Digital Socialism by Kevin Kelly

Digital Socialism: Towards a New Socialism

From my point of view, among all of the 12 chapters of #the inevitable, none of them are as inspiring and enlightening as chapter 6.

Kevin Kelly has titled this chapter as ‘Sharing,’ one of the twelve forces that he believes are shaping our future. Others are accessing, immediacy, screening, and flowing to name a few.

Although he used the word ‘Sharing‘ as title, soon we learn that he prefers to use the word socialism.

Sure he knows that the word ‘socialism’ has a negative connotation for most of his readers, as he notes:

I recognize that the word “socialism” is bound to make many readers twitch. It carries tremendous cultural baggage, as do the related terms “communal”, “communitarian”, and “collective”.

I use “socialism” because technically it is the best word to indicate a range of technologies that rely on social interactions for their power.

We call social media “social” for this sames reason: it is a species of social action.

But going through the chapter, you feel that “socialism” was the best name for the trend he is trying to describe.

If previous chapters, he already called The Internet a large copying machine. Here, he emphasizes again that sharing and sampling content is the new default.

He describes Tor, as an example, a place “where one can find a copy of almost anything that can be copied”.

Bottom-up socialism is not bitter as its old top-down version

This free access to resources helped people to move toward a bottom-up socialism.

This is one of the critical differences Kelly highlights between new digital socialism and its old classic not-so-loved top-down counterpart:

The top-down socialism of the industrial era could not keep up with the rapid adaptations, constant innovations, and self-generating energy that democratic free markets offered.

But still, there’s no reason to call the new paradigm something other than digital socialism:

Instead of gathering on collective farms, we gather in collective worlds.

Instead of state factories, we have desktop factories connected to virtual co-ops.

Instead of sharing picks and shovels, we share scripts and APIs.

Instead of faceless politburos, we have faceless meritrocracies where the only thing that matters is getting things done.

Instead of national production, we have peer production.

Instead of free government rations and subsidies, we have a bounty of free commercial goods and services.

Kelly notices many changes in the market and ownership structure. We are not eager for product ownership anymore. We are happy with access to products and services. Netflix and Spotify are the best samples of the new value system.

The main differentiating aspect of the digital socialism

Besides all similarities that Kelly describes, there’s a critical differentiating factor we have to consider, to have a more balanced view of this digital socialism:

It’s not an ideology, not an “ism.” It demands no rigid creed. Rather, it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, ad hocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation.

It’s a design frontier and a particularly fertile space for innovation.