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Re: [ox-en] Freedom Hardware - or - Hardware Freedom

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Hi Patrick

On 6/10/08, Patrick Anderson <agnucius> wrote:


On Sun, Jun 8, 2008 at 6:10 PM, Michel Bauwens <michelsub2004>

- you write: " it becomes more and more clear that the owners are in
even if the virtual sources being used are free."

MB: Take the case of free software: can you really say, with the
availability insured by the GPL itself, and the relative control on the
productive process by the free software developers, that the owners of
hardware carrying that software are in control. Surely we have a complex
equilibrium here.

Maybe I should have said "the hardware owners are in control of that
INSTANCE even if the virtual sources being used are free."  The owners
of the hardware for each instance of that software are in control of
that particular copy.

But it is already a great social advance that we have the universal
availability of the immaterial value, and this creates a certain balance of
pwer with the owners of the instances

Consider Software as a Service (SaaS).  Google or MySpace or Flickr
(there are probably better examples) are in control because they own
the hardware hosting that software.  I understand much of that
software may not be Free, but even if it is/were, the only way for the
consumers to "get around" them is to organize and buy more hardware to
host yet another instance.  That is too difficult and expensive for a
single consumer, and really hardly makes sense considering the

By the way, even if SaaS software is under the GPL, the hardware
owners do not have to allow "at cost" access to the virtual sources
because they are not actually 'distributing' the software.  That is
what the AGPL attempts to solve because those hardware owners are
stopping others from organizing to run their own instance.

For example, while all copies of the WikiMedia software are Free, the
INSTANCE running at is controlled by the people
that own that hardware.  So when you edit Wikipedia, you are at the
mercy of those owning the hardware that host that instance.

This is also trivially true for unshared hosting.  The copy of Firefox
running on my hardware, here at my house, is controlled by me, the
owner of the hardware.

- you write: "The kernel of my idea is to write a contract that causes
price paid above cost (what would usually be called profit) to become an
investment in more physical sources"

MB: why would an existing owner of physical means do that, who could
'oblige' him/her to do this? So, is it correct to assume that such a
would only work for new initiatives, iniated by users themselves

This will mostly only work by starting new organizations funded by
consumers who "pre-pay" for the objectives of that organization.

But notice this is not too different from how most Free Software is
funded.  Most Free Software developers 'invest' their skills and labor
because they are "scratching their own itch" - they are consumers that
can "pre-pay" with work because they are also producers.  They are
produsers, prosumers, conducers.

I don't think this is so undoable for Physical Sources.  Would you
"pre-pay" $100 to be a voting shareholder in a for-product cell-phone
system that is guaranteed to be lower in price, with that price
continuing to fall over time?

If we can sell 1 million such accounts, we will have $100million in
funding to begin a phone system that is owned and controlled by the
consumers that utilize it.  Wouldn't it be nice to have "at cost"
communication?  Would you, personally, pre-pay for that?

If it is only just that, than surely your priorities must be to start at
least one project, as proof of concept. As Sam suggests, it's not only the
quality of an idea that counts, but whether it is socially acceptable at the
current time; this is what Kleiner does with his telephone company,
illustrating his ideas of venture communism ..

- you write: "The contract would then be used by any group of consumers
buy physical sources for the purpose of product instead of profit."

MB: presently in free software, the users are potentially limitless,
of the obligation of free availability; would that ownership be also
limitless. If that is the case, beyond ownership, how do you manage the
process? Who is deciding for the others the many details of a production

If the consumers can't or don't want to manage it themselves (and I
assume this will be common, especially as the organization grows),
then they will hire others to do it for them.  I know this causes
concern, and sounds like the system will be exploiting those workers,
but it won't because those same workers are also consumers of their
own needs, and will be gaining ownership in the physical sources of
THOSE products.  All workers are consumers, and except for dependents,
all consumers are workers.  I'm trying to protect the worker, but from
the consuming side instead of from the production side.

Yes, workers will be owners of other products, but not of their own work, I
find that not to be ideal.

And here I come to my more fundamental 'spiritual' objection to your

The voluntary self-aggregation of human energy and effort is one of the
characteristics of peer production, as is the naturally flowing
participatory nature of the actual process of production. This is a great
social achievement, that it is the developers themselves, the actual
"do-ers" who are autonomous; mere users can join to the degree they
productive participants themselves, it is already an open process in that

My concern is the following: if the users, instead of the actual
participants, become the owners, do they then also become the 'masters'
the process, and have we then not replaced one tyranny by an other?

But why would anyone participate unless they were a consumer of that
product?  If it is for the wage they will be paid, then are you saying
we should not have specialization?  Wage workers will need to be
protected by having ownership in the physical source of what they
consume.  We can protect them from exploitation by insuring they can
consume their needs "at cost".

I certainly would want to participate in my own work, not just in the things
I consume, which I consider to be of marginal benefit compared to the value
of non-alienated work. I think the enthusiasm greeting peer production shows
that I'm not alone in this. And also that historically, attempts at workers
autonomy have been much more popular than attempts at consumer ownership.

Every other argument of yours thereby becomes a technical detail, if I
that core argument objectionable.

Therefore, my sense is that for physical ownership, it becomes a matter
best of multiple stakeholders; and at the most, an ideal scheme would
associate both the actual producers/workers, and the actual
in the ownership.

I agree in that many workers would also be consumers, and that is why
they would be working - it would be their investment.  In the case of
consumers that don't happen to have those exact skills, the investment
would be accomplished by trading labor, or in other words, by paying
workers a wage with money the consumer had earned doing that which he
is more skilled in.

Below is a concrete proposition going in that sense.

However, it suffers from the same utopian problem, as it requires one
project to start, and to slowly evolve.

So, here is another argument. As I see things, actual free software/peer
production is hyperproductive and outcompetes private intellectual
as a format, which is why it is growing so strong. But in physical
production, I have not yet seen such a format which outcompetes a
traditional market player.

I agree, I have not found anyone interested in the "user freedom"
(Richard Stallman's term) in the physical realm.

However, if the social awareness of the free software communities changes
(or 'rises' you may say),then perhaps they will slowly develop
for those modes of physical ownership, that are more equitable, and start
choosing to gear their development efforts towards those more equitable
users/owners of physical means.

This then, would give an evolutionary incitement for more participatory
forms of business ownership, which would compplement the natural
of peer production in the physical sphere.

I'm not quite understanding you here.  How does "social awareness"
rise?  What do you mean by "evolutionary incitement"?

Peer producers may have, and in my opinion have, an increasing literarcy in
their own differential interests, as compared to those of the platform
owners and business parternships; this puts pressure on platform owners to
take into account those user preferences, or else they may go elsewhere, and
ultimately, built their own platforms

Here is the reference I wanted to mention above:

Pour un communisme libéral par Dominique Pelbois / Dominique Pelbois (12
avril 1947 - 16 août 2003), a fait aboutir en 1999 sous la forme
universitaire d'une thèse de Doctorat (sous la direction d'Alain Gouhier
puis, par intérim, d'Etienne Balibar) un travail de recherche mené à
personnel en pensée économique et politique qu'il avait commencé bien des
années auparavant, en 1975, hors de tout cadre universitaire, et auquel
n'a envisagé que très tard de donner une forme académique....

I'd like to read this, and have repeatedly tried (you've sent me this
link, or the link to the pdf a few other times), but have never been
able to make it work.  This time the links are all dead.  Do you have
a copy on you machine that you could send to me as an attachment?

the link works for me, I'll send you a copy in the next email,



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