In the investigative-interactive game Global Alternative, the main objective is to develop a functioning and feasible alternative social and economic system based on 12 central rules. The problems to be solved in the game are therefore those of a fictitious, but simultaneously, plausible world. For the time being it will simply be called the ‘New World’.
But what about the game itself? The following narrative is intended to build a bridge to envisioning this New World. Part I describes how the system change came about. In Part II (currently still in progress) we will meet the protagonists Jonah, Toni and Micha, and together with them dive into the New World of the summer of 2028.
Unlike in many other similar computer games dealing with a fictional world, the New World is not located in a far-off future or on another planet, but of our own in the next few years. This allows the players to draw a direct comparison between the economic and social world they are living in now and the one they are about to create in the New World.
Narrative – Part I
The year is 2027.
Global warming and its associated weather disruptions are already severely affecting life on earth. As if in a tumultuous whirlwind, the effects of the overexploitation of the Earth’s natural resources coupled with those of the burning of fossil fuels, give us an initial glimpse of the world that had existed with humanity throughout its entire history of development, verging on the brink of collapse.
While growth has faltered in all of the national economies, there is certainly growth in catastrophes and troubles. Streams of refugees swell daily; financial crises shake nations; and civil wars are raging even in countries where this had seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. And again, wars are being fought over water and food resources.
In this respect, civilizational progress seems to have returned to the Stone Age.
However, the use of cyberwarfare and, above all, the imminent threat of nuclear weapons is anything but Stone Age.
In fact, and rather surprisingly, it is the peaceful use of nuclear fission that becomes the last drop in the barrel! In January 2027, a meltdown at a nuclear power plant occurs on the west coast of the USA, making large parts of the previously densely populated and industrialised area uninhabitable. The event deals another blow to a faltering superpower.
Strangely enough, it’s this accident that pushes people around the world to a tipping point even before the dwindling fish stocks do. The legendary youth movements ‘Fridays for Future’ and ‘Extinction Rebellion’, which had ardently radicalised themselves in 2022, but were then subsequently crushed globally in an act of rare unanimity, rise up again and mobilise billions of people onto the streets worldwide.
This is a revolutionary development, both in terms of numbers and in the content of their demands. With no ifs, ands, or buts, criticism is pointed against the present global economic system and the blind belief in the solutions of its supporters and agents. The promises of industrialised countries to be able to solve problems by means of market economy mechanisms are denounced as a malicious sham.
Eventually, a coordinated global wave of strikes begins, which abruptly brings the global economy to its knees.
But how could it have come to this?
Scientists from various fields try to find an answer to this question. What their analyses reveal was that the introduction of means of payment marked the beginning of the development that would lead to an economy based on money and profit. The financial system that resulted unleashed the enormous potential for the exploitation of human labour and creative power. This then became the foundation for unrestrained greed and the systematic destruction of our natural resources.
The logic inherent in the capitalist system prevented reform, since any substantial changes would acutely endanger the system as a whole. In other words, in order to survive as an economic system, capitalism had to be resistant to change.
Although there is no lack of criticism of this finding, there is widespread acknowledgement in academic circles of what could be described as the ‘problematic effects of monetary economics’. Finally, and with an overwhelming consensus, it is concluded, that even the simplest and most innocent trade equivalent contains a dangerous potential for accumulation, speculation and individual enrichment. Moreover, the indispensability of money as a regulator of supply and demand, which had been always invoked by economists, has become obsolete for the first time. The reason: with the help of the possibilities of IT, economic activity could be completely reorganised in such a way that sensible production tied to demand could be achieved worldwide. In addition, it could be used to coordinate and carry out projects of global interest in a much more effective way, since neither national nor corporate interests, monopolies nor patents would stand in the way. Examples of such projects are things like cultivation methods, water protection and its use, soil reclamation, reforestation, the use of fossil fuel sources and other raw materials. These would be supported by the use of scientific knowledge as well as the establishment of a sustainable transport and telecommunications network.
2027 then, is the year when the end of a world which once promised humanity eternal growth, prosperity and freedom begins to end; finally, and drastically. A three-month summit meeting in Sidney, Australia – one of the many coastal cities that had already been severely threatened by rising sea levels – is organised in July 2027, to which representatives of all nations as well as scientists from all over the world are invited to deal with the crisis. While people in the northern hemisphere are suffering from an extremely hot summer resulting in numerous fatalities, enormous forest fires are raging in Canada, Russia and southern Europe and a typhoon devastates Taiwan. In a valiant and desperate act, the participants struggle to come to the realization that only a transition to a global, self-organising society free of property and political governance can herald an eco-economic turnaround. (Verdict of Sidney in October 2027).
For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the production of goods, technology and knowledge should no longer be generated and used for profit, but should solely serve to supply everyone. While industrialisation once revolutionised production and created the market economy, communication and computer technology are now to herald in the next revolution towards the organisation of a society oriented towards the common good.
According to calculations, this reorganization would not only be relatively easy to implement but can be presumed that production will lead to a considerable conservation of nature, resources, human labour and time.
The Sidney verdict lays down 12 rules that are both innovative and fundamental for the change desired:
see: Rules of The Game
Here are a few extracts from the verdict:
Since every human being must realize that for the duration of his or her life, nature and the resulting things that are produced from it are only borrowed, the principle of property is abolished.Here are a few extracts from the verdict:
Possession in the sense of the enjoyment of material goods needed in everyday life and important for the preservation of health, privacy and intellectual interests is, however, regarded as a basic prerequisite for the prosperous development of each individual. The aim and natural interest of every community should therefore be to guarantee these basic possessions.
The preservation of the conditions of life on the planet is of the highest priority and is the self-evident goal of every Commons. This means:
– the conscious and considerate use of resources
– the conservation or restoration of natural habitats and eco-intelligent
– the revival of the psychological, social and cognitive qualities based on community cooperation and productive exchange
With the abolition of free-market production, in which wear and tear and waste were one of the conditions of profit maximization, the practical use of things – their utility value – as well as their durability and functionality are to regain the status they deserve.
The transition from the capitalist system to the new ‘world order’ initially requires only a few guidelines to be observed. However, despite numerous studies and projections, it is difficult to foresee how exactly the restructuring will take place and what difficulties can be expected.
Caution is the motto within the radicality of change.
At the beginning of the restructuring process, highest priority is given to the creation of meta-projects that will maintain power and network connections and ensure that global communication works.
Local projects (= self-organised, non-hierarchical groups with a maximum size of perhaps 200 people) are to be formed within the commons to organise production, distribution and maintenance of the infrastructure. Their task is to use the local conditions – including both geographical and climatic conditions as well as previous production facilities and processes – to contribute to the pool. The conversion to an ecologically sustainable production method is in the interest of every local project and every community.
One of the tasks of a local authority is to examine the local conditions to see whether they are suitable for initiating a new local project.
All products – including services, research results and cultural assets – are contributed to the global pool.
Each local community is responsible for contributing to the pool through its Local Projects, and must also ensure that its own infrastructure is maintained or expanded. In turn, people will join together in cross-regional meta-projects, e.g. to maintain the transport and communication system, carry out scientific projects, analyses and global studies, etc.
In principle, EVERYONE has access to the global pool, even if they are not able to make their own contributions. It is assumed that there are always serious reasons for non-contribution – such as natural disasters – and that deprivation is only an obstacle to solving local problems.
Full access to education, cultural assets and technological developments must be sought and maintained.
Consistent access to education and ‘world knowledge’ leads one to expect that populations will remain stable in numbers and that there will be a great interest in maintaining the homeostasis with nature and in societies, which is easier to achieve in this way.
These are the excerpts from the comprehensive verdict. What needs to be mentioned at this point is the fact that the change in 2027 is initiated with maximum discomfort. How could it be otherwise, since it is completely unpredictable how things will develop. What happens when suddenly EVERYTHING is different, when really absolutely none of the centuries-old rules of the old world apply anymore, when all domination and leadership is abolished, and even competition between nations no longer exists? Isn’t an unholy chaos to be expected?
Narrative -Part II: A New Era begins
(Sorry for this late appearance of the narrative continuation)
Jonathan wants to join in in a game about the organization of a future possible society, which sounds really appealing to him.
He opens a menu which offers an option for the tutorial ‘Getting started’, where he is introduced to the two levels in which he can participate in the game. Level One is for the Commons, otherwise known as the “Allmendes”. A world map then appears, on which the Allmendes that already exist are displayed. If one of them is chosen, a lot of important information about it is presented: for example, the number of members, existing projects, planned projects, geographical locations, infrastructure, climate, natural features etc. One can then use this information in deciding which one to join. However, there is also the possibility of creating a personal profile that lists what they can do, what they would like to achieve, or what is important to them in order to receive suggestions for an Allmendes that best matches their profile.
Level Two is for metaprojects. Metaprojects deal with transregional and global tasks: for example, maintaining the communication network, organizing transportation or coordinating the world’s resources. Metaprojects also deal with the collection of bioecological and meteorological data and the development of ecologically appropriate use and application models in cooperation with the Allmende. This is particularly important for managing agriculture and the water supply. Metaprojects also deal with conflict management between and within the Allmendes and the joint development of solution models. This is only a small list of what one can be involved in.
Jonah has decided to choose his Allmende based on its geographical location and his language skills. He selects ‘Europe’ (see 4th rule), browses through various Allmendes, reads their information and finally decides on the Allmende ‘Bonjour’ in a medium-sized city. He realises that If he does not like it there, he of course always has the possibility to change to another one. If that happens, he has decided that he will choose one in ‘Peru’ next.
He taps on the Allmende and an overhead view appears with the request to listen to a short tutorial where the rules of the game are introduced and explained to him. It is suggested that he registers to have a guide in the Allmende to help introduce and integrate him. If one is not presently available, he can submit a request for one, and may have to wait a little longer to start. Allmende-Guides are always members of the respective Allmende, who are happy to share their knowledge and are also up to date with any and all of the latest developments there.
Of course, he is also free to explore the Allmende on his own. This requires more time and effort and is less productive, but there is no need to wait for a guide to get started.
And Jonah gets lucky! Two members of the Allmende immediately contact him. In a good mood he goes to ‘My Personal Start’. And suddenly finds himself on a square lined with 3 and 4-story buildings with a street leading past it. He looks around. Apparently, it is autumn here too – just like where his PC is located …
Jonah is then welcomed by Toni and Micha.
Micha: Hello, so you’re Jonah! Welcome to Bonjour and to our neighbourhood-Allmende! What would you like to do first? Shall we show you around and tell you something about our community at the same time?
Jonah: Hi! Absolutely! I already know quite a bit about Bonjour from your information board.
Micha: Great. Maybe you would like to have a look around right here? We are on one of the many small squares that the city has now. Over there is north!
Jonah looks completely around. To the north, in the background he can see the tops of a church and two towers and the top floors of skyscrapers. To the east, he sees a few hills, which also extend to the south and are mostly covered with smaller buildings. He notices a radio tower. To the west it is relatively flat. In the far distance he sees two cooling towers. Jonah’s gaze remains fixed on them.
Jonah: Is that the nuclear power plant there?
Micha and Toni nod.
Toni: You have informed yourself about Bonjour quite well already. Then you probably also know that this plant is one of the bigger problems we have to deal with here.
Jonah: Indeed. Actually, I have been thinking about getting involved.
Micha: Oh, that would be great! Do you have any ideas or experience with nuclear power plants?
Jonah: Well, I’m a mechanic and I’ve had a job in a nuclear power plant before. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about them too.
Toni: A good prerequisite. If you want, there’s a lot more you can learn it on our nuclear power plant project page.
Jonah: Absolutely. But not right now, right? I mean, at the moment I’m more curious about the Allmende and Bonjour.
Micha: That’s what we are here for, to help you pursue this curiosity. So, what is your first impression when you look around here?
Jonah: Hmm, well, everything seems pretty familiar, but at the same time a lot of things are a bit strange.
Jonah notices that there are still some logos, illuminated advertising and signs with names like ‘Tchibo’, ‘Sinn und Leffers’ and ‘Starbucks’ present from businesses from the old world on some of the buildings. What is inside them now is not quite visible at first glance. Plants are growing on many of the facades and some from balconies, which are still low. The square itself has a corner with five large trees, under which benches, tables and other seating and lounging areas can be found. Two table tennis tables, a chessboard and a long, covered sandbox complete what’s on offer. On the opposite side of the square there is a small fenced-off area. Jonah points to it.
Jonah: What is being done there?
Toni: Cable work. The row of houses over there has no internet access at the moment. It’s not too big a deal because the neighbours help each other out, but ultimately, the idea is that everyone has access at all times. Overall, though, the network is being used less than before.
Jonah: Why? Don’t tell me there aren’t games anymore!
His guides grin.
Micha: That would be something: We’re here in a game in the future where there are no more games? (laughs) No, of course there are games. Lots of them! If you have an idea for one, you can even start your own project and see if you can find enough other people who’d like to join in. Programming is also an educational subject that is permanently offered, and anyone can learn it here at any time. Nevertheless, we are still not quite sure why usage has declined, but for the moment it has. Perhaps other interests have become a priority.
Jonah (thoughtfully): Hm … But tell me: is it always so quiet here? I find it downright eerie.
Micha: You arrived exactly at noon, which is when most people eat. And because it has already gotten quite cool, they’re eating inside. Don’t worry, it will soon get busier…
The unmistakable ringing of a tram can be heard, and all three turn around.
Toni: Come on, let’s get off the tracks.
Jonah: Wow! so there is a tramway here!
Micha: Yes, preserving it was one of our first decisions. Currently, there is a project to lay down new tracks and another meta-project to build more engines and carriages. Otherwise there is not much traffic here, apart from lunch time.
Jonah: So, most of the people are at home now?
Toni: At home? – no, only a few of them still eat there as there are common kitchens everywhere. Of course, if you want, you can still prepare your food at home.
Jonah: Ahhh, I see. So that’s how it is. I don’t like to cook anyway (laughs), so I will certainly use that offer. But anyway, with the wagons… I have read about meta-projects. What
contribution does your community make in the production of the carriages? How does it work?
Micha: Two members of our community are engineers in product assurance. In addition, we use a plant here to produce the windows for them.
Jonah: I see. Is there such a thing as a central factory?
Micha: Yes, sure. It is located in a city 130 km away. As our local community works closely together on the production of windows and because of the expertise of the two of our people who are involved, a van goes out there every two days.
Jonah: Why only every two days? Wouldn’t it be better if they just moved there?
Micha: That decision is up to each individual. As long as an ecological balance is maintained, such trips are still allowed. The finished windows are also taken along, so, in this case it is alright. In addition, there are currently 5 young people who would like to acquire specialized knowledge are taking part in a kind of training program.
Jonah: Something else I’d like to ask about. You say training. But is there such a thing as degrees or certification?
Micha: No, not like in the past. What you get now after an apprenticeship, if you want to call it that, is a confirmation that the knowledge and skills have been demonstrably acquired. Take Alisha, one of these 5 young people, for example. Before that, she had trained in electromechanics and voluntarily had her knowledge in this field checked. These kinds of tests are more like a sport, as in: “Am I ready to take the challenge or do I have to repeat the training? Regardless, she is fascinated by the subject, and now wants to work on the further development of drive systems for locomotives. Which she will undoubtedly succeed in doing.
A delivery van drives by. Jonah looks at it with interest because it is audibly a diesel, but then becomes distracted by a flood of voices that suddenly appear behind him. Turning around, he sees adults and children leaving one of the buildings and suddenly, there is life on the square. Some of the adults and teenagers gather smaller children around them and disappear with them into an adjacent building. Even from a distance you can see that it is colourful inside – not only the windows are painted, but also the outside wall.
Jonah: Is that a kindergarten?
Toni: Hm, yes, I guess you could call it that, even if the garden is only one part of it.
Micha (laughs): But Toni, have you already forgotten that this is a term from the old world and had nothing to do with gardens?
Toni scratches his head.
Toni: Oh ok, sure. Kindergarten is a nice word actually. But before we get stuck on the subject: This place is actually for parents who want their children to be cared for. Parents and children can choose from a morning or an afternoon program. For parents, of course, it is perfect for if they want to do their Allmendes work. For each adult, this is currently still around 12 hours per week.
Jonah: 12 hours…I’ve read about that. And it should become even less. Wow! That’s really cool!
Toni: Well, yes, that remains to be seen. We are still hard at work building things up, and sometimes it’s necessary that many people have to suddenly help at once.
Jonah: I can imagine.
Micha: And while we are still on the subject of children – we do have schools in this world, too! For the time being anyway as we still haven’t come up with a better concept…But as far as teaching is concerned, we are constantly exchanging ideas with the 15 other Allmendes in the city, because we are still experimenting a little bit and cooperating on the project with others across the city. But remember, not only the experiences of our city Allmendes are available, but also those that are currently being made worldwide. Anyway, priority has been given to the realization that clear and reliable structures are still important, at least for children up to the age of puberty. That is why there are still set lessons for them, but only from 9 a.m. in the morning or from 2 p.m. in the afternoon and for a maximum 3 to 4 hours per day, which means they have most of their time free. But of course, if curiosity strikes them, they can also take advantage of the general education on offer that already exists, for example attending a seminar or trying out different things in crafts.
Micha: Well, what used to be school, university and apprenticeships, we have now tried to organize a little differently. Basically, the entire range of courses is open to everyone, regardless of age and previous education. A meta-project is responsible for its organization. Anyone who is not sure in how it works can get advice there.
Jonah: That’s really interesting. So, if I wanted, I could go now and attend physics lectures, for example? Or math? And then after, I could take an electrical course or something? Or learn how to teach? Cool!
Toni: Yeah, exactly. However, like I said, it’s all still under construction, both in terms of the premises and what’s on offer.
Micha: It has more or less been decided on though, that we will convert the former bank building into a school. There was no university here in the city, so there were no pre-existing buildings and equipment that we could use. But to answer your question: in principle, yes, whatever you would like to learn, you can learn. You will have plenty of time for that.
Jonah: How does that work here in the game? Because even if I would love to only have to work 12 hours a week in my real working life, I certainly couldn’t invest 12 “working hours” in a game.
Toni: It’s good that you ask that question. Of course, work processes can only be represented in the game in a formalized way. Let me illustrate this with an example. You said that you are interested in participating in the dismantling of the former nuclear power plant. If you decide to stay with that, you will be informed immediately about the current state of affairs, for example that this and that has been done, with ‘X’ amount of people involved, the tasks still remaining, or the problems that still have to be dealt with… Every project invites you to bring in your own thoughts and suggestions and also asks how many hours you would be willing to work on it.
Jonah: And how do you know …ah, of course…from experience, data and logarithms you can then calculate how much working time is needed, right?
Jonah: And what about the so-called “problems”?
Micha: First of all, we do research and correspond with other active projects to find out which approaches for solutions exist so far and whether one of them can be implemented under the given conditions. If not, and sometimes new problems arise, a local group discusses the problem in a goal-oriented way and tries to find a solution. If this is not possible, the search for a solution is then expanded globally.
Jonah: How can real problems appear in the game? I mean, how is possible?
Toni: Only through extrapolations. A simple example: To cool the fuel elements in the cooling reservoirs, water from the river is used. But due to this year’s hot summer, the water has warmed up so much that it has increasingly become unsuitable for cooling. Currently, the project does not know how to solve the problem. An initial round of ideas – you would have been invited to participate – would be completed and then presented. In addition, the problem, including extensive data and information on the local bio-geological conditions, will be published on the net and thus an inquiry will be sent to any other projects dealing with the dismantling of nuclear power plants.
Jonah: Oh, cool. That means that empirical and scientific values from all over the world would be coming in.
Jonah: But there’s a problem: In the real world, most countries don’t want to show their cards, especially with an issue as sensitive as nuclear power, right?
Micha: For certain sectors you are probably right, because in the real-world, nations compete with each other, regardless if the problems generated by nuclear power affect the whole of humanity. In other words: The interests of humanity fall victim to the interests of individual nations. The game could become a good forum to raise awareness of this. And yes: not all problems can be solved.
Toni: But anyway, we have actually arrived at a rather extreme and isolated topic area. 99 percent of the tasks that need to be completed are much, much simpler. Things have to be produced that we need for a good life, i.e. food, clothing, furniture, all kinds of articles of daily use, tools, machines, living spaces, heat, medication, etc. This in turn requires a functioning infrastructure with electricity, water supplies, waste disposal and transport facilities, among others. And then there are also the responsibilities and effort necessary to restore our natural foundations, for example reclaiming biotopes. For all these tasks, there is an enormous amount of data concerning the requirements for accomplishing them. And these are used for calculation in the game: What kind of time, labour, knowledge and raw materials are needed to make this new economy work?
Jonah: That’s really fascinating, but to come back to what we were talking about before: How does it work in concrete terms? How are my hours calculated?
Toni: Well, like I said, empirical data tells us how much time is needed to get something done in a reasonable amount of “low-pressure” time. You may refer to your own logbook to get a feeling for that.
Micha: Let me provide you a scenario so you can get an impression of how it works. As you saw before, in Bonjour there is a block of houses that is still without internet cable. It is first calculated how much time it needs to get the work done. After the necessary material has been organized, the question is: who will help with the installation? Who has time for it without exceeding 12 hours? If you have the capacity of 3 hours free, you can get in touch with them. It is as simple as that.
Jonah: Ah. So, is the 12-hour limit strictly enforced?
Micha: No, in principle nobody is forced.
Jonah: Oh, and that works?
Toni: This question reveals so much about what life is like in the ‘old world’ (grins) … Everything is different here. And yes, so far, it’s working well. Everyone is able to do something, and those who take, obviously give back gladly. Simply what he or she is able. That can be the repair of an electric line or writing a novel. It doesn’t matter. If someone really wanted to do absolutely nothing for the Allmendes or a global meta-project, they are free to do so. After all, there could be many reasons for why they don’t want to contribute.
Jonah: Do they have to give their reasons?
Jonah: And do they still have full access to the common resources?
Toni: Of course.
Micha (laughing): Yes, it’s a little hard to understand, isn’t it? But you’ll see, it does work. At least I think we can say that now.