FORCE WORKSHOP – November 3, 2021,
Conclusions of the FORCE event on Work in the 4th Industrial Revolution
In her speech, Dr Dora Kotsaka, following Mr Smyrnaios’ last remark on Platform Cooperativism, focused on the continuously expanding possibilities in wider economic sectors acquired by the commons during the 4 th Industrial revolution and the changes that the latter brings to the production model (economy of knowledge-intensity and digitalization).
First, Ms Kotsaka referred to the fact that the commons’ applied attempts in the economic field remain indeed fragmented (with the exception of digital commons) and function almost exclusively on a small scale. In order to achieve an escalation, the appropriate institutional and legal framework is required, and this cannot happen unless we take seriously into account the role of the EU and member states as regulators. Today, transformations of exceptional importance are taking place not only on the production level but also on the model of value production. This historical process is known as ‘value shift’ and, at this stage, it is characterized
by an increased ability to create value through practices of Commons Based Peer Production (CBPP) and various applications of cooperative economy. It is described as a transition from ‘extractive’ models and practices that generate wealth for someone to the detriment of another, towards models of reproduction of value and practices that generate wealth for communities and ensure sustainability of resources. This is a development with serious implications for the current economic system and the accompanying model of creation of value.
Ms Kotsaka underlined that knowledge commons are a recurrent topic in the public discussion and that it is gradually revealed that they can contribute into giving answers regarding technology, artificial intelligence (AI), data management, biotechnology and climate change, i.e. regarding fields that are at the core of the 4 th Industrial Revolution. New forms of ownership, new types of lending, new forms of legal contracts and licenses are emerging. A new innovative economical sub-culture has been created; however, we are still at a stage where we are trying to describe it using terms such as ‘commons’ and ‘peer to peer production’ (P2P). For the ‘official’ economic science, all the above are difficult to include in the category of ‘economic activity’.
According to Ms Kotsaka, this is a crucial point. These socio-economic practices exist because they manage to give answers to specific social problems in crucial times. They are functional because the logic governing them is compatible with the structures and values created during the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as openness, sustainability, networks, resource sharing (goods or services). It is also particularly interesting that in the political culture created by the commons, emphasis is shifted from the fight for ownership -a cornerstone of capitalism and legal culture on which it is based- to management. Commons movements place
the emphasis on the right to use and the access to a good or service and not on the ownership of them.
Ms Kotsaka continued saying that, in the context of the conditions created by the pandemic and the pressure on healthcare systems, it was made clear that the current model of research and development, pricing and distribution of medicine, vaccines and health supplies was unable to respond to the needs that had arisen. The business model applied to the provision of health services has undermined its ability to deal with emergencies. At the same time, the pandemic crisis gave birth to numerous initiatives of solidarity and mobilized all movements of makers and peer to peer production, which were activated to such a degree that they were largely promoted for the first time by the media. On a global scale, there was great activity in connection with commons practices, such as open research and science, the use of open source software and hardware, data sharing, etc. The crisis caused by Covid-19 made visible the remarkable initiatives of helping each other as well as the ability of these movements to offer solutions where the state and the market fail to do so. Moreover, the lack of protocols for the cooperation between the state and the commons (such as Public-Commons Partnerships) when they were urgently needed was also made clear. Ms Kotsaka stressed that peer to peer production is compatible with the type of economy under development in the context of the 4 th Industrial Revolution: it maximizes the benefits of networks between peers and modularity and it strengthens openness and circulation to the highest extent. At the stage of economic development that we are today, abusive enclosures and privatizations of all possible resources constitute an obsessive and harmful practice, in particular as regards the abilities to produce value. This means that their role is also harmful to the operation of markets. However, openness, peer to peer production and commons are not able to protect themselves against corporate greed, monopolies and extreme deregulation. Grassroots innovation is firmly connected to new institutions and new rights. In human history, communities had to defend over and over again their right to land, natural resources, handicrafts, language, culture, etc. Nowadays, it is imperative to find an equivalent to science and information, a new principle against new enclosures. Due to the lack of the appropriate legal framework and the necessary institutional supervision, the more open and accessible data and information are, the more they function to the benefit of the big stakeholders in the market. At this point, the crucial importance of regulation is made clear.
Analyzing further the issue of regulation, Ms Kotsaka stressed the importance of the state as a regulator in regard to the productive transformation towards the economy of the commons. The backbone of the plan for the transition to Commons Based Peer Production is the Partner State Model and the establishment of the relevant legal and institutional framework that will allow the latter to function. In order to implement policies oriented towards the commons, there are specific tools that may be utilized by the Partner State that have resulted from emerging projects in various parts in the world, such as: licenses protecting the commons, i.e. GPL and Creative Commons licenses, cooperative banks, P2P Accounting, Public Commons Partnerships (PCP) instead of Public-Private Partnerships. This kind of policies can reduce the damage caused to intellectual property by monopolies and the overextensive use of patents. Applied policies on the commons and peer to peer production may be used as a tool by the EU and member states in order to control digital monopolies.
Closing her speech, Ms Kotsaka underlined that a wide approach and a political strategy is necessary as regards the State Partner model that will be accompanied by the appropriate legal forms of common ownership and supervision. The above constitute new emancipatory tools that the EU may have in its toolbox. It is a model of a targeted, active entrepreneurial state ableto assume risks and to create highly networked systems of actors, harnessing the best of the private sector for the national good over a medium-‐ to long-‐term horizon.