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Can social entrepreneurs organise across tribal lines?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, November 15, 2019

Esmee Wilcox reviews the formation of social entrepreneurs through communities in her eleventh blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

We live in a world where familial, cultural and political conflict seems more and more prevalent. This appears a world away from the normalisation of collaboration required in the development of new socio-economic organising models that I’ve talked about. Alternative models to market and state failure.  More fit for a digital, interconnected world with an abundance of social but not physical capital, with flow displacing the importance of accumulation. The question remains: can social entrepreneurs bridge the divides across polarised but overlapping communities, to organise across divided and incendiary tribal lines? Would they fare better than state or corporate actors?  More than ever, this must be seen as a fundamental question of our future and present times.

 

Let’s look first to some of the social enterprises working in places which have seen years of violent conflict between distinct communities.  What have they been able to do to heal the trauma of conflict and enable people to organise across these lines? In Northern Ireland, social enterprises operating in ‘interface areas’, are pulling young people into sustainable future-focussed activities away from politically divisive and even paramilitary activities. In the Philippines, social enterprises are tackling the socio-economic causes of ‘intra-clan’ conflict, with profitable, co-operative, enterprise activity that can also fund healing post-crisis mediation. Social enterprises operating in areas which have seen the consequences of other conflicts through immigration, such as the Lebanon, Germany and the UK, have been successful in challenging stigma and exclusion. Where participation in enterprising activity, as producers and customers, shifts the dominant narrative of ‘other tribes’ as dependent and different, social enterprises are enabling displaced people to organise with existing resident communities.

 

In reflecting on these examples, is it the connections and trust that social entrepreneurs have that enables convening and mediation?  Is it the recognition of enterprising opportunities against expectations?  How might state and corporate actors also fare out to 2050?

 

State provision of universal ‘services’ and ‘organisations’ or ‘opportunities’ enable otherwise disconnected people to meet, bond and often organise in a place. In spite of conflicting moves to reduce the population supported, states might choose to amplify this convening function.  In seeing a ‘post-market’ role in growing social networks to solve complex problems. In which case, the ability to influence within and across distinct communities becomes the priority. 

 

Both corporate and state actors might be responding to the influx of enviro-economic migrants over the next 30 years. More often welcomed due to significant global imbalances in population age profile.  Might corporate actors thrive where they can monetise the innovation potential in a clash of values and cultures?  Will they use technology such as blockchain to build trust across far larger networks of consumption and production?

 

It still hard to see how political and corporate actors can move at scale beyond the model of consumption that is well oiled by accelerating connections with those we readily self-identify with.   Social entrepreneurs operating on the margins may be more plausibly able to create the social, political and cultural conditions – including the value we perceive in organising with ‘others’ across tribal lines – for co-evolving new forms of consumption and production.   Models that can address the inherent fragility in conflict, that we may have to more frequently design around in later 21st century economies.   If social entrepreneurs are capable of doing this, might this displace the influence of present-day state and market actors?

 

© Esmee Wilcox, 2019

Tags:  entrepreneurship  social entrepreneur  society 

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What is the face of a sustainable future society?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program envisions sustainable future societies in her eleventh blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

What is a sustainable society? A sustainable society is one that ensures the wellbeing of human life and nature for present and future generations. It is a society that has the right balance of the economic, social-cultural, political, and ecological dimensions.

 

The economic system is one part of our finite ecosystem constrained by planetary boundaries. Economic growth is simply a translation of the social and natural capital within society into economic gains. The global economy has been growing for decades while the natural capital is continually being degraded at a rate well above its renewal. It is not possible for the economy to perpetually grow in this finite ecosystem.

 

Economic growth is a quantitative increase which does not necessarily lead to an improvement in the quality of life or equity and justice in society. The pursuit of continuous economic growth puts undue strain on the environment with total disregard to future generations. On the contrary, we need development which sustains the wellbeing of humans, cultural values, and the environment. What will a sustainable society look like? Can this be attained?

 

A sustainable society will be characterised by long-termism rather than short-termism. It will be a global society whose members are mindful of the global rather than the immediate local consequences of their actions. It will be a society with a shared economy that pursues development rather than mere economic growth and the common good. Otherwise, everyone will face the tragedy of the commons such as effects of climate change and societal ills.

 

It will be an equitable society in all aspects such affecting wellbeing and decision-making. It will not be a society where the more economically empowered make or influence policy decisions to serve their own interests. All calibres of society will need to be represented in decisions that affect their welfare, both locally and globally. The south will be as key in global decision-making as the north. It will no longer be a case of the economic powers making decisions that affect the globe. Government policies will discourage and punish behaviours that would lead to ecological degradation and hamper future sustainability of society through levies such as eco tax and economic sanctions.

 

The sustainable global society will espouse a paradigm shift in the value of life. It will be a society where members are valued for their very existence rather than their economic worth. This will drive a sense of equity and a desire to see one’s neighbour living as comfortably as himself. Members of the society will be oriented to change for the benefit of all.

 

Is a sustainable society possible? What will drive it? Who will be its custodians? As demonstrated by the ongoing global youth campaigns for climate change, maintaining the status quo is not an option. Attaining a sustainable society is a social-political problem. Economists have failed us. Building a sustainable society will require a political class that espouses societal values and does not merely serve capitalists. This will be a calibre of leadership that has the will to enforce the right values across all segments of society and to penalise those who act contrary to the tenets of this common good. It will be a political power that works to build society’s moral fibre rather than to erode it. One that is insulated from the current economic system that currently wields undue power over society and lives in present. A sustainable future society is one that includes everyone.

 

© Felistus Mbole, 2019

Tags:  economics  society  sustainability 

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Can democracy function in a polarized society?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Robin Jourdan inspects the functioning of democracy under polarized conditions of the society in her tenth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

To polarize is to cause people to divide into distinct groups. Polarization is more than just having a different opinion than a neighbor. It’s when we refuse to live near that neighbor we become polarized. During the American Revolutionary War, not everyone in the Colonies wanted independence. Loyalists to the British Crown, aka Tories, included William Franklin, then royal governor of New Jersey and son of Patriot leader Benjamin Franklin. Holiday dinner must have been uncomfortable.

 

Let’s not be confused that polarization is a political tool. Polarization isn’t limited to the US, of course. Europeans, disenchanted with mainstream politics and growing global anti-establishment sentiment, have extended the fragmentation. There is a price to pay for polarization. For example, we see a decrease in charitable giving and personal health. There is more pressure to conform, and it’s easier for us to be deceived. Legislative gridlock and violence grow.

 

Of the many forces shaping polarization: tribalism, trust, community, technology, media, and politicians are reaching a collective apex. Tribalism is almost religiously seen today by groups that compete, especially where negotiation and compromise are perceived as a betrayal. As Abraham Lincoln put it, “Constitution and Laws” were to be America’s “political religion.” All this talk of tribalism misses a crucial point. Diversity, when combined with equality, makes us stronger. This is not new.

 

Who benefits from polarization? Take a lesson from Deep Throat: follow the money. Today’s Fifth Estate: search engines, social media, and news media benefit from polarization. The first two, using algorithms and personalized content create non-arbitrary access to information. The growing glut of information generates confusion and discomfort for many. Algorithms assuage this by providing only that information which is personally comfortable and self-reinforceable.

 

Countries with less diversified but emerging media markets, e.g., China and South Korea, are becoming more polarized due to the development of such media. When business models are based on how much time and interest a user spends on a site, the incentive is clear. And nothing outdoes puppies followed by outrage. In the West there is a quote: “Common etiquette says not to talk about politics, sex, religion, or money. But these are the most interesting things to discuss!”

 

Going forward, as the Gen Z society’s comfort with diversity becomes influential toward mid-century, businesses that improve transparency will build trust and thrive. Evolutions in the business world will similarly progress expectations on representatives. But growth can be stunted by a lack of trust in unconstrained technology. New technologies support opportunities only if the public has confidence in how the data is used. Missed opportunities will grow. Only 1-2% of consumers today trust that their personal information will be protected in the markets through mid-century. Wearable and implantable technologies enable people to interact in new ways. Digital services can contribute to a shared vision of social justice, environmental and economic stability if a generally inclusive worldview expresses public dialogue.

 

Can democracy function in a polarized society? The principle: nature abhors a vacuum is equally true in a political ecosystem. Manipulation byproducts of the Fifth Estate will diminish only when government earns confidence by solving real problems. Political systems failing to deal with complex issues and social dissatisfactions have many reasons for fabricating distracting headlines. First, governments must learn from the business sector and catch-up with real transparency. Without the possibility of polarization, where differences of opinions allowed, we stumble into authoritarianism no matter how well intentioned at the start.

 

Second, polarization ignores moderates. Today, moderates in the US are leaving the traditional 2-party system in favor of the “Independent” party. A moderate’s goal is not to make the world conform to some extreme perspective. Instead, it’s to work in the world as it actually is, with all its messiness and confusion. International relationships that are based on mutually relevant values, and respect, signal moderation. Have we reached a global or regional “peak polarization”? Not quite. However, today, moderates matter more than ever. Every swing of the political pendulum includes a moderation period.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  democracy  polarization  society 

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Can Social Entrepreneurs solve wicked problems?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, October 18, 2019

Esmee Wilcox inspects the ability of social entrepreneurs in solving wicked problems through her tenth blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Our world in 2050 will plausibly be connected in ways that seem unimaginable now. Not least the integration of virtual and physical socio-economies, and artificial and human re-combinations. We will have had to understand how to work with the complexity this creates. We know how difficult it is to bridge different systems. We know how corporations, education systems, and political movements proffer binary answers as a technique for maintaining the status quo. Looking ahead to 2050, how will social entrepreneurs need to be operating then to be more effective in solving wicked issues? What do they need to consider to make strides towards this?

 

In practice, how many of us have been involved in long-term visioning projects that generate promise and movement but fail to translate into the necessary significant change? Why do we keep repeating the exercises believing it will be different with a tweak? What we’re missing from these technical exercises are the difficult conversations about the new norms, values and behaviours that exist in these new futures, and how they affect us personally. We find it easier to hunt for examples of practice that we can recreate to transition from where we are now to this agreed plausible future. Instead of understanding the conditions – that our own behaviours create - in which these solutions could arise.

 

Take some of the self-organising movements in health and social care. These are deliberately and explicitly creating the service organisations that are congruent with the theory of agency over personal health. Practitioners interacting with patients have agency and are valued in ways that correspond with the agency and value they are supporting patients to find in themselves. By explicitly working on the values and behaviours that are required in the organisations of the future, they are disrupting and tackling the values and behaviours that are no longer effective in the present.

 

So what does this mean for social entrepreneurs that are already creating these ‘future fit’ enterprises? The skill is not only in being able to operate in these experimental transition spaces. It is also to create connections and meaning for people whose system is codified in the present. The practice needs to be in making the values and behaviours of everyone visible, explicit and connected to purpose in the new future. To then consciously move away from the present and step into new uncodified practice together, social entrepreneurs have to think about trust. Can social entrepreneurs extend their trust across competing value frameworks to hold the discomfort, the anxiety, and the tension when working in-between systems? Is part of this about being explicit about what’s behind the intention of actions? This would fit with evidence that we can mobilise surprising agents of change when we make our underlying preferences known.

 

Where social entrepreneurs can help institutional actors step into the transition space, we can imagine the release of band-with to tackle wicked issues. Including the paralysing healthcare conundrums such as investment in long-term wellbeing in conflict with short-term needs, which exist because we cannot conceive of the meta conditions changing. In this way social entrepreneurs are capable of solving the preponderance of highly connected, multi-causal, wicked problems we will become used to seeing as we enter the latter half of the twenty-first century.

 

At the same time, we ought to consider a parallel question about the impact of further atomisation and divisiveness within society. If social entrepreneurs are to succeed in tackling latter century wicked problems, how might they also work across these incendiary tribal lines?

 

© Esmee Wilcox, 2019

Tags:  entrepreneurship  society  wicked problems 

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What will responsible capitalism look like?

Posted By Felistus Mbole, Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Felistus Mbole a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the responsibility of capitalism in her tenth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Capitalism has been the key driver of global wealth and prosperity. Despite this, it has yielded huge economic inequality and mistrust. This is because the system which is driven by private owners operates to maximise shareholder wealth. The need to generate profits at whatever cost works contrary to the interests of other members of society and the planet. The idea of shareholder supremacy is deeply entrenched within the current corporate culture. Everything else takes secondary priority. The outcome has been huge global inequality and a looming backlash.

 

The cry for responsible capitalism which started after the Second World War is climaxing. The need to conduct business in a manner that is equitable and balances the interests of shareholders, suppliers, employees, customers and the larger society is dire. Despite their benefits, there is a sense of unfairness and being overburdened accompanied by a loathing and mistrust of enterprises. As legal personalities in society, corporates should owe responsibility to others in how they conduct their affairs. Yet this has not been the case. What will save capitalism from itself? What will responsible capitalism look like?

 

Responsible capitalism is not corporate social responsibility. It is not giving a tiny proportion of the wealth generated by enterprises in the form of charity or a gesture of goodwill to society. It is the integration of the needs of the wider society into how business operates, a manner that benefits all stakeholders. Responsible capitalism is an economic system which appreciates the need for harmonious co-existence between enterprises and other members of the community.

 

Left on their own, markets will continue to maximise shareholder wealth at the expense of the rest of society. The 2008 financial crisis is a clear illustration of this. Responsible capitalism will take a greater role by state in regulating the affairs of markets. Governments will need to rise to the challenge by prescribing ways in which corporates should conduct themselves. The UK’s Companies Act 2006 for instance encourages responsible capitalism. These will be in form of policies that ensure fair work terms and conditions and redistribution of the generated wealth through taxation for society’s common good. To whom much has been given, much will be required. Responsible global enterprises will diligently pay rather than seek to avoid taxes to support the communities in which they operate.

 

Responsible capitalism will be enterprises whose strategic purpose is to serve society alongside their investors. This will mean fair compensation to employees and minimising of margins in pricing of goods and services to customers. Responsible corporates will be aware of the planet boundaries and mindful of the impact of their business activities on the environment.

 

In today’s increasingly dynamic and complex world, enterprises will have an opportunity to demonstrate their responsibility by rendering a service to society. They will use their resources to address the wicked problems facing global society for the common good. Their service to society will need to be embodied within their corporate strategies alongside delivery of value to shareholders. Responsible capitalism will take a paradigm shift in corporates’ purpose for existence from maximising shareholders’ wealth to serving society. A realisation that it is in serving society that sustainable value is created for investors. It will comprise enterprises focused on long-term rather than short-term gains.

 

@ Felistus Mbole 2019

Tags:  capitalism  inequality  society 

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How can we solve problems without a solution?

Posted By Robin Jourdan, Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Robin Jourdan checks the possibility of solving insolvable problems in her new blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Labor and environmentalism are often portrayed at odds with democracy and capitalism. Is labor environmentalism compatible with democracy/capitalism? For over a century, labor championed an evolving environmental movement. Labor promoted conservation of the national resources and opposition to industrial exploitation of public lands for profit. Since World War II, labor union members linked the dangers of pollution in the workplace with the contamination of the surrounding communities. Labor unions were also essential organizers of the first Earth Day. Earth Day has grown to become the largest nonspiritual celebration. More than a billion people take part every year, stirring policy changes.

 

By joining forces, labor and environmental organizations had increased business regulation to protect workers. Until the mid-1980s. Industry's response exposed workers by using claims that lost profits could result in layoffs or complete shutdowns. Such assertions change the conversation for workers and union representation. This results in pitting jobs directly opposite to safety, health and environment. Today's business hostility and centralized government ambivalence create a formidable front to environmental quality. A response is birth of the green labor movement. Itself a new model, it holds promise to disrupt political alignments.

 

Union environmentalism that protects members from unsafe conditions has risen. This outcome has also benefitted the natural environment as a byproduct. Increased use of machine workers, especially in dangerous and hazardous situations may result in a whole new thinking. Globally today, nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air. The United Nations Environment is focusing on tackling the growing yet overlooked threat of air pollution. To a large extent, this a response to accelerating carbon emissions via increased energy demands, especially in China, India, and the US.

 

Beijing has shown what is possible to reduce air pollution and are increasing their actions and ambition for the next 20 years: a model for others to follow. World Heritage sites will face heightened threats; especially crucial to nations who value their long heritage. Going forward, leadership will be judged on its capacity to resist temptations to manipulate the system, versus commitments, met as a proactive and responsible role model. A wildcard is recently surfacing in the US as a group of young people have begun lawsuits over climate change inaction.

 

Today's technocrats can take advantage of their ability to consider and grow in the face of issues such as proper workforce planning for health issues. As the number of active workers declines, elderly non-workers' health issues will increase similarly.

 

New Environmentalists, new hope? Global leadership who take on fighting inequality, including that induced by climate change, will be rewarded. Efforts reversing climate change will be challenged by a more significant influence of urban areas. Ignoring climate change will come at a cost in the Trillions of dollars antithetical to capitalist goals.

 

Is labor environmentalism compatible with democracy/capitalism? Approaching tipping points at work in today's short-termism world can provide specific incentives. For an economic incentive market truth offers the highest reliability. For example, in the future, holding jobs hostage over environmental concerns will diminish as AI and machinery take over dangerous front-line work and lowering costs. This change could cause the market into a full-court press protecting Spaceship Earth. Problems without solutions may be only a temporal issue. Given additional information and evolution, even the toughest solutions can be found.

 

© Robin Jourdan 2019

Tags:  change  environment  society 

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Is there a role for social entrepreneurs in the public sector?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, July 26, 2019

Esmee Wilcox devotes her seventh blog post in our Emerging Fellows program to the role of social entrepreneurs. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Governments may support social entrepreneurs as instruments of social policymaking, verified by citizens own confidence in their capacity to deliver reductions in inequalities. But present day institutional structures disproportionately eases existing capital into the public realm and influences strategic policy-making. Instead, how might social entrepreneurs lead the dialogue on the shape of the public realm and the relationships between government and enterprise over the next 30 years. What forms ought to be displaced? What new roles ought social entrepreneurs play? What would the benefits be of working towards this future?

 

We are presently focussed on the current resources at the disposal of the public sector. The generational and debt imbalances are driving an exclusive preoccupation with the financial costs of social support. The consequences of under-investment in public assets are not yet creating solidarity between those capitalising on the current system and those bearing the brunt of building the new system at scale.

 

Social entrepreneurs are already operating in the public realm, creating political legitimacy through a more direct, meaningful and beneficial relationship between consumers, participants and communities. This challenges the legitimacy of public institutions that – for risk of often abstractly defined failure and the strength of existing capital – are unable to disrupt their organising models. Social innovators also challenge the redundancy in hierarchical, standing organisations that are able to deliver financial accountability and steady-state services but not adapt to the creativity and ingenuity required in tackling today’s social issues.

 

If we are to change the system within which public benefits are produced we need to secure changes to the scale at which they are addressed, the accountability models that are used, and the ease with which collaborations can happen. In the latter half of this century we might imagine changes that fundamentally alter all three of these conditions favourably towards social entrepreneurs, and allow them to play a more strategic role in the public realm.

 

Health technology social enterprises, collaborating with self-organised long-term condition community interest companies, are already displacing the power of the capital resources tied up in private insurance and hospital trusts. In this way they are changing the scale of public policy-making from one based on the social structures of government institutions, to one that forms around the social structures of the agents of change.

 

Automation ought to enable accountability for public resources to get in step with the complexity of social issues being addressed, away from reductionist approaches. In removing the need for labour intensive financial management that perpetuates inflexible, hierarchical organising models. In enabling evaluation frameworks that represent, and don’t distort, the reality of the production of social outcomes. In lowering the transaction costs of work collaborations, the forming and reforming of work vehicles as issues of public interest change.

 

We can imagine the effect being to free up public sector organisations to focus on the complexity of social issues that will need to be addressed in the latter half of this century. The concern for inequalities manifesting more in basic access to food, energy and water with more of us living in precarious circumstances. Without a vision of how to tackle these types of issues, with newfound freedoms the public sector might simply freeze. Or the dominant position of existing capital might entrench itself.

 

Social entrepreneurs might seek clues for extending their political legitimacy now in their ability to straddle, influence and mobilise across the public sector, with capital, and in communities. Working with communities to deliberate and create a sense of agency over the use of their collective data assets, drawing in capital investment in ‘healthy-creative’ economic infrastructure on the communities’ own terms.

 

Social entrepreneurs might play a much more influential role in the public realm in this future, creating new notions of what a public good is, and how to measure, account for and create them. A future where hierarchies are redundant and social capital is in ascendency. What other paradigm shifts might the rise in public influence of social entrepreneur’s result in?

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  entrepreneurship  public sector  society 

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Who owns an automated society?

Posted By Tim Morgan, Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Tim Morgan published his seventh blog post in our Emerging Fellows program by inspecting the ownership of automated societies. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Ownership is not a single concept. We see the accumulated layers of different ownership modes in many societies across history. The possessive “MINE!” of a child is our earliest form of ownership. In turn, acceptance by those nearby transforms a claim to a personal possession into socially recognized ownership. Land and tax records written on clay, skins, paper, and even the ancient Inca’s “talking knots” created a recorded form of ownership. Later, printing made that form more complex and flexible, enabling ownership modes such as stock corporations and fiat money. Telegraphs and telephones made negotiation or sale of recorded assets even more dynamic, complex, and widespread. New forms of ownership always co-emerge with new communication modes, building on top of earlier modes.

 

We are now in the era of accelerating digital communications and automation. Ubiquitous information technologies have strained to breaking intellectual property concepts like copyright, trademark, and patents. Courts, legislatures, and media struggle every day with automation’s effects on ownership. What new ownership mode is emerging along with networked automation?

 

Online gamers sometimes use an early Internet slang term which rhymes with “owned” when they decisively win: pwned. Unskilled “script kiddy” hackers boast of “pwning” a website or computer using off the shelf hacker tools. To be pwned is to be dominated by someone online. This “leetspeak” term has softened over time to mean clear, decisive winning over a situation or person. Powerful online businesses operate with a similar dominance-as-owning-dynamic. Google overwhelmingly owns online search in the West with Baidu owning China’s search market. Amazon and Alibaba own online product sales worldwide. Facebook and WeChat respectively own social media. Pwning a market goes beyond mere monopoly. Businesses that successfully use automation to establish market dominance become a de facto infrastructure for other’s services and products. Automation platforms are creating a new layer of economic and social infrastructure.

 

Platforms create increasing automation dependence as capabilities increase. Doctors adopting new AR/VR surgical tools quickly find that they are owned by the supplier when they lose critical capabilities after an unexpected software update. A small company’s sales can disappear overnight if their search rankings drop to the second page on Google or Amazon for no apparent reason.

 

Platform-based businesses feel like they are pwning everyone. They are wrong. Networked elements within a long-marginalized Civic sector are beginning to connect to a growing Social Commons sector. Global green initiatives are reshaping popular sentiment, policy and infrastructure. Activists are using corporate-created social media to force social conscience back into corporate governance. Each sector is increasingly leveraging automation created by the Private sector to influence the social values of society. This in turn influences the services offered on Private sector platforms. The local Civic sector and the global Social Commons sector are beginning to team up via automation. They are slowly shifting the balance of values flowing through automation and into society.

 

Who owns an automated society? It is those who best exploit the potentials of automation and consciously shape them to change society. The Private sector currently controls the automations which are driving social change, but not for long. One thing the Internet era has taught us is that those who pwn everyone today are certain to be pwned tomorrow.

 

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  automation  ownership  society 

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Can human rights preserve liberty?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Monday, June 24, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program asks if human rights can preserve liberty in her sixth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

How do we regard human rights and liberty now and in the future? Can our current understanding of human rights and values guide us toward a better understanding of the challenges that we face every day to our free choice and will, preventing harm to society?

 

Our current notions of individual liberty and human rights were developed through the Enlightenment in response to the separation of church and state, and in the mid-20th Century, in response to the terrible atrocities committed during World War 2 and beyond.  They reflect our growing awareness and action to remedy our appalling treatment of minority ethnicity, disabilities, women, refugees, and children, to prevent acts such as torture, unlawful incarceration and genocide. These principles were laid out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), and in regional instruments like the European Convention on Human Rights (1950).  They lay the foundation of minimum protection of individuals and groups from the worst of humanity’s barbarism and to promote human life with freedom and dignity that is conducive to our physical, mental, social and spiritual welfare.

 

Our personal liberty is to be bounded only by these international and regional agreements for the purpose of respecting other people’s right to freedom, civil order and the welfare of society. This includes of the right to privacy, protection of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, opinion and expression. These agreements prohibit any propaganda for war, or advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that provides incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. 

 

The International Declarations and Covenants protections came into force in 1976, ensuring legal enforcement by all signatory parties. Together with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 (2015), these agreements show the most noble aspect of human values that we aspire to uphold and promote for current and future generations’ rights and liberty. In this context, this includes the right to economic, civil, cultural, political and social development.

 

Yet despite these intentions, in today’s society we see outcomes of commercial or State enterprise that undermine the intentions of our human rights.  These outcomes subvert the free will of the individual and promote hatred, racism and violence within society.

 

For regular Internet users, our access to vast amounts of information promotes our sense of liberty, and amplifies the reach of our free speech and commercial opportunities.  However, covertly our online presence is tracked and inundated with incentives to buy products, and to think or behave in a certain way. These incentives are curated through computer algorithms that follow our online entries, forming a profile as a basis of commercial business models that look to inform or change the way we would otherwise entertain our free will or action.  Through lack of active prevention, these algorithms also foster online prejudice, racism and hate, drawing followers of like mind toward vilification, creating bullying, intimidation and racist propaganda which spreads throughout the online and physical world.

 

Human rights and values are supplanted with short-term exploitation of human liberty for profit gain, for manipulation and misuse.  Our freedom to make personal choice and lifestyle is eroded or falsified, and those who may do harm seem incentivised.

 

Our Human Rights of the present and future must be based on custodial governance over our present liberty and resources in order to preserve our humane society for current and future generations. We must govern our commercial and State enterprises for social benefit as well as profit, and protect the community and individual in accordance with our Human Rights and societal values. 

 

Global Human Rights commissions and various standards associations are now beginning to recognise these online violations, and seek to redress this gap by defining emerging codes of conduct for our online service providers and developers. These new conventions seek to make the latter accountable for the ‘unintended’ consequences of their business models, and to include human values in the design of online innovations.

 

Commercial enterprise innovation and growth is now being incentivised by global standards towards developing long-term commercial goals and non-financial societal measures for which they may be held accountable and protects Human Rights. Society is endorsing through positive investments in sustainable enterprises. This facilitates the path toward liberty in the face of challenges brought about by our modern world. But how will our governance and policy mechanisms evolve in the future to ensure liberty?

 

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  liberty  rights  society 

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Will technology enable more socially beneficial patterns of consumption and production?

Posted By Esmee Wilcox, Friday, May 24, 2019

Esmee Wilcox publishes her fifth blog post in our Emerging Fellows program. She investigates the possibility of applying technology to socially beneficial production and consumption. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

I have a stack of letters beautifully written and illustrated in a box at home, that represent a different world of communicating through my teenage years. With the technologies I have to hand today, the breadth of my network is vast. I can easily access individuals to work with, to share ideas, to tackle problems together. But the polarisation of views from vast echo-chambers is undeniable. These are the issues of trust we face by connecting more virtually. By 2050 we’ll have entered another paradigm shift from now in how and who we connect with and what technologies we use for this. So what can we do now to ensure that the technologies we design help us connect and organise in socially beneficial ways? What patterns of consumption and production would start to emerge if we did this? Why is this important?

 

Communities have always self-organised around the problems they notice. Whether child-rearing, food distribution, flooding or fracking. The intractable social and environmental problems of our time are also forcing state hierarchies to look more to community networks as better routes to tackling them. Social media ‘influencers’ are ahead in capitalising on technology enabled networks to commodify their personal social capital. Their skill is in making you feel personally connected whilst accessing vast networks. State actors are starting to look to their community equivalents, individuals who use social media to connect younger, apolitical audiences. Access to community grants is no longer dependent on institutionally biased, lagging processes, but the social capital that these influencers have accrued persuading funders of the local impact.

 

By 2050 we may be much more dependent on our ability to consume and produce locally with the environmental economics of long supply chains having long been unviable. We can imagine having to produce technology that we can degrade locally without poisoning the land we rely on for food. We can imagine the expansion of communities that are designed to enable consumption and production of food to connect people in socially beneficial ways.

 

But how might our ‘socially beneficial influencers’ design and make use of new technologies that make these patterns of consumption and production all pervasive? Influencers can readily participate in thematic and place-based communities, keeping the boundaries porous to access and welcome in new ideas. It’s not exclusively the proviso of the elites to have access to a range of networks. It’s not just the cities where the scale and movement of people brings in new ideas. Our influencers might look to technologies that can track and display the impact of communities’ collective behaviour to make it easier and more rewarding to see progress towards different social norms. That also make it easy for everyone to participate, countering the social gradient.

 

The more expansive social networks of local technology-enabled influencers should make it easier to readily connect our needs to produce with our needs to consume.

Co-housing developments and intergenerational living schemes are already in existence. These provide connectivity in place of privacy that help us produce and consume efficiently. We might not want to live that closely with each other but influencers can open up our private networks and build trust by proxy to put in and take out without high transaction costs. So the network that we utilise in creating closed-loop systems is expansive. We’re re-imagining closed-loop systems with technology that enables us to splice together as specialised units of consumption and production.

 

This is, of course, dependent on access to technologies that are being created by corporations and governments. To what extent will it remain in the interests of corporations to encourage over-consumption, and trust in our fellow citizens to be eroded by trust in the ‘brand’?

 

This is where social entrepreneurs have an interesting locus. They already successfully harness the technology of our day to create policy changes as well as changes in consumer behaviour. In what ways might social entrepreneurs persuade corporations that create technologies to move production and consumption into the hands of communities? Can our ‘socially beneficial influencers’ trade their social capital with corporations? Why would corporations be interested?

 

The potential is there for technologies to enable communities to self-organise systems of consumption and production that are no longer dependent on the arbitrary assets that they find within their local boundaries. We can imagine a shift in motivation to do so as we look ahead to 2050. We can imagine social entrepreneurs having a role in helping communities align their assets. We need to think further about the relationship between those who create the technologies and the communities themselves.

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  corporation  society  technology 

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