Peer to Peer Production of High Tech&Design Products

This post flows from a question here, and Michel asked if I would expand on my comment in a blog post:

Allow me to expand on Michel's answer. The issue with high tech, high design goods is the ownership of design. If the designs for high tech are produced with P2P production, then networks of small producers can easily organize to produce components and systems (markets, etc.), and design work itself is one of P2P's strengths. 

The deep question is how to fund all the knowledge work, the design of sustainable products and production systems. The producer networks will need to gift some of their surplus to the design commons, or they will have to compete with too many producers of too few products.

The deep question about natural resources from air and water to minerals of all kinds is that ultimately these are material cycles. I heard about equal thirds of the world's copper are in use, landfills and still in the ground. The entropy of the waste dump will be a critical future concern. Each material has its own patterns of scarcity and abundance.

After all, the origin of P2P is the production of Open Source software, like Wagn and others I work on and with, and software is nothing if not high tech and design.  Some may suggest that hardware is different than software, that someone must invest real resources to create a physical something.  The knowledge of how to produce something is like software in being "non-rival" as we say.  To be sure, just like with Open Source software, the movement to enclose the commons is something to  be reconned with, and patents enclose a lot of knowledge that is actually produced from common resources such as government research funds.

Peer to peer economies, or as I prefer, ecologies, will need different systems of governance and accounting, and new currencies to support them.  We use the language of gifts and invitations, because these systems motivate towards giving your best without reservation in the confidence that your fellows will not let you fall to the ground. These systems do not have power to compel through fear and intimidation or limiting access to scarce resources.  These are pull economies, driven by desire and attraction.  You can't push on a rope.  Pushing leads to sub-optimal outcomes.

Imagineering an Example Field

Emerging fields with little installed industrial base but with many opportunities to apply and integrate recent innovations are perfect for this.  With traditional enterprises, the wreckage of failed attempts is harvested by a financial engineer, if at all.  If there is a commons that shares all the IP, then failed attempts leave much of their knowledge in the commons.  Aptera or Solindra may fail, but another enterprise can still pick up where they left off.

For example, to build a market in electric vehicles, we need a whole supply chain of different components. There is no reason that small local companies can't produce these components, but they need to be able to build from tested designs without having a whole R&D department.  If they do R&D, then they want to focus on batteries or motors of a specific type and power ranges that are specified by the integrators producing complete vehicles and the distribution networks of sales and service.

What is clear is that the production of knowledge is most effecient in a peer to peer system; the only issue is "free riders".  Someone can produce in such a network and not give back to the production of shared knowledge, but I would claim this is actually very difficult.  They can, in principle, but their actions are visible in the networks and social sanctions will be very effective, and the new systems of governance and accounting can further enhance the transparency necessary to work even better.

Producers really get that their markets for production get tighter when too many producers are chasing the same group of customers.  Applying some of the surplus to diversifying the universe of products of value making the markets larger.

The Accursed Share

Michael Maranda recently introduced me to this work, and I will leave it for the reader to find it and learn why I refer to it here.

I note that, greater production for its own sake, is one of the systematic difficulties with the present system. We will need systems to throttle back production to levels of sufficency.  When resources are fairly allocated in a sufficient way, then the surplus is available to spend extravagantly. Furthermore, if we invest it in the commons and in the mode of P2P production, then we will produce something of value that we, collectively, find to be true, good and beautiful.

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