By Chris Cook
Divided BritainDivisions run deep – so deep we don’t even realise they are there, because they are integral to our everyday existence.
Some divisions are transparent: wealthy vs poor; public vs private, freehold vs leasehold, equity vs debt, black vs whit and the.geographic divisions of often arbitrary political borders. Others are less obvious such as as the racial, ethnic & class divisions which distract people from economic inequity and inequality by manufacturing Them & Us divisions and the fear of the Other.
The list of binary divisions is long and increasing, and the pervasive spread of direct instant communications is creating the greatest divide of all – the Digital Divide. Machines and mobile devices communicate by arcane protocols of the binary code of 0 and 1 of staggering complexity to drive a communications network of machine, devices and operating software which sits like digital oil on real world ‘analogue’ water.
This digital divide is accelerating at a phenomenal rate: a digital start up enterprise of half a dozen people may create and accelerate a smart concept from zero to a billion dollar valuation in six months. But such a “Unicorn” valuation does not come from nowhere: it comes from cost savings, which is fine when saving finite resources, but more problematic in the current ‘sharing economy’ of financial technology (Fintech) typified by Uber & Airbnb and now expanding into the financial technology bubbles of blockchains and coins begun by the Bitcoin phenomenon, which everyone knows, but no-one understands.
The new wave of real-world cost, risk and data sharing Fintech now gathering pace is doing to the qualified professional, management and administrator classes what machinery and cheap fuel did for unqualified manual labour. Within 5 to 10 years at most > 90% of highly paid work will disappear. If nothing changes, the beneficiaries of a Fintech transition to a new service economy will be a vanishingly small technocratic elite rich beyond the dreams of avarice because, simply put, the problem of the sharing economy is that Shareholders Don’t Share, and neither do landlords and lenders.
This accelerating division and wealth concentration is clearly not sustainable and the elites who gather at Davos every January at the World Economic Forum and this weekend at the Bilderberg Group gathering in Montreux are now deeply concerned, because they know they cannot withstand a redundant and militant professional & management class bearing real or virtual pitchforks.
So what is to be done?
The Real RevolutionIn the same way that real-world digital online business and government has emerged from the internet bubble, so it is that the second wave of people-centred financial technology is emerging from the current machine-centric bubble and hysteria of blockchain and coins. This Fintech 2.0 wave based upon agreements directly connecting people, rather than protocols connecting machines, will drive a Real Revolution.
Underpinning this Real Revolution is the philosophic understanding that in addition to binary absolute either/or digital choices, there are always and neither/nor. To illustrate this, there is the unique Scottish criminal law which extends the binary absolute black and white choices of guilty or not guilty, into a grey twilight zone of an indefinite Not Proven verdict. As a further example from personal experience, I spent ten years as a member of a fully mutual housing cooperative in East London, where my right to occupy the Coop land and buildings did not come from conventional binary legal tenure choices of either absolute freehold ownership or temporary dated leasehold or tenancy, but rather derived from my indefinite membership of a cooperative Friendly Society: so for as long as I paid an agreed (affordable) rent and followed the rules I had an indefinite and secure right of occupation.
Bridging the Divide
It has been long forgotten, but the original meaning of the word Company described gatherings of people who came together to eat bread and extended to companies of soldiers, merchant venturers and companionship generally. A new generation of Real Companies, not as organisations/corporate legal persons with life and management of their own, but rather as agreements to self organise to an agreed common purpose by sharing the risk, costs, surplus and the 3Ks is now possible, simply by mutual agreement.
From a City background in the legal design of financial instruments and institutions I have come to realise that the enabling instrument for a Real Revolution is a new generation of Real Credit based directly (Peer to Peer) on our capacity as people to fulfil promises to provide goods and services, and also (Peer to Here) on the value of use of land & buildings, or of energy use such as heat/cooling, power and mobility.
So 20th Century divisions cannot be resolved with the 19th and 20th-century legal innovations which caused them. Real change lies with reinvention in the modern form of the unwritten agreements and instruments which still survive everywhere in the world where people trust each other.
The good news is that a Real Revolution requires no change in any law: merely a change in the rules and the narratives within which we interact with each other.
So let’s getReal