In the Arutam room at Ecuador’s National Secretariat of Higher Education, Science and Tecnology (SENESCYT) quickfire French dialect interrupted the silence. FLOK’s Michel Bauwens was talking with Bernard Stiegler. Two old friends who were surprised to find each other after many years, both visitors in a country that is proposing a revolution of knowledge.
A few days before, Bauwens had a similar chance encounter with Steve Keen, who was in Ecuador to present on his economic ideas. At that meeting, Bauwens exclaimed “he is my favourite economist and I’ve finally been able to meet him!” When he met Steigler in the SENESCYT boardroom, he echoed that, saying “he is my favourite philosopher!”
It would seem that Ecuador is becoming a genuine laboratory for open and shared knowledge, and is proposing a revolution that would well spread beyond its borders. At yesterday’s meeting, all the SENESCYT vice-secretaries attended. Several of them, after the meeting, shared with us how excited they are about the process we are starting.
SENESCYT chief René Ramirez entered the room and people took their seats. René spoke for a few minutes to introduce the project to his team. He said:
“Let’s position Ecuador as a paradise of open knowledge. This would open the door to enormous opportunities and is an initiative that provides hope.”
And so it is. After René’s introduction, Michel Bauwens spoke for 40 minutes about FLOK’s proposal.
He talked about how in recent years, thousands of initiatives have sprouted around the world, powered by people who dedicate large amounts of time to collaborating to a shared bank of knowledge that is of open access. Initiatives such as Wikispeed produce a new model of car every week. Compare that to the Detroit auto industry, where new models are released only once a year, based on designs developed a half a decade before. Open Source Ecology has freed the designs of large scale industrial machines, which can be built for an eighth of what their commercial counterparts cost, and they last five times longer. In the world, the GNU/Linux open source operating system is already installed on 1 out of 4 machines used in business. More than half of the worlds web servers run on Apache, another open source project.
Bauwens listed many similar examples of things that started on a small scale and grew into global phenomenons. He said:
“I think the emerging P2P economy is about mutualizing knowledge, but also physical infrastructures.”
And this is what FLOK proposes: to build an economy that provides support for those who are working in service of the global commons; to form institutions and laws to make Ecuador a friendly environment for the transformation into an idea laboratory; to provide the theoretical framework for an economy that rescues the “good living” of citizens.
Several points encouraged us during the meeting with the SENESCYT:
- reassurance that this investigation is considered strategic by the Ecuadorian government
- support for our proposal to invite Ecuadorian postgraduate fellows to research topics related to the commons, under the supervision of Michel Bauwens at the IAEN
- confirmation of the plan to hold 25 workshops across Ecuador and one online for Ecuadorians living abroad to develop ideas on practical ways to build this new productive matrix for the country
- the establishment of parallel projects that allow for an economy of open knowledge and can have a real impact on peoples lives.