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Abundance: The Journal of Post Scarcity Studies Launch Plans


Dear all, you are receiving this because of the important thinking and writing you are already doing on the critical challenge of our time, the transition from scarcity based economics to a new Abundance paradigm.

As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate and old institutions crumble seemingly over night, I think we all share the conviction that a radically better world is not only possible, but necessary (although it is hardly inevitable).

The idea of "post-scarcity," "resource-based," or "thermoeconomics," has been around since at least the 1960s (with some references in the 1920s). Additionally, heterodox economics such as the views of Henry George, GK Chesterton, or the anarchist/mutualist/decentralist tradition ( Proudhon, Kropotkin, Benjamin Tucker, Schumacher, Illich) has an even longer history and is very relevant to the challenges facing us in the early 21st century. The most significant development of recent times has been the rise of Free and Open Source Software, followed by infant attempts to extend this model into other realms beyond IT. Michel Bauwens, the most prolific observer of these trends, has dubbed the phenomenon P2P, and argues convincingly that P2P organization constitutes the next phase of human evolution.

My friends, it is time to establish Abundance as a field of study. I had been thinking along these lines for quite some time before the 2008 collapse and as it has unfolded, I've monitored a surge of activity on the web, including this call to action by Roberto Verzola: http://rverzola.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/studying-abundance-1.pdf

Our task is dauntingly difficult, as most of humanity has slumbered in a scarcity stupor for so long they cannot be easily awakened. The goal is ambitious: From 2009-2010 to lay out the central concepts and theoretical foundations of Abundance Studies.

Establishing a journal is a way to focus our intellectual efforts, build a "brand" and create a home for this new field. So many of you are already writing on this topic, wouldn't it be nice to have to have an outlet for your "finished" product? To explain, this will not be a typical journal, which imposes artificial scarcity through editorial decisions. If you want to be published—you will get published (eventually).

The journal is intended to function in conjunction with a community site/portal/carnival blog/clearinghouse for Post Scarcity Theory.

There will be 3 components; a wiki founded by Charles Collis in 2005 and which he has graciously volunteered. 2) the Community Site (details to be decided) 3) The actual journal.

During the first year, the main site is intended to host discussion around the specific topics covered in the forthcoming issue of the journal. We will announce the topic along with a deadline for submission. As a participant, you will hone your ideas with your peers and when you feel you have a complete article (8-30 pages); submit it before the deadline and look forward to it being published in the issue. If you don't finish in time (maybe you procrastinate like me)—it is no big deal. The journal functions mainly as a pacing device. You can always submit later for another issue (storage space is basically infinite)!

The idea is that we create an "event" for ourselves; boosting motivation by giving ourselves something to look forward to. It also keeps us moving toward the goal of laying out at least a first draft overview of the Post-Scarcity field during this first year.

There will be less structure imposed after the year is up, and ideally, the journal and site will acquire momentum and issues can proceed on perhaps a quarterly basis.

For those who are interested, I think a next step might be a Post Scarcity Text Book, building on the content generated in the Journal's first year. Another offshoot might be an intensive RoadMap to Post Scarcity. Various Roadmaps (for Nanotech, Open Manufacturing) have already been done, so this might serve as a meta-map. Other projects are bound to be generated. For example, I've been thinking about a board game based on Anti-Monopoly (look up this fantastic story) to teach the concepts of the Commons, Peer Production, and Abundance. http://freedomofscience.org/?page_id=21

Marc Fawzi, who is working on an energy-backed currency model, also wants to make a game to simulate his concept. I've contacted some folks with game design experience in this email and hopefully we will attract more.

To clarify: there are lots of groups already working peripherally on Post Scarcity. The topic is kicking around the P2P Ning group, the DIY biology google group and the Open Manufacturing google group.

I am not trying to poach everyone from these groups (though there will be overlap). Nor is the site/journal intended to duplicate the work that is already being done. I am trying to focus "meta-level" discussion to construct the theoretical framework within which these more applied and (often highly technical) efforts will proceed.

Although I am inviting you all to a google group, it is temporary and only for discussion of the launch of the main site. I'm already on too many mailing lists and we need a site where everything is publicly visible so you don't have to join or for that matter go searching through tons of threads. Email updates from a list soon become annoying also. Many details are to be decided about what will work best.

During the first year, your core, founding team is

Bryan Bishop, coder at large, builder/maintainer of community portal

Charles Collis (wiki)

Joseph Jackson (lead coordinator of journal topics/troubleshooting)

Edward Miller, helping Bryan with miscellaneous maintenance of community site, etc

You are all expected to self-select and participate as much or as little as you like. I hope that a sufficient number of you will register with the main site as contributing bloggers and post or even just cross post on a semi-regular basis. I already have in mind article contributions from a number of you for particular issues of the journal.

Usually, I'm all for Democracy, but we can't debate everything. So, as a dictatorial decision, I considered Agalmics: the Journal of Post-Scarcity Economics, but the Agalmics term is a bit tricky for the tongue. Thus, the title is

Abundance: The Journal of Post-Scarcity Studies

The domain name for the main site is abundanceorannihilation.org I think this encapsulates the options nicely and besides I'm already working a book by that title so if for some reason you all object, I'll use it anyway. Post-Scarcity.org redirects to Charle's Wiki. http://www.adciv.org/Main_Page

Here is a list of initial interested parties I have identified. Undoubtedly, I've left out many so pass this on to anyone else you know of. I've spoken to most of you about this project but I've indicated where I lack contact info.

Shay David, founder Kaltura

Roberto Verzola http://rverzola.files.wordpress.com/2008/11/studying-abundance-1.pdf

Matt Pearson zenbullets.com

Matt Arnold, organizer, Penguicon,

Michel Bauwens P2P foundation

Bryan Burns

Michael H. Goldhaber Attention Economy

Douglas Rushkoff

Paul Hartzog contact via P2P foundation

James Hughes

Eric Hunting contact via Michel Bauwens

Paul Fernhout

Michael Silverton http://michael.silverton.palo-alto.ca.us/packets/?paged=2

RU Sirius contact needed

Bruce Sterling

Vernor Vinge Not sure of current contact, use FOO camp
Christopher J. Fearnley Buckminster Fuller FAQ

Charles Eisenstein Ascent of Humanity, Reality Sandwich.

Chris Anderson

Melanie Swan

Kevin Kelley

James Albus People's Capitalism

Wade Frazier no contact but maintains the interesting site http://www.ahealedplanet.net/abund.htm

Marc Fawzi

Phil Bowermaster the Speculist

Marshall Brain

Kevin Carson Mutualist.org

Neil Gershenfeld

Robert Grudin

Pat Kane Play Ethic

Steve Burgess, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Bob Black, Abolition of Work, no contact details

Paul Pilzer, no direct contact info, interesting perspective although not sure if he is a good fit.

Christopher Travis cktravis@sentientarchitecture....

Umair Haque Unsure of updated email contact

Eric Hunting Contact via Michel

Corey Doctorow

Charles Stross

Neal Stephenson don't have direct contact, using FOO camp mailing list

Iain M Banks no direct contact

Nathan Cravens

Jonathan Walther, Reactor-Core.org

Rodney Shakespeare BinaryEconomics.net no direct contact

Robert Ashford

Peter Barnes Capitalism 3.0 contact needed

Adam Ardverson Ethical Economy contact via Michel Bauwens

Mike Masnik Tech Dirt http://techliberation.com/2007/01/19/masnick-on-post-scarcity-econo... contact needed

Fleming Funch contact needed


Bart klein Ikink NaturalMoney.org contact needed

Steve Omohundra

Alvin Toffler contact via Kurzweil about contribution to special issue.

Hans Moravec

Patrick Anderson

Chris Cook contact needed, use P2P foundation/group

Ron Long

Below is a speculative list of topics. Also some rambling half baked thoughts

Abundance Vol I, Issue 1

Historical overview of post scarcity thought and notable initiatives. Thoughts on why the early 21st century offers a realistic shot because of cheap, networked technology. Personal stories and testimonial from our contributors on how they became interested in Post Scarcity.

Vol I Issue 2

The Theory of Value

Economics has no coherent Theory of Value and we must solve this problem if we are to establish the field of Abundance. The Labor Theory of Value has advantages in that it is objective and normative—it states that price should tend toward the cost of production; it also allows us to determine what constitutes equitable exchange. Unfortunately, the LTV does not acknowledge that the amount of labor embodied in products is constantly diminishing with the advance of automation and improvements in capital. Marginal Utility Theory was held to be the replacement for the Labor Theory of Value but this type of utilitarianism is ultimately subjective and can't provide a sane basis for economics. In this approach, all that matters is satisfying an agent's subjective preference. But people might prefer anything at all ( in the case of preference adaptation a person who is used to being abused or deprived—starving—actually adjusts to this condition). Preference satisfaction alone can't serve as the basis for well-being—an agent can easily prefer things that are objectively bad for him. See Amartya Sen-the Capabilities approach to measure agent's welfare in terms of the intrinsically valuable doings/beings he has the capability to achieve.

Binary Economics (Kelso/Adler) put forth after the great depression, advocated a new concept of "productiveness" in which Capital was conceptualized as autonomously doing work.

I propose a theory tentatively dubbed the Automation/Technological Theory of Value. All economic value starts with a Gift, the sun, thus there really is such a thing as a free lunch, provided we intelligently use technology to satisfy needs. Man simply uses his mind to harness energy to do work. Rather than a labor theory of value, a "play" theory is more appropriate, as all advances in standard of living come from using technology to always do more with less.

Vol I Issue 3


Since the theory of value is such a mess, it is no wonder the notion of property is confused as well. Proudhon famously declared that property is theft, distinguishing the concept of possession (occupancy and use of land/means of production but no absentee ownership). Following this line, I think the phrase Property is Use gets at the core idea behind property rights—these rights to use a resource come with a responsibility to act as a steward and to use the resource in actual production. Seen in this light, the idea of Intellectual Property (a term that collapses distinct legal regimes of copyright, trademark, and patent, and should never have been adopted) is revealed to be rubbish. So called, "IP" is not property at all, but merely a negative right to exclude. At least with copyright, the author nominally owns his own words/expression, but even here artists have been sued for copying themselves!! See the case of John Fogerty—being sued by his record company for being too similar to himself in the song Run Through the Jungle! Even more harmful than copyright, today's patent system is a total failure as a property system—it benefits neither the public, nor inventors—serving only lawyers and corporations who can amass the largest portfolio. A patent is not a right to do anything—2 parties may find themselves at a standoff with neither able to practice an invention because of overlapping blocking claims. Boundaries are impossible to determine, leading to endless, costly litigation. Worst of all, independent invention is no defense, so I might happen upon my own solution to a problem only to be blocked by an existing patent owner or a troll who never had any intention of practicing the invention. Even if my approach is different, the doctrine of equivalents still allows the existing patent to block me.

A unified theory of property for both physical and intellectual resources is possible if we return to the central idea of use.

Patrick Anderson's User-Owner Theory is ideal for this issue. Also see Chris Cook's Open Capitalist Project, which promotes the idea of trusts (see Islamic finance) as a solution to a debt-based system of mortgage-slavery.

The Commons is also a critical idea. Space as Commons is a theme worth exploring, perhaps in its own issue. Space is the ultimate Commons, and following the frontier gold rush model by staking claims on the moon, etc, might not be in humanity's best interests, no matter how rich it makes the lucky first mover entrepreneurs. Today, the baby field of private space entrepreneurship is an exclusive billionaire's club. Leading advocates espouse a sort of hyper-capitalist rhetoric that seems grossly out of touch with the most recent events. Our property system on earth can hardly be said to have been a success; transposing it to the heavens will surely have a hellish result. It might be time to rethink that Asteroid Mining business plan you just submitted at the last invite only Space Cadet Summit.

Vol II Issue 1


Money is a tool, a technology, nothing less, nothing more. Today, it is a very poorly designed and implemented technology. The Social Currency or "Open Source Currency" movement is slowly gathering steam as groups worldwide implement LETS and other local or complementary currency systems. This topic is enormous so the issue will feature summaries of the history of money as it has been implemented and an introduction to notable emerging alternatives.

Vol II Issue 2


The field of Attention and Reputation Economics is likely to become its own sub-discipline within Post Scarcity. This issue will consider the key difference between attention/reputation and other forms of currency. Is attention truly scarce? Today's crude reputation metrics and attention filters (Digg, Amazon, Ebay) are primitive and there are many very technical aspects to consider. We urgently need to get started if we are to have any hope of coping with the information overload that will accompany LifeLogging and ubiquitous embedded computing. LifeLogging is potentially the most socially disruptive technology imaginable, and unlike Drexlerian Nanotech—all the enabling technologies are already here. Once lifelogging begins, I anticipate a hard takeoff to a "Sociological Singularity" within a decade as "omniveillance" is the only stable endpoint. A Bill of LifeLogger User Rights and a new Social Compact are required if we are to use lifelogging's potential to enhance sociability rather than degenerate further into a "reality TV" based society. See Doctorow's, Whuffie, DotMK.

Vol II Issue 3

Robotics/Basic Income

Revisiting the theme of Automation from our issue on the theory of value, this issue anticipates the robotics revolution. James Albus' People's Capitalism, Marshall Brain's various scenarios, Moravec—let's check in on these ideas that have been floating around for several decades and see where we stand. The Basic Income may fit here also.

Vol III Issue 1

Nanotechnology/FAB manufacturing/Open Manufacturing/Energy

Lot of overlapping themes here and we can splice these into separate issues.

The overall theme here is the transition to radically decentralized production. See Carson's new book, Mutualist Theory of Organization.

Rather than technical considerations (though obviously the tech details matter) the focus is on the structural aspects—how to avoid a Microsoft of Molecular Manufacturing, discussion of relevant fiction, eg, The Diamond Age.

Vol III Issue 2

Ethics and Economics of AI

If we don't implement Post Scarcity Values before the birth of GAI, we may be in big trouble.

Vol III Issue 3

Economics of Virtual Worlds

Science Fiction: we might do a "best of" issue summarizing post scarcity fiction. Obviously, Sci Fi is a vast source of post-scarcity speculation and any of the above issues could feature one or more "lit reviews" of sci fi relevant to the topic of that issue.

VR is obviously poised to become an ever greater part of the economy. Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes in this new setting or can we avoid imposing artificial scarcity? Discussion of contemporary examples, business models, and property regimes.

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This is a great and very important initiative.

One thing I feel is missing though in your plan for future issues. Though I understand that you want to develop positive knowledge about this new field, I do think that at least one issue of critique would be necessary, namely one that deals with the critique of traditional economics and it's basis in scarcity. I think this is an academic, critical and practical necessity when you found a new field, namely that you have to provide some justification in present insuffiency in dealing with this.

Of course, I want to extend my full support to your plan, and I hope that your team can use the many resources we have already collated in our wiki, which has sections that match many of your proposed issue topics.

What you are doing is the most natural extension of our work here!!

Certainly Michel, thanks for the suggestion. We can of course begin with an issue critiquing the scarcity assumption of orthodox economics. I am preparing an introductory essay contrasting economics with "agalmics," the term coined by the late Robert Levin. In this first issue I hope we can get contributions tracing the strands of heterodox economics that object to the scarcity premise. There is a long, rich history.

I also suspect we don't all mean exactly the same things by abundance--there is a definite tension between some of the ideas of Buckminster Fuller and Ivan Illich for example--Bucky is my primary inspiration but some "ecological" economists reject his emphasis on using technology to transform the environment to suit man.
Another suggestion I would have is to group the topics in some meta-structure, for example, devote one year to the economics of abundance (subtopics as property and money could fit it), one year on technological infrastructures (energy, nano-bio, etc...), one year on the psychology/epistemology/philosophy of abundance), etc..
Very much interested in this topic! I'm can't be sure after just a brief look... but it's possible that something I'm interested in could well have an important place...

The Individually Controlled Account for Commons Dedicated purposes

I have brief post here on this but more elsewhere.

2 min video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXdhGQOwm54
Prototype http://www.Chagora.com/faq.aspx (for U.S. application)
LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/in/culturalengineer

This becomes a distributed network of "empowered" nodes in contrast to hierarchical structures. And is a FUNDAMENTAL of speech and association NECESSARY with scaling of civilization decision methodologies.

Further, in relation to "post scarcity" issues, its then desirable to, over-time redefine certain commodities or services as belonging to the commons (like basic foodstuffs and healthcare).

This distributed network is and should be a for profit operation owner by its donor base (everybody) with monetization via subscription fees, services and advertising offered to private operations.

This distributed network should NOT be owned nor should it operations be funded by the government. This is not in opposition to government but rather a recognition that the Chagora structure is itself a check & balance necessary with scaling the group decision process and so must stand separate.

Chagora is a fundamental in its essence. It is a speech and association tool essential with scale. There should come a time when ALL people have such an account.

Tom Crowl

P.S. I could certainly use help...
Great initiative Joseph

You note that the significance of the emergence of free and open software, as well as the subsequent infant steps to move this model beyond Software. I have a great personal interest is this but have approached it from a different angle. My educational background is in project, process and business design from the Kaospilot school in Denmark. Because of this I have approached the issue from a different angle.

I try to assist the infant steps of moving the model outside IT. In order to do this I am currently working on tools that can help facilitate this. www.freemium.eu In this context i have offend thought about creating a board game that can illustrate the economics of post scarcity. Actually I just called a game designer friend to set up a brainstorm on the subject. Your example was a nice push.

I have also offend thought about creating a network for people looking into this area. Much like the one you are starting, but with a much more practical approach.

Not being an academic I am not sure that i would understand all of the content in the journal... yet I agree that it is very important to get the theory explored.
I have joined the google group in hope that i can learn a lot from the academics in this area. Maybe there could also be some collaboration or synergy to my, more practical approach to the area.

Thanks a lot for your initiative
Great to hear from you Peter. However, I would say that we don't want to be too "academic" in the sense of drowning in jargon and creating unnecessary barriers to entry for anyone who wants to understand these concepts. Economics was originally "Political Economy" and it was intimately tied to moral philosophy (Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments, JS Mill's On Liberty). In the last 150 yrs "academic" disciplines have become increasingly specialized and obscenely technical. Whereas once economics was concerned with the great questions of human achievement and prosperity (as in the title Wealth of Nations) it has splintered into many sub-disciplines, each aspiring to be more "scientific" than the next by introducing as many formalistic and quantitative methods as possible, regardless of whether these techniques help us understand the reality of our world.
That sounds great, i look very much forward to getting involved in this initiative.




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