Hegemonic hierarchical institutions appear increasingly abusive in the face of falling profits and loss of control due to Internet-driven p2p commerce, communication, and production. The abusive practices include mass surveillance and censorship, cartelization or monopolization of industry, exploitative labor practices, widespread pollution of air, land, and water, and physical and psychological wars waged on not only social minorities and other oppressed groups but mainstream society as well.
As people experience the benefits of p2p relationships and develop a preference for them over relationships with hegemonic hierarchical institutions, they will be driven even further into the realm of p2p. This will lead to more interest in p2p social, legal, and technological protocols, further advancing their development and deployment worldwide.
While generally good for society as a whole by disintermediating third parties such as the aforementioned hegemonic hierarchical institutions, p2p poses challenges to entrepreneurs who are used to extracting profits/ rents by acting as “middlemen” to various types of transactions. Such business models include: software platform, notary, registry, brokerage, escrow agent, publisher, media broadcaster, telecommunications provider, mail carrier, most (if not all) business models that rely on intellectual property rights to enforce artificial scarcity, and many more.
This leaves an important question for the 21st century entrepreneur: how can one future-proof their business to avoid disintermediation, at least before initial investment costs can be recouped and some profit retained? This post will attempt to answer this question, by first making assertions about the future of the p2p economy and using these assertions to develop an actionable conclusion for entrepreneurs interested in serving the p2p economy.
- Wherever possible/profitable, middlemen will be disintermediated by p2p technology.
- Distributed-trust technologies make “trusted third party” intermediaries redundant.
- Third party cloud service providers will be disintermediated.
- Open source software will be used to create a distributed cloud storage network that replaces – or forces the evolution of – the Dropboxes and S3s of the world.
- Any software which requires a server will be hosted on decentralized cloud infrastructure.
- When costs can be reduced or eliminated by removing middlemen, people will act in their economic interest and remove the middlemen.
- If there can be an open source version of proprietary software, there will be an open source version – and it will eventually, inevitably be better than the proprietary version.
- Free open source software (FOSS) is cheaper and more secure than proprietary software in the long run, making it the software of choice for smart organizations. These organizations will commit and pool their resources to develop new FOSS applications based on proprietary software they are already using and improve existing in-use FOSS applications.
There is no profit in p2p infrastructure, which is decentralized and socialized by nature. Therefore, profit must be found in necessarily centralized end-point products and services used for production and participation in the p2p economy.
Such products include:
- Physical computers and their peripherals
- Routers, switches, modems, etc
- Cables connecting the end-points (some possibly disintermediated by wireless mesh)
- Security hardware
- 3D printers – extractive and additive – and their inputs
- Walkie-talkies/ two-way radios
- Urban farming systems
- Alternative energy systems
- Water filtration systems
- Autonomous vehicles (UAVs, cars, trucks, and other mobile robots)
- Production robots (manufacturing, farming, etc)
- Household robots (cleaning, preparing and serving food, pet care, etc)
Such services include:
- Legal assistance and representation (lawyers)
- Dispute resolution (mediation and arbitration)
- Physical-to-Digital Asset Gateways
- Physical and digital security
- VPNs (possibly disintermediated by Tor and other p2p anonymizing technology)
- Physical and (some) digital auditing + certification
- Open source project management, design, development, QA, etc
- Content production, editing, mixing
- Curation of goods and services providers (filtering signal from noise)
- Curation of digital content (“”)
- Important to note is that curation can be done in a crowdsourced, p2p way using voting systems similar to what Reddit offers, though centralized curation offers more control.
While the above listed items are specifically intended to be used for participation in the p2p economy, many goods or services not specifically intended for use by the p2p economy could also be included as ways to make a living. Those in lines of work that have existed since before the p2p takeover will experience varying degrees of improvements in standards of living as the profits which currently accrue to rent-seeking corporations are democratized and spread out amongst society. People can join or form voluntary mutual aid organizations that replace the unsustainable corporate-collective “cradle-to-grave” employment/ welfare system and ease hard times brought by recession, illness or injury, old age, and other sources of decreased income.
Virtually free education via the Internet means that anyone experiencing a downturn in business for any reason can quickly learn a new skill well enough to supplement existing income, and with lower barriers to entrepreneurship new ventures can quickly form to solve a problem and begin producing income. The minority of people who are used to artificially inflated profits will experience the “pain” of downsizing, but the majority previously kept out of the marketplace by artificial barriers to entry will experience a boost in productivity and standards of living as they are freed to innovate and serve the needs of their communities.
The p2p economy is not an end, but rather a means to an end: a more peaceful and prosperous world for everyone. The p2p economy is not a foregone conclusion either, and still requires much work to manifest this potential future. If you’d like to help create it, or are already working to create it, feel free to get in touch and share what you’re passionate about.