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The ecosystem of a coral reef — a complex ‘market’ of co-operative and competitive ‘transactions’. Photo by Sagar.

The interpersonal data at the heart of all human digital systems, including markets

Co-operating is essential

The view of evolution as a chronic bloody competition among individuals and species, a popular distortion of Darwin’s notion of “survival of the fittest,” dissolves before a new view of continual cooperation, strong interaction, and mutual dependence among life forms. Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.

Effective policies are those that support socially valued outcomes not only by harnessing selfish motives [Wealth of Nations / competition] to socially valued ends, but also by evoking, cultivating, and empowering public-spirited motives [Theory of Moral Sentiments / co-operation].

Information is critical

People’s valuations are private information; the genius of the market is its capacity for disseminating this information from consumers to producers through the price system.

Price ≠ value

Same dollar, different value

Price is informationally meagre

It’s complex

Gregory Bateson used the word ‘plateau’ to designate something very special: a continuous, self-vibrating region of intensities whose development avoids any orientation toward a culmination point or external end.

Deleuze and Guattari

The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.

The misleading name, metaphor defiance, and awesome potential of “personal data”

any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’); an identifiable natural person is one who can be identified, directly or indirectly, in particular by reference to an identifier such as a name, an identification number, location data, an online identifier or to one or more factors specific to the physical, physiological, genetic, mental, economic, cultural or social identity of that natural person.

Data as property

Data as labour

Interpersonal data — decentralized by nature

The ultimate information technology challenge is the care and maintenance of a digital infrastructure that can help us rise up to so-called super wicked problems, collectively. Given the growing appreciation of the nature of complexity and the complexity of nature, we know we’re in the domain of systems thinking and sustainability — the health and resilience of living systems including our planet, our societies, and our organisations.

Sustainability requires healthy, distributed networks, with both diversity and individual agency, to facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence. It is these qualities our digital technologies must enable and encourage.

… Radical Markets are not based on welfarist values, nor are they in pursuit of a wholly individualistic notion of autonomy. … Radical Markets are both means and ends to fostering dynamic collectives and individual freedom to move about them, securing a greater degree of equality and a greater diversity and depth of collective organization than today’s standard capitalist institutions could bring about.

… Radical Markets is far from fully instantiating these ideas, and even contrasts with them in some ways. For example, the primarily individualistic focus of [the chapter on] Data as Labor is in tension with the above ideas.


We believe that humans are not problems waiting to be solved, but potential waiting to unfold. This is why we nurture projects helping individuals amplify their potential through open systems that expand our collective mind at local, regional and global scales.




A community publication bringing together activists, artists, entrepreneurs, and scholars working to inspire radical social change through decentralization and expanding markets.

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Philip Sheldrake

Philip Sheldrake

Chartered Engineer. AKASHA Foundation. Euler Partners. Architect hi:project and Open Farming. Co-founder Digital Life Collective co-op.

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