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building future communities?
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newmac
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

from Beev:
"Which computers have been developed/manufactured/distributed by companies with fewer than 20 employees?"

OK in terms of physcial machines I'm not sure. But some of the main software components (including operating system) have not been developed by corporations or companies of more than 20 people. What I'm talking about here is Linux. It stands out as a shining example of what can be done - more secure than any other due to its open source, more flexible, more stable and no corporation.

Its my favourite example of how maybe a anarchic/libertarian (true meaning not US political meaning)/anarcho-syndicalist world could be. We just need to try it on other things.
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beev



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 8:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You're absolutely right. I would be amazed if the same principle were ever applied to microprocessors, though!
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MacG



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

beev wrote:
You're absolutely right. I would be amazed if the same principle were ever applied to microprocessors, though!


Your questions are absolutely relevant, and I turn quite cold inside when thinking further along those lines. I dont need a lot. I dont need more than Windows for Workgroups 3.11 and a 25 MHz 386 and a 14.4 USRobotics modem. I dont need graphics, text will do. But I need that extremely anarchistic way of sharing information which the net provide. We all need it. It will change everything for us.

Silicon fabs are some extremely specialised outfits, employing extremely specialised people, using extremely specialised inputs, and I have significant difficulties to imagine ways to keep those fabs running without a functioning global monetary system. When I lost contact with silicon in the late 80's, they were using seven layer motherboards for the 386's. Cant be replicated or repaired in a shack in the woods.

My only hope is that we can stretch things out and share the stuff we have for some 20 years or so. I dont need my own computer. I would need it a couple of hours a day. I would not mind sharing the 20 MHz 386 with 10 other people. And now I got 4 cpu's in this flat, with the slowest at 200 MHz.
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

MacG wrote:
Silicon fabs are some extremely specialised outfits, employing extremely specialised people, using extremely specialised inputs, and I have significant difficulties to imagine ways to keep those fabs running without a functioning global monetary system. When I lost contact with silicon in the late 80's....

There used to be many fabs, each owned by chip manufacturers. These days, there are far fewer fabs, effectively "contracted out". This is because no single company can afford the expense of the technology for, e.g. 90nm fabrication. In essence, the economies of scale have been taken to the ultimate limit.
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MacG



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 10:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bootstrapper wrote:
Loss of Cultural Identity: What defines a nation is a common race, language, culture, heritage, and religion. ?A multicultural world is a wonderful, fascinating place. A multicultural nation is an oxymoron. A nation is not defined or strengthened by cultural (or ethnic or linguistic or racial) diversity, but by cultural homogeneity.? -- Joseph George Caldwell. The Japanese, Chinese and Koreans know this. The Romans forgot it.


I'm not with you on this one. The concept of 'nations' is a very late thing. 1800's. Looking at a couple of (albeit transiently) successful operations we find a tremendeous diversity. Starting with Rome, continuing to Venice, passing the Hansa, and landing in ... Switzerland of all places. All of them harboured cultural diversity. The bloody Swiss have managed to live in peace harbouring at least four flavours of christianity (at a time when they were ripping eachother apart in the rest of Europe) and run three official languages. How did they do that? Mainly by avoiding to mess with eachothers religious belifs. Live and let live.

Although the Swiss cannot be called anything other than 'successful', they have not cracked more than half the equation. But that is pretty impressive. We should look at them and try to understand what they did right. What they did wrong is pretty obvious. An ex-Swiss colleague of mine told the short version: "Switzerland is like a prison - where everybody think they are the guards"
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khim



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fishertrop wrote:
If you have a system whereby you only get paid for the completion of a peice of work, not for just turning up, you immediately remove that great problem that afflicted the Soviet Union and still afflicts UK business today (yes really, a Soviet attrubte in today's britain) - namely being paid the same as your colleagues for doing little or no real work.

It also makes some things totally impossible. If you try to develop new CPU or GPU you can not preduct what you'll get (10GHz Pentium 4, anyone?). Yet if you'll get paid only if what you created works as promised noone will even try to create anything complex. Noone will ever try to do anything risky. Noone will be able to help when someone will ask for help.

fishertrop wrote:

If you get paid only on delivery (of acceptable quality) then you stand or fall as an individual "worker". You get paid nothing, a little, some or a lot entirely on how hard you work.

Downfall of this reasoning is that hard work does not always produce quality results! You can send ship to other country and get a lot of products or nothing - yet if you'll not pay day-to-day wages to your crew noone will go with you.

fishertrop wrote:

It's my view that you need to define fundamental rules INSIDE WHICH a free market can operate, and that this market should be otherwise genuinely free (I totally agree with Bootstrapper that the current markets are niether free nor fair).

There are no such thing as free and/or fair. You've sent two ships in India to get goods there but one was delayed and thus got nothing while other returned costs 10 times. What is fair in such a situation ?

fishertrop wrote:

If you make the "small business" the only type of company and you strip away all red-tape regulations (one single form of tax might be permissable) then you make a huge leap forward.

Yeah. You'll make a huge leap forward to the end of cliff. How your "small business" can replace snail mail ? How can you create even single oceanic ship with only small business ? Or survive natural disasster if there are no government reserves (and there are no government reserves in you scheme since in such a case government will act as the only "big business").

fishertrop wrote:

If you also added changes to the education system that meant the whole ethos the whole way through was geared to helping you start your own small firm, giving you lots of skills, motivating you to work as an individual, then I think that would also add real value.

What education system ? You thrown it out of the window, remember (no big business and no government means no education system).

Sorry, but it'll never work. You forgot general principle: "Things should be made as simple as possible -- but no simpler". It's quite true that what we have curently is often overly complex solutions for simple problems. It does not work very well. If you'll try to create overly simple solution for complex problems - you'll fail even more spectacularly.
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khim



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PostPosted: Sun Sep 04, 2005 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fishertrop wrote:
Redefing the way people live and work, as discussed here, in no way reduces the ability to produce goods, things or even capital projects.

Bullshit. Either you drop all "risky projects" (and recall that agriculture is "risky project" in a lot of places and with regard to a lot of cultures in U.K.) or you'll still need banking system to compensate cases where product is not delivered by one reason or another. In first case computers, global networks, sea travels and so on will become totally impossible, in second case you'll get your hated "big business" in form of banks.

Guys, joint-stock companies were created for a reason! You can not build rail-road or seaship with 20 employees company! The problem is that later almost everyone forgot why such companies were created in first place and by whom - but this is other story.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bootstrapper,

Excellent post!

<< I think what I'm groping toward, is a set of underlying principles around which any society may be organised. I've found it instructive to examine the civilisations and societies that have collapsed to see what factors they had in common;>>

I think it is important to understand the past. For looking forward to new communities and to avoid the same mistakes. I also think we need to simulate etc. to avoid making new mistakes.

"For years I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions ... Now I feel quite differently. I think you've got to have a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values." Martin Luther King, Jr

<< Priveleged Elites: Perhaps they are inescapable>>

Maybe something to do with human nature? But you can engineer a system that allows such a ?elite? but in such a way as it is of benefit.

<< It's their most cherished possession and one they'll fight to retain 'by any means'. This monopoly has always been abused.>>

A good argument for the removal of money?

<< Uncontrolled Population Growth ? Outstriping the Resource Base>>

So we need a balance? Smile

<< Loss of Cultural Identity>>

I think we can go beyond the notion of nations but I think the preservation of different cultures is important. Culture helps define a person and gives then security and a variety of cultures gives a source for different ideas. I would see any future society as a network of different communities each with its own culture. But for such a system to work there must be a common ground where each is willing to accept and tolerate the others.

<< Uncontrolled Technology>>

This comes back to balance again Smile

<< Loss of Purpose>>

Agreed Smile

Thanks Smile
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Mon Sep 05, 2005 7:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just throw in my thoughts on ?small companies? in the network of communities idea. You don?t need a single company to make one product like a computer. Different communities could be responsible for different parts of the computer and then other communities would be responsible for assembling the final product. That way the production of the computer would be distributed and for each community you would only need a small amount of people to work for a short time.

Smile
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fishertrop



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's great that this thread is generating such a high volume of debate.

With regard to the suggestions for restructuring the Uk workforce into small "companies", which seem to stirred up passionate debate from some (good for you), firstly let me restate that the proposal I made was just that - a proposal, a suggestion - something to be discussed.

In a low energy, post peak world, priorities will likely change - to what extent depends on many many things, but if you say that huge captial projects become far less important and that producing everyday useful things the people need on an ongoing basis become more important.

The Uk is FULL of infrastructure already.

Even if you were to say that the "small company" method I descibed could not ANY big projects (and I don't belive that is true, but lets come back to that) then that still may not mean it isn't the better choice overall.

What could a small (max 20 employee) company do that has value in a post-peak world?
Could it:
1) Farm a couple of acres with very low energy input?
2) Produce wooden furniture?
3) Build or repair bycycles?
4) Build and install simple wind turbines
5) Build solar-thermal water heaters and install them?
6) Produce hand tools (like a good old fashioned blacksmith!)?
7) Produce soap, wash tubs and other cleaning equipment?
Cool Recycle clothes and textiles?
9) Recycle motor car parts

It is my view that a small company as I described could do any of those tasks - and a great many more - very effectively. A "community" (as discussed on this thread in general) could have more than one company doing the same thing, there is nothing wrong with healthy competition.

Could one such firm build an ocean liner or a silicone fab? Highly unlikely.

But where would be the demand for such?

I'm not saying there would be NO demand for these things, but I suspect it would be MUCH less than it is now. The PCs we have now will last a long time with some TLC (and a small company in each locale recycling them....) and reduced trading volumes (etc) will likely leave many ocean vessles earmarked for scrap (to be recycled of course!).

PC and big ships are just examples, there are many "big" things that we have today that won't just disapear into smoke when we hit peak - we'll keep using what we have for decades and demand for new "big" things will likely be vastly reduced.

Given such reduced demand in those areas and continued demand for everyday essentials which needs to be satisfied in different ways (no more cheap bra's from china!) I think that workforce structured similar to how I described might still be the best way to approach things. What such gives you, in summary is:
a) Local production - most of the firms are in your neighbourhood, not the other side of the world
b) Individual motivation - roles no longer exist where you can coast 9-to-5
c) No sweat-shop manufacturing complex riven with "cost reduction" pressures from the managment and labour strife from angry unions representing unhappy workers.
d) No power-elite owners that control millions of jobs

(at this point I should say that I am not a leftie...)

With regard to capital projects; sure you can't build wembly stadium with 20 people (well not in their lifetimes!) but how are most big projects actually run today?

Gone are the days of monolithic workforces with flat, soviet-style, control structures.

In almost all cases big projects today are run with lots of division of labour, lots of sub-contracting and lots of sub-managers that are responsible for only one small aspect of the big project (like say the car parks and roads, or the seats). The only difference between this and what I am proposing is that instead of departments within a medium or large firm you have several (or hundreds of) 20-man firms.

Does the top-level board of a captial project have more than 20 people on it? Not often. So give the "overall control" project to one 20-man firm. Big operations already contract-out senior managerial positions anyway.

It might be that you have to add to the basic rules I suggested to better define the workforce layout for a captial project, but I cannot see how this "just will not work".........

Specialist manufacture, like silicone fabs, is slightly different but not much - it's an ongoing not one-time thing. One 20-man firm couldn't run a big fab, but how many firms would you need to run each aspect, not that many I suspect.

And this brings us full-circle to the reduced need for consumer electronics (maybe one fab would be enough for the whole of the UK ?) and a vastly increased need to meet demand for everyday essentials, the production of which is HIGHLY suited to small, local, efficient companies.

khim, with regard to your comments, I'm afriad I couldn't really grasp the points you were making, please expand.
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beev



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If we are forced into this type of thing then, inevitably, it is what we will try to do. Unfortuantely, if things get as bad as some people think they will, there will be no chance to organise anything quite so elegant.

However, such pessimism should not stop people from getting involved with those who are already developing communities in Britain if that is what you want to do. The more help these people get now, the more chance they will survive in a meltdown situation. And even if (God forbid!) we don't have our meltdown, there are still lots of good reasons for contributing to communities and the fashioning of an alternative way of life that is going on in a rural setting near you (or even an urban one). The more you can do on a local scale, the more empowered you will be - regardless of what happens.

However, if we are not forced into this situation, there is no reason to introduce compulsory restrictions of the kind you are advocating. In fact, there are plenty of reasons for not doing so, as has been discussed.
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isenhand



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fishertrop, very nice post Smile

Your thinking is much the same as mine. I?ll just add one thing on building big projects. I was thinking of communities networking together and taking a holonic point of view. Holons are using in manufacturing research. A holon is an entity that is composed of other entities.

This is the way you build up larger projects: Communities would be the lower level of holons. Groups of communities would be the next level up and groups of groups the level above that. A larger project would be achieved by each community contributing a small part to it. For example, one community making resistors, another silicon, another chips, another capacitors and other community may assemble some parts until one or more community assemble various parts into one computer.

Smile
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Last edited by isenhand on Tue Sep 13, 2005 7:20 am; edited 1 time in total
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grinu



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 09, 2005 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Haven't got time right now, but have skim read this and can't wait to read it all in detail!! I like the idea of small local businesses. I think that if things break down, then large businesses would lose the ability to communicate / co-ordinate properly within their complex structures and systems. This coupled with a lack of high-density energy and never-ending supply of cheap, bulk raw materials would make overheads prohibitively expensive.

One potential worry could be big business buying huge tracts of land as they get wind of things, laying off all their staff except the execs, and using their position as landowners to rent and tax all the people using the land, effectively still retaining control of a 'workforce' but with no particular statutory duties towards them etc. Basically taking advantage of the labour force in a different way.

I haven't considered this in any detail, all the posts just got me thinking about what scenario's could possibly happen and this one jumped out. If I had the money I'd be buying lots of high-quality agricultural land while it's cheap, so I'm sure others will be thinking along the same lines, albeit with possibly dark motives.

Maybe I've gone off on a bit of a tangent... Confused
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Bandidoz
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 1:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aye - the return of "Serfdom".
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Bootstrapper



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2005 10:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

grinu wrote:
One potential worry could be big business buying huge tracts of land as they get wind of things, laying off all their staff except the execs, and using their position as landowners to rent and tax all the people using the land, effectively still retaining control of a 'workforce' but with no particular statutory duties towards them etc. Basically taking advantage of the labour force in a different way.

Maybe I've gone off on a bit of a tangent... Confused


I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head grinu. Govcorp won't just curl up and die. It'll use 'any means necessary' to retain it's position at the apex of society, including what you describe above - 'Neo-Feudalism'. Of course, that's a recipe for revolution. Will Govcorp risk it? I think they'll give it a shot. Their window of opportunity lies between the time petroleum gets too expensive for 'business-as-usual' and when it finally runs out. As long as it has petroleum, and the rest of us don't, Govcorp is essentially unassailable.
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