intro’d to Emmi via kevin ..
This is a lead essay in the C4SS Mutual Exchange Symposium: “Decentralization and Economic Coordination”.
Most of the decentralized and left-leaning economics ideologies such as p2p, social ecology, Game-b, parecon, more modern post-work anarchisms, the co-op movement, etc. are just, to varying degrees, deviations or evolutions of social-anarchism (itself built in many ways upon various Indigenous economic practices). As such, I will focus on social anarchism as the hub of many spokes of related ideologies.
The two main difficulties any social-anarchist project will face in trying to fairly and efficiently allocate goods are
1\getting reliable data about supply and demand,.. t
begs we detox people first/simultaneous.. otherwise.. like getting data from whales in sea world
and then 2\ solving for distribution of scarce resources with rivalrous preferences especially at higher scales of complexity.
2\ if we create a way to ground the chaos of 8b free people
Whatever local social safety nets can be decentrally planned through dual-power and the like should be. Robust social safety nets should be planned up to the limits of what we can coordinate.
safety we need – again – gershenfeld something else law
Beyond that however, there must be other scalable methods for economic coordination. These methods must utilize accurate value signals and feedback mechanisms to solve for rivalrous conditions in a way that utilizes people’s local knowledge.
This is true whether these methods use a medium of exchange like currency or not.
the dance won’t dance with a medium of exchange
Figuring this out to the best of our ability helps us to radically expand the areas of coordination beyond the market and cash nexus, without sacrificing overall efficiency.
desire is personal & contextual: Marx had drawn a nightmare picture of what happened to human life under capitalism, when everything was produced only in order to be exchanged; when true qualities and uses dropped away, and the human power of making and doing itself became only an object to be traded. … And what would be the alternative? The consciously arranged alternative? A dance of another nature, Emil presumed. A dance to the music of use, where every step fulfilled some real need, did some tangible good, and no matter how fast the dancers spun, they moved easily, *because they moved to a human measure, intelligible to all, chosen by all. – Red Plenty by Francis Spufford.. t
*this is huge..
and we keep missing it.. the rhythm of the dance needs to be from something already in each one of us.. or it won’t work/dance..
if we think we have to train/prep/measure/account.. for any of it/us.. then we’re compromising/oppressing the dance/us
These tensions create a desire for something deeply human that accounts for the needs of all persons while simultaneously maximizing efficiency and minimizing negative externalities. To these ends many aspirational activists and theorists have proposed (if not always by name) some version of anarcho-communism as a means of decentralizing both the hard math of coordination as well as the political problems of authoritarian-centralization. These proposals have merit worth exploring even as they break down in other fundamental ways.
let’s decentralize (the hard math or whatever) to the core/root.. of us.. ie: cure ios city
Marx was concerned with the way that labor is commodified under capitalism and through the cash nexus as more and more of our lives are consumed by it. This makes sense when we consider things like how much work sucks, especially under capitalism. But Marx realized the many fundamental coordination problems this created in developing a new economic model and so plugged in the concept of “use value” as sort of a hand-waving solution.
The problem is that use-value is essentially another term for subjective value.4 In earnestly asking a lot of communists about this over the years and trying to read what I can, the best response I’ve gotten had to do with the way in which, at the level of a small neighborhood, you generally know who most needs a new house amongst your neighbors. Unfortunately for this person, that interpretation disproves central economic planning. Does the Tsar of Economic Planning personally know everyone’s needs in every neighborhood with the subtlety of a neighbor? Of course not! Much less could any centralized authority (even of just the neighborhood) understand your more complicated desires.
today we can go deeper.. ie: most people don’t know their own legit needs.. ie: maté basic needs.. and if we focus on filling those holes first.. we’ll find deciding who needs a house.. is an irrelevant focus
In the worst case scenario, the community votes on whether you actually care sufficiently about the things you care about. Accurate neighborhood reporting of such complex preferences runs into the many knowledge and revealed versus stated preference problems labored upon by the Austrians and emphasized in need for “discovery” (more on this in a later section). But this admission does not necessarily disprove anarcho-communism or parecon in and of itself.
Scaling up Our Preferences Is Complex
not really.. not if we first undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature
While non-linear machine learning intuitively makes more sense than linear programming and Cockshott’s reactionary conservative socialism ever will, it’s actually less, not more tractable.
all irrelevant.. if using non legit data in first place.. not to mention goals set by whales in sea world
The closer we can get to the individual as a source of planning, the more optimizable the problem becomes.
But the complexity of the problem scales exponentially with the number of people and variables we add, especially if our goal is to replace monetary exchange altogether.
yeah.. i don’t think so.. i think it’s the trying to math/measure it all that is causing the complexity that is baffling/overhwelming us..
what we need is to let the number of people and variables approach the limit of infinity.. that’s when the dance happens.. ie: curiosity over decision making.. beyond finite set of choices.. anything else is just spinning our wheels
We see similar exponential complexity in an economy in which *individuals have more choice, both in terms of consumption and in terms of production, as each new choice must then be weighed against all others…t
see.. *this is a huge issue.. it’s not about a finite set of choices.. getting bigger.. it’s about what’s already in us.. each day.. not about picking/deciding.. but listening
A commune can work similarly to a firm in localizing decision-making to make the problem more tractable. Limit the number of variables. Limit the number of constraints. Maximize the amount of acceptable noise. However, we should keep in mind that noise in economic planning is things like people dying from not getting vaccines or unnecessary negative externalities we allow for in proportion to demand for goods (such as pollution).
all irrelevant if we let go of our obsessions with mathing/decision making et al
The problem isn’t that people are necessarily bad, but rather that the mechanisms used to make economic decisions are simply not flexible enough to accommodate all concerns and as such the only way the system can thrive is through violently simplifying the problem.
maybe.. (i see democracy ness – consensus ness.. et al as structural violence).. until now.. now we can listen to 8b voices everyday.. and use that data to augment our interconnectedness
Or what happens when 100,000 communes need 10 million products from each other and that preference matrix changes every second? Very quickly you can see the likely NP-hard complexity knowledge problem of resource coordination begin to congeal again.
irrelevant when we undo hierarchical listening first..
The problems at the individual scale of performing resource distribution repeat themselves fractally as you move further and further away. The same way you can’t wish away all selfishness, you can’t wish away ingroup preference at increasing scales. They are issues in the problem space even if people are simultaneously selfless and selfish. Because these issues are in the problem space itself, *the best we can hope for is to have better incentives for people to be cooperative. Cooperation and competition work together in many respects even as they are different.
wow.. yeah.. if this is what we believe.. the math is hell.. unsolvable
thinking we need incentives is a huge red flag we’re doing it wrong
Even in a context of relative equality and mutual respect between all parties, you still have the thorny question of deciding upon the best course of action.
have you experimented with this..? with live people?
i have .. and that statement is only true if the conditions aren’t right.. if the conditions are right (to set/keep all the people free) then decision making isn’t an issue..
Trying to remove the market here does not eliminate competition, but rather obscures it and makes it more insidious. Even if people are acting in an altruistic manner, there still exists questions around the distribution of scarce resources that are hidden behind democratic arguments over ill-defined needs.
we’ve just not yet experimented with legit free people
we keep perpetuating tragedy of the non common and saying.. look.. see.. lord of the flies..
Because deliberation without currency makes it difficult to signal demand with any fidelity, individuals, communes and federations are incentivized to drift in the direction of stockpiling resources simply because accurate evaluation is extremely difficult.
it’s not the people.. we just don’t know/believe that.. because all we see are whales in sea world
This problem is commonly referred to as a ‘revealed preference’ problem in the sense that what we say or think we want, and what we’re willing to put skin in the game to prioritize are generally not exactly the same things. Accurate reporting of revealed preference without some way of having skin in the game for your choices would require some sort of elaborate brain-scanning surveillance of the vast contingencies of every thought in someone’s skull. Probably not a desirable or near-term feasible solution.
again.. not true..
All of this disastrously slow coordination and forced pleading happening at the scale of the world, is… well, terrifying and sad. It’s also a subtle recreation of the competition that is so awful in capitalism and markets. Competition then, whether in the commune or at the level of the individual, serves two masters: it serves greed/in-group preference and meta-level coordination of revealed preferences. Finding the balance of these trade-offs is the great problem of economics.
nah.. the great problem is listen deeper to 8b people.. first.. then pleading/competition/greed/trade-offs.. all become non-existent/irrelevant
All of what I’m saying can be empirically verified when we look at how revolutionary societies actually organized themselves. The Zapatistas, Rojava, and the CNT-FAI all introduced or utilized officially and unofficially sanctioned currencies to lubricate allocation in parallel to their more social-anarchist structures.
If the goal is to make economic planning solvable in order to maximally provide for everyone’s needs, then it should be the subsidiary goal of every radical society to determine exactly what and how much can be acceptably optimized for with planning and for how many people at any given moment.
That is the calculus of how much of a safety net a community can plan for and what they need accurate signals for in order to allocate at scale. Designing with an eye towards solving this core set of problems means not handwaving things like: problems of revealed versus stated preferences, scarcity of material inputs, contextual scales of preferences, and coordination/knowledge problems in collective decision making. We should build as many free stores as is humanly possible but without suicidally relying on them to provide for every need of a society.
Expanding the range of both high and low tech social coordination mechanisms in conjunction with community directed and controlled value signals systems, we can put forth a distinctly futuristic and yet historically grounded neo-mutualism of sorts. Through a combination of honest reckoning, experimentation, and technical innovation we can create a truly futuristic economic mesh that leverages the strengths and insights of a wide array of economic philosophies and practices. After all, each individual’s wisdom, preferences, and needs are what ultimately lies at the heart of any economic system worth living in.
imagine you rely on a bigger version it for all of your basic human needs every day and if it doesn’t have what you want, there are no other options except for hoping someone ‘gifts’ it to you (but you also can’t communicate directly that you want it or it will kill the gift altruism). : ( Free boxes and free stores are unambiguously good but dangerously incomplete as complete solutions go.
gift ness is a red flag anyway.. what’s incomplete is letting go ..
3/3: What I’m most excited about in this essay is that I formalized a simplified way of framing computational limits for decentralized economic planning in a way that should be pretty understandable. To my knowledge I’m not aware of anyone else who’s done this yet. https://t.co/pm4br2Wi1a
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/emmibevensee/status/1289347234220318725
2/3: I’m kicking off our round of replies with a response to Auroras article on cybernetic (an-)communism in which I pose some serious obstacles and advocate… obviously… solarpunk mutualism. I again try to simplify any math stuff or at least warn about it. https://t.co/mDSdE6AXi1
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/emmibevensee/status/1289345578535550976
1\3: Building towards our liberation will look different than any of us can plan, because we are limited in our knowledge of not just the future, but also of each other.” – Emmi Bevensee
Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/c4ssdotorg/status/1289343433648136193
Maximum Viable Economic Planning: The Basis of New Economies – jul 30 2020
I will continue to advocate that we intentionally build out multiple competing/cooperating social welfare planning measures up to and no farther than our limits and simultaneously explore the problem space of different value signal feedback loops such as markets. This approach of testing a wide range of planning and value signal coordination approaches follows the line of thinking in Kevin’s sentiment of “Let one-hundred flowers bloom.” As Aurora’s essay is the one most directly opposed to my approach I will focus on challenging its claims and incorporating its advancements in the theoretical development of a Maximum Viable Economic Planning measure. Comprehensive integration of this limit should form the basis of any model for a new economy or array of overlapping new economies.
while reading limits
few notes on aurora’s essay here: mutual exchange symposium
(aurora’s essay) fascinating and a joy to read. However, while its contributions are substantive, it suffers from several critical failures and other weaknesses which could be strengthened through future work. The contributions it does offer though help to elucidate a more robust measure of Maximum Viable Economic Planning which should be the basis for any conversation about planning, decentralization, and economic coordination.. The basic premise of the piece is that the optimization of economic coordination through the profit mechanism in markets should be replaced by an optimization of complexity through cooperation.
The claim that this algorithm replaces the need for subjective value measures overall is completely unsubstantiated with some disturbing possible implications. Even capturing the raw input measurements for maximized integrated effective complexity does not skirt the problem of accurate input information unless the author (which I doubt) proposes some form of massive surveillance architecture to capture the information needed for this form of cybernetic coordination.
the data we have now is all non legit.. (it’s from whales in sea world)
it’s not surveillance if every one is involved.. and legit/unconditionally free.. simultaneously.. because ie: no one has/wants time to do anything (bad) with the data other than use it to connect
While I will not go into it in-depth here, the author takes a very naive view of markets as automatically generating capitalism, exploitation, and massive unequal accumulation. She does not adequately address the wide arrange of known and unknown spaces of exploration around exchange such as but not limited to, left-market anarchism, mutualism, Georgism, and value-signal employing P2P systems.
hmm.. not into aurora’s essay.. but also not seeing this.. ie: wide arrange of exploration? all of it seems to include measuring/accounting.. and so .. ie: 10 day care center ness.. not very anarchy-ish.. who cares if no leader (or whatever your defn is .. if the people are not legit themselves.. everyday)
Most importantly, she does not understand the types of countervailing and centrifugal forces that C4SS has long labored to explore in the process of resisting the formation of capitalism while utilizing some of the benefits of exchange.
benefits of exchange.. yeah.. i see none if we’re measuring it.. we have to get to a legit free person.. which won’t happen w/measured exchange .. in order to know what enough is..
for some reason.. we keep not letting go enough for that.. so.. we keep perpetuating ie: tragedy of the non common.. et al.. and saying.. see.. we need to count/account for things
Her knee-jerk response to markets as automatically leading to capitalism is a common one because it makes some sense at the surface level (coming, as I did, from the left it was a hard pill for me to swallow). However, as a wide range of subsidies and artificial economies of scale have distorted and made myopic our visions of what is possible, it’s the duty of the anarcho in anarcho-communism to bravely facedown groupthink in the pursuit of root dynamics and mapping the wide space of possibility.
This simplified model of rate of computations compared to what we need to ensure everyone gets fed makes the problem of scale more stark. We can reduce the amount of complexity we need to produce or increase our computational methods or infrastructure.
well.. we can reduce the complex math by making sure the mech has a detox embed.. so that people know what enough is..
Once we’ve established this basic theoretical grounding it starts to get even more complex. The alternative to tankie style central economic planning is what’s called local knowledge which is a way of decentralizing and parallelizing the problem by relying on individuals to make the best decisions they can about their own domains and then things roughly maintain a dynamic (dis)equilibrium.
again.. doesn’t get more mathematically complex (as in we have to figure out the math for it to work).. if we let go of the math.. let go of decision making.. and trust the itch-in-8b-souls.. everyday
My suspicion is that as you move closer to local(decentralized) knowledge your target rate of computation decreases because you can parallelize. . This means that local knowledge has more computational power overall by *parallelizing the problem.
yeah *that .. but not a local knowledge target.. rather.. daily curiosity target
An unintended hypothetical proof of the hybrid model is how a locally planned social safety net can be locally optimal if not globally optimal, but nonetheless can help provide the basic needs of a community to better prepare them to engage in complex global coordination ie. If you aren’t starving to death you are more likely to be excited to build pro-social supra-local collaboration.
This is why when trying to write high-performance software, the first thing to do is to *maximize data locality and **minimize communication. This logic also applies to all methods of coordinating an economy, not just those that rely on a microchip.
rather.. first make sure data is *legit.. in order to **max (i’d prefer deepen) communication
what we need is a means to undo our hierarchical listening to self/others/nature..
Cockshott’s model’s deserve to be one of the one hundred flowers we let blossom in testing, but
100 blooms would never work if we set conditions on them..
Determining the realistic limits to these and related approaches with independent outside auditors and real-world testing could help prevent us from damning ourselves with over-reliance and directing us towards much needed modernizations and pivots towards functional sustainability.
We must build from the thriving of those most vulnerable in not creating a new capitalist hell-hole of ableism and exploitation. Through this form of sensitive local knowledge, in which we build from the complex needs and preferences of individuals, while constantly seeding spaces of innovation, we can start to practice the new economy with the tools of what is in front of us. Building towards our liberation will look different than any of us can plan, because we are limited in our knowledge of not just the future, but also of each other.
yeah.. like this would do ie: cure ios city
a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. every day
imagine if we just focused on listening to the itch-in-8b-souls.. first thing.. everyday.. and used that data to augment our interconnectedness.. we might just get to a more antifragile, healthy, thriving world.. the ecosystem we keep longing for..
But using some version of a Maximum Viable Economic Planning measure we can *tease out what strategies are most viable and most worth the risks of testing with our scarce resources.
once you start thinking you have to *tease stuff out (rather than getting people to listen to gut – so they know what enough is).. you’re right back to where we are now.. managing people is a killer of people.. no matter how kind/decentralized/anarchist/punkish.. it sounds
The problem is inherently complex and, as Aurora notes, complexity itself is a meaningful goal when it stands in for the depth of vibrant choices available to people and societies.
taleb center of problem law.. we’re sucking out our own energy..
of math and men et al
Mozilla Fellow and hate/disinfo research. Data science. Cat songs. they/them/elle. IEEE, The Independent, C4SS… bad tweets mine
her site: https://emmibevensee.com/
My name is Emmi Bevensee and I’m founding Rebellious Data. I value empathy and freedom and use my data science chops to help movements and social justice organizations shine.
I’m a Mozilla Open Web Fellow and PhD student at the University of Arizona in the iSchool studying machine learning.