Designing a New Vision of Sustainability

As one of our members Nadia El-Imam said recently, “sustainability is like teenage sex… everyone says they’re doing it, but no one really is.”

I’ve long believed that one of the fundamental missing links in the emerging open source hardware movement – which seeks to apply the philosophies, work ethic and ownership models of open source software to real tangible products – is the lack of decent design.

We’ve all seen examples on blogs and FB posts… wind turbines, solar arrays, micro farming rigs, etc that are fantastic in concept and output, but often suck in one major way – they simply don’t look good. Aesthetics are important as they motivate us to engage with objects more thoroughly and inspire us to pursue beauty in other forms.

Enter Open State – an loose-knit organization of designers, scientists, engineers, marketers and a half dozen other disciplines in between. Aiming to build the tools for a new world, and design them well.

poc21

They’re gearing up for a major live/work camp which is happening in the countryside outside Paris this August.

The event is called POC21, which is a play on the name for the COP21 climate change conference happening around the same time.

While bureaucrats are still debating about effective ways to mitigate global warming, the people are getting busy:

Find out more about the convergence of “12 projects. 50 participants. World-class mentors. Hundreds of supporters. 1 Goal: Open Sourcing Sustainability!”

Interview with Filmmaker Isaac Blencowe

Australian filmmaker Isaac Blencowe, otherwise known by the moniker Tragedy & Hope, has made numerous inspirational videos over the last four years, perhaps best known for his short films featuring voice overs by Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts.

We discovered his videos like most of the millions who have been touched by Blencowe’s work – randomly through social media. With nearly 90,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 13 million views, it’s highly likely you’ve seen one of his shorts.

Many of them are so inspiring and speak so directly to the socio-cultural movement that is emerging right now that we chose to make several of them the focus of our own manifesto.

We met up over email for a virtual interview…

Your video, “What if Money Was No Object” was the first short created that reached over one million views. (Eventually over two million before it was taken down over a copyright issue.) It was also the first video you produced featuring Alan Watts. How did you come across the Watts recordings and decide to incorporate them into your films? Did interest in his work come about from a specific spiritual or meditation practice?

Isaac-Blencowe

I stumbled upon Alan Watts, by what at the time seemed like mere accident or coincidence. I remember it showing up as a suggestion for me on YouTube one day and I decided to listen to it. Before this I was really only involved in political type videos, I had made one spiritual type video called “It’s time to wake up – we are all one”. But at the time, I didn’t really understand most of it; I just knew I could hear some form of truth in it. It’s quite funny looking back now that I actually quoted Alan Watts in the video, well before I had even found his work.

I no longer believe in coincidences and I now believe everything happens in our life for a reason, both the good and the bad. You only need look back at your life and you will come to realise how so many events, seeming accidents and coincidences, have come together to lead you to where you are today. I truly believe that there is an invisible thread that is leading us to our calling in life, most people however ignore the signs, and instead of listening to their heart, they use their minds. So no I did not arrive at the teachings of Alan Watts via a specific spiritual experience or meditation, I arrived at it through what would seem like chance on the surface, but I now see it as something much more than that, it was almost as though I was destined to find it, as some would say.

The moment I found him it spoke to me very deeply. I listened to his lectures for hours upon hours, almost every day for months on end. Throughout this time I heard many messages that really stuck with me, this was how I came to begin making videos on Alan Watts, I believed that if such parts of his lectures had had a profound impact on me, then surely they could do the same for others, for are we not all one at our deepest level?

You’ve produced over seven videos with the Alan Watts recordings. Knowing that video editing can be a long, drawn out process of selecting clips and matching them to dialogue, has working with his philosophy changed you or brought about any specific insights in your life?

Yes through Alan Watts teachings I have seen myself change very much, as I have said once I found Alan Watts, I listened to his lectures for hours on end. It ignited something in me that has lead me on a ever changing path of self discovery and of seeking to understand the truths of the Universe.

I started my channel without the intent of it really going anywhere, with my first videos being on political/conspiracy type videos and eventually progressing into spiritual/philosophical type videos. Tragedy & Hope is really just a reflection of my “awakening” as some have come to call it, and Alan Watts has been just one of the steps in that journey.

Since finding Alan Watts I have stumbled upon many more spiritual and philosophical teachers, all by seeming chance, but I have began to see the signs more easily now, and so I always follow them. Although it may seem like my main interest is Alan Watts, for as you have said I have made over seven videos on him, however in my time since then and especially of the last 6 months I have come to find even more teachers and messages, some I believe to be just as profound and some even more so… and I will be beginning to release them over time. As I have said Tragedy & Hope has been a reflection of my awakening, and Alan Watts played a large role in that, but he is just one step, and I will now be moving onto creating videos of other teachers who have helped me and will hopefully help others.

What is the most inspiring comment you’ve received after releasing a new film?

I once got a very personal message from a man who thanked me very deeply for the videos I had created. He told me that if it were not for the videos, he would have killed himself, but finding the videos sparked something in him and saved his life. After reading that I broke down into tears, I never thought that my videos would have such a deep impact on someone, especially like that.

My partner noticed that in “What if Money Was No Object” that most of the activities related to “doing what you really want to do” are outdoors-related, while all of the “duties” are related to city life. As an Australian, are nature-activities a regular past-time for you? If so, what’s your favorite outdoor activity?

Haha, I thought you would ask something along those lines. While I surely love being outdoors and keeping fit and healthy, the use of the outdoor footage simply was the best and most fitting footage I could find at the time for the video, and does not reflect my personal life in anyway. I have been skydiving once before though! My friends bought it as a 21st birthday present.

But again, before the “What if money was no object?” video was taken down due to copyright I was simply using footage I found throughout the internet, which eventually lead to the demise of the video. At the time when it was taken down I was very upset because I had ended up with two strikes against my account, and another one and I would have lost it for good. But as I have said, everything happens for a reason, both the bad and the good. And if was not for this experience I would not have made the decision to begin purchasing royalty free footage and music. Which means my videos no longer break any copyright laws and have given me the ability to express the videos in more detail then I have ever dreamed. If I had found this way much earlier I probably would have found much more fitting footage for the original “What if money was no Object?”

Your first video to go viral was “A Message for all of Humanity” which features a recording of Charlie Chaplin for the voiceover. You noted that it reached nearly half a million views within a few weeks after uploading. Did you already have a lot of subscribers already when this was released? Was it just word of mouth that made the video go viral or did you get featured by some large blogs or sites at the time?

Yes it sure was. This really shocked me at the time because I never expected it to happen. Before this I had just been making these videos as a bit of fun, never expecting anything to really happen with them. But this showed me that people were very interested in hearing these messages. At the time I really didn’t have a lot of subscribers, it just found its way around the internet, by being featured on many websites as you have said. I can’t remember which ones anymore, I just remember seeing it pop up a fair bit.

It seems that you’ve been able to personally integrate Alan’s message of “do what you love and the money will follow” after having some successful kickstarter campaigns that allowed you to produce more films. Has this approached becoming a full-time occupation? Any plans to make a feature length film?

Yes, this channel was never started with a intent of it growing too where it has today, I could have never imagined I would even create videos that would reach 10,000 people let alone millions. I have just always listened to my heart or intuition as some call it. All my videos come from the heart and I often spend hours a day and weeks to create each video, making sure that it all flows well.

People have asked me how I always seem to find the right footage and music, to tell the truth I can’t properly answer that question, it all just seems to fall into place. And so I was eventually led to starting a kickstarter campaign and too my astonishment I was able to raise over $4000, which allowed me to create videos beyond anything I could have ever thought possible as well as to open up a new website and to purchase a brand new editing software.

The only problem is that creating videos in this way turned out to be a lot more expensive that I would have thought. So much so that much of the money raised, once purchasing the footage and music, plus the new editing software and website, was gone in just a few videos. The kickstarter website took almost $400 for themselves as well for using the website.

This is the reason you have not seen a video in quite some time; this and the fact that my laptop broke down entirely for months and many other trials and difficulties that began to happen all around the end of last year really put a halt on my ability to create videos. So no, at the moment it has not completely become a full-time occupation, but I have confidence that with time it will.

The few videos that I have been able to monetize with advertising with the approval of Mark Watts (Alan Watts son) and since beginning down the road of purchasing footage and music has allowed me to slowly but surely begin making an income from my work, this so far is not sustainable. But I do have plans that I will be unveiling over the next few months that I think will give me the real push I need to finally make a this a full time occupation.

As for a feature film no I do not have plans for making one in the foreseeable future, however from my time away from video editing, I have had a lot of time to reflect on myself reading many many books and listening to many lectures, which have changed me very much. I read in one of the books that “a man should never speak of his plans, but let his final product speak for him”. So I won’t reveal too much but I will say that through it all I have found my own voice and an affinity for writing also, and I will begin to share this over time.

Thanks Issac for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions! Quite exciting to discover the real voice behind the videos.

watch: Tragedy & Hope YouTube channel

Our Numbers Are Growing

For quite some time now I’ve been quoting the original research from the Cultural Creatives book, which stated that our sub-culture was 25% of the overall population.

But in the following interview, author and researcher Paul H Ray states that since the research was initially published, we’ve grown – to 35% of the population of the U.S., Western Europe and Japan.*

The cultural creatives segment grew out of the 1960’s counter-culture, which dramatically broke off from the dominant Modern/Traditionalist groups that had reached an even 50/50 split by the end of World War Two. Moderns are focused on urban materialism, while Traditionals tend to be more rural, patriarchal and look to the past for solutions.

One of the incredibly interesting observations made by Paul Ray in the interview was that Triodos bank recently did a research project across Europe, finding that cultural creatives in six different European countries were more similar to each other than their own home country. Major validation for our notion of a virtual homeland – that we should stop thinking nationalistically and gather the tribe.

We may not have our own specific landmass now, but as our numbers continues to grow, who knows?

*It should be noted that these numbers represent a great deal of statistical surveying and data which has been focused in the those three geographic areas. We’re convinced these numbers are global – that although we don’t have research data for other areas (China, Africa, Central/South America), there are just as many CC’s in those areas as the rest of the world.

The Third Industrial Revolution

As part of the explosive growth of the sharing or collaborative economy, there is a simultaneous trend occurring, that author and economist Jeremy Rifkin has dubbed the “Third Industrial Revolution”.

jeremy-rifkin-300x188To quote Rifkin in a recent interview with Truthout:

For an increasing number for young people, the emerging social economy on the Collaborative Commons offers greater potential opportunity for self-development and promises more intense psychic rewards than traditional employment in the capitalist marketplace.

This is a fairly profound quote, as it describes a fundamental shift from one form of economics to another. After all, the propaganda around capitalism is that if we all compete against each other as individuals, then we benefit as a whole.

The reality, of course, has been something much, much worse.

As the oft-quoted economist John Maynard Keynes said, capitalism is “the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”

The dramatic counterpoint to this disturbing fact can be found in the emergence of a new system, which has only just begun to reveal itself. While the business press loves to focus on “sharing economy” tech startups like AirBnB and Uber, this new system is something fundamentally more powerful and transformative. This is where Rifkin so accurately identifies the undercurrent – the need for greater “psychic rewards.”

These rewards are motivated by a deep, urgent need to break out of the confines of a system that is not only completely destroying the biosphere on which we depend, but turns us into money-chasing stress-balls that never seem to be able to stay above water long enough to take a deep breath, mostly because corporations have zero loyalty to their employees and the currencies they feed their workers with are deprecating daily.

The End of Capitalism in the Wake of the Third Industrial Revolution

third-industrial-revolutionSo, then, what is the “third industrial revolution?”

If interested, the video below (an interview with Rifkin) will explain in far greater detail. However, I’ll take a stab at a short summary…

Essentially, what happened as the result of the peer-to-peer sharing revolution for all things digital (music, news, content, etc) is going to hit the world of things.

The reason is that the same diminishing scales of cost that have powered the expansion of the internet (cheap servers, routers and the wiring of broadband networks) is going to hit the transportation, production and energy sectors. Rifkin predicts that the costs will plummet so dramatically as to approach zero marginal cost. This happened with file, software and information sharing and soon will effect the more tangible world of “things.”

No Dorothy, we’re so not in Kansas anymore… In fact, the world will be so profoundly transformed by this that it may become difficult to determine the northern from southern hemisphere in a hundred years.

Watch the video and comment below. We’d love to hear if you agree/disagree with what Rifkin has to say:

Photo by University NTNU Trondheim

Book Review: Russell Brand’s Revolution

russell-brand-revolutionAt first glance, perhaps jaded cynicism. Possibly guarded optimism. Even desperate longings. All these feelings and more. While it’s usually sound advice, in this instance however, feel free to judge this book by its cover.

With an offering featuring such an audacious jacket, we are within rights to demand PROOF. Fortunately, Russell delivers.

One of several striking observations was how little I disagreed with Mr Brand, on topics as wide-ranging as politics, consumerism, celebrity and consciousness. Perhaps the highest form of praise one can give is to say it’s the book you would write, given enough time, resources, vocabulary and of course, wit. (Particularly British wit which may in some cases be lost to many but natives and anglophiles.)

Shepard Fairy’s title design may have borrowed from a random piece of street art (as street artists are won’t to do) but it certainly hits the nail on the head — the revolution that’s needed now can only proceed (and only succeed) with a significant dose of LOVE at it’s center. For if we’re truly to wake up from the repetitive nightmare of history and once and for all break off the shackles of society’s many hierarchical structures, we must never invoke the tired use of violence to find justice.

The need for Love as the focal awareness of the coming revolution goes far beyond the need for non-violence. It speaks to the necessity of seeing the Other as ourselves; that we are not engaged in a classic Us versus Them struggle, but rather that we ALL stand in need of transformation. The elite in their opulent towers ultimately seek liberation as much as all of the over-stressed neo-suburbans and the virtual day wage slaves of the global poor, in this grand continuum of economic exploitation.

This struggle to avoid polarization is not lost on me. I’ve fell victim to it’s poison more than a few times. Quite recently in fact, focusing on a 1 vs 99% theme in the last version of the cre8tives trailer.

It’s not easy to overcome, especially for those of us who have been seeking a face for the injustices that have plagued humanity for so long.

E-waste workers in China

However, the easy divisions of black and white turn quickly to shades of grey when we’re honest with ourselves and admit that while the elite may be running the corporations making line-item decisions that exploit the global south, it’s the vast margins of low-to-middle class urbanites who ensure these paradigms through our consumption patterns. (Typed, with no lack of irony, on two different devices produced by a company that, like it’s namesake, made the slippery fall from grace as liberator to en-slaver within mere decades.)

Setting off from a point of understanding that we are all engaged in the same struggle for liberation – the wage slaves, the jaded consumers, the cynical elite – the methods begin to emerge. They become equal parts tools and processes for truly democratic self-governance as much as the awareness that our own egos imprison more than any supposed Illuminati. This becomes the true jihad – the battle not against a rumored enemy, but the uncomfortable confession that our antagonist can be found within.

The tools of liberation and revolution are fairly simple, and Russell offers many in his rambling exposé that quickly moves from the insightful and profound into so many deliciously muddled digressions.

“Free yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds” sang the dreadlocked prophet so many years ago. Mr Brand writes of his own quest for personal freedom, from all forms of addiction to the recognition that every ivory tower must be dismantled (including his own). In these struggles, I found him speaking for me on more than one occasion; whether he speaks for all of us matters not. Those seeking Big Ideas (and those after Big Laughs as well) will find plenty worthy of perusal.

Quick Exit for the Super Rich?

Once in a while we find these rare gems. Stories that have a profound sub-text that somehow alludes the author.

This one is from the Guardian, with Alec Hogg reporting via the Davis Economic Forum in Switzerland. You know Davos, right? It’s where the elite meet to make plans for the rest of us for the coming year. Let’s jump to a specific passage:

Former hedge fund director Robert Johnson revealed that worried hedge fund managers were already planning their escapes. “I know hedge fund managers all over the world who are buying airstrips and farms in places like New Zealand because they think they need a getaway,” he said.

At conferences like this, the world’s top CEOs and policy makers get to listen to studies and reports that about trends long before they reach the general public. In some cases, however, they’re a bit behind the curve:

This year, income inequality is fast moving up the Davos agenda – a sure sign of it is poised to burst into the public consciousness.

Given that we’ve experienced 25% inflation in the last ten years, seen retirement funds evaporate, and watched in blinding awe as governments dished out unimaginable sums to executives who should, by any normal standard of justice, deserve chains and orange jumpsuits instead of gold and diamond encrusted bonuses, I doubt that income equality hasn’t already “burst into public consciousness.” It did that years ago, creating an aneurism of disbelief so profound as to be almost paralyzing.

As Dave DeGraw, author of the Economics of Revolution reveals, “while US millionaires have $50 trillion in wealth… almost half the working population earns less today than people making minimum wage in 1968. A stunning 76 per cent of the US population is living paycheck to paycheck.”

Source: Randy Coffey | Statistics from 2010

So the question isn’t whether we’re aware, but rather what we’re doing about. While the Guardian quotes former New Zealand prime minister and now UN development head Helen Clark, who said “we saw Occupy flare up and then fade like many others like it,” we believe she has missed the point entirely. “The problem movements like these have is stickability. The challenge is for them to build structures that are ongoing; to sustain these new voices.”

It may seem that the movement that aims to wipe out, once and for all, the crushing inequality that is tearing this planet to shreds, has lost its steam. To the contrary, myself and others think that quite the opposite has happened.

The movement may not be as visible as it was in Zuccotti Park just a few years ago, as it has moved underground, where it’s safe from the smashing batons. But there’s little doubt in its “stickability”. Where Clark gets it totally wrong is that we ARE building structures to sustain the movement. At a frenetic pace.

The examples of small-scale experiments in lateral and truly democratic decision making are so numerous as to almost escape calculation. Clark ultimately gets it right when she acknowledges that “in the end this is all about redistributing income and power,” but it’s not surprising that she thinks the movement has lost “stickability” because it’s completely off her radar. She, and other elites like her, simply don’t travel in the right circles.

In communities big and small reaching across the planet, activists are becoming entrepreneurs and businesses are turning into non-profits, hardware is going open source, while revolutionaries are donning mock monk’s robes. In countless communities around the planet, ordinary people are learning new democratic decision-making tools and processes, at a blistering rate.

All of these activities are happening under the radar of the elites because they are distributed and diffused for a reason — the change that is coming is unstoppable. It is growing organically like a new matrix across this planet. Much like lily pads that spread their root structure under the surface of a pond over the course of a month, to suddenly appear, covering every inch of the water in a seeming instant, so too are the new systems and methodologies slowly spreading that will ensure a permanent, unbreakable transition to an utterly new societal structure.

Just take a peak at Shareable’s top stories of 2014 to get a small glimpse of these developments. Being someone that follows these threads across a variety of disciplines, I’ve become convinced that something is afoot and it’s bigger than any of us realize.

Stay tuned to this site for more developments…

Google – Search, Email, Docs and… Killer Robots

Killer robots?

And no, I don’t mean the kind of cutesy killer, like some bleached out surfer expression “killer dude!” but actual killers. Shoot-you-and-leave-you-for-dead kind of killer robots.

Yes chilluns, Google is now a defense contractor making evil soldier robots.

The news arrived in my brain thanks to a story about Triodos Bank divesting Google stock. Triodos is a socially responsible investment fund and bank in Europe and as they have a zero tolerance policy for arms traders, they legally had to dump their Google stock.

Google stock. That paper, that if you had bought it five years ago, would be paying your mortgage right now. (Actual stock market values exaggerated and/or just plain made up for figurative purposes.)

The story is that Google has acquired…

Boston Dynamics, a company that is specialised in the development and production of robots. The issue arises because a part of Boston Dynamics is financed by the US defence agencies, particularly related to the development of armed robots.

You might think I’m on an anti-Google tirade if you read that piece about hijacking mindfulness, but while this whole thing makes me sick, it’s not that I’m singling out Google. I hate Apple too. Oh hate, I hate to use the hate word. ‘doh!

To be more precise, I’m really pissed off at ALL tech corporations at the moment, after just having started my migration from Facebook. The bizarre shift from underdog to corporate tyrant that Apple has gone through will likely be the subject of another tirade, but for now, let’s skewer the big G a bit more.

NSA Headquarters

China, Spying, Google and the NSA

There are a number of issues to be concerned about the growing power of this Silicon Valley behemoth.

Beyond the fairly obvious issue of how the company tracks users across its entire ecosystem for the purposes of delivering advertising content, lies an issue of greater concern – what happened after Chinese hackers breached Google’s firewalls in 2010.

After a fairly long introduction about the intrusion and the ensuing diplomatic response, an article in Salon reveals what Google did next – ask the NSA for help. This lead to an agreement that, while purposely ambiguous, has some disturbing implications:

The cooperative agreement and reference to a “tailored solution” strongly suggest that Google and the NSA built a device or a technique for monitoring intrusions into the company’s networks. That would give the NSA valuable information for its so-called active defense system, which uses a combination of automated sensors and algorithms to detect malware or signs of an imminent attack and take action against them.

The article goes on to detail how the NSA sucks in corporate CEOs, temporarily bringing them into the fold to gain their trust and cooperation. While all of this is done under the guise of “protecting the homeland” one must always ask the question of what is truly being protected. The obvious answer, to anyone with half a brain, is the protection of the system itself, which is of primary benefit to a small section of society… the .01%.

It Gets Weirder Still

julian-assangeAnother lighthouse in the murky fog of all things Google comes in the form of Julian Assange’s interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and other executives while Assange was under house arrest.

The revelations are bizarre to say the least. I’ll try to detail some highlights in the future. For now there are more important things to do than let this diatribe wander about endlessly.

The bottom line of it for me is that we have to start questioning the motives and actions of all of these tech corporations that are enmeshed in our lives.

That the revolution is coming is of little doubt; hopefully we’ll gradually realize that it can’t be conducted as long as we are so intimately entwined in daily use of products and services produced by companies that clearly don’t have our best interests at heart.

And for search, there’s always Duck Duck Go.

And these 6 links that will show what Google is saving about you.

Mindfulness Lite

The headline flickered somewhere across my screen. One of those titles that catches your eyes even though you never click through.

A few days later, a quick search revealed the headline as I’d remembered it – How the 1 percent is hijacking mindfulness.

Hmmm, scarrrry.

When I first heard years ago that Jon Kabat-Zinn was doing mindfulness courses at Google, it sounded fantastic. At last, some possibility of consciousness shifts happening within the belly of the digital beast.

As it turns out, while Google employees may indeed be getting a daily dose of McZen, there’s a deeper undercurrent of unease, as protesters recently disrupted a Google lifestyle conference revealed:

“The conference presents an evolution in consciousness of the wealthiest among us as the antidote to suffering rather than the redistribution of wealth and power.”

Pretty choice quote as we’re all about both the inherit possibilities of evolutionary consciousness through meditation AND a full-on smashing of the global capitalist system. (Non-violently of course.)

The quote came from Amanda Ream who was part of the troupe that got up in Google’s face during their “Three Steps to Build Corporate Mindfulness the Google Way.” This creepy-sounding lecture was about their mindfulness program, presented at the 2014 Wisdom 2.0 conference.

Even the name “Wisdom 2.0” reeks of Zenwashing.

Amanda reveals in a post about the incident:

“Most of the workshops offer lifestyle and consumer choices that are meant to help people heal from the harm, emptiness and unsustainability associated with living under capitalism, but [they do so] without offering an analysis of where this disconnection comes from.”

To put words in Amanda’s mouth, the disconnection comes from the endless pursuit of meaningless articles – shiny trinkets and flashy screens that distract us from a simple truth – that wealth is migrating up to the top .01% at a frightening pace. This new generation of fat cats makes the original robber barons look like nothing more than an aggressive pack of Girl Scouts cornering the neighborhood cookie market. (Ok, yeah, that’s an odd analogy.)

slavovPhilosopher Slavoj Zizek has better analogies up his sleeve, such as “Western Buddhism,” which he describes as a “perfect ideological supplement” to the stresses of life under contemporary capitalism:

“It enables you to fully participate in the frantic pace of the capitalist game, while sustaining the perception that you are not really in it; that you are well aware of how worthless this spectacle is; and that what really matters to you is the peace of the inner Self to which you know you can always withdraw.”

Sounds an awful lot like mind(fulness) games for the modern capitalist.

Preparing for the Next Big Wave

Sometimes timing is everything.

Downloaded_NapsterDocumentary

After waiting months and months for the documentary Downloaded to arrive on Netflix, it finally appeared a few weeks ago, just two days after a rather momentous personal occasion (more on that epic moment later).

The film (directed by Alex Winter of Bill & Ted fame and assistant-edited by fellow cre8tives member Charlie Kirby) details the rise and fall of Napster, the P2P music-sharing service that decimated the music business and changed the world forever.

While my own web career started a few short years before Napster exploded, I’ve never taken the time all these many years to reflect on just how earth-shattering a phenomenon Napster was.

Sharing is ubiquitous these days — videos, photos, graphics, fonts, designs, software, blueprints… the list goes on and on. While Napster certainly didn’t invent the concept of open source or peer to peer sharing, it did forever implant an ideology of the internet as global commons into the neo-cortex of hundreds of millions of users.

The world has never been the same.

What we take for granted every single day – modestly defined as “sharing content” – simply didn’t exist 15 years ago. Contemplate that for a moment… can you honestly imagine living without this most basic, now utterly ordinary function of daily life?

If not, then I’ve got a heads up for you… it’s only the first wave.

network-wave

The Next Big Wave for the Internet – the Blockchain

A few weeks back, something huge hit me – a sensation I hadn’t experienced since 1997, when, on a warm New Years Day in Los Angeles, I saw a vision of the internet as it is today… a place where you can consume virtually any type of media instantly and have direct (or nearly direct) conduits to the creators of every art form imaginable.

It was a heady vision back then, as those were the days of 14.4K dialup. (By frame of reference, it would take three or four seconds for that image above to download at those speeds.) Almost totally overpowering, it was a vision that has carried me through nearly two decades of frenetic web work, having since then originated hundreds of websites, uncountable content items and millions upon millions of views.

This same sensation of witnessing an early moment in something massive hit me again recently, while reading articles about the founder of Ethereum and a long essay about the blockchain, the technology that makes Bitcoin possible.

bitcoinIn case you’re pressed for time, I’ll try my best to sum up both and explain why we’re witnessing the birth of an epic moment for the internet… a moment where a shift is taking place that is perhaps even bigger than the explosion of peer-to-peer sharing.

Bitcoin, for the uninitiated, is a new currency that has at its core a technology that effectively turns money itself into the bank. This deserves further examination.

When you make a purchase using a debit card, your merchant’s card reader sends off a message to the bank asking it to release funds. If you have the digits in your account, the money is withdrawn from your account and sent to the cafe’s bank to receive your prized $4 latte. This form of money is already digital and is far more common than it’s antiquated counterpart – cash.

Now imagine for a moment having a digital wallet where there’s no bank standing between you and the merchant.

You have a Bitcoin wallet. The merchant has a Bitcoin wallet. And contained in each of your wallets is the history of not only your own transaction (i.e. account balance) but also the transactions of everyone in the world that has ever used Bitcoin.

At first glance, this seems impossible. After all, wouldn’t that be terribly insecure, if everyone knew what everyone else had? It sounds a lot like looking through the back of the cards of your fellow poker players. But it’s not so. For built in to the blockchain is a cryptography so strong that it can’t be broken.

And therein lies the rub.

For although the records of all previous transactions are built into every current transaction, they can’t be seen, except in very limited form, by the two parties making an exchange. It’s what makes buying and selling with Bitcoin completely secure and exist entirely without the need for a bank.

Investing in the Future

ethereumWhile I had read about Bitcoin years ago, it wasn’t until hearing about Ethereum (a new startup that aims to take the core technology of the blockchain and turn it into a framework for nearly everything) that I was urged to try to acquire this elusive new form of money.

A weeklong quest to wrap my head around this new currency eventually resulted in acquiring a single coin (worth about $575 when I bought it and around $515 when I sold it) solely for the purpose of investing in Ethereum.

For just as I saw how the nascent internet of 1997 was going to turn into what it is today, I have had a similar vision about the technology behind the blockchain.

Imagine that instead of launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund your next album, you launch a currency to fund your whole career.

Obliterating corruption in all forms, creating secure/transferable contracts, providing data safe havens, ending the NSA surveillance state… all these and more are possible due to the blockchain, a technology that simultaneously makes transactions both transparent and secure. A technology that may make concerns over net neutrality a non-issue. A technology that is so radically different than most everything we’ve known so far, that just as we had no idea back in 2000 how much Napster was going to change everything, we also have no idea what the world will look like in 15 years as the result of the blockchain.

All I can say is, get ready folks. It’s going to be a wild ride.

The Emergence of the Sharing Economy

This site is part of a growing trend most generally known as the sharing or collaborative economy. Since the vision of building special tools enabling creatives to network and collaborate first emerged, I’ve since taken a deep plunge into all things “sharing”.

Honeycomb3600As they say about buying a new car… soon as you drive it off the lot, you start seeing the same model everywhere. So it is exciting and inspiring to find that not only is the vision of a new world possible, it’s fully blossoming.

According to the first major study to examine the participants in the collaborative economy, which surveyed 90,000 people in the English-speaking world, engagement is exploding. In many cases, expected to double into the next year.

Some numbers, as referenced in an article in Fast Company:

According to the study, there are three kinds of people in the collaborative economy: non-sharers, re-sharers, and neo-sharers. Non-sharers haven’t yet engaged in the new economy, but think they’ll try it out in the next year. This is 60% of the survey population in the U.S. and Canada, and 48% of U.K. residents. Re-sharers use established services like eBay and Craigslist to buy and sell goods. This is 16% of the U.S. and Canada population, and 29% in the U.K. Finally, there are the neo-sharers, who use newer services like Uber, Airbnb, Kickstarter, and Taskrabbit. This is actually a considerable portion of people surveyed: about 25% in all three countries.

While the intention of the cre8tives and Supernova sites isn’t to turn become yet more slick online startups, it’s important to see the work we do here as part of a larger trend. One that includes more intense forms of social disruption such as the 15-M movement in Spain.

This phenomenon, in all its comprehensive forms, has the potential to truly lead to (r)evolutionary changes in the structure of global society.

For evidence of how the sharing economy is a part of much larger transformations occurring across technology, education, energy, culture and capitalism, the following presentation by Jeremy Rifkin is absolutely stunning:

More Thoughts a Year Later

It’s just over a year since I wrote this post, so it seems worth contemplating on what may have changed.

While my optimism that a radical transformation is underway has only grown, one thing that needs to be clarified upon further reflection is the term used in the headline – the “sharing” economy gets a lot of hype these days, but it’s worth separating that from it’s more nefarious cousin, the “lending” economy.

Uber, AirBnB and Task Rabbit are all companies that use the labor, goods and real estate of some individuals and match them with others for short term lending. All transactions are financial (i.e. conducted with money) and are strictly temporary “lends”, not “shares”.

Following this trend, there are some organizations that have grown out of the “sharing” economy that engage in similar forms of psuedo-exploitation. They enlist participants to “share” their time and ideas, consulting for free for the benefit of paid sponsors and a core team who are salaried while the majority of their workforce volunteers for nothing.

But while there may be some cynical maneuvering going on in these various organizations, it should be noted that while they’re extremely visible, they represent a small fraction of a wider movement. A movement that is harder to visualize in it’s overall form because it is decentralized across a hundred different topics spanning social, environmental, racial, economic and technological issues. At the core, these organizations, campaigns, teams and collectives share a common vision – to be a small part of a necessary, radical transformation to a totally different world.

So while the “sharing economy” may get a bad rap in certain circles for its lack of pure authenticity, it is important to recognize its presence in a larger metamorphosis.

To express this a bit more poetically, we are the collective chrysalis stretching beyond our boundaries.

Soon, the world shall see our wings.