Posts tagged with: society

Open Companies as Engines for Basic Income

Y Combinator is currently wanting to experiment with Universal Basic Income. I think it’s a laudable goal.  I find the concept of “Universal” very problematic, because it inherently divides the concept from utility or results and turns it into yet another screechy, emotional battle cry for redistribution, but from what I’ve read about human motivation, I don’t believe that implementing a basic income for an individual will necessarily rob them of all desire to work or create or succeed. I think that people with a survival mindset actually produce less value, because their minds are constantly in a state of fear. So, I support the idea of BI from a utilitarian perspective. I don’t think anyone has the rights to the fruits of another’s labor, but I do think that to achieve higher levels of production, happy, healthy people are needed.

So, this leads us to a very exciting laboratory. If we assume from the very beginning that need is not a claim on the wealth of another, then how can we create voluntary systems that alleviate the survival mindset.

One rough concept that I’ve been chewing around in my mind is that of the open company. Let’s take the Morningstar Tomato Canning Company which is an organization that is extremely distributed in its management structure. In this company, individuals work together by making contracts with those that work around them. Tenure at the company is based on those contracts as no one has the authority to fire another person. I’ve heard the former CEO of the company, Paul Green Jr., mention that they were 70-80% there as far as having a completely flat organization.

What would a completely flat company look like, though? No one is managing production, and everyone is responsible for the financial success of the business, so the business could grow in any direction. It could horizontally integrate. Vertically integrate. Bundle. Unbundle. It would almost become its own supra-nation operating at a different level of human activity. There is no central hiring authority, so people are hired at the edges where their contracts dictate. This I think is an interesting model for working with BI.

What if every node in the network had the authority to distribute some dividend of the company’s output? Central nodes have a greater amount of dividend to distribute and more isolated nodes have less. Or, what if every node had the ability to distribute some amount in proportion to the value they created? Percentages and amounts could be determined via weighted liquid democracy, or internal accounting safeguards built into the laws of the company. For instance, “Cash reserves can be no lower than $X of annual operating costs.”

Under a model like this companies become organic value creating networks operating under their own economic legal framework. All distributed assets are not only tied to value creating activities, but presided over by them. This empowers local parties to manage distribution and prevents external parties from consuming the economic model.

There are so many tweaks that could be made, and, as long as it’s left to the devices of entrepreneurs and innovators and not bounded by bureaucrats, I think incredible models for creating happy, value-oriented communities could arise.


On “Thinking about” others

There’s this idea that’s taken hold recently in a lot of the entrepreneur literature that I read that suggests that we greatly overestimate our capacity for planning and strategizing, and that the individual who executes on a bad idea learns more and progresses farther than an individual that plans the “perfect” idea and never lets the world touch it. Essentially, we’re pretty terrible at knowing the unknown, and creating an elaborate conceptual framework on top of an unknown foundation means you’ve built an imaginary conceptual framework.

I think this is very healthy mindset to adopt; especially for me as I’m a serial schemer.

However, I think this concept is pretty applicable to other spheres of life, one in particular: social interaction. I’m sure we’ve all been told to “think about others” before we act.

What the hell does that mean?

“Think about how your mother will feel if you get that tattoo.”
“Think about how your friends will react if you wear those shoes.”
“Think about how hard Suzie will slap you when you tell her that dress makes her look like a tomato.”

And, every godawful busybody’s favorite: “THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN!”

The “Think about” command instructs us to concoct an elaborate conceptual framework on top of what we know about the group/individual in question. The thing is, like an entrepreneur analyzing market conditions, we probably don’t know jack about people’s thoughts and needs, especially whn they’re strangers. And, even if we can suppose what they might feel, we don’t know what they can tolerate or appreciate.

The “Think first” mindset asks us to operate in a world of our own imagination.

So, while I’m not advocating YOLO. I am suggesting that next time we begin to call upon the conditioned reflex to “think about” how another person/group is going to feel when we go to interact, maybe we should just “ask about” how they feel and what they’ll tolerate instead. If we don’t we could be leaving a lot of authenticity currency on the table, so to speak, leaving both parties much poorer.