Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How

“Vision is not only about the future, but also the present. What would having a vision like the one called participatory economics imply for today’s practical choices?

Broadly considered, if you want to get someplace new, it behooves you to take steps towards where you want to go, not steps that take you somewhere else. An obvious corollary is that you shouldn’t reinforce unwanted old structures, nor should you create new ones that are contrary to reaching your destination. You should want to undermine unwanted old structures, and to develop new structures in tune with your aims. The familiar slogan is: ‘Plant the seeds of the future in the present’.

…A worthy vision for life beyond capitalism acknowledges that neither current nor future society is made up of perfect people, ever wise and ever willing to behave altruistically. Instead, we can build participatory institutions and systems that make it automatic, instead of impossible, for us to consider ourselves, each other, the environment, and any other ‘externalities’. We must therefore build a movement that fosters, promotes, and rewards equity, solidarity, self-management, diversity, and sustainability, for all. On this path, we will make mistakes and continue to be human, but we will no longer be systematically set up to fail.”

-Alexandria Shaner & Michael Albert, “Participatory Economics Overview: What, Why, How.” mέta: The Centre for Postcapitalist Civilisation. 2022. DOI: 10.55405/mwp14en

While utopian, I do like the fundamental point. If you want people to participate in decision-making, the fundamental problem is creating institutions that support participation. The fundamental problem is not people. People are not going to change to create your vision of the world. The institutions have to change.

Ask Hacker News: Which Book Can Attract Anyone Towards Your Field of Study?

A discussion thread on important books in various fields. A few examples:

  • Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought by Lakoff, George
  • Deep Learning for Coders with Fastai and Pytorch: AI Applications Without a PhD by Howard, Jeremy
  • Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle by Everett, Daniel L.
  • Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software by Petzold, Charles
  • Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics by Jacobs Jane

Lludd and Llefelys

Lludd and Llefelys, one of the medieval Welsh tales collected in the Mabinogion, is a vision of the internet. In fact, it describes the internet twice. Here, a terrible plague has settled on Britain: the arrival of the Coraniaid, an invincible supernatural enemy. What makes the Coraniaid so dangerous is their incredibly sharp hearing. They can hear everything that’s said, everywhere on the island, even a whisper hundreds of miles away. They already know the details of every plot against them. People have stopped talking; it’s the only way to stay safe. To defeat them, the brothers Lludd and Llefelys start speaking to each other through a brass horn, which protects their words. Today, we’d call it encryption. But this horn contains a demon; whatever you speak into it, the words that come out are always cruel and hostile. This medium turns the brothers against each other; it’s a communications device that makes them more alone. In the story, the brothers get rid of the demon by washing out the horn with wine. I’m not so sure we can do that today: the horn and its demon are one and the same thing.”

Sam Kriss, “The Internet is Made of Demons.” Damage Magazine. April 21, 2022.

Interesting metaphor.

A Turning Point in Cancer

“The narrative has been incubating for many years, but in recent days we are witnessing some extraordinary progress in treating and monitoring cancer. The convergence of genomics of the cancer—be it from the person’s DNA or tumor directly or the blood (known as liquid biopsy)—matched with the appropriate therapy is leading to outcomes that are being described as “unheard-of” by expert oncologists. This represents the essence of individualized medicine, whereby understanding the unique biologic basis of a person’s cancer can lead to highly accurate and effective treatment, and also avoid the toxicity of classical chemotherapeutic agents.”

-Eric Topel, “A turning point in cancer.” erictopol.substack.com. June 10, 2022

This kind of sums up what I have been seeing a lot of lately. Almost daily, I see reports from randomized trials, tabletop science, and other areas that indicate a lot of progress is being made in the treatment of cancer.

What a Bear Market Looks Like

But for those of us who were investing in tech and tech startups back in 1999-2002, that time will forever be etched in our minds. It was a brutal period during which our belief in the Internet and its potential was sorely tested. Many friends and colleagues left the sector and never returned.

So while crypto asset prices are down 80-95% in USD terms over the last year, they could and probably will go lower. Amazon was down 80% a year into the post-bubble bear market and it got cut in half again before it made a bottom almost two years after it peaked.

What we have yet to see in crypto land is when they kick you when you are down. And that is certainly coming. Regulators came after the Internet sector in a big way post the bubble and that seems likely to happen in the crypto sector too.

And most everyone in big companies wrote the Internet sector off, cancelling their Internet efforts as a fool’s errand. That seems likely to happen in crypto too.

-Fred Wilson, “What Bear Markets Look Like.” AVC.com. November 25, 2018.

Note the date(s). h/t to Jason Yanowitz.