Universal Basic Access to Everything— An infrastructure of the social commons (Part 2)
Looking around at the modern world we should marvel at what we have accomplished as a civilisation.
I believe networks are our next marvel and that amongst the many wonderful things that they may enable, they may also provide us with escape routes from disastrous futures.
I’m won’t dwell on the politics that may be involved here and I will try to keep the post moving forward. But I feel that I should say, as I will be bringing elements of universalist thinking into the picture, that I do not agree with Universal Basic Income.
I feel that there is a real risk of us becoming a consumer society forever. In the famous words of Admiral Ackbar “It’s a trap!”.
It’s a temptation, it’s a sop, and there may be other ‘less transactional’ and ‘more relational’ ways to achieve similar ends.
1. a thing of no great value given or done as a concession to appease someone whose main concerns or demands are not being met.
2. a piece of bread dipped in gravy, soup, or sauce.
If you chew that definition over carefully in your mind it says quite simply and in no uncertain terms.
Everything for Everyone!
Now that’s more palatable.
In my previous post of this series we took a quick look at how ‘local networks’ of organisations could be used to create highly personalised forms of services.
The example there was a ‘Community Partnership’ which helped people find work but this same approach could be utilised to create a variety of creative and adaptable services and organisations.
We are all different after all.
But it is also possible to zoom out from the local and to look at entire sectors, industries and regions.
Pretty much of our industries when we consider the main actors, the supply lines, the consultancies, the services etc look a lot like the above diagram.
They are networks although not necessarily networked as such. They generally exist around a purpose which is narrowly defined - MAKE MONEY BY BUILDING AND SELLING CARS -as opposed to being holistically framed — coordinate activity and resources to move necessarily things from A to B without negatively effecting the planet, people and society.
These industrial sectors, although poorly directed, are also one of our modern wonders and they are jam packed with assets, resources and strengths which could be put to social use.
In their existing form and operation there exists ‘latent’ capacity. It is this which can potentially be harnessed for social good.
Let the politicians and industry deal with the economy and industry.
We as a society should concern ourselves with building something on top what already exists — while something actually still does.
It begins with a question
The importance of wider holistic framing when it comes to networks of social purpose is that it helps set the overall value, tone, direction and behaviour of the participating actors.
What is it that we want?
It is here in this initial question where ‘universal’ principles may prove useful in helping to shape alternative routes to creating a society where everybody has equal access to the society and culture in which they are a part.
Let’s go for a short drive and I’ll try to elaborate.
The automotive industry is one of those huge sectors which spreads itself throughout our economy. It includes; racing and autosports, personal and public transport, engineering and materials, product design and virtual worlds, software and visualisation etc.
As a general rule all of this is cut off from society. The sector is internally focused and has little need to be open to the public unless there is a requirement for example to; advertise, develop loyalty or increase sales in which case the outside world may be invited in.
Participating in most sports and cultural activities (autosports being a particularly high end example) is something which comes at quite a prohibitive cost for most people and families. Even affording a ticket to an event is outside the realms of possibility for many.
Most of our society looks like this. From Tennis Clubs and Trampolining to Track Racing and Theatre.
Ours is a world which excludes through chance and circumstance and is often also intentionally exclusive and discriminatory.
It isn’t that a child from a poor background cannot win the Grand Prix or Wimbledon. It’s just staggeringly unlikely due to how our current system is arranged and operates.
The fact is, talent exists everywhere but it is mostly undiscovered and untapped. Much of the human potential which exists within society is buried under oppressive systems, hidden behind structural barriers and prevented from ever realising and exercising itself.
This is a true loss to society and civilisation.
So is there a way to do something about this?
For example… Could a network which brought together the entire automotive and autosports industries have a different purpose?
Could such a network ensure that everybody in society could be granted fair access and opportunities through the sector and at the same time contribute to it’s ongoing success?
I’m not suggesting effecting the current operation of the sector as a whole. Everything can go on pretty much exactly as it already is and lets’ face it — it’s largely inevitable that it will.
I’m suggesting making that latent capacity, which very obviously exists, available for additional and separate social uses by… intermediaries acting to benefit society, communities and people’s lives.
A slight detour at this point as we look at a connection between the virtual and the real which exists with eSports and Formula E.
I’m using the story above as it brings together a number of important factors.
- An esports driver (simulator) can be an equal competitor to a Formula E driver (physical).
- Esports encourage and foster mass public engagement at low cost.
- The innovations being tested and rolled out in Formula E represent the cutting edge of technologies which will eventually become common place.
- Forumla E itself represents the future of the entire sport.
Everything is in this picture is mutually supportive.
The economy, innovation, sports, participation, and the future and past of an entire sector coexisting.
I’ll leave it to you to consider for yourselves but when I look at an ecosystem such as that I see an entirely different education system and a sport where the barriers to access could potentially be lowered to near zero.
There are no losers here.
From the world's fastest gamer to real life racer
James Baldwin's journey to becoming a professional racing driver took off in a very unusual place. Not on a circuit…
An open access society and a role for social enterprises
All sectors are capable of helping to generate additional social benefit as latent capacity exists in every industry.
Could opening up the aerospace industry inspire children and adults alike? Of course it could! Who hasn’t wanted to be an astronaut or discover new worlds!?
What about the Arts? Culture? Media?
The music industry? Live music and festivals? Outdoor performance?
Waste food? Local musicians? Community buildings?
What happens when you bring these into networks which propose a larger guiding social purpose? That openly declare open access and non-discrimination? That give everyone the right to participate and contribute to the networks success?
It is within this possibility where I feel that social enterprise and non-profits (the intermediaries acting in the space between profit-making and social purpose) would have immense scope to be creative and adaptive in meeting our social and cultural needs.
Looking at our education sector we know our current system is a relic of our past. It’s due a refit for the century ahead.
The new space and possibilities that networks could open up could be exactly what is needed to break from the past and enter a new era.
Education and life-long learning in and of the real world and through supportive immersive experiences.
It sounds good to me!
Why not learn about the universe with support from Nasa? Or gain team skills within a Formula 1 sim? Create an outdoor performance with help from The Arts Council? Or learn first aid with the Red Cross?
An open society could turn things on their heads and give everyone the opportunity to participate and contribute.
We may just need to start asking the right question to begin with.
What is it that we want?
Seeing beyond constraints — An infrastructure of the social commons (Part 1)
Reader caution advised… I’m just getting these ideas out into the open! I’m no expert in these matters, it is just me…
Capacity, Capacity, there’s nothing like Capacity!
As always, reading Part 1 and Part 2 of this series may be helpful in understanding my thoughts here.