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Dec 21, 2019

Tim Morgan inspects the ownership of capital in his twelfth 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.

Every layer of social organization has a preferred mode of ownership. Each is more complex and abstract than the last. The fundamental layer is ownership of identity and sense of self. Ownership of personal items is informally recognized by our “tribe” of close relationships in the next layer. In the third, property ownership is formally documented and enforced by institutions of government. The fourth ownership mode is market-mediated, consisting of exchanges using a currency or other standard measure of value.


The last ownership mode is the most abstract. Automation creates shared information flows between interconnected participants. Each node can extract knowledge and use it to further augment the value of the shared information. These networked knowledge transformations create a new form of automation-enabled collaborative ownership. It creates value via synthesis and sharing. The ownership mode is in common. Its form is a Nexus.


Each ownership mode uses its matching social organization form to create value. Institutions formally recognize ownership and control, establishing potential value for the owners. Markets add value via exchanges of ownership. Nexuses generate shared value via its connected relationships and transformations of information into knowledge. A Market determines value via competition. A Nexus amplifies value via collaboration.


We see early examples of this new collaborative ownership mode in everything from Creative Commons licenses to Wikipedia. The new Nexus form exists in tension with older ownership forms. Markets use nexus-like search engines and social media to quietly monetize user data. Institutions of government frequently attempt to impose ideological restrictions on networks. Nexus forms of collaborative information ownership are in their infancy but are developing quickly. The dynamics between each form will shift as they do.


By 2050 automation and networks will be ubiquitous. Computing will be ambient. AIs will be vastly more capable, interweaving with all aspects of life. Government institutions and the Public Sector will still exist to establish order, stabilize society, and govern ownership of property. Markets and the Private Sector will still exist to energetically exchange material value. The Civic sector of families and communities will still focus on the local needs of everyday life. Threaded through them all will be a mature Nexus-powered Social Commons sector.


In its healthy form, the Social Commons will seek to transform abundant information to address both common needs and intractable problems. Capital will continue its relentless fusion with automation, embedding flows of Nexus-derived knowledge into its self-management. Cognified capital is unlikely to have human-like consciousness but will be embedded with purpose and autonomy. It will be trusted to act with the same positive-sum values as its creators.


In its unhealthy form, cognified capital will be used to disrupt the Social Commons. Those autonomous agents will be embedded with the zero-sum values of their creators. The goal will be to competitively advance vested interests at the expense of others. The knowledge flows within and between nexuses will be their battlefields.


Who owns cognified capital when it can own itself? We will. We will own the shared benefits of our collaborations by investing our values within their decision-making abilities. What is uncertain is whether we create positive-sum partners or zero-sum weapons. It all depends on what values we choose to instill.

© Tim Morgan 2019

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