper-neoliberalism creates a crisis of value. First, the part of exchange-value mediated labor, diminishes compared to the role of direct use value creation, making capital increasingly superfluous and parasitical; second, the forms of value creation explode, but the continued reliance on monetized exchange value does not allow for the realization of that value by the use value producers; profits in the industrial economy, diminish as well, making the financial sector and its reliance on IP rent, the increasingly dominant power; at the same time, the power of IP rent extraction is undermined by direct use value creation. In any case, all these trends create a crisis for the accumulation of capital; the feedback loop between use value creation, and the exchange-value capture, ideally redistributed either as wages or through social payments, is broken; over-reliance on debt renders massive lending moot as a solution. Capital becomes more reliant on the externalities of social cooperation, yet fails to reward it. Financial capitalism realizes the value of social cooperation through speculative mechanisms which increase the amount of fictitious capital in the system (the fictitious capital is actually the unrealized use value that is no longer rewarded because of the value crisis). These correlated issues are examined in depth by Adam Arvidsson and Nicolai Peitersen in their book on the Ethical Economy.
We could call this value regime neo-feudal, because it relies increasingly on unpaid 'corvee' and creates widespread debt peonage. Finally, ownership is replaced by access, diminishing the sovereignty that comes with property, and creating dependencies through the one-sided licensing agreements in the digital sphere.
Towards a third model: a mature 'civic' peer-to-peer economy
The third is the hypothetical form we believe we may successfully transition to, if we succeed in rebuilding transformative social movements, and hence succeed also in transforming the state so that it can act as a Partner State which facilitates the creation of new civic infrastructures. In this model, peer production is matched to both a new market and state model, create a mature civi and peer-based economic, social and political model, where the value is redistributed to the value creators. These changes have been carried forward in the political sphere by a emerging commons movement, which espouses the value system of peer production and the commons, driven by the knowledge workers and their allies.
Since the mixed model seems to create untenable contradictions, it becomes necessary to imagine a transition to a model where the relations of production are not in contradiction with the evolution of the mode of production. This means a system of political economy which would be based on the recognition, and rewarding, of the contributive logic at work in commons-oriented peer production.
If we look at the micro-level, we recommend the intermediation of cooperative accumulation. In today's free software economy, open licences enable the logic of the commons, or even technically, 'communism' (each contributes what he/she can, each uses what is needed), but created a paradox: 'the more communistic the license, the more capitalistic the economy', since it specifically allows large for-profit enterprises to realize the value of the commons in the sphere of capital accumulation. Hence, ironically, the growth of a 'communism of capital'.
We propose to replace the non-reciprocal 'communistic' licenses, with socialist licenses, i.e. based on the requirement of reciprocity. Hence, the use of a peer production license, would require a contribution to the commons for its free use, at least from for-profit companies, to create a stream of exchange value to the commoners/ peer producers themselves; in addition, commoners would create their own market entities, created added market value on top of the commons, realize the surplus value themselves, and create a ethical economy around the commons, where the value of the production of rival goods would be realized. Such ethical entrepreneurial coalitions would likely enable open book accounting and open supply chains, that would coordinate the economy outside of the sphere of both planning and the market. The ethical entrepreneurial coalitions could expand the sphere of the commons by the use of commons ventures, such as in the 'venture communist' model proposed by Dmytri Kleiner. In this model, cooperatives in need of capital would float a bond that would allow the purchase of means of production. But these means of production would belong to the commons; in other words, the machines would be rented from the common pool, but this rent would also be redistributed to all the members of the commons. In this binary economic form, the commoners-cooperators would receive both a wage from their cooperative, but also an increasing part of the common rent. (In addition, all citizens would benefit from a basic income provided by the Partner State). Such entrepreneurial coalitions, intrinsically in solidarity with their commons, could also move to practices such as open accounting and open logistics, which would allow for widespread mutual coordination of their productive capacities, hence ushering a new third model of allocation that would be neither a market, nor a planning system, but a stigmergic coordination system. In other words, the stigmergic coordination already operating in the sphere of 'immaterial' production, would gradually be transferred to the sphere of 'material' production. To the degree that such stigmergic systems create the possibility of resource-based economic models, such spheres of the economy would be gradually demonetized and replaced by measurement systems (i.e. commodity currencies with 'store of value' systems would gradually disappear).
However, such changes at the level of the micro-economy would not survive a hostile capitalist market and state without necessary changes at the macro-economic level, hence the need for transition proposals, carried by a resurgent social movement that embraces the new value creation through the commons, and becomes the popular and political expression of the emerging social class of peer producers and commoners, but allied with the forces representing both waged and cooperative labor, independent commons-friendly enterpreneurs, and agricultural and service workers.
Four Technology Regimes
The Socio-Economic Implications of a Social Knowledge Economy
John Restakis, Jan. 2014
In the current debate concerning the rise and consequences of “cognitive capitalism” a new discourse is developing around the concept of a “social knowledge economy”. But what does a social knowledge economy mean and what are its implications for the ways in which a society and an economy are ordered?
Cognitive capitalism refers to the process by which knowledge is privatized and then commodified as a means of generating profit for capital. In this new phase of capitalism the centralization and control of knowledge overtakes the traditional processes of material production and distribution as the driving force of capital accumulation. In the past, capitalism was concerned primarily with the commodification of the material. Essential to this process was the gradual enclosure and privatization of material commons such as pasturelands, forests, and waterways that had been used in common since time immemorial.
In our time, capitalism entails the enclosure and commodification of the immaterial – knowledge, culture, DNA, airwaves, even ideas. Ultimately, the driving force of capitalism in our age is the eradication of all commons and the commodification of all things. The colonization and appropriation of the public domain by capital is at the heart of the New Enclosures. This process is sustained and extended through the complex and ever evolving web of patents, copyright laws, trade agreements, think tanks, and government and academic institutions that provide the legal, policy, and ideological frameworks that justify all this. Above all, the logic of this process is embedded in the values, organization, and operation of the capitalist firm.
By contrast, a social knowledge economy is based on the principle that knowledge is a commons that should be free and openly accessible for the pursuit of what Rene Ramirez describes as “good living”, not as an instrument of commercial profit. Knowledge is perceived as a social good.
This pursuit of a social knowledge economy is seen as the key to transforming Ecuador’s economy from its dependence on the North and on multi-national corporations to one in which free and open access to knowledge builds economic independence, innovation, and the means to better serve the common good. It is knowledge mobilized to serve social, not private, ends.
As René Ramirez has said,
“Unlike cognitive capitalism that only recognizes private ownership of knowledge, what is sought in the socialism of good living takes into account public, mixed, collective ownership – and of course also private, (i.e., a range of forms of intellectual property) and that its mode of production is mostly collaborative (networks) with and for society and humanity.” What is left unanswered is how existing socio-economic institutions help or hinder the power of knowledge to play the transformative role assigned to it.
A starting point for answering this question is the recognition that knowledge in a society ¬– its creation, utilization, and value – is a construct that is moulded by the social and economic forces that define the power relations in a community. Knowledge has always been at the service of power. Cognitive capitalism, the process by which human knowledge is both privatized and commodified, results from the domination and power of capitalist economic and social relations, and in particular, the undemocratic and privatized nature of economics, markets, and the organizational structure of firms.
In previous ages knowledge was also controlled and monopolized, to the extent that it was possible, by king or church. Today’s information technology, combined with global corporate power, has made such centralization and control far easier and far more extensive.
If the character and use of knowledge in a society is a product of existing power relations, the pursuit of a social knowledge economy must also entail a re-visioning and re-aligning of social, political, and economic relations such that they, in turn, embody and reinforce the values and principles of what knowledge as a commons implies. Absent this, how would a social knowledge economy operate, or be sustained, in an overwhelmingly capitalist economy?
Where are the social and economic spaces in which an open knowledge commons could be used in the service of the broader community or for collective aims? What kinds or organizations are needed to in order for knowledge to be used in this way? What are the conditions necessary for them to thrive? How can they provide a counterweight to the overwhelming power and influence of capital? Without strong civic institutions committed to the idea of the commons and the public good, open knowledge systems are vulnerable to appropriation and ultimate commodification by capitalist firms as is currently the case with the internet itself. The recent ruling of the FCC in the United States undermining net neutrality is a major advance in the privatization of what has until now been an equitably accessible global commons of information.
An economy in which knowledge is a commons in the service of social ends requires the corresponding social and economic institutions that will mobilize knowledge for the realization of these ends. The operation of a social knowledge economy ultimately depends on social and economic institutions that embody the values of commons, reciprocity, and free, open and democratic association that are pre-requisites for the pursuit of social ends. In short, a social knowledge economy ultimately rests on social economy values.
Ramirez puts it this way:
“There are scholars from the ivory tower that would have us believe that you can separate the world of reason and ideas from the world of the material and political economy that exists globally. This not only demonstrates the lack of understanding of what is currently happening on our planet but the absence of political realism to find a real social transformation.”
Just as cognitive capitalism depends on the manifold institutional supports supplied by government policy, legislation, free market ideology, and the collective power of firms and the institutions that serve them, even more so does a social knowledge economy require the corresponding civic and economic institutions that can support and safeguard the value of commons, of collective benefit, of open and accessible markets, and of social control over capital. These civic institutions are embodied in the structure of democratic enterprises, of peer-to-peer networks, of non-profits and community service organizations, of mutually supporting small and medium firms, and of civil society and the social economy itself. It is these social and economic structures, based on the principles of reciprocity and service to community, that can best utilize knowledge as a commons and safeguard its future as an indispensable resource for the common good and the wellbeing of humanity as a whole.
The identification of these institutions and of the public policies needed for their development and growth is the over arching aim of this research.
Cognitive/Netarchical Capitalism vs. an Open-Commons based Knowledge Society
What exactly is an open-commons based economy and society?
To understand it we must first look at the older social and economic model that it replaces.
The neoliberal and capitalist economic forms combine three basic elements, fundamental choices that guide their operation.
The first is the belief that the earth's resources are infinite, which allows an idea of permanent and compound economic growth in the service of capital accumulation. Neoliberal capitalism is therefore based on a illusion of a fake or 'pseudo-abundance'; and its growth mechanism is dedicated to the senseless accumulation of material riches.
The second is the belief that the flow of knowledge, science and culture should be privatized, and therefore serves the exclusive benefit of property owners. Knowledge is made to serve capital accumulation and the profits of the few. The privatization of knowledge through excessive copyrights and patent regimes have a dramatically slowing effect, and allow for a exclusionary financialization.
Finally, the two first elements are configured in such a way that they do not serve social justice, equality, and benefits for all, but rather the benefits and profits for the few. Under cognitive capitalism, the fruits of social cooperation are enclosed and financialized, and the majority of the population has to pay for knowledge that is largely socially produced. Only those with money can benefit from technical and scientific innovations.
Then, we must look at the positive counter-reactions that have emergend and which have bene particularly strengthened after the crisis of neoliberalism, which was felt by southern countries in the previous decades but became global in 2008.
A first reaction has been the recapture of the state by citizen movements, such as particularly in the Andean countries and Ecuador.
The second is a re-emergence and flowering of new economic forms based on equity, such as the cooperative economy, the social economy, and the solidarity economy. The new progressive governments, and a few others, are all committed to the strengthening of these more socially just economic forms.
Third, we have seen the emergence of a sharing economy, which is mutualizing physical infrastructures (though often in the form of private platforms) in order re-use and make available the enormous amount of surplus material and resources that have been created in the last thirty years. Apart from the explosion of carsharing and bikesharing, they often take the form of 'peer to peer marketplaces', allowing citizens to create more fine-grained exchanges of their surplus.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, we have seen, thanks largely to the potentiality of the global networks, the emergence of commons-based peer production. Globally and locally, productive communities of citizens have been created vast common pools of knowledge, code (software), and design, which are available to all citizens, enterprises and public authorities to further build on. Often, these productive knowledge commons are managed by democratic foundations and nonprofits, which protect and enable the common productive infrastructure of cooperation, and protect the common pool of knowledge from exclusionary private enclosure, most often using open licenses; they are sometimes called 'for-benefit associations'. Very often, these productive communities co-exist with a dynamic enterpreneurial coalition of firms co-creating and co-producing these common pools, thereby creating a dynamic economic sector. It is very common for these open eco-systems to displace their proprietary-IP based competitors. A U.S. report on the 'Fair Use Economy', i.e. economic activities based on open and shared knowledge, estimated its economic weight in that country to be one-sixth of GDP.
Yet there is also a paradox: it is most likely that it is the capitalist forms that first see the potential of the new commons-based economic forms, and ally with them; on the other hand, cooperative economic forms rarely still practice and co-produce open knowledge pools. However, there is an emerging trend to transform the existing cooperative tradition based on single-stakeholder governance, into multi-stakeholder governance, and which introduce the care of the common good in their statutes.
What this means is that the emerging global knowledge economy, can today take two competing forms.
In the first form of the knowledge-economy, under the regime of cognitive capitalism, we have on the one hand the continuation of proprietary IP, and the realisation of economic rent by financial capital; combine with a new form of 'netarchical' capital, which enables but also exploits social production. It is not difficult to see that the riches of giants like Facebook and Google are based on the hyper-exploitation of the free labour of the citizens using their social networks.
The other, more desirable form of the knowledge-based economy is based on open commons of knowledge, but which are preferentially linked to an ethical and equitable economy. This is the form of knowledge economy and civilisation that is most compatible with the vision of the Ecaudorian government that emerged from the citizens's revolution, and with the values expressed by the National Plan in its various iterations.
Discussion: IP and patents impede and slow down innovation
By George Dafermos:
Intellectual property rights and their supposed role in cognitive capitalism
"Capitalist knowledge economies use intellectual property (IP) rights as means of enclosing knowledge and as mechanisms by which to realise the extraction of monopoly rents from knowledge that has been thus privatised. That is ideologically justified as follows: exclusive IP rights provide incentives for individuals and companies to engage in research and develop new products and services. That is, they promote innovation: the expectation of profitable exploitation of the exclusive right supposedly encourages economic agents to turn their activities to innovative projects, which society will later benefit from (e.g. Arrow 1962). But is that actually an accurate description of the function of IP rights in capitalist knowledge economies? Do they really spur innovation?
A synopsis of empirical evidence on the effect of exclusive intellectual property regimes on innovation and productivity
To answer this question, it is instructive to look at the available empirical data on the effect of exclusive IP rights on technological innovation and productivity. The case of the United States is indicative of a capitalist knowledge economy in which the flow of patents has quadrupled over the last thirty years: in 1983 the US Patent Office granted 59.715 patents, which increased to 189.597 in 2003 and 244.341 in 2010 (US Patent Office 2013). Looking at these numbers begs the question: how has the dramatic increase in the number of patents issued by the US Patent Office over time impacted technological innovation and productivity in the US? Well, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual growth in total factor productivity in the decade 1970-1979 was about 1,2%, while in the next two decades it fell below 1%. In the same period, R&D expenditure hovered around 2,5% of GDP (***). In short, what we see is that the dramatic increase in patents has not been paralleled by an increase in productivity or innovation. No matter which indicator of productivity or innovation we use in the analysis, we are invariably led to the conclusion that 'there is no empirical evidence that they [patents] serve to increase innovation and productivity, unless productivity [or innovation] is identified with the number of patents awarded' (Boldrin and Levine 2013, p. 3; also, see Dosi et al. 2006).
Another argument often voiced by proponents of exclusive IP rights in defense of patents is that they promote the communication of ideas and that, in turn, spurs innovation. They claim that if patents did not exist, inventors would try to keep their inventions secret so that competitors would not copy them (e.g. Belfanti 2004). From this standpoint, the solution to the problem is a trade between the inventor and society: the inventor reveals his innovation and society gives him the right to exploit it exclusively for the next twenty or so years. Hence, the argument goes, to the extent that they replace socially harmful trade secrets, patents promote the diffusion of ideas and innovations (Moser 2013, pp. 31-33). In reality, however, patents have exactly the opposite effect, encouraging ignorance and non-communication of ideas. In what has become a standard practice, 'companies typically instruct their engineers developing products to avoid studying existing patents so as to be spared subsequent claims of willful infringement, which raises the possibility of having to pay triple damages' (Boldrin & Levine 2013, p.9; Brec 2008). Even if that were not always the case, the way in which patent documents are written actually renders them incomprehensible to anyone except lawyers (Brec 2008; Mann & Plummer 1991, pp. 52-53; Moser 2013, p. 39).
The real function of intellectual property rights in cognitive capitalism: how do capitalist firms actually use them? What, however, more than anything else disproves the claimed positive effect of patents on innovation and creativity is the way in which patents are actually used by capitalist firms. In a capitalist knowledge economy, patents are used primarily as (a) means to signal the value of the company to potential investors, (b) as means to prevent market-entry by other companies (so they have strategic value independently of whether they are incorporated in profitable products) and (c) as weapons in an 'arms-race', meaning they are used defensively to prevent or blunt legal attacks from other companies (e.g., see Boldrin & Levine 2013; Cohen et al. 2000; Hall & Ziedonis 2007; Levin et al. 1987; Pearce 2012). It would take a heroic leap of logic for any of these applications of patents to be seen as productive. On the other side, there is a plethora of cases in which the effect of patents on innovation and productivity has been undoubtedly detrimental. Indicatively, consider how Microsoft is currently using a patent (no. 6370566) related to the scheduling of meetings in order to impose a licensing fee on Android mobile phones (Boldrin & Levine 2013***). In this case, patents become a mechanism for sharing the profits without any participation in the actual process of innovation. As such, they discourage innovation and constitute a pure waste for society. Interestingly, not that long ago, Bill Gates (1991), Microsoft founder, argued that 'if people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today's ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today...A future startup with no patents of its own will be forced to pay whatever price the giants choose to impose'. It is ironic, of course, that Microsoft, not being able to penetrate the mobile telephony market, is now using the threat of patent litigations to raise a claim over part of Google's profits.
The way in which patents are used in capitalist knowledge economies makes it blatantly obvious that 'in the long run...patents reduce the incentives for current innovation because current innovators are subject to constant legal action and licensing demands from earlier patent holders' (Boldrin & Levine 2013, p.7). This becomes readily understood, considering that technological innovation is essentially a cumulative process (Gilfillan 1935, 1970; Scotchmer 1991): Cumulative technologies are those in which every innovation builds on preceding ones: for example, the steam engine (Boldrin et al. 2008; Nuvolari 2004), but also hybrid cars, personal computers (Levy 1984), the world wide web (Berners-Lee 1999), YouTube and Facebook.
But if patents have at best no impact and at worst a negative impact on technological innovation and productivity (Dosi et al. 2006), then how is it possible to explain – especially from the legislator's side – the historical increase in patents and the expansion of IP-related laws? Many analysts have pondered this question. The conclusion to which they have been led is rather unsettling: the actual reason behind the proliferation of patents and the expansion of IP-related laws consists in the political influence of large, cash-rich companies which are unable to keep up with new and creative competitors and which use patents to entrench their monopoly power."
Discussion: the role of Indigenous Peoples and (Neo)Traditional Knowledge
The potential role of reciprocity-based licenses to protect traditional knowledge
Discussion: Gender Aspects
The Open-Commons based Knowledge Society as a new configuration between State, Civil Society and the Market
In the old neoliberal vision, value is created in the private sector by workers mobilized by capital; the state becomes a market state protecting the privileged interests of property owners; and civil society is a derivative rest category, as is evidenced in the use of our language (non-profits, non-governmental). Nevertheless, the combination of labor and civic movements has partially succeeded in socialising the market, achievements which are now under threat.
In the new vision of cognitive capitalism, the networked social cooperation consists of mostly unpaid activities that can be captured and financialized by proprietary 'network' platforms. Social media platforms almost exclusively capture the value of the social exchange of their members, and distributed labor such as crowdsourcing more often than not reduce the average income of the producers. In other words, the 'netarchical' version of networked production creates a permanent precariat and reinforces the neoliberal trends.
In the contrary vision of a open-commons based knowledge economy and society, value is created by citizens, paid or voluntary, which create open and common pools of knowledge, co-produced and enabled by a Partner State, which creates the right conditions for such open knowledge to emerge; and preferentially ethical enterpreneurial coalitions which create market value and services on top of the commons, which they are co-producing as well. The ideal vision of an open-commons based knowledge economy is one in which the 'peer producers' or commoners (the labor form of the networked knowledge society), not only co-create the common pools from which all society can benefit, but also create their own livelyhoods through ethical enterprise and thereby insure not only their own social reproduction but also that the surplus value stays within the commons-cooperative sphere. In this vision, the social solidarity economy is not a parallel stream of economic production, but the hyper-productive and hyper-cooperative core of the new economic model.
Thus in the new vision, civil society can be seen as consisting as a series of productive civic commonses, common pools of knowledge, code and design; the market consists of preferentially actors of the cooperative, social and solidarity economy which integrate the common good in their organisational structures, and whose labor-contributing members co-produce the commons with the civic contributors. Finally, in this vision, the Partner State enables and empowers such social cooperation, and creates the necessary civic and physical infrastructures for this flowering of innovation and civic and economic activity to occur.
The Partner State is not a weak neoliberal state, which strips public authority of its social functions, and retains the market state and repressive functions, as in the neoliberal model; it is also not the Welfare State, which organizes everything for its citizens; but it is a state that builds on the welfare state model, but at the same time creates the necessary physical and civic infrastructures for social autonomy, and for a civic production model that combines civic immaterial commons and cooperative social solidarity enterprise.
The ethical economy and market, is not a weak and parallel economy that specializes in the less competitive sectors of the economy; on the contrary, the ethical market is the core productive sector of the economy, building strong enterprises around competitive knowledge bases. It is however, at the service of civil society and co-construct the open knowledge commons on which society and commerce depends.
Why is this a post-capitalist scenario?
Capitalist-driven societies produce for exchange value, which may be useful, or not; and continuously strives to create new social desires and demands.
By way of contrast, the open-commons based knowledge economy consists a productive civil society of contributors, citizen contributors who continuously contribute to the commons of their choice based on use value motivations; it is around these use-value commons that an ethical market and economy finds its place, and creates added value for the market. The commons is continuously co-produced by both citizen contributors and paid ethical labor from the cooperative / social sector. In this scenario, the primary driver is the sphere of abundance of knowledge available for all, which is not a market driven by supply and demand dynamics; but around the immaterial abundance of non-rival or even anti-rival goods, is deployed a market of cooperatives and social solidarity players which add and sell scarce resources on the marketplace.
In this same scenario, the state is no longer a neoliberal market-state at the service of property owners, but is at the service of civil society, their commons, and the sphere of the ethical economy. It is not at the service of the private capital accumulation of property owners, but is at the service of the value accumulation and equitable value distribution taking place in the commons-cooperative sector. It is at the service of the buen vivir of its citizens, and the good knowledge they need for this. Instead of a focus on public-private partnerships, which excludes participation from civil society; a commons-supporting partner state will look at the development of public-social or public-commons partnerships. Where appropriate the Partner State looks at the possible commonification of public services. For example, following the model of Quebec and Northern Italy in creating Solidarity Cooperatives for Social Care, in which the state enables, regulates the direct provision of care by multi-stakeholder governed civil society based organisations. It is very likely that once the state undertakes the support of a commons-based civic and ethical economy in the sphere of knowledge, that it will also look at the development of institutional commons in the physical sphere. For example, developing commons-based housing development policies, which keep social housing outside of the speculative sphere. A society and state which desires to develop a commons in the immaterial sphere of knowledge, will also look at expanding the commons sphere in other spheres of human activity.
An example may show why this may be sometimes necessary. In the sphere of free software production, nearly all free software knowledge communities have their own for-benefit association which enables the cooperation, protects the licenses, etc … This is mostly likely because engagement requires knowledge and access to networks, which have been largely socialized in our societies. But open hardware developers have not developed such associations, and are more dependent on the companies selling hardware. This is because open hardware requires substantial material resources which need to be purchased privately, which favours the owners of capital and weakens the productive community that contributes to the commons. In such a scenario, the idea that open hardware developers could mutualize their means of production, would re-establish more balance between developers and company owners. Our illustration also mentions the commons-oriented ownership and governance forms which can assist citizens in having more control over crucial infrastructures such as land and housing.
Discussion: The role of the capitalist sector
(use transcend and include logic as suggested by daniel araya ?)
What is the role of the capitalist sector in such a scenario?
The first key issue here is the creation of a level playing field between the social solidarity sector and the private sector. Whereas the social solidarity economy voluntarily integrates the common good in its statutes and operations, and is as it were 'naturally commons-friendly', the private capital sector is regulated so that its denial of social and environmental externalities is mitigated. The Partner State encourages transitions from extractive to generative ownership models, while the association of private companies with the commons will assist them in adapting to the new emerging models of co-creation and co-design of value with the commoners. Hyper-exploitation of distributed labour will be mitigated through new solidarity mechanisms. As the mutual adaptation between the commons sector, the cooperative sector and the capitalist sector proceeds, the remaining capitalist sector should be increasingly socialized in the new practices, as well as ownership and governance forms. The aim is to create a level playing field, in which hyper-exploitation of social value becomes a gradual impossibility, and in which extractive rent-taking becomes equally impossible and counter-productive through the existence of well-protected open commons.
The second key issue concerns the self-reproduction capabilities of the commons contributors. Under the dominance of neoliberal, cognitive and netarchical capitalist forms, commoners are not able to create livelyhoods in the production of open knowledge commons, and under most open licenses, private companies are free to use and exploit the common knowledge without secure return. This obliges many and most commoners to work for private capital. What needs to be achieved is a new compact between the commons and the private companies, that insures the fair distribution of value, i.e. a flow of value must occur from the private companies to the commons and the commoners from whom the value is extracted. Models must be developed that allow privately owned companies to become fair partners of the commons. In the end, no privately-owned company, using its own research staff and proprietary IP, will be able to compete against open eco-systems that can draw on global knowledge production and sharing; this process of fair adaptation must be encouraged and accompanied by both measures from the commons and their associated ethical enterprises, and by the Partner State, in a context in which all players can benefit from the commons. Private capital must recognize, and must be made to recognize, that the value there are capturing comes overwhelmingly from the benefits of social cooperation in knowledge creation: just as they had to recognize the necessity for better and fair pay for labour, they must recognize fair pay for commons production.
Discussion: The concept of the partner state and the commonification of public services
The historical and present importance of mutualization in times of increasing resource scarcity
Discussion: The issue of eco-system sustainability
general into: from economies of scale to economies of scope (mutualization of both immaterial and material resources)
Why innovation should be located in open design communities
The role of 'idle-sourcing' and the sharing economy
A historical opportunity: The Convergence of Material/Technical P2P Infrastructures, Digital/Immaterial Commons, and Commons-Oriented Governance and Ownership Models
- discuss Rifkin's Third Industrial Revolution and his zero margin thesis
Elements of Idealized and Integrative Full Transition Plan to a mature Social Knowledge Economy
Mapping the Social Knowledge Economy
Human Capacity Building
The Open Education Commons
The Open Science Commons
The Open Culture Commons
The Productive Matrix
The Open Agriculture Commons
The Open Industrial Commons
The Open Energy Commons
The Cooperative / Civic / Solidarity Commons
Open Licensing Regimes
Commons in Property
Open Governance Modalities
Open Technical Infrastructures
Open Connectivity: The Technica-Material Basis for an Open Communication Commons
Free Software Commons
Open Design and Hardware Commons
Commons for Collective Life
The Research Blueprint for the Transition Plan
The Research Methodology
The figure consists of four rows, of which the second is primordial.
The remit of our FLOK Society project is to create a open-commons based knowledge society.
Our first task therefore is to imagine society as driven by a series of commonses in which the social, technical, scientific, and cultural value is 'deposited', and brought at the disposal of the civic, productive, and public forces to create the social and economic activities of their choice. All human activities require knowledge and therefore, it is easy to understand that every domain will have one or more commons at its disposal.
So, in terms of the organisation of social life, one should have an open education commons, an open science commons, open productive commons for agriculture, industry, and services, and an open civic commons to deploy civic activities. Creating health and dynamic open knowledge commons, that can be deployed for good living, is the aim of the transition policies that will be deployed. It is of course important to understand that their will be a multitude of interlocking commons, created by the citizenry, the market and the public sector. The infrastructure of these commons can be cooperatively managed by for-benefit associations that democratically represent the commons contributors.
Let's now turn to the top row. There can be no commons without feeding mechanisms, i.e. without open input. Legal framing and regulation must assure the possibility and health of these feeding mechanisms.
For example, there can be no open education commons, if there can are no open textbooks and open courseware. One of the roles of state policy will be to enable the production of open textbooks and courseware. There can be no open science commons without open access publishing, i.e. the freedom of researchers to publish their results so that they are available to all, and not privatized. There can be no open commons for appropriate farming technology without enabling for example open agricultural machining commons, i.e. open design communities that work on appropriate machines for small and indigenous farming. Similarly there can be no open civic commons, without the availibililty of open government data, and mechanisms such as participatory budgetting and legislation.
But feeding mechanisms alone are not sufficient. Open knowledge commons, and their feeding mechanisms, need both material and immaterial conditions that enable their good functioning. This is the purpose of the third and fourth row.
The third row illustrates the necessity of material infrastructures that make the emergence and thrivability of open commons possible. For example, if we want open access publishing to create an open science commons, in what conditions to these scientists work? In the context of privatized labs using privatized laboratory instruments, very few students and scientists have access to the material conditions that enable them to produce scientific knowledge. But the creation of open laboraties that work with open hardware instruments and sensors, specialized open computers using Arduino motherboards, and open 3D Printing machines, can dramatically decrease the needed investments in such science labs, or dramatically increase the number of participating students. Open agricultural machining can only show its true benefits if local agrarian communities can have access to microfactories in which these machines can be self-assembled. Energy autonomy of communities can only be realized if the open technical knowledge commons on renewable energy are matched to the local capacity to install distributed renewable energy, which also requires a adapted national grid. What about the creation of a network of rural hackerspaces, that enables the production of local renewable energy and localized production machinery?
The fourth row illustrates the necessity for immaterial infrastructures that enable the emergence of open productive commons. Let's take the example of the open source car Wikispeed, which achieves five times the fuel efficiency of industrial cars. One of the key problems of the Wikispeed community, which wants to create a commuter car after the successful design of a road-ready experimental racing car, is the lack of investment to scale. The reason is that traditional shareholding capital is not interested in IP-free, patent-free designs, which do not allow it to extract the super-rents that come from IP protection, and hence, it cannot accept the lower profit returns. Thus the necessity of 'open venture funding' as an 'immaterial infrastructure' to enable the creation of open-knowledge commons and their associated productive capacities. Or what about new types of value accounting systems that can recognize open contributions to a commons, in order to insure a fair distribution of value to such contributors?
The aim of the research process is to pay attention to all such aspects and enabling/facilitating mechanisms that can insure the creation and success of open knowledge commons in every field of human endeavour, and to propose integrative feedback mechanisms that can insure their social and economic viability.
The Research Strategy and Process Explained
The Input Phase
The FLOK Society aims to get the best knowledge, globally and locally, both from scientific and local communities.
The partners cooperating behind the project explicitly are asking the global community of commoners and experts to contribute their views, experiences and proposals to the project. At the same time, the local Ecuadorian civic society will be asked to input their views, demands and proposed solutions. It goes without saying that the global input needs to be confronted and put in dialogue with the concrete local conditions.
The input phase therefore consists of both scientific and civic input, from the global and Ecuadorian sphere.
For the global scientific input, we distinguish the following type of input:
input from high-level global advisers: the project will invite scientists to participate in an advisory board that will provide commentary on the results of our investigations the first dissemination of the project was used to compile a directory of global civic experts that are offering their expertise to the project; the experts are listed in the open research wiki at Research Network in February 2014, 20 experts will be invited to compile 10 draft policy documents based on the recommendations of the FLOK research team
Global civic input will be compiled in the following way:
on December 3, after the arrival of all FLOK research team coordinators, an Open Letter to the Commoners of the World was sent out, explicitly requesting input from the global expert community on the commons Global Advocacy organisations, such as the EFF, will be systematically contacted to obtain their policy recommendations
Civic Input from Ecuador:
in cooperation with a rural-urban activist network, three grassroots location have been selected to organize in-depth visits and to learn about their concerns, as well as proposals for public policy in cooperation with the infodesarollo.ec network, 24 workshops are organized in each of the provinces, in order to obtain input from every sector of civic society
The Process Phase
The aim of the FLOK Society research team is to have an integrative vision of the social, cultural, political and economic change that is necessary to create a positive feedback loop of policy measures that cover the different aspects of the transition.
The process of compiling and interpreting the research, has therefore been divided in five research streams.
The first stream concerns human capacity building, i.e. individual and collective cultural change. Co-creating and participating in the construction of an open-commons based knowledge society and in the social and solidarity economy indeed requires certain capacities, which may not always be available, but which can be learned, and this will require policy support.
Stream 2: Commons-oriented Productive Capacities
One of the priorities of the current government of Ecuador is to halt the dependency of the economy on the export of finite material resources and to transition to an economy that is fed by infinite immaterial resources such as knowledge, science, and culture. The productivity of traditional sectors such as agriculture, industry and services can be infused with productive knowledge sharing.
Moving to an open-commons based knowledge society requires new institutional forms, to protect the open knowledge pools from private appropriation and protect the inclusivity of the research. What are the new forms of licensing, governance and property that can protect the commons and stimulate its uses by social, enterpreneurial and public actors?
Stream 4: Open Technical Infrastructures
Co-creating commons requires collaborative platforms and the freedom to communicate and cooperate, but the current technological infrastructures are often dominated by strong geopolitical players and their mass surveillance. What kind of internet and web, and associated internet user rights does Ecuador need to enable and empower the collaboration of its citizens.
Open-commons knowledge needs physical commons. For example, the energy autonomy of citizens requires a smart grid that allows citizens to share or exchange their surpluses; Open design commons in agricultural machining require a network of micro-factories; affordable housing for commoners depends on protecting housing from financial speculation. There are many infrastructural commons solutions that can augment the productivity of immaterial knowledge commons and create fruitful synergies. The aim of this stream is to propose policies for commons in the physical world.
Based on the preparatory framing and research of the FLOK Society research team, 20 experts will convene in February to prepare at least ten concrete policy proposals.
In April 2014, a final conference, attended by President Rafael Correa, constitutional lawyers, civic and public representatives, members of the National Assembly, foreign experts and the research team, will discuss, modify and improve the policy proposals, and put them in a final form for legislative action by the National Assembly.
Summary of the Research Process
- Plan Nacional del Buen Vivir 2013-2017, p.19 : “La Revolución del Conocimiento, que propone la innovación, la ciencia y la tecnología, como fundamentos para el cambio de la matriz productiva, concebida como una forma distinta de producir y consumir. Esta transición llevará al país de una fase de dependencia de los recursos limitados (finitos) a una de recursos ilimitados (infinitos), como son la ciencia, la tecnología y el conocimiento.”
- Speech at the Campus Party event, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zjajy-ia-SE
- Sumak Yachay.Devenir Sociedad del Conocimiento Común y Abierto. Designing the FLOK Society. v.1.5.2. By Xabier E. Barandiaran & Daniel Vázquez, 2013.
- Ramírez, R., Del capitalismo cognitivo a la economía social del conocimiento, TeleSurTV