The investigative-interactive game Global Alternative is about developing a functioning alternative social and economic system on the basis of 12 game rules. The problems to be solved in the game are therefore those of a fictitious, but at the same time real possible world. For the time being, we simply call it the ‘New World’ in contrast to the ‘Old World’ or the ‘Real Present’.
This narrative is intended to provide a first impression of Global Alternative and the New World it presents. In Part I, we elaborate on how the system change came about. In Part II we dive with the protagonists Jonah, Toni and Micha into the New World, as it could present itself to the players after the already completed system change in the summer of 2028.
In all of this, it is particularly appealing that the New World anticipated here is not located in a far-off future or even on another planet, or is even completely fictitious, but has quite realistically replaced our present world.
Some of the figures mentioned in the narrative – such as reductions in traffic or decarbonization – are estimates. They are marked with an asterisk. Only a simulation, as aimed at by means of the game, would allow relatively precise calculations of the changes.
Narrative – Part I
The year is 2028.
Global warming and the accompanying weather turbulences are already severely affecting all life on earth. As if in a dynamic vortex, the effects of the overexploitation of the earth’s natural resources are intertwined with those of the burning of fossil fuels, giving us our first inkling that the stability of natural conditions, as they have presented themselves to mankind throughout the entire history of civilization and allowed it to develop in the first place, may have been lost for good.
All measures taken by the states against climate change are proving to be ineffective, short-sighted or even counterproductive. Growth no longer exists in any of the economies, but it is all the more abundant in the market of problems and disasters. Devastating droughts and crop failures are causing refugee flows to swell daily and to a degree that has already led to drastic measures, especially by the rich nations. Economic and financial crises are ravaging the nations, civil wars are raging even in countries where this seemed unimaginable just a few years before. Saving the coral reefs is considered hopeless, and the collapse of the marine ecosystems may no longer be stopped, rendering one of the most important sources of food for mankind obsolete. The situation is topped by the fact, that the abrupt thawing of the permafrost, which will once again mean a gigantic release of greenhouse gases, has to be expected within the next two years.
Whereas previously wars were fought over fossil fuels and corresponding geopolitical positions of power, now the focus is increasingly back on food resources and, above all, water.
In a certain sense, the Stone Age sends its regards.
However, the use of cyber weapons and, above all, the continuing threat of nuclear weapons is not Stone Age at all. While mankind narrowly escaped the use of nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear winter in the course of the so-called Ukraine war, the arms race thereafter assumed bizarre proportions and thus once again set back the urgently needed measures to contain the damage to climate and nature.
It is becoming clear that only the immediate and total decarbonization can prolong humanity’s existence. The number of people calling for this on the streets already exceeds two billion.
This is a new dimension, both in terms of numbers and the content of the demands. Without ifs and buts, the criticism is directed against the globally operating economic system and the blind faith in progress of its representatives. The promises of the industrialized countries that they can solve the problems by means of free-market mechanisms are denounced as cynical and irresponsible eyewash.
Finally, there is a coordinated-global strike wave that abruptly brings the economies of all nations to their knees.
2028 thus proves to be the year in which the end of the world that once promised eternal growth, prosperity and freedom finally and drastically begins to take shape. A summit meeting in Sidney, Australia – one of the many major coastal cities already acutely threatened by rising sea levels – to which scientists from all over the world have invited representatives of all nations in August 2028, turns into a three-month crisis meeting. While people in the northern hemisphere suffer from an extremely hot summer with numerous fatalities, while gigantic forest fires rage in the USA, Russia, China and southern Europe, and a typhoon has devastated Taiwan, the participants, in an almost heroic and desperate act, come to the conclusion that only the transition to a global society free of ownership and domination can herald the eco-economic turnaround that can still prevent the worst (Sidney verdict in October 2028).
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 serve solely to supply everyone. If industrialization once revolutionized production relations and created the market economy, communication and computer technology is now to herald the next revolution toward the organization of a society oriented toward the common good.
The plans are supported by an investigative simulation, in which it was proven that by means of a new kind of economy the containment of the climate change, the regeneration of nature and the world-wide satisfaction of the human needs on a decent prosperity level are possible. It has also been proven that the indispensability of money as a regulator of supply and demand, which is always invoked by the national economy, is invalid. The reason for this is that the possibilities offered by IT make it possible to organize the economy in a completely new way and such that it becomes possible to achieve reasonable, demand coordinated production worldwide. Projects of global interest can now be carried out in a coordinated and efficient manner, since there are no longer any national or corporate interests, monopolies or patents standing in the way. These include farming methods, water conservation and use, reforestation, reclamation of both natural habitats and arable land, the management of fossil energy sources and raw materials, and also the development of a sustainably operated transport and telecommunications network.
In the Sidney verdict, 12 rules are laid down that are fundamental and at the same time point the way to the desired change:
- There is no money and no universally valid payment equivalent.
- There is ownership, but no property – not even of intellectual products.
- There are no political structures (states, governments, officials, committees, etc.), no leadership structures and no hierarchies.
- People organize themselves in commons, which in turn belong to provinces, regions, continents and parts of the world; the allocation is primarily of nominal importance.
- All raw materials, manufactured products and services extracted wherever are recorded in a global pool register and can be retrieved as needed (and according to logistically-environmentally compatible standards)
- Each commons endeavors to make one or more contributions to the global pool; however, there is no compulsion to do so
- The production of goods, information, knowledge and services, as well as the extraction of raw materials, which can usually only be accomplished in a division of labor, is carried out in projects, in consultation with other projects and in accordance with the needs assessment
- All required goods and services as well as technical and scientific knowledge are included in the pool
- Regional and cultural characteristics such as languages, traditions, manufacturing techniques, religions, etc. are considered important and valued contributions to human society
Here are a few excerpts from the comprehensive verdict:
Since every human being must realize that he only borrows nature and the things that can be produced by means of it for the duration of his life, the principle of ownership is abolished.
Ownership in the sense of the enjoyment of the material goods needed in everyday life and important for the preservation of health, privacy and spiritual interests is regarded as a basic prerequisite for the prosperous development of each individual. The goal and natural interest of any commons community should therefore be to guarantee these possessions.
The preservation of the conditions of life on the planet has the highest priority and is the natural goal of every commons. This means
- the conscious and thoughtful use of resources, supported by scientific analysis and calculations
- the preservation or restoration of natural habitats and eco-intelligent cultivated areas
- the revival of the psychological, social and cognitive qualities of interaction based on community, cooperation and productive exchange.
With the abolition of market-based production, in which wear and tear and waste were the basis of profit maximization, the practical utility of things – their use value – as well as their longevity and functionality are once again given the status they deserve.
The transition from the capitalist system to the new ‘world order’ initially requires only a few specifications to be met. But despite numerous studies and projections, it is difficult to predict exactly how the restructuring will take place and what difficulties can be expected.
Caution is the watchword within the radicality of change.
At the beginning of the restructuring, the formation of Meta Projects that maintain power and network connections and ensure that global communications function is a top priority.
Local Projects (= self-organized, hierarchy-free groups with a maximum size of 300 people) are formed within the commons to organize production, distribution and the maintenance of infrastructure. Their task is to use the local conditions – which include the geographic-climatic ones as well as previous production sites and processes – to make contributions to the pool. The conversion to an ecologically sustainable production method is in the interest of every Local Project and every commons.
It is one of the tasks of a commons to check the local conditions to see which Local Project they are suitable for.
All products – including services, research results and cultural assets – are added to the global pool as contributions.
Each commons ensures through its Local Projects that contributions are made to the pool. In addition, it must ensure the maintenance or expansion of its own infrastructure. In turn, people join together in cross-territorial Meta Projects, e.g. to maintain transportation and communications, to carry out scientific projects, analyses and global studies, etc.
In principle, every commons has access to the global pool, even if it does not succeed in making its own contributions. It is assumed that non-contribution always has serious reasons – such as natural disasters – and deprivation merely stands in the way of solving local problems.
Full access to education, cultural goods and technical developments in every commons should be strived for.
Consistent access to education and ‘world knowledge’ suggests that populations will remain numerically stable and that there will be a strong interest in maintaining homeostasis with nature and within societies once achieved.
So far a few excerpts from the extensive verdict. What is still worth mentioning at this point is the fact that the 2027 change is initiated with maximum discomfort. How could it be otherwise, as after all – and despite simulation – it is ultimately not foreseeable how things will develop. What will happen when none of the centuries-old rules of the game apply anymore, when structures of rule disappear, when even competition between nations no longer exists? Doesn’t that simply mean unholy chaos?
We are now back in the year 2022, and Jonah wants to join in. A game about solving the hopeless problems on the planet … ?, about creating a new kind of society … ? – yes, that appeals to him.
He goes into the menu. First he calls up the tutorial ‘Getting started’. Here he is introduced to the two levels on which he can participate in the game. The first level is that of the commons. A world map appears, on which the already existing commons are displayed. If you tap on one, you get a clear amount of important information about it on an information panel: Number of members, existing projects, planned projects, geographical location, infrastructure, climate, natural features, etc. – and then possibly decide on one. However, there is also the possibility to create a profile of oneself (what can I do, what do I want, what is important to me) and receive suggestions for commons that best fit the profile.
The second level is that of Meta Projects. Meta Projects deal with transregional and global tasks, for example, maintaining the communications network, organizing transportation, or coordinating the world’s resource holdings.
In scientific Meta Projects, for example, relevant biogeological and meteorological data are collected and corresponding models for ecologically appropriate use and application are elaborated, which is particularly important for agriculture and water supply.
In Meta Projects, however, one also deals with something like the management of conflicts between the commons, commons members or also project members and the joint elaboration of solution models. And so on …
The management of conflicts between the commons, commons members or project members also belongs to the range of tasks that needs to be tackled by Meta Projects.
Meanwhile, Jonah has decided to go to the first level. He looks for his commons according to his language skills and according to the geographical location. First of all he chooses ‘Europe’ (see 4th rule), taps on different commons there, reads the information boards about them and finally decides on a commons named ‘Bonjour’ in a medium-sized city. If he doesn’t like it there, he can of course switch to another one. If that were the case, he would next choose one in ‘Peru’, he already knows that.
He taps on the commons and a bird’s eye view image of it appears with a prompt to listen to a short tutorial. In it, the rules of the game are introduced and briefly explained to him. It is suggested that he log in to the commons and ask if a guide is available (if not at the moment, he can make an appointment and may have to be patient). Commons guides are always members of the respective commons who are happy to share their knowledge and also keep up to date with the latest developments.
Of course, he could also explore the commons on his own. That would be more strenuous and less productive, but then there would be no waiting time.
And as it happens in a story: Jonah is lucky! Two members of the commons come forward at once. He cheerfully goes to ‘My personal start’.
And abruptly finds himself in a square lined by 3-4 story buildings with a street leading past. He looks around. Apparently it’s early autumn – just like where his PC is …
Jonah is welcomed by Toni and Micha.
Micha: Hi Jonah. Welcome to the New World! To be more precise: to Bonjour and our district commons! What would you like to do first? Shall we show you our district and tell you something about the community at the same time?
Jonah: Hi. Uh yeah, sure, I’d love to. I already know a lot from your information board.
Micha smiles. Great. She spreads his arms and points to everything around him. Maybe you want to take a look around right here? We’re in one of the many little squares the city has now.
Jonah spins once around himself. The square itself isn’t particularly large – it’s one that’s common in the smaller towns of its origin. Behind the houses that partially surround the square, he immediately makes out the tops of two church towers and a few high-rise buildings that are probably more on the outskirts of town. In one direction, however, the view opens up to a few hills that are mostly covered with lower buildings. A radio tower can be seen. In the far distance, two cooling towers can be made out indistinctly. Jonah’s gaze lingers on them.
Jonah: That’s probably the nuclear power plant, isn’t it?
Micha and Toni nod.
Toni: The former one. You’ve already informed yourself well. Then you probably also know that there are no more nuclear power plants operating anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, of course, we still have to deal with the radiating legacy. But we have already made good progress with the dismantling of this nuclear power plant.
Jonah: Great. Do the affected commons have to deal with it alone?
Toni: No, of course not. There’s no such thing anymore … – I mean, that you have to cope alone with problems that ultimately affect everyone. No, we have lots of help: from experts, engineers and scientists and even volunteers from far away commons. The goal of having a nuclear-free world is so fabulous and frees humanity from such a great burden that the commitment is immense.
Micha: Well, there you are on a super topic … – are you somehow interested in nuclear power in particular, Jonah?
Jonah: Well, I’m a mechanic and I’ve worked in a nuclear power plant before. I read a lot about it before and after. But honestly, right now I’m more curious about Bonjour. Besides, the nuclear problem is only one of many.
Micha: You are so right. Unfortunately. Well, what is your first impression when you look around here?
Jonah: Hm. On the one hand, everything seems somehow familiar … – no wonder, I stayed in my own country. And yet, there is also a lot … – different.
He looks around again. On the houses all around, one or the other remnant of the former business world can still be seen: Illuminated signs, for example, which of course no longer shine, and signs with names such as Woolworth, MacDonalds, Coffee Shop etc. What is inside them now is not recognizable at first glance. One of the buildings still houses an ATM in its outer wall, half overgrown by ivy. In general, there are a lot of plants, everything seems very loosened up. Under several large plane trees there are benches and tables and other places to sit and lie down. Two ping-pong tables, a boules court, a big, roofed sandbox and some gymnastic equipment complete the offer.
On the opposite side of the square, a small area is fenced off. Jonah points to it.
Jonah: What’s being done there?
Toni: Cable work. That row of houses over there doesn’t have Internet access yet. That’s not so dramatic, because people are helping each other out, but the requirement is that everyone has access. Overall, though, the network seems to be less used than it used to be.
Jonah: Why? Don’t tell me there are no games anymore!
His guides grin.
Micha: That would be bizarre … – we’re in a future game here, where there are no more games?! No, of course we have them here, too. Probably even in abundance, as everyone who has an idea can found a project and see if enough others want to join. Programming also belongs to the fixed educational offers, anyone can learn it here at any time.
But here, in the simulation of the New World, the main thing is to work together to make a world society with a new kind of economy work. And one that gets to grips with as many of the problems as possible that are currently threatening the Real Present. At the same time, life in the New World should be of a high quality of existence. That’s quite a challenge!
Toni: Consequently, the first goals we set ourselves after the change were a drastic and sustained curbing of CO2 emissions to slow or even stop climate change, and an equally drastic curbing of resource consumption. So, as you may have read, production has been completely transformed and a pool system has been put in place to capture labor contributions from around the world, as well as existing requests for products, assistance, projects, etc.
Jonah: Somehow I can’t quite picture that yet. But well, that’s what I’m here for: to figure out how it works. And then to possibly contribute to making it work somehow.
Toni: Yes, and of course we are very happy about that. By the way, it’s always like that with the newcomers: At first they think that an economy is something highly complicated …- only to realize that it’s much simpler than they thought. We all come from a Real Presence whose complexity even increases daily. In the New World tested here, on the other hand, many things are surprisingly easy to oversee. And life is quite decelerated.
Jonah looks around again: Well, I’m curious. But tell me: is it always so quiet here? It’s downright eerie.
Micha laughs: You arrived right at lunchtime, that means most people eat, and since today is a cooler day, they do so inside. That’s about to …
The unmistakable tinkling of a streetcar can be heard, and Jonah turns around. A streetcar is leisurely approaching.
Toni: Come on, let’s get off the tracks.
Jonah: Great, so there’s a streetcar here!
Toni: Yes. Keeping the streetcar was one of our first Trans Commons resolutions after the Great Transformation. There is now a project to lay new tracks in the commons, and another that has joined a meta-project to build railcars and wagons. But other than that, there’s not much traffic here, as you’re about to find out. So even after dinner time.
Jonah: So most of them are home now?
Toni: At home? No, very few people are still eating there. There are communal kitchens everywhere here. But of course, if you want, you can prepare your own food at home.
Jonah: So that’s how it is. Well, I am not fond of cooking anyway (grins), so I’d be only too happy to be catered for. But about the wagons … – I read what a meta project is. What contribution does your commons make to the production of the wagons? How does it work?
Micha: Two of our members are engaged as engineers in product assurance. In addition, we use a plant on our premises to manufacture the windows for the wagons.
Jonah: I see. Is there such a thing as a main plant?
Micha: Sure, everything has to be put together somewhere. It’s in a city about 100 km away. Because our commons works closely together on window production and because of the expertise of two of our people, a transporter goes there every three days.
Jonah: Uh-huh. Wouldn’t it be more ecological if they stayed there right away?
Micha: Well, the finished windows also have to get there. So in this case the ecological balance is right. In addition, 4 young people from the local commons are also traveling there. They are doing some kind of training there and would like to acquire special knowledge.
Jonah: In other words: they serve an apprenticeship? So that’s still as it has always been? – I mean, like in the Real Presence?
Toni: Oh dear, no! There is no apprenticeship here anymore, learning is done in a very different way. If you want, we can just go to our Commonschool later. It’s a school for everyone, so to speak. Then, if you’re interested, you can get an impression of the ideas for new forms of teaching that have come together so far and how they’re being implemented.
Jonah: Ideas are all well and good. But how can you prove in a simulation that they work?
Micha: Exactly, this is indeed a problem. A lot of things can be simulated well, but school is one of the areas where it gets difficult. Interestingly enough, the ideas discussed here are now being tested in the Real World … – isn’t that great? So the New World gets feedback from the Real Presence not only in the form of data, but also from already realized projects …
Toni: Yeah, and it shows: Wow, the difference to what we had before is gigantic … I had always thought that school remains school! But now I have to admit that I would really like to be a child here again. Not to mention the freedom that children have here … – learning is completely different here. Here no one HAS to know anything, but here you WANT to know. To learn and to understand something is a pleasure, and it is also a pleasure to do it together with others. Also, everyone can go to school here, no matter what age, and besides, there is no difference between school, university and workshop. So it could be that not only is the five-year-old just learning to read, but there’s a fifty-year-old sitting next to her who would like to catch up. And it could also be that a seventeen-year-old is sitting next to a seventy-year-old in the biology seminar. And it could be that afterwards the seventy-year-old shows others in a workshop how tongue and groove work. And so on.
Jonah: Excuse me?
Micha: Well, what used to be school, apprenticeship and university is organized differently here. Basically, the entire range of courses is open to everyone, regardless of age or previous education. A meta-project is responsible for the organization, which you can also contact as a newcomer if you have any questions.
Jonah: That’s really interesting. So now I could listen to philosophy lectures, for example, and sit next to a ten-year-old or a hundred-year-old? Or math? And then I could take a chemistry class, or a sewing class? Or teach electrical engineering? Cool!
Toni: Yeah, exactly. Some things are still under construction, but the areas of knowledge that you just mentioned are already in full swing – by the way: including a sewing course! Apart from that, we are in the process of constantly expanding what we offer. However, the premises will soon no longer be sufficient, which is why the former tax office is currently being converted for this purpose. There wasn’t a university here in town, so we didn’t have the buildings and equipment. But to answer your question again: in principle, you can study whatever you want. You have plenty of time for that.
Jonah: Yes, I read that already – only 12 hours per week! And it’s supposed to get even less. I like that idea very much. Somehow that’s pretty fantastic!
Toni: It is. Okay, now, a year and a half after the change, it can happen that a lot of people have to pitch in to get a project off the ground, or because of adversity, like a flood. In those cases it can happen that the 12 hours are exceeded. Already now, that is an exception, though.
Jonah: I can imagine. What I can’t imagine: How does something like that work in a game? I mean, I would be overjoyed to only have to work 12 hours a week in my real working world, but that’s not how it is, which is why I can’t possibly invest 12 hours in the game here.
Toni: It’s good that you ask the question. Work processes can of course only be represented in a formalized way in the game. Let’s use an example to illustrate this. Let’s say you wanted to participate in securing the power supply in Bonjour. You are then immediately informed about the state of affairs: this and that has been done so far with so and so many people involved, the following still has to be done, we are dealing with this and that problem … – etc. The project invites you to contribute your own thoughts and suggestions and also to name the number of hours that you – in the game – would be willing to work in the project.
Jonah: And how do you know … – oh, sure: From experience data and by means of logarithms it is calculated how much working time is needed and what materials. Right?
A delivery truck drives by. Jonah watches it with interest because it is audibly a diesel but is distracted at the same time by a flood of voices that suddenly opens up behind him. He turns around. Adults and children are just leaving one of the buildings. Suddenly there is life in the square. Children and young people are running in all directions, mostly as groups, apparently, they are all up to something. Many of the older ones stroll off together. Under one of the plane trees, a few adults and teenagers gather smaller children around them and disappear with them into a neighboring building. Even from a distance, you can see that it is colorful – not only the windows are painted, but also the outer wall.
Jonah: Is that a kindergarten? (he points to the building)
Toni: Hm, yes, in a way that’s right, even if the garden is only a part of it.
Micha laughing: Gee Toni, have you already forgotten that this is a term from the Old World and has pretty little to do with garden?
Toni: Oh, yeah, sure. But it’s also a really nice word: kindergarten. I was just never in one, as a child, I mean. Jonah, this is actually a program for very young children and their parents. There is a morning and an afternoon program, and parents and children are completely free to decide whether they want to take advantage of the offer. For parents, grandparents and whoever else takes care of the children, it is of course just right when they are doing their chosen Commons tasks or in general: don’t want to take care of them! Mostly however it is our youngest ones themselves who want to go there.
To come back however to your question because of the projections: That’s exactly how it’s done. Behind the game is a whole team of scientists, mathematicians, programmers, etc., who calculate the consequences of the decisions made together and the results of people working together. So the game is always up to date.
Jonah: Uh-huh. And what about the so-called problems that need to be solved?
Micha: First of all, we do research and correspond with other projects to see what previous approaches to solving them exist and whether any of them can be implemented under the given conditions. If not – and sometimes new problems arise – we first discuss the problem in a local group and try to find a solution. If this is not possible, the search for a solution is continued globally.
Jonah: How can a real problem arise in the game at all? I mean, how is that going to happen?
Gradually it gets busier on the square. A group of children and teenagers walk by and Jonah looks after them with a smile. Bicycles, e-scooters and pedal scooters, inline skaters, handicapped vehicles and similar means of transportation appear. Jonah remembers the delivery truck from earlier, which, according to the sound, was powered by diesel.
Jonah: There was a diesel delivery truck there earlier. At least that’s what it sounded like. So you haven’t completely switched to e-motors here yet and are even still using diesel…?
Toni: Right, we have not yet succeeded in switching completely to electric motors. It is always a question of deciding whether or not to use a technology that is actually backward. When the system changed, there were already a lot of e-cars, but there were hardly any e-vans and no e-trucks at all, because the battery weight problem had still not been satisfactorily solved. In fact, however, traffic in the New World has already shrunk so significantly – by almost 80%* compared to the Old World – that the use of diesel-powered vans is of no consequence. At the same time, heavy work is being done on alternatives. Until then, a small share of fossil fuels in transportation is still being accepted. At present, however, the share of electricity from renewable energy sources is approaching 85%* worldwide. That is, so shortly after the change, enormously!
The rest is still gas-fired power generation, with a decreasing tendency, of course.
Jonah: Not bad. How did you manage that?
Micha: Mainly by changing production and radically reducing traffic, but of course also by intensifying renewable energy.
Toni: Changing the production means: no more nonsense is produced, and also much less is needed, because a lot of things are no longer necessary in the New World that were urgently needed in the Old World. Just think of everything that was necessary just to maintain the monetary system: all the stores and department stores, the banks, insurance companies, tax offices, law firms, offices and sales outlets together with all their equipment! And then there was the elimination of business, which also required an enormous amount of equipment and, even more so, mobility.
Micha: On top of that, people had to dress specially for all that, and because they had little time, they acquired a bunch of technology that was supposed to save them time and make their lives a little easier. The car was at the top of that list, but also household appliances and consumer electronics.
Jonah: Hm, I had never thought about it that way. But it’s true, if you think about it, a lot of the Real Present revolves around money … It’s crazy what it all adds up to. And also, what all is so necessary, so that one can go to work. Or also, in order to recover!
Micha: In the New World, there’s no rush hour anymore, because people usually have their work assignments close by, and logically, there’s no more business travel.
Jonah: Oha. Is there any air travel at all then? And what about shipping?
Toni grins: Yes, of course they still exist, the airplanes! But in fact, we’ve seen a huge decline in air travel, in both cargo and passenger air traffic. And, of course, there are no more military aircraft movements, which also weighs heavily on the balance sheet. The decline in passenger air traffic, however, is mainly due to the fact that everyone here has given up long-distance travel for three years in order to achieve the carbon turnaround. This might be easier in fiction than in reality, but most of the players seem to identify very much with their roles here, so we can assume that they would make the same decisions in reality.
Jonah grins: Sounds good. And what about shipping?
Toni: Sure, freighters and even a few container ships are still sailing, but even there the decline is significant.
Micha: By the way, about travel: What has come back into fashion a bit is traveling by train, bicycle, horse, or even on shoestring … As you have probably seen, there are several forums in the game, and one of them is about alternative ways of travelling with an exchange of experiences. According to fellow players, the appreciation of the closer surroundings has also increased a lot. Those who still travel here say they do so mainly for practical reasons, for example because the meta-project in which they are involved makes it necessary.
Toni: The decrease in freight traffic is again primarily due to the increase in regional supply. All commons, including urban ones, produce a lot of their own food. In addition, clothing, furniture and many other important consumer goods are produced in the respective region. And there is always a new discussion and weighing of which foods foreign to the growing zone can be dispensed with and which can be dispensed with rather badly. In our case, these are mainly coffee and spices, but also tea, cocoa, bananas, lemons, pineapples, oranges … And of course, people also experiment with whether and how one or the other could perhaps also be grown here. But not only that is a crucial point, but the elimination of superfluous and short-lived products. What is produced now is of high quality and has a long service life. Which is logical, because anything else would not only consume resources unnecessarily, but also working time.
Micha: What’s also interesting in that context … – we had expected that in the former developing countries the need for huge quantities of consumer goods would be registered immediately. But this has not been the case so far, apart from pharmaceutical products, computer and production technology. The interest and efforts to meet local needs locally, if possible, is very high. And yet, resource depletion and resource consumption have declined! The reason: Many of the local resources were previously put into the production of export goods – making it clear once again how much these earth regions were fleeced by the industrialized countries! Now, for example, they can return to former crops and farming methods that were thought to have been forgotten. This is exciting and at the same time shows how ecologically beneficial it is to move away from industrial agriculture.
Jonah: Okay, as far as agriculture is concerned, I can still imagine that quite well. But don’t all those who previously lived in slums now finally want a decent roof over their heads, furniture, sanitary facilities … – and anyway: as far as I know, there are enormous deficits in the infrastructure, especially as far as water and sewage systems are concerned.
Toni nods: That’s right. And you can imagine what was going on in a city like Mumbai after the Great Transformation. Or Mexico City. That is, megacities with sometimes miserable utilities. Our teammates there wrote that the top priority was to create commons and projects and meta-projects to do the deep infrastructure work in a coordinated way and in cooperation with those commons that produce the facilities. In the game, this was done in a very disciplined way, but of course it is questionable whether it would be the same in reality.
Micha: Unless you’ve already learned from a game …
Toni: But again, back to resource use. All of this – agriculture, the use of materials and the demand for them, the extraction and use of resources – all of this can be tracked very well in the New World, because all commons around the world put both their declared consumption and their extraction and production volumes online. The latter, of course, are pool contributions. In this way, it can be calculated again and again what an optimally balanced production, production and consumption volume is, both locally and regionally and globally. And also what needs to be done to prevent overexploitation.
Jonah: Recycling certainly plays a big role in this, doesn’t it?
Micha: And how! The devices produced in the old world currently still supply us quite well with some of what is needed for the production of new devices. We’ll have to see how things develop in the future.
Jonah: Does it actually make sense to want to produce everything everywhere? Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me.
Toni: A very correct and important objection. For some things it makes sense, but for some it doesn’t. For now it looks as if there would be clear advantages if the commons working together in the large regions would cover at least the basic needs for food themselves. Then it is necessary to see what other resources are available. In many commons, people have returned to old crafts and produce some things that belong to the basic equipment of each individual, such as dishes, or clothing, furniture etc.
Micha: It just occurred to me … – shoes don’t belong to that, do they? He looks at Toni.
Toni: No, in the case of shoes and, to a large extent, clothing, it has turned out that it is clearly more ecological to produce them in a larger production plant. Meanwhile, regional furniture production has a good balance sheet. And as far as building materials are concerned, almost every region has something to offer. The PV modules for the roofs, on the other hand, are produced at only a few locations on each continent. And so on … – we could go on for a long time.
Micha: Indeed. Much will become clear to you, Jonah, when you have explored the New World a bit better. Just this much on the subject: Of course, it can make ecological sense to transport products over long distances, if the production works well at a few locations and fulfills the needs. This is the case right now with electrical appliances, machines, vehicles or even special pharmaceuticals. If the demand is greater than the supply, however, new considerations must be made. In this case, a request is sent to all commons that come into question in terms of requirements, asking whether they could imagine setting up this type of production. If the answer is yes, the commons or the association of local commons will receive all the help they can get … – from materials to skilled workers and know-how to temporary support through work assignments from other commons.
By the way, staying with electronics: Since all devices are produced in such a durable way that they work for many decades and are always easy to update, this is also a huge advantage compared to production in the Old World.
Jonah: That sounds really good! It also sounds like everybody is thinking globally here. Which makes sense. In the Real Present, predetermined breaking points and poor quality are among the daily annoyances. A real mess, how in production the decay is already built in, so-to-speak! There profit and resources destruction go for the worst hand in hand. Well, as in so many other areas. For example, the destruction of tropical forests for the cultivation of palm oil or for fuel-supplying plants. Or for cattle farming. He sighs. In that context I just remember my question about the problems and how they can be expressed in a game at all …
Micha: Oh dear, I forgot all about that. There are so many issues …! Thinking.
Hm, well, I’ll give you an example. While we were talking about nuclear power plants … – there is a current problem. Our nuclear power plant deconstruction project has announced that the river water, which is used to cool the fuel elements in the decay ponds, has heated up so much during this year’s hot summer that it is increasingly unsuitable for cooling. Currently, the project does not know how to solve the problem. A first round of ideas has been run and will be presented.Feasibility tests are still running – via projections. In addition, the problem including a lot of data and information about the local biogeological conditions will be put on the web and thus a request will be sent to all other NPP projects.
Jonah: Oh, cool. That means empirical plus scientific values are coming in from all over the world?
Micha: That’s right.
Jonah: But isn’t there a problem yet? In the Real Present, most countries don’t want others to look into their cards, especially not on such a sensitive topic as nuclear power, do they? But the data do come from the Real Present!
Micha: For certain ranges you are certainly right there, because in the Real Present everything must subordinate itself to competing interests. Especially in the case of nuclear energy, it is all too clear how unhappily interwoven national and economic interests are. It is generally known that nuclear energy is a high-risk technology – so it is consciously accepted that hundreds of thousands of people will be fatally contaminated in the event of a super accident and that cancer will increase drastically over several generations. It’s crazy. And that’s not to mention the problem of disposing of the highly radioactive waste, which is also unsolved in the Real Present and which we now have to deal with here. The game is perhaps a good forum for raising awareness of all this. But anyway: There are enough atomic physicists, engineers and other atomic experts who help us a lot with open questions.
Jonah: Have you found a solution for the nuclear waste?
Micha sighs: I wish we did. No – there isn’t one either! We can only try to find optimal interim solutions. After the Global Change, a meta-project was immediately formed that deals solely with this problem. All places intended as possible repositories in the Real Presence were checked again and more than half of them were classified as unsuitable. As an interim storage site – because such a geological formation never lasts for all time – four locations worldwide come into question. So that’s where the highly radioactive material will be housed for the time being, in the knowledge that every generation from now on will have to watch over it. And it must both look for new sites that can eventually replace the old ones and research new solutions. It is downright criminal what the Old World has burdened us with – for hundreds of thousands of years! It is immensely good to know that no new nuclear waste will be added to the old one.
Toni: And anyway: the subject of nuclear fission is practically out of the world! In the New World, there is no need for that stuff.
Jonah thoughtfully: That must feel damned good.
Micha: Yes, but you also see: of course problems can be discovered in the game. Or completely new ones arise. And solving them is sometimes just as difficult as in the real world. Here in the New World, however, we have the advantage that the rules of the game simply eliminate many of the problems of the Old World. Everything that belonged to capitalism and the actions of nations no longer plays a role here. Only the serious ecological problems left behind by the Old World must now be solved here.
Toni: Have you guys noticed that you have landed in a rather extreme area with the nuclear power plant example? Most of the tasks to be accomplished are much, much simpler. We need to produce things that we need for a good life, such as food, clothing, furniture, all kinds of utensils, tools, machines, medical equipment, housing, heat, medicines, and so on. This in turn requires a functioning infrastructure with electricity, water supply and disposal, transport facilities and premises. And then there are the areas of work that involve restoring the natural foundations, i.e. reclaiming biotopes, making fields fertile again, clearing the waters of dirt and chemicals. For all these works, there are vast amounts of data from the Real Presence concerning the requirements needed to accomplish them. And this data is used to calculate in the game, so to speak: What is needed in terms of working time, materials, raw materials and knowledge to make this new economy work?
Jonah: That’s really fascinating. But what about the distribution of labor? How does that work out specifically? And how are my hours calculated?
Toni: You get your own digital logbook, in which you can see what you’ve signed up for and how many hours. That way you can keep track of everything.
Micha: Think of it like this: Let’s say in Bonjour a block of houses is still without … he ponders
… lets say: Internet cable. So after the necessary material has been organized, the question is: Who will help with the laying? Who still has time to do it without exceeding the 12 hours? You just have the capacity of 3 hours free and get in touch. It’s as simple as that.
Jonah: Is the 12 hours actually a must?
Micha: No, in principle nobody is forced.
Jonah: Oh, and that works?
Toni: With questions like that, you immediately notice how things are in the Real Presence (grins) … Everything is different here. Yes, so far it works very well. Each and everyone can do something, and those who take obviously also like to give. Just what he or she can do. That can be repairing an electric line, working with robots, do gardening, designing a piece of furniture or writing a novel. It doesn’t matter. If someone really wanted to do absolutely nothing for the commons or a global metaproject, he or she is free to do so. After all, there can be numerous reasons why.
Jonah: Does he or she have to say them?
Toni: No! Of course not!
Jonah: And does he or she still have full access to the pool?
Toni: Sure enough.
Micha laughing: Yeah, that’s hard to comprehend, isn’t it? But you’ll see, it works. At least that’s what we can say right now. The distribution of work is far less problematic than it occurs to those who are new here.
Jonah: Hm. Muses. But what about really unpleasant work? Let’s say, crap work in the
truest sense of the word. Like, uh, sewerage cleaning or something. Or deadly boring stuff. I did mention wanting to take a sewing class earlier, but I was just kidding. Nobody could get me on one of those damn sewing machines!
Micha: That’s what I meant by models. Our immediate neighbor commons works with the reward model. If you do an unpleasant job, like tarring or the canal work you mentioned, or even a job that requires a lot of physical effort but can’t yet be done by a machine, you get double credit for the hour there.
In our commons, we do things a little differently. We rely on the fact that the interests are distributed differently enough that ultimately all work is done. Which has gone quite well so far … looks at Toni – except for one time.
Toni: Oha, yes. That was a rough one. Just because of the kitchen cleanup. Two of the people who like to do that were sick. And now we couldn’t find anyone who was willing to do it. In a game, of course, that’s a joke, because no one actually has to do the work. But as I said, the players take it seriously. And they probably also want to test what could happen in such a case.
Jonah: And what happened?
Toni: Well, the members of the alliance had a bit of a fight – well, a bit more than that: two of them even came to blows – and then agreed on a palaver evening.
Jonah laughs: Really, a fight? Cool. But what’s that: a palaver evening?
Toni: An evening to discuss how to deal with such things, having the goal to get to an agreement. Or even better: to get to an agreement how to deal with it in a binding way in the future. If a solution is found, it’s good. If not, and if there are still conflicts, the commons can call in a consultant. These are trained professionals; every commons has one.
Jonah: You are kidding! – that sounds too good to be true! I can’t imagine that all conflicts can be solved that way. I’ve seen people hate each other to the guts.
Micha: Sure enough, we are not in paradise here. Although we are in the realistic simulation of a possible and much better world, there are also conflicts here. However, changing living conditions create a different behavior. At the time we should remember that all participants of Global Alternative do live in the Real Present at the same time and have to deal with all the absurdities and constraints that exist there on a daily basis. That makes it more difficult to grasp and fathom the spectrum of possibilities and opportunities that open up in the New World. Nevertheless, many are very much thinking their way in and notice a shift in their thinking. But that on the side. If the New World were real, there would certainly be resentment and strife and murder of passion there, too. There would probably still be people who find drugs great, even if they have less reason to do so, and there will be unhappy lovers and also vindictives, because one can offend in any society. But there would be no one left to be existentially anxious or involuntarily lonely, and there would be no more reason for arrogance, because narcissistic self-affirmation would be largely eliminated.
Since in the world community no one can have a special rank, but everyone makes his contributions equal in esteem, the pursuit of personal gain has lost much of its appeal. And to reach power and wealth one can forget completely. No one can buy the labor of another … There is no money! – and any surrogate would violate the rules of the game.
Jonah rubs his nose: Cool, yeah. Still … Alright, I’m excited to see what I’m going to experience here.
Toni: Great, so you’re staying? Would you still have time to go to the potato festival with us tonight after the tour of the glassworks? Then you could meet a lot of members of our commons …
Micha grins: … who will surely ask you if you want to come to the meeting tomorrow, where some important topics will be discussed and decisions will be made. Very interesting.
Jonah: Well, I can’t say yet, but if it’s at all possible, I’ll be there.
Toni: By the way, in the New World we celebrate a lot and do things together. There is hardly a day without a soothing finale! In fact, that works very well even in the virtual world. And there’s also a lot of culture on offer: theater performances, concerts, recently we also completed an open-air stage, and tomorrow we’ll discuss whether a third cinema should be added to the two we already have. Many people have spoken out in favor of this, saying that it’s much more fun to watch films together.
Micha: Besides, there are always sports events …
Jonah: Wow. And how is all this organized? By projects?
Micha: That’s how it is. As with so much here, it’s exciting to figure out what works … – and what doesn’t. That is: What is wanted, how many members of the commons are willing to participate and contribute, is the ecological balance right in terms of location and materials? – etc.
Jonah: Hm. Okay, I can imagine that it would be fun for me, too. Especially since – if I understood correctly – you find out relatively quickly what the results are. But speaking of fun … – I mean, like at a real sporting event or in a real beer garden or even at a concert … – that’s simply not possible here.
Micha: Don’t be mistaken. Occasionally performances are put into play, just for fun. But of course: we can’t sit together as in real life, but only as avatars. You probably know this from other games: You might imagine what it’s like to kiss someone, but reality is just hard to beat. And yet, in the game, it becomes quite visible how this new society affects togetherness. In the game, everyone can decide where and how to contribute their skills, and there is so much free time that interests can be pursued intensively. But perhaps the greatest and most encouraging benefit is actually to experience how the climate and nature recover and how great a life it is to maintain awareness of this.
Toni: Listen, you two: enough chatter! I think we should show Jonah more of the city now. There’s still so much to see.
Micha and Jonah nod in agreement. The three of them walk off, cross the square and finally turn into a wide street. Here they hear machines rumbling, but also hammering and sawing and all the noise associated with construction work.
Jonah: Well, there’s sure a lot of construction going on here, it seems.
Micha: Well, not so much building as rebuilding. A lot of buildings from the old world have become vacant, for example stores, banks, insurance companies, offices and the like. Most of these premises are now being used as living space, community workshops, tabernas and studios. A lot of remodeling has to be done. Interior walls have to be torn down and redrawn, sanitary facilities have to be installed or rebuilt, and sometimes other windows have to be installed. However, these construction measures are nothing compared to the building volume of the Old World, it must be said. In the Real Present, more than 50% of resources are used for construction, while global resource consumption in the New World is just 17%*. And that should be much less once the rebuilding is done.
They are now approaching a site that appears to be used for growing food in the city, among other things. In addition to small growing areas, there are many raised beds, paths in between, and also arbors with benches and tables. Individuals and groups are working on the beds or occupying the arbors. Jonah, Micha and Toni walk through leisurely, but it is obvious that Jonah’s curiosity is limited. He soon says so.
Jonah: Nice here, yes, really. But … – uh, the window factory would actually interest me more.
Toni: Okay, let’s go right away. Do you agree, Micha?
Micha: Sure. Let’s take the streetcar, it’ll be faster. Come along.
They walk to the tracks. While they wait …
Micha: We are still at the beginning with all this here. Everyone who participates enriches the New World with knowledge, experience and also with very personal concerns. It remains to be seen how well all this can be used and integrated so that the virtual world comes as close as possible to a real possible world.
Jonah: Yes, of course, that’s exactly the reason why I do so. It’s just fantastic that this is a way to maybe prove that life can be organized differently. That we could live together in a much better way including nature. That reminds me – are there actually any signs of a change in the human population yet? Oh dear … – how do you want to determine something like that at all?
Micha: Great that you bring this up. Of course, this can only be done by means of surveys. For example, let’s take a commons in a place where many children were born in the ancient present, such as Sudan. Our fellow players in Sudan now know that – unlike in their Real Present – their existence is secure, and that they have access to infrastructure, education and cultural facilities. In the course of the game, they experience how the landscape changes under the new rules of the game, ecosystems regenerate, and their village or district undergoes positive change. You know: the starting point in the game is always the real physical conditions of a place as they prevailed at the time of the game programming: i.e. state of nature, type and condition of buildings, agriculture, infrastructure, industry, etc. So, now we see how all this changes under the new game rules. So we can start a survey in the sense of: Do you want to have children, and if so, how many children would you consider ideal?
Jonah: I see. That’s not exactly reliable material, though, as wishes are smoke and mirrors … But, yeah, I guess it’s still something that can be worked with for the time being.
The streetcar approaches, and Toni raises a hand.
They get on and take their seats. And then keep quiet, which is good for a change. As they ride through the city, Jonah observes that the buildings that must once have been stores now house studios and workshops, or are lived in. As the street widens, there is a ticket machine by the tracks. Jonah points to it.
Jonah: It’s not needed anymore, is it?
His guides nod.
Micha: Although quite a few have been removed, there are still some around, just like ATMs and other machines. Taking them down is a lot of work, and besides, it’s not that urgent.
Toni: See that building over there? – she points to it. That’s the former Allianz headquarters. Tomorrow’s meeting will also be about how the building could be repurposed. We’ve been collecting data and ideas so far, now it needs to be a little more concrete. So if you were to be there, you would not only have the opportunity to see how this works for us, but also to ask questions.
Jonah: Sounds good to me. Are we going to have a beer afterwards?
His guides are delighted.
Toni: I think you’ll fit right in!
All three smile. The streetcar is now climbing a hill, past old mansions and a lake with a long sandy beach that is still busy despite the autumn temperature. Jonah’s thoughts, however, are still occupied with the villas.
Jonah: Again questions come to my mind, just can’t help it. When I look at those villas … – doesn’t everyone want to live in one? How do you manage the distribution of living space?
Micha grinning: You would think so, yes. And in the beginning it was like that, but that quickly subsided.
Toni: Well, maybe we should explain it from the beginning. That’s how we did it here: After the Great Transformation, first of all everyone continued to live where they had been living before, and formerly homeless people were immediately given living space in former vacation apartments, hotels, youth hostels and so on. Then the entire stock of currently available living space was recorded – according to square meters and furnishings. A list of necessary renovations and restorations was drawn up and assigned to a project that would take care of them. At the same time, a list of needs was created, in which everyone who was dissatisfied with his or her current housing situation could register. In our commons, that was about 20%*. What was the reason: too little space?, too little light?, technology?, bad floor plan?, aesthetics? … etc. In another project, the redesign was then planned and implemented together with the residents. Whoever still didn’t feel comfortable after that could apply for living space that is created by the conversion of buildings. And everybody involved was asked to participate and help to design, if she or he wanted. The only building restriction is the consumption of materials, which must not exceed a certain limit or sometimes involves waiting times.
Micha: In the beginning, living space was a big issue, but now it’s lost a lot of its explosiveness. Maybe also because there is generally much less noise, the air has improved a lot and the recreation quality has been raised everywhere. People now live much more outside than before.
They are driving past a villa where an elderly couple is sitting, their faces turned towards the autumn sun.
Jonah: Didn’t you say that for the time being everyone could stay where they lived – including the villa residents. Did the others accept that?
Toni laughing: Yes, you’re right – at first some wanted to continue living alone or in pairs in their large or even huge living spaces. But even in the game it became clear that without staff, without housekeepers, cleaners and gardeners, the whole thing had little appeal. It is easy to calculate how many hours are needed to keep so and so much living and garden space in order. These hours are then deducted from the weekly leisure time budget. And then you realize: Oops, that has more disadvantages than advantages. In any case, all of the people who have vacated large apartments so far have decided either to join with others or to move into an apartment. If a villa becomes empty in this way, a meeting is held to discuss how to proceed with it. Is there a need for a shared apartment, or should two or more apartments be made out of it, or are there other needs? If more parties apply than there is room for, and no agreement can actually be reached, the decision can sometimes be made by drawing lots.
Jonah: Oh, and that works?
Micha: Surprisingly enough, it does. Within just one and a half years, a lot has changed in the decision-making process. But more about that later. Because we’ll be right there.
The train is now approaching an area where there are several factory buildings. Jonah is curious: how does work in a factory work in a game?