Factor e Farm Social Contract v1.0
Factor e Farm Social Contract August 30. 2009 v1.1 by Marcin Jakubowski, Ph.D., Director of Research and Development
Factor e Farm is an experimental community for creating post-scarcity, resilient communities. Our means to this end are developing the enabling infrastructure – via open source technology and open source economic development methods. We focus on open source methods in order to facilitate the replication of such communities.
Our means to absorbing new participants are Dedicated Project Visits (DPVs). These are typically one month long. Anyone interested in long-term (one year or longer) must first go through a trial period of three DPVs. Each DPV includes an evaluation period at the end of the visit to determine whether the participant should continue their engagement at FeF. The goal of these three DPVs is to determine whether the participant is a good match for Factor e Farm.
FeF is a rigorous experiment with the explicit goal of determining whether post-scarcity economics can be realized on the scale of city-states or even villages. One requirement of our design is autonomy, intended for the unequivocal goal of eliminating geopolitical compromise. By autonomy, we mean the ability to produce a complete, integrated economy – based on efficient means of production. We note that built-in mechanisms of geopolitical compromise are the norm in modern commerce, which we aim to address by developing open source economies founded on the capacity for post-scarcity production.
It is reasonable to conclude that as long as a community is dependent on remote power centers, it does not have control over its own destiny. This means that geopolitical compromise such as wars, abject poverty, wage slavery, mass culture, and many other deprivations continue to be the worldwide norm. We are interested in eliminating these compromises by creating communities that can provide all their own needs resiliently, based primarily on local resources – without external interference.
The above experiment cannot work in isolation. It can succeed only if a global network of similar autonomous communities is created. This explains our open source approach with the stated goal of replicability.
Part of the rigor of FeF is codified in the participation contract – where participants propose an offer of work to be performed and accomplishments to be made. Along the same lines, FeF commits to providing an agreed-upon infrastructure and working environment for the participant. The goal of these legally-binding contracts are to provide clarity to all involved.
The foundation of the FeF social contract is effective production. We believe that effective, open source production is the foundation for any community interested in creating the reality of post-scarcity.
Another word for post-scarcity is abundance. Abundance is typically associated with idealistic notions of human relations, where human enlightenment is the focus and mechanisms of effective production are neglected. Worldwide evidence does not support this position - as warfare, physical or economic, continues to dominate resource acquisition strategies at the highest levels.
Our notion of abundance has nothing to do with idealism. Instead, by abundance – we mean the rigorous condition of effective production that allows people to transform common natural resources into the substance of prosperity in an advanced civilization. We are focusing on proven techniques, and our problem statement is primarily the effective integration of tools and techniques towards resilient livelihoods via open source economic production. This applies to the scale from one person up to the globally-networked community, which enjoys the benefits of trade.
Duration of Stays at FeF
We encourage that only dedicated, resilient people consider applying for DPVs. We have begun the DPV program only recently (July, 2009), and initial results are positive. However, our general retention rate is low because of the demands of our program and the lack of resources. Therefore, DPV applicants should not assume while applying that they will be staying for more than their 1 month contract duration, and this contract will be evaluated on a monthly basis.
DPV candidates agree to a well-defined package of minimum requirements. Meeting these requirements is the main criterion for being reinvited to apply. A DPV Review Team, consisting of 4 off-site advisors, is in place and will be consulted for assistance in review. The research director will follow the advice of the review team, and will make the final decision.
If a candidate is reinvited to apply, s/he will have up to a 4 day period to write another proposal. The research director will provide feedback, and will take no longer than the 4th day to determine whether the proposal is acceptable. Proposals are deemed acceptable when they provide sufficient evidence that a certain project will be carried out successfully. The main goal of the research director’s feedback is to identify areas of uncertainty or risk in the proposal, and to suggest ways to minimize that risk.
The applicant will continue in the DPV, one-month proposal/evaluation cycles as long as is deemed necessary by the research director. If there is poor performance, friction or other issues that prevent smooth operation of FeF, as determined by the Review Team and the research director, the participant will not be invited to reapply.
At the end of the month cycle, evaluation will also indicate whether the candidate is demonstrating qualities required for a long-term stay. Upon such consideration, the candidate will be invited to make a 3-month proposal (or longer if deemed desirable by the research director). This proposal will be codified in a contract signed by both parties. Similar evaluation procedures will be used.
If the candidate has succeeded in a total of 6 months at FeF, s/he will be considered for permanent stay. Permanent stay means a one year contract. Details of this contract are to be worked out mutually, and permanent stays are reevaluated on a yearly basis based on similar criteria as above.
In order to be considered for long-term tenure, candidates should have:
- Ability to carry one’s own weight financially without depleting the resources of the community. This means developing one’s production ability of economically significant products and services.
- Ability to hold one’s own weight intellectually, in terms of ability to focus and to perform independent research. This includes defining problems and pursuing solutions, with minimal guidance and maximal ability to tap external resources. This level of ability is comparable to the level found at the post-graduate level in academia.
- Ability to hold one’s own morale, by demonstrating ability to thrive under pressure. This also means freedom from various psychological ills.
- Ability to adapt and to learn new skills or concepts quickly. This includes a mindset of lifelong learning, openness to new ideas and approaches, willingness to improve personal effectiveness, communication, and spiritual skills.
- Good health and being fully able-bodied, since many tasks at FeF involve physical work.
- Ability to work as a team towards the common goal of the FeF experiment.
- Honesty with oneself, integrity and respect for others, high ethical standards, striving for a healthy lifestyle, and ability to communicate their needs effectively. The social goal within the community is to live and let live – to respect one’s needs, such as privacy, space for growth, family-friendly environment, and freedom from distractions or idle chatter.
- Understanding the relevance of open source culture and the importance of documentation. FeF works openly, and documents its experience and work. The goal of documentation is replicability and ability to build upon our work. Documentation includes written communication and video. Our motto on open source documentation is: A word is worth a thousand silences. A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth a thousand pictures. A reality is worth a thousand videos.
In summary, it should be clear from the start that FeF adheres to a strict gatekeeping procedure, as dictated by the demands of its program. While this may be time-consuming, we believe that this is worth it in the long run. Because FeF is a serious attempt at reengineering civilization, only those who can rise to this challenge are invited to participate.
We have already made an open invitation to all people interested in Dedicated Project Visits. These project visits may lead to long-term stays. At the end of the day, we are interested in creating a real, working post-scarcity, resilient community – based on open source technology and on replicability.
Factor e Farm is a rigorous experiment. Part of its rigor is codified in the participation contract – where participants propose an offer of work to be performed and accomplishments to be made.
Participants are expected to be self-supported by their own resources or by on-site productivity. These resources may include past savings, but we favor on-site production as the more accountable means of surviving and thriving. This is consistent with our essential goals of a bootstrapping, replicable design.
We are pursuing a concrete and explicit path to our goal. The following is a description of the social contract for such a community. The foundation of this contract is effective production. We believe that effective, open source production is the foundation for any community interested in creating the reality of post-scarcity.
Another word for post-scarcity is abundance. This word is typically associated with utopian schemes for making a better society – typically based on idealism as opposed to realism.
Minimum Acceptance Criteria
Operating principles for Factor e Farm (FeF) arise from this social contract. These principles are also outlined below. This writing is intended to be a working document for those interested in becoming part of our community. The aim is to clarify the underlying pattern that binds our community together, and allows it to prosper.
Assumptions and Goals
It is reasonable to conclude that as long as a community is dependent on remote power centers, it does not have control over its own destiny. This means that geopolitical compromise such as wars, abject poverty, wage slavery, mass culture, and many others continue to be the norm worldwide. We are interested in transcending these by creating communities that can provide all their own needs resiliently, based primarily on local resources – thereby eliminating the need for remote power centers.
Consistent with the FeF Position Statement, optimal production is a basis for a high quality of life and for post-scarcity economics. FeF operation is not based on financial support from top-down sources, savings, endowments, or any other ‘trustafarian’ means of fiscal unaccountability. FeF is made by the present effort of participants.
FeF is a community experiment, where people work together to assume robust provision of needs at post-scarcity levels. This point needs careful explanation.
The assumption of FeF is that production for meeting basic needs (food, energy, raw materials, housing, industry, etc.) is the basis of any responsible economy. It is difficult to argue this point. At the same time, many people propose that the service economy (education, entertainment, hospitality, government, etc.) is a viable route to economic sufficiency. We don’t dispute the fact that many economies may be based on these sectors, but at the same time, we ask, where does basic production come from? Presently, basic production is part of the greater scheme of neocolonial ‘progress’, where wealth concentration, war, slave labor, and other geopolitical ills are built into that pattern. Those economies which do not provide for their basic needs are relying on global geopolitical compromise, and this is the assumption that the FeF experiment aims to challenge. We are saying that we can provide an advanced civilization free of geopolitical compromise.
Allow me to repeat. We believe that we can create advanced civilization without killing and stealing from others. That message is old, and now we have open source economic development as a concrete path to this goal of post-scarcity.
You are hearing me overemphasize the need for a complete, localized economy. So why the emphasis on a complete economy, when trade can easily provide all of our needs? This proposed economy is globally linked via the internet - and it can enjoy the benefits of physical global trade. The reason for economic localization is human frailty. Even the most upstanding individuals can crumble under stress – such as that of resource scarcity. Combine that with the community’s control by remote power centers – and tendencies such as war-faring are built right into the community fabric. Thus, as a general point of community design – communities can be most resilient and peaceful only if they can provide all of their needs. This is why FeF is aiming to produce a complete economy, even on its small, 30 acre scale of operation.
It is futile to discuss whether a complete economy on a 30 acre scale is possible. The only way to determine this feasibility is by trying. This is what FeF is about. We have only the indication that advanced technology, open source economic development, and proven techniques combine to unprecedented possibility of success at this time in history. This success is elusive, since it is actually too simple to believe – so one must strip away many of one’s indoctrinations to see the possibility.
Another possible path to the demonstration of a post-scarcity community is combining some measure of local production while compromising to various external dependencies. These dependencies include external employment, outside governance services, security forces, mass education, insurance, propaganda, bureaucracies, or other legal and financial fictions. However, since we are not inspired by the burgeoning welfare state, loss of meaning, and other features of cultural homogenization – we think we could do better. We want to include not only a complete economy, but also other institutions that are founded on a complete economy – such as all the others mentioned above – but in an incarnation more suitable to the framework of globally interlinked, locally-productive, small-scale autonomous republics.
To phrase this in a different way, we are not interested in localizing economies for the sake of isolation. No, the presence of the internet, global trade, and neocommerce will make places such as FeF tied in deeply into the global community. We are just saying that with modern technology, we can design smarter, more resilient communities, where overspecialization gives way once more to reinvention of human skill, where machines serve only to eliminate various forms of survival-based physical labor. This is a foundation for people pursuing their passions and evolving to become better human beings – and at best – integrated humans.
What about those who don’t want to work, or do entire different things? There should be enough diversity in the available set of autonomous republics, each with their own level of gatekeeping – such that any individual can find a suitable place. Furthermore, the absence of the welfare state in this scenario means that everybodu must take accountability for their survival, or perish. Since the social fabric of family support in the small-scale autonomous republic should be richer, primarily due to the elimination of alienation-for-compensation crap jobs – there should be a more robust safety net for those who are disabled, dysfunctional, or otherwise disadvantaged.
The contract of FeF is essentially that of an enterprise, contract community. This is similar to the libertarian notions of Spencer MacCallum, with the additions of open source economic production and its ramifications for post-scarcity. This means that communities replace their proprietary orientation – and replace the implicit fear of survival with principles of open source economic culture.
There is no magic here – the open source economic culture refers to the new, robust, resilient, complete, smaller-scale means of open source production as discussed above. This is not easy. It means that each member of a community seizes the power of effective production. The difficulty is for people gaining extended skill sets necessary for effective production. Once again, abundance is not a hippie-in-the-woods ideal, but a rigorous condition of enabling effective production.
Seizing the power of effective production simplifies issues associated with resource allocation. First, government as we know it disappears – as government today is charged fundamentally with the role of resource reallocation after theft from subjects. Second, if the leading cause of conflict – from family feud, accident disputes, wars, propaganda, and many others - is resource scarcity – then effective production (which is implicitly open source) addresses many of these conflicts by its readiness to provide material replacement. This is the promise of open source economics, but it requires a shift of thinking for people to recognize this possibility.
Thus, back to FeF. All the members live on-site – like in a village. The design of the community is not based around roads, as in much of Western civilization, but around ecological features.
In the initial stages of community formation, or about 5-10 years into the future, this will be a community-in-development. We are pioneers, working diligently to improve and optimize our standard of living towards modern prosperity with unprecedented lack of contribution to geopolical compromise. This was the dream of the likes of Gandhi, Buckminster Fuller, Martin Luther King, to name a few.
For this to happen, there are some basic requirements. 1. People are self-employed and live/work on-site 2. The community works together such that all of its needs are met by a collaborative, voluntary effort of its members.
The assumption for point 2 is that optimal production has been reached and division of labor is used – such that it takes minimal effort on the part of each participant to provide a complete package for surviving and thriving. This would mark a huge accomplishment in community design – because today, people do not work voluntarily to provide their needs.
This point needs explanation. The standard mode of production today is known as compensation for alienation, which is a term derived from Marxist critique of capitalism. In other words, people work because they have to, not because they want to. People ‘make a living’ and are paid to alienate themselves from their true interests, such that with the money thus earned, they may have some time left over for pursuing their interests. Most people end up doing loathsome work for a large fraction of their life – simply because they need to provide their needs in an indirect, alienating way. Furthermore, alienation-for-compensation implies that one works for somebody else, and that one does not capture the full worth of their labor.
The more fruitful way to work is: 1. By capturing the full value of one’s labor, such as by open source production as proposed by the FeF experiment 2. By working so that results are directly visible – such as by providing the fruits of one’s labor for direct use to oneself and to the rest of the community 3. By working efficiently, the demands of surviving and thriving are taken care of readily – such that if combined with directly visible results – this makes total sense, is enriching, and non-alienating from one’s basic instincts.
This pattern is exactly what we are pursuing in the FeF experiment for post-scarcity. In practical terms, we don’t think that it should take any more than 2-4 hours per day for a person to take care of their production duties. This leaves 12-14 hours per day to pursue one’s interests, assuming 8 hours of sleep.
Essentially, work takes little time because it is done efficiently. This brings up the existential dilemma. If people are able to thrive with very little time spent running around making a living – what do they do with their ample spare time? This could be potentially devastating to many people who are not comfortable with themselves or are not comfortable doing much thinking – and for this reason, it takes a more mature person to handle the additional freedom. Thus, a community like FeF may not be suitable for everybody.
There may be red flags popping up at the notion of effective production, as it appears at least superficially to reflect the same danger as communism – where people lose their incentive to work. This will not happen because: 1. Each member is responsible for providing essential services which feed back directly to the community, so absence of such would be noticed immediately as a scarcity of some resource. 2. We acknowledge that people are not equal. If some people want to do more work to increase their private gain via sales to external markets, they are welcome to do so. The only constraint is that they retain, and increase, the quality of the natural resource base of the community, along the lines of regenerative development.
It is interesting how point 2 plays out in practice. Let’s say that certain members of the community want to help in the replication of another open source ecology community. For a task of this scale, there would have to be significant agreement between members to combine to such an effort. In principle, if production capacity is really optimized, there should easily be sufficient surplus to allow replication.
It is to be expected that point 2 will cause conflict (once again, resource-based) – based on the differing motivation levels of participants. This is where entry/exit procedures must be clear, as must the initial alignment of all participants, and all details should be recorded diligently in the form of participation contracts.
In sum, the participation contract is entirely voluntary. A community like this can function smoothly only with optimized production, and it should be clear to each member that it is their responsibility to the community to be the most effective person possible. The culture of the community should foster personal and political growth, and lifelong learning for all involved. The demands are high, but they are all voluntary, and no coercion will be tolerated. Clear entry and exit procedures must be present. The most important point for people to adhere to - which minimizes conflict and smoothes the governance process – is seizing the power of effective production.
The unknown part of such a community will be its interaction with outside systems. We think that the culture of open source ecology will spread and be accepted – simply because we are creating a solution for living that works better than existing systems.
Priorities, Operations, Scope
How do we value priorities?
1. Meeting essential needs of an integrated economy comes first, along the path determined by the research director, who is the experimental designer 2. Community will decide what luxuries and extras it would like to incorporate, according to the wishes of members, by consensus
There are many tasks to accomplish on site. Facility maintenance and upgrades, education, transportation, communication, governance, financial services, entertainment, and any other needs can be included on site. At the same time, the community is free to trade with any other communities or external entities.
However, its trade policy is that the community must be able to produce all of its own essential needs. This frees the community from the need to steal from others in times of severe shortages of necessary resources. This is a freedom unattained by any present nation state and any historically-recorded community on earth, except perhaps for a small handful of counterexamples amongst thousands of villains.
The peacekeeping policy of our community as mentioned in the last paragraph is perhaps the number one driving factor in our community design. As such, we commit to this peace by making sure that:
- all members of FeF are capable of producing effectively.
- all members of FeF are open to new learning, and self-improvement, both on personal and productivity levels – such that they can always be competitive in their integrated production ability
- All members of FeF are expected to grow spiritually, to foster their ability to get along with one another
To avoid the communist trap of ‘getting paid whether you work or not,’ non-productive members of the community will be given ample chance to reform, or be evicted upon failure to do so. This policy shall be designed to be self-enforcing, in that the community will be sufficiently transparent to see that needs or services are lacking when people do not produce.
See details of candidate requirements at http://openfarmtech.org/index.php?title=Factor_e_Farm_Social_Contract_v1.0#Duration_of_Stays_at_FeF.