More Thoughts On The Coming Swarm Economy

The industrial model with lifetime single-employer careers is dying, and it is not coming back. The first sign was a change from lifetime-marriage employments into its serial-monogamy equivalent, where people change jobs every three years at the most. The next change, one which is already happening, is that most people have more than one employment — or employment-equivalent — at one time: this is an enormous change to society, where people are going to be juggling five to ten projects at a time, some for fun, some for breadwinning, some for both. I have called this the coming swarm economy.

The swarm economy is not about small details in what is happening right now. It is not about bitcoin. It is not about the fraud of the banking system, it is not about peer-to-peer file sharing, it is not about universal basic income. Not on their own, anyway. The swarm economy is all of these combined, and much much more.

We are already seeing how people have pet projects on the side of their (one) employment, and projects weave in and out of somebody’s life from time to time while they also change jobs and life situations. With increasing connectivity, this trend can be expected to accelerate toward a point where most people have some five to ten ongoing projects, some of which are paid and some are not, rather than having one “day job”.

This change – from one employment per person to some five to ten ongoing projects per person – fundamentally changes much society more than somebody “working extra” or “having two jobs”. It is a definite end to the industrial economy. Here are just a few of the changes that this means, all of which can already be observed here and there in the IT sector:

The end of fixed workplaces. People will work wherever they want, typically from cafés or other semisocial places. “Going to work” will not exist as a concept, with the exception of some service person-to-person jobs.

The end of fixed worktimes. People will not just work wherever, but also whenever they want – or however it fits together with the overall project team. Timezones will make sure that there will be no nine-to-five regime as people cooperate between Europe, North and South America, China, India, Australia, and so on, all at the same time.

There are many more, similar effects as “the one day job” disappears. It means a massive decentralization of the decisions taken to support the economy – hence my calling it the swarm economy. It is interesting to compare this to previous concepts.

Capitalism, when it works, is supposed to distribute resources optimally through decentralization of decisions. Various forms of corruption have hijacked legislations and markets that call themselves capitalist to instead concentrate resources where they are already gathered – “making the rich richer”, and making capitalism something of a dirty word – but in my mind, at least the decision decentralization idea rings very strong with pirate ideals.

However, the capitalism model has failed to predict what has already happened. Under the capitalist model, Linux and Wikipedia – 10,000s of volunteers who get together to create a product without pay, and where the product is so overwhelmingly good that it outcompetes the best commercial alternatives – simply do not happen. But they have already happened. This is consistent with swarm economy thinking.

At the same time, entrepreneurship is very strong with pirate ideals. We learn by doing and we don’t ask permission when we decide to fix something. We expect people to take initiatives on their own if they are displeased with something, and we want to promote risk-taking.

We know that the community which not just tolerates, but actively promotes risk-taking, is the community that comes out on top. In contrast, a society or community where people cannot afford to lose their current situation is a community without entrepreneurs and without innovation.

This leads to the most logical justification for Universal Basic Income yet: society as a whole benefits from a risk-positive environment, and if you can provide a mechanism where anybody can try any stupid commercial idea without risking becoming homeless and indebted, more people will innovate and take risks – and the society using this mechanism will get a competitive edge.

I imagine a Universal Basic Income (UBI) that replaces all current social safety nets, an unconditional income that is sufficient for a rental one-bedroom apartment in the medium-far suburbs of a relevant city plus enough to eat well and a to have modicum of tools to restart the next enterprise. Imagine a big red “economic reset” button where somebody resets their assets to zero after having failed with a startup, is assigned a one-bedroom apartment within commuter distance from a major city, and is allowed to keep some basic equipment to begin his or her the next project, hitting the ground running. Nothing would prevent two or more people pooling their UBI to live larger, et cetera.

As a pure bonus, this strife for long-term competitiveness also solves a lot of social problems such as homelessness. (Those who read Reddit know that people who can be homeless for a year or two and then get back on their feet, sometimes starting successful companies.)

Also, these mechanisms (personal bankruptcy and social security) already exist in essence. This would be a streamlining, quickening and simplification of the processes intended to speed up iteration times to the next startup.

It can be asked whether the Pirate Party and these observations and trends would be a left-wing or right-wing policy. But the point is moot: the left-to-right scale is based in the industrial economy, and these ideas are based in the observation that the industrial economy is disappearing. It makes no sense to ask how observations of a replacement system fits into a model that it replaces and obsoletes.

However, it can be observed that these ideas are at least compatible with free-market capitalism and with socialism, having a preference for strong and unregulated free market in combination with a very strong social safety net. However, the basis for our convictions are not the industrial-era “free market” nor the socialism-era “safety net”: it is the free-software ideal “decentralization of decisions” combined with the open-source ideal “promote risk-taking and optimize for competitiveness”. They just happen to land in similar policies, but from entirely different convictions that are based in the swarm economy rather than in the old industrial economy.

Obviously, a lot of vested interests will resist this change. In particular, labor unions will absolutely hate it, despite the fact that it finally “frees the worker from the shackles of capital”, as they would have put it in their ideology. The reason labor unions will fight it tooth and nail is because the change simultaneously makes them obsolete, and their own power has become more important over the decades than winning their end goal.

Let’s see if today’s Canutes can order the tide held back.

Rick Falkvinge

Rick is the founder of the first Pirate Party and a low-altitude motorcycle pilot. He lives on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, Germany, roasts his own coffee, and as of right now (2019-2020) is taking a little break.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    That also addresses in part the question of “how do I find meaningful employment” in a world with mostly McJobs on offer: create your own, or join with a self-selected group.

    1. Telzey Amberdon

      The interesting thing about this McJob problem is that McDonalds, et al, will have to start offering a decent pay packet to lure people into working for them. I mean, freed from having to work at a McJob in order to survive, who would want to work in that environment unless someone paid you well to do it?

      1. gurrfield

        Some would be willing to do that at least some hours a day to be able to afford anything more than food and shelter. Any level higher than that for universal basic income would not be politically realistic. People want to afford luxuries such as mobile phones, flat screen TVs, cars, trips, alcohol, nice clothes et.c.

        Commericals worked well enough to make people want to consume luxuries throughout the 20th century to keep the economy going (at least in the “west”). The current development with “personalized advertisements”, centralized social medias et.c. will only (and already have!) reinforced those mechanisms even further.

        There is no need for humiliation and threats to starve or freeze – if anything such measures are counterproductive as the only things still having a value is the kind of work which requires peace of mind to accomplish…

        There’s enough of an incentive to get the latest clothing brands , TVs and mobile phones and being able to look cool among their friends and neighbours.

        Fear of unemployment has become much more of a drag down than a motivator…

  2. steelneck

    At large I agree, but i think you are exagerating a bit in that the industrial model will disappear. Many times it helps to look at history, most changes has happened before, but in another context related to that time. The industrial model will not disappear more than farmers disappeared when society became industrial. There will still be some people working at the same place most of their lives, but not as many, just as there still are farmers more than a hundred years after the industrial revolution, but there are not many of them today. This is the same kind of shift. But you are not alone, most people do exagerate, some out of fear and others like you looking forward. I belive the fear factor among a lot of people also can be important to remember for someone like you who try to make opinion, “go extinct” or “disappear” are stong words that will create opposition to the opinion in question, easy to avoid by just chosing words that are a little bit less of the “sky is falling” kind for the fearful kind.

    I even expect a little more industry in the future, but not exactly the same kind of industry that we usually associate with the word. The last two decades we have seen quite a bit of outsourcing, usually to countries with very low wages. But those places are just going through the same development cycle that we once did, but they are doing it faster since they do not have to reinvent the wheel. So their standard of living are improving, so does education and their wages. The result is that it will not be quite as profitable to ship products half around the world, leading to homesourcing. This is something we will see more of in the future, and this manufacturing will not move home to the dirty factories of yeasterday, not the society of yeaterday either for that matter. This will have a lot of good effects. Those far away of course like to rise their standards of living and be educated, that in turn is known to be _the_ best recepie against to much population growth, especially when it “strikes” women. The environment will also benefit from less transportation cirkus and from manufacturing moving to new factories. Manufacturing that probably will treat people more as that than like machines as it was under the industrial era.

    1. Jungle Dave

      Rick’s a politician. Guess who resorts to inflated rhetoric? Yup, politicians.

      1. Wendy

        Well, yes, but he’s so caught up in his ideological vision he just hasn’t thought it through. Basic Income doesn’t add up on any level. Why aren’t we discussing Middle-out economics? That’s a more Pirate approach.

    2. Chichachachi

      I know I’m being pulled into a side-discussion here, but I cannot resist.

      There are still farmers? You must be joking. There are more people locked away in prison than those who farm. And these farmers would hardly be recognizable to farmers just a dozen decades ago. If by “farmer” you mean manager of a thousand acre+ properties, a master’s degree, and computerized, GPS-enabled robot tractors then yes, they still “exist.”

      The idea that the world is going to become enlightened, start using energy “correctly” just like the western geniuses, and become a bunch of educated, meat loving (meat is connected to status and wealth – most vegetarianism is not by choice) will never complete.

      This little fantasy, where societies are going to start getting more self-reliant, is little more than that. Oil is enormously energetic and as long as we can find a little more to burn we’ll use it on stupid projects. The USDA just authorized shipping US killed chickens to China for processing and shipment back to fast food restaurants everywhere! When that kind of idiocy becomes too expensive there’s going to be collapse, not a bunch of people sustaining the status quo with 3D printers.

  3. J

    “an unconditional income that is sufficient for a rental one-bedroom apartment in the medium-far suburbs of a relevant city plus enough to well and a to have modicum of tools to restart the next enterprise”. I think UBI is a great idea, but what about those who think there should be more people on this planet and have way too many kids? Personally I’m not a fan of reproduction, but a UBI wouldn’t work for human advocates. Unfortunately there is still a LOT of people on this planet who think that procreating is their main purpose in life.

    1. Corwin

      We have a tried, tested, empirically proven method to solve that : educating the women. Yeah, there’s always the outliers, but generally, and historically, a woman able to read and count to 28 won’t accept to destroy her body by spawning a baby every year.

      1. Anonymous

        It isn’t all that unusual for educated western women to have two or three children, and just one child is enough to mess up the idea that a UBI which provides enough for a student-type apartment is sufficient across the board. (i make some suggestions for partial solutions in the aunt-post (3.2), which I won’t repeat here.)

        1. Wendy

          UBI is unsustainable because it’s aimed at everyone, not just those who need it. The main problem I have with it is that it’s one size fits all. Human lives are more complex than that.

          A robust tax-funded welfare state is a better solution, with targeted programs to help people help themselves.

          We already have grants, loans, and crowdfunding for entrepreneurs. UBI would not improve on this or make anyone more entrepreneurial.

    2. Anonymous

      I think that can be dealt with by a mixture of education, support, propaganda and incentives:

      * mandating proper sex ed in schools (including homeschooling) with no opt outs (those goddamn robot babies are a rather good argument for contraception, even to middle-school aged children).
      * free at the point of use access to abortion on demand, even for underage girls, with (almost) no questions asked. (Even girls below the age of medical competence should have access without parental consent, on the grounds that abortion, especially at an early stage, is going to be less harmful than having a baby at a young age.)
      * free access to contraception, without parental approval (it takes an awful lot of contraceptives to come close to the subsidies for a single unwanted baby)
      * anti-natal advertising.
      * a secular education system to minimise the ability of parents to raise children in a bubble isolated from the real world.

      Regarding the cost of children, IMO the minimum wage or UBI (if you have a UBI, a minimum wage becomes less important) should be sufficient for one adult to raise one child at an acceptable standard of living, so if you want a child it comes out of your beer money. if you want more children than you can afford, the government should lend you the money, then clim it back though the same mechanisms (but with perhaps a less extreme interest rate) as a child support debt once the children are of age (at which time you should have additional disposable income to pay off the debt).

  4. Idee

    You even have to go one step further: You don’t need money any more.
    There are already some keys to that step:
    1. 3D-Printer
    You can print organic and anorganic things wherever you are and how rich/poor/intelligen/dump you are. You only need some mats and energy for your thing to print just in case the public printer is out of order. 🙂 When you are “x-rayed” (at the airport) you have scanned your teeth/bones to replace broken ones in the future.
    2. Subsidies/Subvention
    Some economies produce things and sell them with dumping prices at other markets.
    The new treaties coming from the world commercial agreements implement already dumping prices in solar modul sector. Since the beginning of the year the price drops down to a dummped 75 Cent each modul. With the agreements the moduls costs 25% less: 55 Cent each modul.
    Food – ready to eat – is offered cheaper on markets they can’t even produce the raw mats for that.
    3. Interest rate (%) on capital
    Some banks offer already negaitve interest rate capital, they pay investors if they only do business with these banks. You even can notice the annual percentage rate dropped down to 0,00% these days to buy anything from your store at your place and not online.
    4. Loan and Swap communities
    You need not to buy some things. There are citizens around you which give their things away, library like. Some things have a long duration and aren’t obsolete that soon, like books or copies.
    …well that are just some keys…it only depends on our mind if we need this kind of drug called money in the future.

    1. next_ghost

      I believe that 3D printers will be the tool which will get us out of this economic mess (unless we lose the fight for our rights which we’re fighting today against governments and big corporations). However, 3D printers aren’t anywhere near where they need to be for that. And they won’t get there for another 30 years. Until then, we’ll need money because we’ll need to buy stuff from others.

  5. Zirgs

    What you are suggesting is the plain old communism.
    I get minimum income and can contribute nothing back.

    Yeah – sure – some people will work to get something more.
    But a lot of people will not and just leech off of the hardworking part of society.

    Soviets already tried that.
    And productive and hardworking people did not leave that country simply because armed guards did not let them out.

    What will you do to keep productive people from emigrating from your communist state?
    Without resorting to totalitarianism?

    1. Billy

      Automation of many tasks in the necessary primary industries can already be done, farming, mining and manufacturing have all had robots developed which could replace the work done by human beings.

      This will mean that in the short-term, people will lose jobs, and in the medium-term, because people cannot afford to buy things, that the economies collapse.

      UBI is an method that will avoid the alternatives that were tried in the 20th Century.

      We’ve had the technological capability to feed, clothe, house and educate everyone on the planet since the 1850’s.

      We need to stop acting as though we are living in the Age of Scarcity, and start living in the Age of Abundance.

      1. Sound and Fury

        This is simply not true. “Scarce” (in the economic sense) does not mean “there’s not much of it”, just “it’s finite”. As long as there are humans, there will be conflicting desires; the market is the efficient solution to that problem. And we certainly don’t have the capability to give everyone on the planet the lifestyle that someone in a developed Western country would think of as ‘minimally decent’.

        If you’re willing to give 90% of your income to Africa, live off soybeans, not own a computer, washing machine or fridge — that’s your prerogative. But there’s nothing altruistic about forcing someone _else_ to give _their_ money. UBI, like all transfers mediated by coercion rather than voluntary exchange, will have costs far exceeding its benefits. As any Chicago-school economist could tell you.

        As for your prediction of the “collapse” of economies (which sounds a lot like Marx’s predictions a century ago — you may notice that it was communism, not capitalism, that “collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions”), you seem not to realise that automating an industry is only profitable if the workers thereby released can find gainful employment elsewhere. Otherwise, the wage rate gets competed down until the workers are cheaper than robots (which require electricity, maintenance, supervision — robotic labour isn’t free!) and equilibrium is restored.

        The only way in which automation can lead to structural unemployment is through minimum wage laws – these (especially when combined with labour laws and regulations that greatly increase the cost of an employee above his wages; in socialist Europe, the overhead is nearly double the wage for unskilled labour) essentially disemploy the poor by preventing them from being hired at the wage they’re worth. This, incidentally, is why youth unemployment in Greece is now 60%.

        1. next_ghost

          I’ll let you in on a secret: human labour isn’t free either. People need to eat, they need a home and they need to rest. The whole point of minimum wage is to ensure that people can afford all that. When the market equilibrium comes into conflict with minimum wage, it usually means that employers would make profit at the expense of their employees’ health. (Greek minimum wage is probably an exception to this rule but that’s for a different debate.)

          Don’t treat the market equilibrium as some sort of holy cow. Not all equilibria are equal. “The Market” is nothing more than a huge online system ( As such, it is subject to severe limitations on what kinds of equilibria it can reach.

    2. phyrezo

      “What will you do to keep people from emigrating from your communist state?”

      THis is a funny point, as most of the time the question is the opposite “how will you avoid the whole world to come into your state”

      Your point has been put forward so many times and has been proven to be false. This is trivial motivation theory. People do not stop to work when they get a minimum income.

    3. LennStar

      “But a lot of people will not and just leech off of the hardworking part of society.”
      Why should they if they don’t have it in the past? It is already possible to do this. In Germany since 1963, to be precise. (A bit harder in the last 10 years.)

      And even if they do “leech”, they will buy things – which is what is financing the model.

  6. next_ghost

    Rick, I don’t believe in UBI for two main reasons:

    1) When I run the numbers for Czech republic (10 million people, average monthly wage about 24k CZK, median monthly wage about 20k CZK, annual government budget of 1,2 trillion CZK), UBI could be at most 10k CZK per person per month. That’s only slightly more than minimum wage (8,5k CZK). If we don’t want to blow the entire government budget just on UBI, it’ll be much less than minimum wage, probably even less than the long-term unemployed single childless people get on social benefits today.

    2) Even if we somehow manage to make the individual payments through UBI big enough to make a difference, it won’t last for long. Current economy has a rather tight feedback loop which closely ties reasonable living standard with average income. When you offset the average income by paying UBI to everyone, the feedback loop will try very hard to make that extra money go away through inflation and other market forces.

    It’ll be much more effective if we try to change the rules of the economic game through other means.

    1. LennStar

      1) I will not use the excact numbers. Instead look at relative numbers, this works for all countries.
      Industrialised countries have a all-taxes (public expenditure quota, german: Staatsquote) rate between 40% and 60%. That is used for *all* costs. With a UBI that cost should not increase (much).
      In Germany that p.e.q. is 45%. At the same time the per-capita transfer of money is about 600€ (+health cost, which is the same in all models). So on average every German could get a UBI of ~600€ without more costs. Today. (FYI: Thats about the same as the average current money you get from the lowest unemployment benefit).
      Only the distribution is different: children get a lot less, retired people more.

      At the same time you could save a lot of state-money in the distribution. EVERY payment from the state would be reduced by this amount.
      If you change the taxation system, you could save even more (and can reduce the need of doing a finance report to about 10% of the population btw.)

      2) thinking error (look above): It is not extra money, not at average. It is foremost a very easy substitution of existing transfers.
      And of course it would instituted in little steps so that everyone has time to rearrange with the changes (“the market” included).

      1. next_ghost

        1) The form of the real income change doesn’t matter. If you raise taxes, prices will go down to compensate the decrease in demand. If you lower taxes, prices will go up to compensate the increase in demand. If you start paying out UBI, prices will go up to compensate increase in demand. The underlying reason is that money is just a bunch of virtual numbers that need to match the amount of stuff in the physical world. “The market” is just a very complex system capable of enforcing that match. If the amount of physical stuff doesn’t change, any change to the amount of money will have very little effect (unless the change is so big that it outright crashes the market, then the change forces a huge decrease in the amount of physical stuff).

        2) The pace of change is mostly irrelevant to the end result. It affects only how unstable the market will become while the change is taking place.

    2. Anonymous

      Remember that for those earning a significant wage, their UBI is simply an automatic tax refund – you can raise ether taxes by that amount and they’d have the same take-home pay as before.

      Also, a sufficient UBI allows a whole host of tax credits, welfare payments, and so on to be abolished, along with all the inspectors, auditors, customer service staff, and so on, so most of the social security department and a big chunk of the tax office are now redundant.

      Also, if you want economic arguments for it – Friedman supported negative income tax, which works out as much the same thing depending on how the tax levels are set under UBI and Hayek supported it except that he supported open borders even more.

      (Interestingly, Heinlein’s first novel was a pro-UBI tract, with an even thinner covering of story than Glory Road had over it’s propaganda.)

  7. Gordon Rae

    A few corrections, of a historical and empirical nature

    1: First, under the capitalist model, Linux and Wikipedia DID happen. Your thoughts are an example of finding an idea that works in practice, and debating whether or not it would work in theory.

    2: Secondly, the swarm economy WAS predicted as a consequence of the capitalist model. it was one of the main reasons that religious conservatives found the economic changes of the 17th and 18th centuries so threatening and a-moral. Voltaire wrote about it in his ‘Philosophical Dictionary’ (1764) where he claims that toleration and an interest in commerce made Ebgland a peaceful and prosperous society.

    3: The large managerial hierarchies of the 19th and 20th centuries were NOT predicted by the capitalist model. We had to wait until 1937, and Ronald Coase’s ‘The Nature of the Firm’ for an explanation of why big firms had economic advanatges.

    In the internet era, size no longer has the same advantages, and many scholars (Tom Malone, Yochai Benkler, to name but two) have predicted the rise of new business models.

    4: The most pertinent criticisms of capitalism in the last five years have been directed at the Chicago school and Milton Friedman, for the monetarism that inspired Reagan and Thatcher, and the ‘Shareholder Value Theory of the Firm’. I’ll just say that those ideas were unknown to capitalists before the late 1960s, and they seem to have have fallen apart in half the time the Soviet Union did.

    Apart from that , thank you for an excellent article. Onwards!

  8. Unionize the Unemployed!

    Unions will not oppose the UBI. That’s just crazy.

    The UBI is left-wing because it strips away power from owners. I suggest you read Corey Robin’s book (The Reactionary Mind) to get a better grasp of the left/right divide.

    1. LennStar

      And I suggest you look at basic psychology 😉 People have a surprising hard time accepting something if their ability of getting money would disappear with the change.

      (Anyone thinking “music industry” right now?)

      1. Unionize the Unemployed!

        “People have a surprising hard time accepting something if their ability of getting money would disappear with the change,” certainly.

        A basic income guarantee would not hurt the ability of workers in unions to get money. Why would you think that it would? That’s the crazy part.

        In fact, a basic income guarantee would only strengthen the negotiating position of unions, not to mention workers in general.

        [Here’s hoping someone cleans up my duplicates… and fixes the problem that led to them.]

        1. Idee

          What is the difference between those (1, 2) ?
          “Fed-Bank” print money and “borrow” that both:
          1. other banks
          to pimp up one adict with incredibly huge wages + bonus and with the remaining money he gambles with help of one-click-start-algorithm-program for highfrequent stock exchange trades.
          2. government
          to pay lots of – formerly known as algorithm – people incredibly small subsidies with sanctions just at high of the so called human dignity.

          I haven’t read that book you mentioned above, but i suggested he didn’t mention the combination of the globalisation and Moore’s law (double computing efficiency). Realy everyone can use computer without reading the manual or being educated in reading/writing/math.
          Your left and right wing thing is stone aged. People in developed country have to compete against
          – never sleeping/eating/sicking machines doing much better work in much less time
          – workers in emerging/undeveloped nations/regions
          – their own and one’s own property obsolescence
          These workers have to fail competition from start on.

          You say that this will withdraw power from owners. But it is the contrary. When mind is free and not burdened with work machines can do better in less time the more people get more creative/innovative in social, economic and ecological ways. This will all people get into a new age and not only a “quantum jump”.

          BUT this will only happen when you simultanously lower the restrictions doing copies of today’s knowledge.

    2. Peter Andersson

      Of course they will – just look at how the feminist “union” parts of european socialism democracy has wrestled shortened work weeks out of their parties programs. They don’t want women (and men) to be at work six hours a day, thirty hours a week (as was a standard claim in the 70s), they wan’t them to be at work at least eight hours a day and fourty hours a week plus regular overtime – because the more time workers spend at work the more power workers unions and socialist worker’s parties get to have over their way of thinking about work, i.e thought that can relatively easier be transformed into votes.

      1. Unionize the Unemployed!

        “the more time workers spend at work the more power workers unions and socialist worker’s parties get to have over their way of thinking about work, i.e thought that can relatively easier be transformed into votes.”

        Still sounds crazy to me.

        1. Peter Andersson

          Every survey ever done about it here in Sweden that I’ve heard about showed clearly that a majority of women would rather have shorter work days than lowered taxes and/or the normal yearly payraise.

          Yet it was the women’s organization within the Social Democrats that made sure the long standing demand for a 6 hour workday was dropped from their program, so too it was with the Communist party and even the outright small feminist party called F!

          The only party in Sweden that still holds a version of that demand are the Greens – and they are under hard pressure from the Social Democrats to drop it so that the difference between them on that can’t be upplayed and exploited by the other side in next years election campaign.

          Think about it…

  9. Ano Nymous

    If well-behaving competent people on well paid, non-boring jobs either constantly quit or are constantly fired, doesn’t that signal that there’s a huge problem, rather than that “times are changing”? Don’t people behave? Can’t they do their jobs? Aren’t they paid enough? Are they bored? Or is there something completely different that is the problem? What?

    1. David Gerard

      Charlie Stross outlines how the swarm economy was deliberately created by the neoliberals to send value from the workers up to the superrich. Rick is not clear here on whether he is advocating it as a good idea, or just accepting it as part of the landscape.

      tl;dr we’re not all young, secure dot-com startup workers, nor is it reasonable to assume we should or can be.

      1. Googla

        Swarm economy is nothing new its been around for hundred of years if not thousands.
        But typical that the Neoliberals think they invented it. Rick by the way is an exampel of a Swedish neoliberal or as he prefers to call himself Ultracapitalist.

  10. xylothek

    ” ‘Going to work’ will not exist as a concept, with the exception of some service person-to-person jobs.”

    “Some?” 80% of U.S. jobs are in the service industries, and that percentage is rising. (My sources are the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.) A few of these services (e.g., financial, computer support) can be provided remotely, but services that can be provided remotely can be provided at less expense by people in Indian call centers.

    Good thing there are so many of us peons to grow your food, fix your car, teach your children, and serve your coffee while you sit in your “cafes and other semi-social spaces” and trash labor unions.

    1. David Gerard

      Indeed. “We will keep screwing you over” may not be a useful message for the Pirates.

  11. Idee

    @all and specially to @next_ghost
    When you plug a 3D printer wherever you want and print whatever you want, you don’t need money to buy and don’t need people to go anywhere to get it.
    If you see anything in the internet you just print it out; today only in 2D. But if you unlock knowledge and spread it like PIRATES want to do, 3D is coming more sooner than later. There are two things I would do:
    1. Get a “Babelfish” in every ear to drop down communication barrier:
    2. Work on 3D printer 2.0

    And don’t tell nobody wants to work anymore if there is no money. In Germany and i bet in any other country there are lots of million people doing lots of million hours in a voluntary job in a honorary office spending their time for a social reason. There is always someone who helps you with smaller and bigger hearts desires; but you have to tell what you want, only then it is most likely that another person will help you. If you do your wish to the stars you only get help from them. 🙂
    I wish you all would fly an ad-banner for the parlamentary election (Bundestagswahl) 22. September 2013 in favor for the PIRATES. Even when you have a non-german attitude or a non-german website, pls fly it, cause there is the european parlamentary election 2014, also.
    == Sorry Rick for this kind of advertising and kind of out of topic. ==

    1. next_ghost

      > When you plug a 3D printer wherever you want and print whatever you want, you don’t need money to buy and don’t need people to go anywhere to get it.

      Well, you wouldn’t need money to buy anything except the printing materials, electricity to power the printer and all the things that are beyond the printer’s capabilities. Right now, a typical US household would save between $1000 and $2000 per year by 3D printing as much as possible. It’s not even possible to print electronics yet. The future you’re talking about is at least 30 years ahead.

      1. Idee

        It is 3D printer 2.0 – StarTrek like. 🙂

      2. Googla

        I don’t think it will take 30 years more like 10. But the question is how much the raw material will cost and how much useless junk will be made with he printers just because its easy to make.

  12. Unionize the Unemployed!

    “People have a surprising hard time accepting something if their ability of getting money would disappear with the change,” certainly.

    A basic income guarantee would not hurt the ability of workers in unions to get money. Why would you think that it would? That’s the crazy part.

    In face, a basic income guarantee would only strengthen the negotiating position of unions, not to mention workers in general.

    1. Autolykos

      The point seems to be that UBI will strengthen the negotiation position of workers enough to make unions obsolete. This is a desirable outcome for everyone involved, except for the union bosses. Now guess who will oppose it.
      (btw, you see exactly the same effects with minimum wage. Unions tend to oppose it whenever they think they can get away with it because they would become less important).

  13. Unionize the Unemployed!

    [retrying this…]

    “People have a surprising hard time accepting something if their ability of getting money would disappear with the change,” certainly.

    A basic income guarantee would not hurt the ability of workers in unions to get money. Why would you think that it would? That’s the crazy part.

    In fact, a basic income guarantee would only strengthen the negotiating position of unions, not to mention workers in general.

    1. Unionize the Unemployed!

      Apologies for the double post. This blog is definitely broken. My replies are showing up as new threads. On the first try, I thought maybe I had made the mistake; on the second, I’m certain I did not.

      (Perhaps it’s because I have javascript disabled?)

      This post is a reply to #13, so it should show as #13.1. We’ll see whether it does…

      (Url says …?replytocom=115612#respond and text above the reply box says “LEAVE A REPLY TO UNIONIZE THE UNEMPLOYED!”)

  14. Unionize the Unemployed!

    Aha! I hit “respond” to my latest test post (13.1), and the visible URL is now “…?replytocom=115613” but the box says “ADD A COMMENT” and not “LEAVE A REPLY TO …”. Now, this post will create a new thread, even though it’s a reply…

    Either way, I’ll stop spamming up the blog with these tests after this.

    1. Idee

      Perhaps, you have to activate the browser scripts properly, if you run NoScript. I have had same props but i wrote “@” to replace the non-functional “reply”.

  15. @JonathanRabbitt

    I’m not sure about the UBI. I am looking for the time where the notion of a mortgage on ones own residence, or renting from a landlord goes the way of the dodo. Both of these notions are feudal in nature, and are only sustainable when there is a functioning goon-squad, funded by an existence tax, there to defend the claims of the absentee-owners (bankers and landlords).

    What is needed is a universal credit system which totally supersedes the monopolized, nationalist credit system we have today. One day, our immediate peers will provide us with enough credit to support our day-to-day ‘cash flow’ needs. We won’t have to grovel to some psychopath in a suit at some stone edifice in the CBD. We won’t have to pay interest either, since the true wealth creation is a product of our creativity and it will be shared directly with our peers – those giving us credit to exercise our creativity.

    1. Sound and Fury

      This is laughably wrong. In the feudal system, the landlord’s power comes from the fact that his tenants (both retainers and tenants-at-will) are highly dependent on him: some are living on his charity, while others are barred by various “laws of settlement” from leaving. (You’d know this if you’d ever read the _Wealth of Nations_, which explicitly lays out the methods by which feudal lords controlled their tenants.)
      In our modern capitalist system, however, landlords have to compete for tenants, which, in the absence of distorting legislation like rent controls (and that does happen, but it’s the antithesis of free-market capitalism) ensures that accommodation is priced fairly.
      As for “grovelling to some psychopath in a suit at some stone edifice”, that sounds a lot more like the way we have to interact with a government bureaucracy, than a corporation which knows that we can always go down the street to its competitor.

      (Incidentally, there’s a great explanation, which I got from David D. Friedman, of why banks have big stone edifices — and it’s not the eeeevil-capitalists reason you’re thinking of. A bank’s business depends on trust, and a good way to gain someone’s trust is to precommit — to set up a means by which breaking your promises will cost you more than you can gain. A bank with an expensive stone building in the centre of town is essentially saying “We’ve sunk a lot of money into this branch, and if we ran off with your money and lost our reputation we’d lose that money too. So it’s not in our interests to run off with your money — which is how you know you can trust us not to.”)

      Lastly, interest is entirely fair, and exhibits the fact that people would rather have something now than wait for it. (The same is certainly true of you, personally; if it weren’t, you’d increase your investments and decrease your spending until, by diminishing marginal returns, you’d reached equilibrium, at which point your time preference discount rate would exactly match the market interest rate.) When someone lends you money, he is providing the service of _deferring his consumption_; in terms of net present value, he is actually creating wealth by doing so.

  16. Miha

    This is the first time I hear about UBI but … How can that be called risk taking if you can just fall back on UBI? The lifestyle an UBI promises would be good enough for a lot of people. If you can try and realize any kind of silly idea without some sense of responsibility, isn’t that just throwing resources that you’ve been given down the drain? This is why the risk has to be calculated and it needs to hurt in case of failure.

    Another thing, non-fixed working schedules is just an euphemism for obfuscated slavery. It’s already happening in the tech sector where you have to be reachable 24/7 and expected to work in case of emergencies. That is not respecting the employees–the human being–at all, so I understand why labor groups would have a field day with it.

    I also have serious doubts that this free-style of work will become anything more than a trend. It won’t fail because it’s impossible or because it doesn’t sound good (on paper), but because the majority has dreams of steady income and steady life. The “American dream” hasn’t died out, it’s just become that much harder to obtain (and I’m not american, but it’s something I see as ideal in a lot of cultures).

  17. Daft skunk

    Can’t see this happening. I’m not sure the sitting at a computer economy has long left

  18. Gnostic

    And who will bring in the taxes for this large project at gunpoint?
    Santa? God? Self appointed group called government?
    Elected by people who are allowed to vote but are not allowed to stay out of the system.
    It needs a system with monopoly of voilence and a central authority.
    If wikipedia and linux happened, a system without a government can happen.
    Read Larken Rose and watch some videos from Stefan Molyneux.

    1. next_ghost

      Stefan Molyneux is the best stand-up comedian ever. Particularly his vision of replacing government-funded army and police with private armies which will provide public security is pure comedy gold.

  19. Gnostic

    State funded = customer by force.
    Customer in an organisation that serves a few elite interests.
    What have this “customer by force” army done in the world the recent years?
    Add Blackwater and Halliburton and your comment is pure comedy gold.

  20. Abercrombie

    Plus tôt ce mois-ci Adidas a dit qu’il élevait ses objectifs delaware résultats fullYear après un troisième trimestre strongerthanexpected ainsi que neuf premiers mois.

  21. Ragnar Danneskjold

    It is possible in the distant future that all basic human needs (if we can ever agree on an absolute rather than relative definition of such) may be able to be provided on a totally automated basis by robotics. Under such a scenario, it may be possible to provide a UBI, *and* to have it cost so little in terms of taxes that the people paying for it won’t really notice the impact.

    That emphatically is NOT the case today, where the welfare state is threatening to bankrupt the entire Western world in the not too distant future. We DO need a number of economic reforms (designed to end cronyism and extend liberty and opportunity more broadly), but additional guaranteed benefits are counterproductive and will only add to the current problem.

    Necessity is the mother of invention – if you remove necessity, some will still innovate, but many more will stagnate because they no longer NEED to generate value in order to receive it. I personally know people like this, including ones with college degrees. Additionally, through UBI you set up a perverse incentive structure – you compensate non-innovative people for doing nothing, and punish innovators by making them pay for the non-innovators. Why work to eat, when you can eat for free? Under such a construct, I might take a highly creative and interesting job, but I definitely won’t become a janitor when I can live just fine without doing that work.

    While some people do need a “helping hand” AND will benefit from receiving it, such assistance works best in the context of an accountable personal relationship – something a big institution such as the government is woefully bad at providing. For that reason, I support private, accountable charities — but am strongly opposed to coercive welfare programs, including the proposed UBI.

    Happy to discuss further if desired.

    1. Anonymous

      >Why work to eat, when you can eat for free?

      Because you’d rather eat fillet of venison than mechanically recovered chicken paste?

      >Under such a construct, I might take a highly creative and interesting job, but I definitely won’t become a janitor when I can live just fine without doing that work.

      A lot of the minimum-skill, minimum-wage work could be practically automated, especially in newer facilities. The reason those jobs are not is because the government subsidises employing people to do them (in the form of income-support payments of various names).

      Conversely, a highly creative and interesting (but potentially low-paying) job is very likely to be the sort of thing which promotes the scientific or cultural life of the nation – which is a good thing.

      1. gurrfield

        Yeah. Most people would get damn tired of being poor in the long run and would want to work at least part time to be able to afford those little extra luxuries.

        “Conversely, a highly creative and interesting (but potentially low-paying) job is very likely to be the sort of thing which promotes the scientific or cultural life of the nation – which is a good thing.”

        Yes. And especially to get rid of the fear driven “work or suffer”. Fear kills creativity more efficiently than anything else ( that I know of ).

  22. wdwdad

    All hail the economy of the web developers!

  23. […] problem is the same as the “uncompensated artist” problem from filesharing: a universal basic income. Unfortunately, that’s it. There’s nothing more from a policy perspective that we can […]

  24. […] instinct is to just say that this is another infopolicy case for a universal basic income, to free up volunteers who are willing and able to perform these audits from the pressure of having […]

  25. […] More thoughts on the coming swarm economy […]

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