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Social Innovation of Collaborative Commons - to Complement Rapid Technological Innovation

Question:What more can be done to cement Canada's place as a leader in social entrepreneurship?
on 07/10/2016 1468165446
Rapid technological advances are both enabling and driving a shift toward Collaborative Commons (CC) as a socio-economic paradigm of the future (see B .... Read more

Rapid technological advances are both enabling and driving a shift toward Collaborative Commons (CC) as a socio-economic paradigm of the future (see Background below). 

Social innovation, parallel to technological innovation, is needed to

  • Maximize the opportunities and benefits for ALL Canadians from CC
  • Minimize the inevitable disruption to lives during  transition to CC
  • Enable graceful transitional or sustained interplay with existing socio-economic models (as needed)
  • Discover the limits and avoid any pitfalls of CC
  • Engender trust among participants in CC
  • Develop a minimally intrusive Canadian regulatory framework to facilitate the above

To that end, the following is recommended:

  • Increase funding for Collaborative Commons academic research in social sciences and economics with the above objectives.
  • Establish a social entrepreneurship fund to support creation of specifically micro Collaborative Commons, and functional elements of Collaborative Commons.  Evaluate results.
  • Hold national events and competitions in Collaborative Commons innovation.
  • Develop prototype regulations relating to Collaborative Commons and run regulatory pilots to discover what works, before enacting (or not) fully into law.
  • Engage Canadians about Collaborative Commons to gather maximum diversity of ideas and input and generally garner buy-in (or not).
  • Collaborate with like-minded democratic states for additional innovation diversity and synergistic global implementation of Collaborative Commons

Background and Why

Society (and economy) is on the cusp of a dramatic disruption due to exponential rise in technological capability.   Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics borne out of radical escalation of compute power, coupled with advances in sensor and communication technologies, and the ubiquity of the Internet have spawned the Internet of Things (IoT).  IoT is resolutely driving us into the Fourth Industrial revolution dominated by cyber-physical systems.  This will not only sharply reduce the need for human labour, it will also increasingly chip away the volume of human intellect and oversight needed.

At the same time, the Web is enabling the sharing economy.  It’s taking hold due to the inherent pull of convenience and cost savings, personal economic necessity, and desire for environmental sustainability.  The latter is also driving the Circular Economy, where materials and energy embedded in end-of-life products are recirculated into new goods and energy.  Both the sharing and circular economies will reduce the total volume of manufactured goods and raw materials needed, again correspondingly reducing the total human labour, intellect and oversight needed.

The double whammy of efficiencies and the reduced need for goods from above will, for many, reduce or eliminate the means for equitable living and ability to retain agency in society and economy.  Under the existing socio-economic paradigms, this concern will only deepen with ongoing technological advancements, further hollowing out the middle class.  The answer is definitely NOT to stall or stop technology.  On the contrary, Canadian technological innovation must forge ahead at full steam to enable us to compete internationally and grow the total national wealth.  However, social innovation must be tapped to enable ALL Canadians to both contribute to and take from the common wealth, and have full societal agency.

Fortunately an emerging “COLLABORATIVE COMMONS” paradigm shows promise as a new socio-economic order – both organically enabled by the Internet of Things, as well as a reaction to its impacts and side effects.  Collaborative Commons (CC) is characterised by open source information, technology and energy; the blurring of consumer vs. producers into prosumers; access to products becoming the norm over product ownership; and rise of the gig economy over traditional employment.  Basically, it’s a society where citizens and organizations openly collaborate to both create common wealth and draw from it.

While ad-hoc CC instances in some sectors are already generating benefits for its constituents, there are still many unanswered questions and challenges going forward.  What are the trade-offs between different CC models and what model(s) work best?  How can trust, which is critical to collaboration, be engendered and supported among participants? What might be some negative side-effects of CC?  How does CC interplay with traditional market economies, what sectors are best suited for CC, and what are the transition timeframes and trade-offs? What regulatory supports are needed to enable, ease transition, and protect against undesired aspects of the CC?  A heavy dose of Social Innovation is needed now to address the unknowns so that civil society can come out whole on the other side of the transition into Collaborative Commons.

This and related topics are skillfully covered by economist Jeremy Rifkin in The Zero Marginal Cost Society, and related works such as The Sharing Economy by Arun Sundararajan, and Makers and Takers by Rana Foroohar.