From Platform Capitalism to Protocol Communism

A really interesting suggestion from loc 3681-3691 from Douglas Rushkoff’s Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus:

In terms of fully decentralized commerce, these platform cooperatives are still just steps along the way to digital distributism. As long as there’s a central platform—a Web site or other hub to maintain—there will always be a need for central funding and an emphasis on command and control. At the very least, there will be an ongoing dynamic tension between the provider-owners on the periphery and the manager-facilitators in the middle. As P2P Foundation founder Michel Bauwens puts it, “a truly free P2P logic at the front-end is highly improbable if the back-end is under exclusive control and ownership.” 96 Trust and authentication are rendered by the platform, which may not necessarily end in extractive monopoly but will remain biased toward more industrial-style models and behaviors. That’s what’s threatening Mondragon’s integrity and operations today. The answer, of course—the last piece of the puzzle—would be to replace platforms with protocols.

For instance, imagine a platform-independent Uber, owned by the drivers who use it. There’s no server to maintain, no venture capital to pay back, no new verticals or horizontals in which to expand, no acquisition, and no exit. There are just drivers whose labor and vehicles constitute ownership of the enterprise. One such experiment, La’Zooz, is a blockchain-managed ridesharing app, where the currency (Zooz) is mined through “proof of movement.” 97 So instead of supplying and driving cars as underpaid freelancers for Uber or Lyft, drivers are co-owners of a transportation collective organized through distributed protocols.

2 Comments

  1. This is so interesting. I wonder if you could comment on the meaning of ‘protocol’ as opposed to platform– is it linked to practice? How is proof of movement conducted or collected? Can you see an analogous situation ever being possible in the world of research beyond the academy?

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