Lab Diary #3 – Destination
A new narrative – a new destination
In this third and final lab diary, we attempt to compile our learnings into a narrative that might help in taking us into a more sustainable and humane economic future.
Confirmation of our belief
Having been inspired, awed, intrigued, shocked, confused… by all the contributions to Economia, it feels as if the entire journey ahead of us can be summarized in one slogan (an axioma as it were): “Reprogram yourself”. The economy is not something that happens to you, the economy ís you. (Or as a 2010 TomTom advert stated: “You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.”). Which gives us somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand, it feels as if we are merely repeating what was already the central idea behind Baltan’s first Economia festival in 2017. On the other hand, it should not come as a surprise that we find confirmation in the fundamentals of our belief. And it’s a powerful and activating statement that puts the power and responsibility into our own hands. So, let’s dive a bit deeper into this axioma and how it relates to the narratives of the Economia the Limited Edition.
The notion of multiple futures is probably a good starting point. There is only one future ahead of us, but it is false to think that it can be extrapolated from our past and present notions. In our way of speaking about the future, we often (probably unconsciously) integrate a vocabulary that would indicate the opposite. The string “alternative future” has close to two billion hits on Google. As if there is a predestined future and we need to find an alternative for it. Alternative to what? To “the future” that will “overcome us”? And that will be a uni- or low-dimensional projection of our present context? Luckily the Economia contributions teach us otherwise: this rather passive attitude is not in line with the influence we can really have. And there are infinite options on how the future can unfold. Each with an equal theoretical chance of happening. At least: in terms of their dependence of human behavior and based on the assumption that through the power of free will, we can perform any behavior we want. Whereby for the sake of the argument we happily ignore sociological and anthropological theories that might favor or exclude certain human behavior (e.g. altruism ), as well as specific cultural and socio-political contexts that limit people’s freedom of speech or freedom of choice.
Within these assumptions, all futures are alternative towards each other, yet none of them is alternative to one future in specific. This idea of multiple futures is of course not new. It can for example be found in Harari’s recent best-seller Homo Deus in which he depicts three potential future directions for the co-evolution of technology and the Human species. Also several Economia talks contributed to this notion. Reon Brand’s theory on co-emerging futures is unique in narrowing down the infinite number of futures into four dominant categories. Also, he builds an argumentation that none of the individual futures is likely to prevail. Rather, each of them will evolve in parallel and they will have a synergetic effect on each other. Very similar, by the way, to the “war of Utopians” as put forward by Paul Mason in his Economia talk.
 See for example “The Selfish Gene” by Richard Dawkins.
Pitfalls and innate mechanisms
While the prospect of multiple futures is a reassuring one, some important points of attention need to be emphasized. For example, Reon Brand points out that the 21st Century context has evolved into a direction in which we are almost exclusively surrounded by information and opinions that are directly in line with the ones we already have. Not the least because of social-media and search algorithms that create and reinforce these bubbles, giving us the illusion that we still have a complete overview of what’s happening in the world.
Almost all Economia contributions in one way or another, hint towards the severity of how our aspiration for a more sustainable and humane economic future is being hijacked by technology, and how our deep held beliefs have been (culturally, religiously and economically) imprinted throughout human history. Arne Hendriks points out how we decoupled the meaning of the worth growth (“Ghru”) from its ancient connection with what comes before and after. Or Godelieve Spaas who, in the same performative lecture, eloquently explains us the gap that has originated between science and the indigenous, between economics and the social, between culture and nature.
Meredith Degyansky, who – in what supposed to be a relaxing meditation – makes us painfully experience how strongly embedded capitalism is in our lives and bodies from the day we are born. The Yes Men and Gijs de Boer who, each in their own way, open the books on values such as truth and trust and how they can be used and manipulated in order to achieve a preset goal.
Tinkebell, illustrating the devastating consequences of the fact that we have allowed policy makers to make us look at entire populations as numbers, and as a consequence also allows them to be treated accordingly. Or Paul Mason, who digs into the fundamentals of our capitalist system and explains how in theory it should already have been overthrown because of how information technology is inherently different from any other market we have known. Yet how capitalism anxiously holds on to its paradigms and still manages to survive the greatest crises, even if it has repeatedly been proven to be broken.
To this extent, it’s an ungrateful and impossible task to capture and summarize the brilliance of the various Economia contributions. There’s only one way to do them credit and get an exhaustive view on the matter which is to immerse yourself in the same journey we have been part of.
And while you are at it, retracing our steps, discovering the hidden gems, we will also give you some pointers on how we can find our way out of this mess. As mentioned in the beginning: “you are the economy”. So, a lot of the Economia contributions give you (me, all of us, together and as individuals) a key role and responsibility. And again, it would be false to think these can be summarized in a lab diary. Godelieve Spaas and Paul Mason, who teaches us that it’s easier to create a new system than to adapt the existing one. And that this new system cannot be created but has to emerge. Lewis Just, providing us with the ECO-coin as a low-threshold tool and intermediate solution to create awareness while pursuing a sustainable and scalable solution. The Yes Men, who invite us to step up and join the Confusionist movement. Or Michel Bauwens, convincing us of the ‘revival of the commons’ and how in its fifth phase (cosmo-local production) it could be one of the keys to save civilization.
Economy or Ecology?
It cannot go unnoticed that one of the common threads throughout the festival was the connection between economy and ecology and between ourselves and nature. Most prominently in the performative talk by Godelieve Spaas, taking us far into African caves and sharing with us the assignment she was given to bridge the gap between the Western and the indigenous. And the talk by Lewis Just, who’s currency was created specifically to heal the world rather than to destroy it (as our existing monetary system promotes). Reon Brand elaborates on the fact that we are already in the sixth great extinction since the existence of our planet and that we have to find a regenerative economy (within the future he calls ‘Gaia’) rather than the sustainable economy we currently preach.
It’s clear that part of our solution to find a sustainable and humane economic future lies in our ability to reconnect with nature. To find a future in which nature, human society and economy will no longer be looked at as individual systems, but as the interconnected entity that they actually are.
Behavior, beliefs and serendipity
Perhaps some fundamental and very mundaine ideas derive from two simple suggestions which we can all embed into our daily habits. “Certain hallucinogenic compounds” as Reon Brand calls these natural ingredients that – in doses that are so low that they don’t have an addictive or even noticeable hallucinogenic effect – bring us in tune with nature. While they have for long been part of our diets and still are in a lot of cultures, laws have banned them from our Western diets. Allowing them back in might be a serious consideration of which the positive effect should not be underestimated.
Our diet is one instrument to reach the higher goal of reassessing our relationship with nature. Meredith Degyanski’s embodied/mediative practice, Godelieve Spaas and Arne Hendriks present us with tools and rituals to learn from – and be in sync with – nature’s processes. Lewis Just’ ecocoin also incentivizes positive ecological behavior.
For serendipity we have to go back to the start of this lab diary where we explained the multiple futures and how our habits and online algorithms force us even further into the tunnel we initially move into and that literally narrows our mind. Also here, there might be an easy way out: allow yourself to collide with the unexpected. Mislead the algorithms by performing random searches. Clean your online profile or switch profiles for a while with one of your relatives. Start abundantly following and liking people that have opinions other than yours. Start random conversations with random people in the street. Be open to opinions other than yours. And why not join the Yes Men’s Confusionist movement? It’s these tiny actions of disobedience and seeming coincidence that will lift you above all of us trapped in the rat race and the ongoing pursuit of our own beliefs fueled by what technology ‘thinks’ we want to believe. Or perhaps, buy.
As described in our introduction, this lab diary reports on our journey towards economic horizons still unknown to man. As we moved forward, they have been gradually unfolding. Never with the ambition to reveal themselves completely before our 2020 Economia-the-limited-edition exploration ends. But, as anticipated, providing us with sufficient insights to have the motivation and courage to keep going.
In the first lab diary, we reflected on a potential methodology that might be emerging. In the second lab diary, it looked as if one or more hypotheses were coming in sight. Where the first two lab diaries were more process-oriented, in this third and final lab diary, we shift our focus towards the content, in an attempt to come to compile our learning into a narrative that might help in taking us into a more sustainable and humane economic future.
We do this by reflecting back on the contributions that we came across so far:
1: RARARA_LALALAB #1 with Reon Brand.
2: ECO Coin, talk by Lewis Just.
3: Capitalism after the Coronavirus, keynote by Paul Mason.
4: How I learned to stop worrying and love growth, performative talk by Arne Hendriks and Godelieve Spaas.
5: How to win trust in stormy weather, talk by Gijs de Boer.
6: Declaration. (the universal one), keynote by TINKEBELL.
7: Co-emerging economies, lecture by Reon Brand.
8: The two-day online conference.
9: Can the commons save civilization?, keynote by Michel Bauwens.
10: Unsettling the settler. How does capitalism feel?, embodied practice by Meredith Degyansky.
11: The Confusionist movement wants you!, closing keynote by the Yes Men.
12: Three video exhibitions.