Capitalism 2.0 – upgraded for long-term thinking

We need a revolution of the social system!?  This is a sentiment that is often  expressed (either implicit or explicit) over the net, its a nice idea but  I have trouble believing that capitalism can be replaced by a better and more just system. Not because I believe capitalism is the best system we have but because its the only social economic system that has survived for the last 60 to 70 years, This is remarkable since major social economic systems like communism and socialism, have either collapsed or succumb to a capitalistic hybrid.

And I think Capitalism continuous survival goes much deeper than simple economics,  I did my bachelor thesis on Joseph Schumpeter, who coined the terms: entrepreneurship, innovation and creative destruction for the first time,  and he has a very interesting view on social economic systems. He beliefs they are evolutionary by nature instead of static.   But he makes another interesting point, that a social system can only survive as long as the people in that system identify themselves to the system, once that identification is cut than we, as people, want a change in the system but that change isn’t a revolution but and evolution of the system, Capitalism 2.0. The reason why he does not belief in a real revolutions is because we, the people, are also formed by the social system and we dictate the speed of  the evolution by our human attitude towards the system.

This has some far reaching implications, Schumpeter was heavily influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution and the parallels to organisms and social economic systems are unmistakeable. One of these parallels is that an organism cannot revolutionize itself  from one generation to the next, change takes time. We do not belief that that a fish could changed into a fully functioning bird in one generation, so why do we belief this is possible for a social economic system?  It takes time to develop the necessary anatomy, but much more importantly for our discussion, it takes time for the creature to understand how it can express itself through its new anatomy. Similarly a social system cannot change from capitalism to a social system overnight and be able to survive in the long run. Off course its possible to change the laws and economics from one month to the next (= its anatomy) history has show that revolutions happen, but our human attitude needs more time to change and adapt, this is were the fallacy lies.

The problem that I have with articles and opinions that want a revolution of the social economic system is not that I wouldn’t want it to happen. But that we cannot radically change our social economic system and expect our attitudes towards the system to magically change with it. Human attitudes needs time to change and this change is much more fundamental than we like to admit and ignoring this is dangerous and more importantly, unnecessary.

Our attitude towards our social economic system can be summed up as follows:

to express our individuality through our innate talent and/or skill in our social economic system  and by these means acquire wealth for ourself and our family.

There are two key concepts here:

1) expressing our  individuality: we all want to be recognized for our work, no matter what your profession, we want to feel that we matter and are respected for it. A revolution to a more socialist system would likely mean that this part of us would be downplayed for the social good and this will be problematic in the long run.

2) acquisition of Wealth: We have been taught since childhood to acquire wealth, either a lot of wealth or simply enough wealth to lead a comfortable live. This is so ingrained that most people would simple be at a loss, if they would wake up one morning in a system that has no apparent ‘wealth incentive’.

Now it is no secret that the crisis we have in our current social economic system is the result of our short term thinking, we have a system that actively promotes short term thinking to the absurd. And this was ‘fine’ until we started reaching the limits of what earth can handle.  From then on we started to experience the effects of our action first hand. We tried to deny it at first but now that we use the word crisis so much on a daily basis, that denial is starting to give way to acceptance and a demand for change.

We have started to see the importance of long term thinking and want our social system to reflect that evolution of thought but at the same time our attitude towards our social economic system is much slower to change, its as if we want the problems to go away by changing from a fish to a bird in one single generation. I think that is the wrong approach,  we should cherish our  ability to express our own individuality and the acquisition of wealth, because they are the drivers of our current capitalism and more importantly they aren’t the cause of the of current problems, our short term thinking is.

In the past we equated wealth with money, wealth=money, so as a result we set up entrepreneurial enterprises or specialized our skills to acquire more money and our social economic system is great in achieving this in a short period of time. However, the problems it creates have now reached a critical point that the enjoyment of our wealth is threatened, for example: too much air pollution due to our cars, trucks and planes have made strolling the streets unbearably and in some cities a health risk, We have depleted the fish populations to such an extent that we have to make due with farmed fish which is far less tasty, we have spoiled our country side by wast and illegal duping and our beaches have become garbage collecting units whereby the coral is dying fast,  making diving less of an experience. There are numerous other examples to be used here, our short term thinking has in effect limited our ability to enjoy our money in the form of recreation and the simple pleasures of life.

I believe that in the long term thinking we will equate wealth with freedom , wealth=freedom, freedom is the ability to experience life without the restrictions we have been exposed to due to our short term thinking. In effect we want to solve the problems we have created the last 60 years and make sure that we are never faced with the same problems ever again, this is essentially the change (or evolution) we as a people want to see in our social economic system.

In a similar fashion our expression of our individuality is changing. In the (recent) past bankers and stock brokers were considered to be the epitome of success, so much so that people wanted to expressed their individuality by becoming part of that group. Now our ability to experience life has been so restricted by our short term thinking that our society has started to see ‘social’ innovators as the new epitome of prestige.To put it differently, we are starting  to give more prestige to an innovator who solves our (local) energy problem than to the  energy executive that currently provides it to us. We are changing our value system and our expression of individuality and acquisition of wealth changes with it, this is Capitalism 2.0.

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The Steve Jobs school – a cunning marketing strategy.

In Amsterdam on 26th of march a group of entrepreneurs and educators lead by the Maurice de Hond, a long-time entrepreneur and owner of  a Dutch opinion poll company by the same name, held a press conference on the future of primary education. This is remarkable for two reasons 1) a  press conferences on primary education is  rare. 2) if there is a press conference on primary education chances are slim that it would get mainstream media attention.

What could have prompted this unusual responds? The media connections of  Maurice de Hond?, The schools manifesto  (English), which focusses on the ability of the child and less on the state obligated learning objectives? Or the fact that they called it ‘the Steve Jobs school’ or as some in the media  have dubbed it  ‘the Ipad school’?

I will come back to this question later on, but first some more details: the first school will open its doors beginning of August 2013 (!!) and the city council of Amsterdam has already agreed to provide the location(s). Other cities are being actively approached and in the meantime young parents as well as educators who are interested can sign up on the website, http://www.o4nt.nl , which in English translates to ‘education for a new era’. Non-parents and non-educators can participate as well.

Now most of the buzz has been centred around the question if it is wise to focus our educational system on a single device and brand, the Apple evangelists are mildly sceptical but for the most part think its a good move (they are called evangelists for a reason, I guess).  While most progressive  educators are seriously wondering how a bunch of Apps are going to be translated into a full educational curriculum (which seems like a fair point to raise). While the majority of the educators greeted the initiative with down-right cynicism (the irony here is that secretly this group yearns to see change the most).

I find the question of the progressive educators the most important so lets start there. 1) Let me be blunt by saying ‘Ipad’s in schools are not a good  idea’, by locking our educational IT environment into proprietary systems that are market driven you loose control, moreover you will  also create an unhealthy dependency (=legacy issues) on a corporate company which will always succumb to corporate greed, if they haven’t done so already, no offence to Apple its simply the nature of the Beast.

2) There has been a product on the market which has existed much longer than the Ipad and has been specifically designed with primary education in mind. A product that has proven itself in the harshest educational conditions in third world countries , the name of this product is the XO and its produced by OLPC.  This is a non-profit company so that limits the greed factor inherent to capitalism and it is an open-source platform,LINUX. I am not saying the XO is perfect but it’s a whole lot better suited for the task than the Ipad, since the XO is designed from the bottom-up to suit the anatomy of youngster.

The second gen XO laptop

Plus the new XO (see bellow) is much cheaper (+- 150 dollars but you have to buy in bulk) so the elitism of the Ipad is removed and it is the first ever table that OLPC has designed and like all XO’s the battery can be charged by a whole array of renewable sources solar, pedal as well as regular charging by USB and it can be maintained and fixed by the educators themselves with the proper training (so less service maintenance drama’s). I could go on to state the case why XO is better than the Ipad but I think you get the picture and sooner or later so will the masses.

Knowing all this, one question kept bugging me ever since the unveiling of this initiative: ‘why would an intelligent, savvy ,even shrewd, entrepreneur like Maurice de Hond make such a fuzz about an Ipad school when there clearly are better alternatives available?’

This question links back to the first question on why this initiative prompted so much response in the first place.

I belief that this is a brilliant marketing move from Maurice de Hond, I don’t belief this initiative is really focussed on the Ipad at all. Its focussed on reaching a better educational standard in Holland. In the process Maurice de Hond is using the Ipad and ‘the Steve Jobs school’  as a marketing tool. Everybody knows Steve Jobs and everybody has seen an Ipad. So instead of having to explain to people what needs to change in our educational system, which is technical and frankly rather boring. Maurice de Hond uses peoples (un)conscience idea’s about the Ipad and the Apple’s famous lifestyle marketing campaigns to propel a new educational concept into the collective conscience of the Dutch masses, its basically an inception but more crude and on a collective scale. As a result you now have soccer mom’s and yuppie dad’s talking about how they would like their children to go to a ‘the Steve jobs school’  because it will prepare them better for the technology of tomorrow.

My hypothesis  is reinforced by the following: 1) Maurice de Hond owns a survey poll company so he knows with a fair amount of detail “why” we are unhappy about our educational system, moreover the recently announced budget cuts by the government are only making this unhappiness more prevalent in the collective (un)conscience. 2) He knows how politicians think, Lodewijk Asscher is in charge of education for the city of  Amsterdam and he can use this initiative in order to further his political career on state, national or European level. 3) The official name of the initiative is  ‘education for a new era’  no official reference is made to Apple or Steve Jobs not on this level. So the whole initiative is not locked into the Apple mechanism and if it seems that the cooperation with Apple isn’t working out they can simple drop the name, their main objective of mass inception has already been achieved by then.

I suspect that eventually the progressive educators will step into the limelight and will start discussing in forums and communities  how they see the new school taking shape and probable start understating the Apple aspect.  But for now the buzz of  ‘the Steve Jobs school’ is necessary and at the same time a very cunning  marketing strategy.