ROTW: Capital and enclosure in software commons: Linux & Ethereum

The essay prompted me to reflect on related ideas I have been exploring around “learning in public” and “governing in public” to support lifelong learning and collective decision-making.

In this context, I believe enabling ongoing unlearning is crucial to mitigate risks from the concentration of power in systems governed by power laws. I see this as intersecting with:

Community Engagement and Participation
The essay discusses the importance of community involvement in decision-making processes. Similarly, effective learning cultures rely on engaging a diverse array of voices and perspectives.

Diversification and Decentralisation
Just as the essay advocates for a broader distribution of resources and authority within software commons, a learning culture benefits from decentralised knowledge sources and diverse learning opportunities.

Protocols and Oversight
The essay’s discussion on managing power concentration in digital commons mirrors the need for protocols and safeguards in learning environments. Weak and strong protocols can balance access to knowledge and guard against information asymmetries.

I venture using the label “requisite unlearning” - a play on Ashby’s law of requisite variety. The premise is that intentional unlearning and adaptation require certain cultural and systemic prerequisites, much like healing in medical contexts needs proper protocols. Insufficient unlearning allows legacy concepts and power structures to persist unchecked.

Relating back to the essay, instituting pluralistic policymaking, decentralised governance, and information openness across technology commons could mitigate risks from capital or actors concentrating control. Sustaining digital/knowledge commons against enclosure arguably requires participatory learning and continuous unlearning of assumptions.

These are initial thoughts on connections between learning systems and governing complex, rapidly evolving commons. Further unpacking the interplay between learning and power may yield additional insights.

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