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Lab Diary #1 – Methodology and preliminary insights

As described in our introduction, this lab diary reports on our journey towards economic horizons still unknown to man. As we move forward, they will gradually unfold. Unlikely to reveal themselves completely before our 2020 Economia-the-limited-edition exploration ends. But most likely providing us with sufficient insights to have the motivation and courage to keep going.

In this first lab diary, we reflect on a potential methodology that might be emerging. We do this by reflecting back on the talks and contributions that we came across so far:

  1. RARARA_LALALAB #1: a dialogue between Olga Mink, Director at Baltan Laboratories, and Reon Brand, Senior Director Foresight and Socio-cultural trends at Philips Design.
  2. ECO Coin: a talk by Lewis Just, co-founder of this alternative currency that is designed to incentivize actions that are good for the environment.
  3. Capitalism after the Coronavirus: keynote by Paul Mason British journalist and writer of the book Post Capitalism (2015).
  4. How I learned to stop worrying and love growth: a performative talk by Artist and Lecturer Arne Hendriks and Professor Sustainable Strategy & Innovation Godelieve Spaas.

Several weeks into our journey, it occurs to us that what we are aiming for, is the construction of a new narrative for our economic future. One that has inherent and explicit synergies with all other aspects of our society and ecology.

To do so, we explore the narratives within each individual contribution and break those down into their constructional elements. Leaving us with a bag full of seemingly random ideas and insights, we can then pick from in an attempt to construct our own narrative.

With each of the steps being a largely personal and subjective experience: the truth is in the eye of the beholder. Or, as Godelieve Spaas so eloquently states in her performance:

“The aim is not to come to an absolute statement, it is to give tools to get a complete picture.”

Looking at our bag of constructional elements, our scientific nature gives us the urge to try and label or categorize them. While our exploratory nature tells us to just leave them untouched.

Will labels and categories be useful later on to detect and understand synergies between the individual program contributions? Can they, in our attempt to reconstruct our new narrative(s), give rise to additional insights that surpass the insights resulting from each programmatic element? Could they maybe even be the basis for completely new angles that are valuable additions to ‘traditional’ economic studies? Or are they just a burden and should we not try to label or create boxes for what is an holistic theme?

Well, if it does not benefit, it will not harm, so here we go.

It looks as if, on top of the labels defined by the program setup, a variety of variables is surfacing from the talks.

  • Economia label(s): nature’s economies – redesigning infrastructures – shifting values
  • In time: historical learnings <-> todays context and events <-> short term fixes <-> long-term visions
  • Type: practical tool <-> abstract idea
  • For whom? Individuals – communities and organizations – companies – policy makers
  • Context? Universal – Local

A loose inventory of constructional fragments and elements coming out of the first series of talks. Randomly ordered and without judgement. Although like any selection, also this one is never unbiased. (*Numbers behind them refer to the contributions listed above, some result from the live Q&A’s that were organized after each talk)

  • Historical knowledge base
    • Great depression (1,2,3)
    • Religion (3,4)
    • Greek philosophy (4)
    • Paradigms of value creation (industrial value creation, experience economy, transformation paradigm…) (1)
    • Alternative currencies as tools for resilience (2)
    • Debt-base monetary system (2,3)
    • To what signals did we listen as we grew to 8 billion people? (4)
  • Reflections on today’s context
    • Gap between debt and gdp (3)
    • Complexity relates to fragility (4)
    • Our economy promotes ecological destruction (2,3,4)
    • Growth gets corrupted (only) when it gets decoupled from its original context of what happened before and what comes after (4)
    • IT is the real disruptor of our capitalist system (3)
    • We fetishize autonomous systems (3)
    • Crisis of democracy (3)
    • Our current behavior implies a belief/faith a better future will come from existing and new practices built on existing paradigms => It’s not gonna happen! (3)
    • Capitalism is facing an endogenous crisis, which is largely being ignored by traditional economists and policy makers (3)
    • There is already a tendency towards consuming less and assigning less value to possessions (3)
    • We have had a monoculture in education. (4Q&A)
  • Towards an alternative future (remark: alternative to what? Isn’t every future alternative?)
    • Alternative currency as way to promote economy for the good (2)
    • Alternative currency as tool for awareness creation in corporates (2)
    • Demurrage as a key element in sustainable/resilient monetary systems (2)
    • Co-emerging futures (1) / War of Utopians (3)
    • Negative interest rates will affect capitalism (3)
    • EU strategy towards individual technology sovereignty in stead of on the level of the country (as China/U.S.) or ‘continent’ (EU) (3)
    • 8h sleep, 16h of doing whatever you want should be the fundamentals of a post capitalist society (3)
    • The real effects of COVID-19 will only hit us in two to three years from now (3Q&A)
    • Embrace the concept of cyclic phenomena + Consider individual elements always in relation to ‘the whole’ (people as part of ecology, death as part of life, growing less as equally important as growing more, ‘stop’ as important as ‘start’, spring and summer only exist because of fall and winter…) (4)
    • “…build the bridge between science and the indigenous, between economics and the social, between culture and nature. Because all of them is one and we tend to forget that.” (4)
    • Researching the future cannot be done without imagination. (4Q&A)
    • My body feels what my mind cannot understand. Dance is always moving forward. 4Q&A)
    • Redefine education as ‘the opportunity to educate yourself’ and make use of the opportunities technology offers us to do so. (4Q&A)

Which elements are missing? Which elements are redundant?

Some reflections that could help in finding the answers on how to move forward. Or could provide insight into the multitude of equally valuable answers. Or even into the impossibility of ever finding an answer.

  • Is the economy a symptom of our society? Is society a symptom of our economy?
  • Can we change the existing system? Or do we need to build a new one from scratch?
  • Can we even build a new one from scratch? Or do we just have to allow it to emerge?
  • Is there a path towards sustainable growth? Or should we abandon the idea of growth overall?
  • What is/should be the position of the Human race in the universal ecosystem?
  • What is/should be our individual position towards ‘the collective / the community’?
  • Is COVID-19 a catalyst for change? Or just a magnifying glass on existing pain?
  • Is the/any crisis big enough?
  • Can we rely on logic and reasoning (alone)? Or should we (also) trust on intuition, indigenous knowledge, rituals, dance…?
  • How reliable is certainty? Or is there a more reliable certainty in embracing uncertainty?
  • What could be the role of technology? Blockchain? IC architectures?… Also: “By the mid Century, democracies that can break up from technology dependency will be the ones leading”
  • The war of Utopians / Co-emerging futures… (how) (long) will they co-exist?

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