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Simplified Law of Accelerating Returns

By Ron Rivers,

Renowned innovator Ray Kurzweil has a list of accolades too long to write about in an article with “Simplified” in the title.  I had first stumbled upon one of his YouTube interviews  and after listening immediate purchased The Singularity is Near.  It’s a comprehensive text filled with fascinating information, but the biggest take away by many was Ray’s analysis of history to track the growth of technology.  He observed what he named the Law of Accelerating Returns – a pattern demonstrating that technology advancements were growing exponentially in relation to their size and cost.  This discovery has profound implications, and progressive thinkers who are working towards systemic transformation should be aware of it.


Just the facts

Depending on how you define technology, the Law of Accelerating Returns has been occurring since the first cell on Earth manifested or as recently as the last century.  Data demonstrates that within frames of time the processing power of our computer chips double, while the size of the chip and the cost divided in half.    This exponential growth has been observable in all modern computing.  Even more eye-opening, the rate at which the doubling is occurring is accelerating as well.

Source:  Wikimedia Commons


So what does this mean?

Technology is changing, and it’s changing fast.  The change of pace is happening so fast that we need to begin to redefine how to think about technological advancement fundamentally.  In the image above we see one of Kurzweil’s predictions made in 2001 and one he still stands by today – in 2029, we will have the processing capabilities to develop machines with human-level thinking abilities.  Around 2049 our processing power per chip will be the total capacity of all human life on the planet.

Beyond that lays what Kurzweil has termed, the Singularity.  The Singularity is a technological transcendence of the human race.  A fundamental shift in the way we understand and interact with technology leading to an evolutionary leap of understanding and existence.  Radically reshaping the way we connect with one another and the universe around us. In 2017 he predicted the Singularity would occur in 2045.

While Kurzweil has his critics, to date he has been correct on 115/147 with another 12 that were “essentially correct” – off by a year or two.  That’s 86% of his predictions which have become true. I’d never be mistaken for a proficient gambler, but those odds seem likely to occur.  Progressive projects should recognize the impact of these discoveries on both the present and future to help create institutional alternatives that would maximize the tremendous potential technology will unlock within us.

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Core Objectives of Progressive Transformation

By Ron Rivers,

Sometimes, life forces us to cast aside our previous conceptions to learn and progress in the face of new challenges and crises.  Old ideas, beliefs, and facts have historically been thrown aside when evidence, reason, and logic have shed light on new potentials for what is and what could be.  Turning our eyes to American politics today, we witness our two older generations of the political class grasping desperately to save a system that empowers the well being of the few over the many.  The future is not saving capitalism as Senator Warren seeks to do. The future is a renewed sense of democracy fueling systemic alternatives in experimental and innovative ways that can be achieved proactively today instead of in response to crisis tomorrow.  Core to realizing this vision of a new society is continuing to explore the framework for why a progressive approach to institutional reformation is the best path forward and to do that we have to understand what we are working towards.

Collective Vision –


The present

To begin, we must acknowledge two truths of our present state of government.   Firstly, our founding document, the Constitution, was designed to keep the majority away from the levers of power.  The founding fathers created a system of power that would give the impression of agency in our democratic process to the majority while in reality leaving power and decision making in the hands of wealthy, white, male landowners.   Hofstra University law professor Grant Hayden said, “The history of voting in the United States has not been characterized by smooth and inexorable progress toward universal political participation. It has instead been much messier, littered with periods of both expansion and retraction of the franchise concerning many groups of potential voters.” [1] Basically, American history has been littered with people fighting for and against the concentration and entrenchment of power within U.S. democracy by diminishing the rights of others.  Collectively, our access to control our national direction and, by extension, our ability to transcend our circumstances have been stifled both by original institutional design and the active efforts of agents seeking to consolidate power and wealth for themselves and the corporations that sponsor them.

The second truth is even harder to swallow.  The government here in the U.S. is a direct extension of us.  It is a malleable entity and the only reason it hasn’t transformed is that we have not demonstrated the proper will to manifest the transformation. Of course, numerous systemic issues help to prevent this type of change but make no mistake, anything that has been created through our legislation can be undone.  Anything we can imagine can be done. The question, then, is: how? The answer is a high-temperature democracy with a radical level of participation, access, and agency in the process of every individual.


Humanizing the structure

To manifest the transformation successfully, we must first write the story.  The question at the heart of the vision is not, “What is government?” Instead, “What do we want the government to be?”

As humans, we all share some specific, defining characteristics.  We are all bound to our situations, yet at the same time, we continuously transcend them.   Our social and cultural worlds define us, but we consistently redefine ourselves. Institutions we create add order and structure, but we are collectively and individually more than our creations.  Independence and autonomy are convenient stories we tell ourselves when it suits our best interests, but the fact is that we are the product of shared experiences and connections spanning throughout all of human existence, past, present, and future

Harvard professor Roberto Unger has a profound understanding of the experience of “being.”  He lectures about how being is, in essence, a state of two core contradictions: the relationship between the individual and the other and the relationship between the individual and the social and cultural world which they inhabit.  Agency within the universe is developed through participation, but participation threatens us to subjugation. We can choose to develop ourselves independently, but this denies another core human desire: connection with the other. This leaves us with an impossible scenario.

The solution is deepening the access to, and connection with, one another in the very fabric of our society.  While we can explore this concept more in future articles, one practical example would be to take the best aspects of military life, such as the deep-bonding of people within units, the selfless act of service, and the deepening of skills and knowledge, and create a new branch of military dedicated to social service.  This program would generate more profound levels of empathy and understanding within our society while at the same time redirecting the focus of American military.

Our perpetual growth as individuals and as a collective consciousness drive us forward, knowing that our actions will never truly be enough to satisfy our desires of bigness.  No degree of social protections or endowments will ever make us genuinely unafraid of the unknown. Therefore we must ask ourselves what amount of support do we create for everyone to reach the level of “enough”?   At the same time, we must fully recognize and embrace that there is no scenario where endowments will become real security against challenge and change. Therefore progressive projects must be designed to have evolution, growth, and expansion within their frameworks.



Maximizing potential

Our wisest course of action would be to create a society that can maximize the potential of our exponential growth of technology through experimentation and innovation.  Conflict and challenge is a precursor to change, but we want to create a society where the individual is secure enough to navigate challenges and create innovation.  Paradoxically, our current social, economic, and political structure makes the price of failure when attempting to innovate incredibly steep for the individual, driving great minds away from innovation and instead towards efforts and labor that are completed begrudgingly so that survival may be sustained.  The transformation must address this. Free labor is a cornerstone of the transformation, one that can only be achieved by removing the barriers towards experimenting within life.

The founding principles of the new progressive projects must center around maximizing agency and access of every individual so that every life can reach its fullest potential by transforming the world around them.  These are our core objectives – every program we propose must measure against those two concepts.  Imagine the unprecedented levels of growth and innovation we could achieve if the majority of the population had access to the best tools and information, rather than just a select few!  By creating a level of underlying security for all people, we remove the burden of fear from our lives, while at the same time opening all of social, political, and economic life to contest and experimentation.


[1] Voting in early America by Ed Crews 

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Strict Marxism is not the Progressive future

By Ron Rivers,

Recently, we’ve been having numerous conversations with other active members in our local Progressive communities and on more than one occasion I’ve listened to the perspective that the most progressive thing to do would be to implement a strict Marxist Socialism immediately and redistribute the collective wealth.

I disagree.

There’s no doubt that Karl Marx was a visionary thinker and economist whose insights on the modes of production helped to redefine what could be possible. But is an aggressive push for a transformation into Marxist Socialism the best path forward, or are we limiting our potential outcomes by dogmatically adhering to his vision of change?

Brilliant?  Yes. But can we do better?
Image Credit:  Alice Dwyer

We’re going to discuss why a purely Marxist vision of socialism is not the ideal next step.  Specifically, we’ll argue that strict adherence to Marxist Socialism will hinder the Progressive projects of the present and future because of some of the fundamental elements of Socialism as defined by Marx.  We’ll present a new suggested framework for thinking about the Progressive projects we promote and undertake which we will explore in more detail in future articles.

Shifting Modes:

Marx defined the modes of production as distinct steps:  Slave Society, Feudalism, Capitalism, and Socialism. Each of these regimes of production contains a separate set of structures and values. When one of these modes transforms, it occurs suddenly and rapidly, often associated with violence.

“there is only one way in which the murderous death agonies of the old society and the bloody birth throes of the new society can be shortened, simplified and concentrated, and that way is the revolutionary terror.” [1]

Now we should take the above quote from the perspective that Marx believed violence would occur because those with wealth and power are unlikely to relinquish their wealth and power without conflict.

“Further, in most historical states the rights conceded to citizens are graded on a property basis, whereby it is directly admitted that the state is an organization for the protection of the possessing class against the non-possessing class.” – Frederick Engels [2]

The rapid shift of modes being a necessity is false.  The truth is that successful change is a piecemeal endeavor, it takes time.  It’s akin to showing up for that first day at the gym, reading the first chapter in your next book, or your first date with a future partner.  We hear so much about “unicorn” companies when they sell for millions of dollars, but even their success is the culmination of significant time and effort.

As Progressives, it weakens our overall position to argue for the immediate and dramatic redistribution of wealth as outlined in the Marxist framework.  Even if done democratically, this redistribution radicalizes the Progressive message and vision in the minds of those who do not yet understand the definite possibilities to be recognized through an evolution in the social structure.

If we are to succeed in building a new vision of our society, we should consider the perspective of all segments of our collective.  The data is clear, the divide in ideological beliefs in the U.S. is widening.[3]   Because of lack of access, specific portions of our society are genuinely fearful of their present and future.  Radicalizing our message only gives reason to fear more. Instead, it is possible to shape their worldview of what could be possible if we moved to a more transformative way of living.  We can accomplish this through Progressive projects such as a more socialized base living standard, increased access to information and opportunities, and a fundamental reshaping of our educational institutions.

Politically a dramatic shift in wealth is both unlikely and unfeasible.  If this vision were realized immediately it would likely result in violence throughout society, something we must avoid at all costs.

Marx’s economy and the present

The Marxist version of socialism contains an economic system of exchange that is not directly applicable to our current economy.  When Marx described his modes, the most advanced form of production was manufacturing. Low skilled, highly mobile labor. So long as you could pull the lever, lift the thing, and not touch the lightning bolt sign you got the job.  The vast majority of opportunities at the time left little to no room for creativity, exploration, or innovation.

The 2018 economy is significantly different.  We are in what could be labeled a new Knowledge Economy.  The Knowledge Economy is an economic system where the most advanced form of production is highly skilled labor that is easily transferable between organizations. Our modern example being Silicon Valley. This type of work has replaced industry/manufacturing for the title of “most advanced.” Most advanced being summed as greatest returns for input.

The Knowledge Economy exists in every sector of our economy, but only in the grasp of a select few. Harvard professor Roberto Unger argues that vision of the Progressives should be to create systemic reformation that would open access to these most advanced forms of production to the masses.  By applying a strict Marxist approach to the means of production, we miss a significant opportunity to create an entirely new way of imagining labor. Let’s examine a scenario where you have an innovative idea for a product, service, or technology that could transform society. How much further could that vision be expanded if you had access to the most potent AI available, the latest research, or the existing best practices of the industry at this moment?  If our goal is to be prosperous as a collective human race the most logical path forward would be the expansion of access for all people.

There is no legal restriction to having only one single form of market.  The idea that governments and economies have a unique and necessary style is false. If we were to be open to social, economic, and political alternatives, we could imagine a system that held both a capitalist and a socialist market.  Through government, we could build a socialized base level of society that maximizes everyone’s potential to explore and innovate in the life they want to lead by removing the fear of failure leading to poverty. In the middle, through the more “capitalist” aspect, we would be creating incentives for the innovators who create change.  I put capitalist in quotes because the motivation need not be necessarily tied to money only, which is according to Professor Unger, is a “weak social glue.” Finally, at the highest level, we would see government intervention – socializing institutions that become deeply intertwined with the operation of society. Examples of industries that will be regulated to the social economy upon reaching large scale integration would be food distribution, transportation, energy, education, housing, mineral rights, information, infrastructure, connectivity/access, and space exploration.  Examples of industries that could likely remain within the capitalist sphere could be entertainment, luxury, consumer goods, innovative technologies, and small independent ventures. In this hybrid model, we would also want to redefine what money is capable of within our society, taking care to neuter its influence on our political sphere and its ability to oppress others.

If we believe we can create a future that opens up access to opportunity and humanity for all individuals, then we should explore all possibilities and never limit ourselves to a single and limiting form of transformation.


Marx described scarcity as something that was able to be overcome.  In a sense, we can all visualize what this would look like and understand what deficiency looks like in regards to a capitalist system.  Marx’s vision of ending material scarcity is possible and could be achieved by deepening the connections between people and systems on a global scale while collaboratively investing heavily in the technologies to improve the logistics of the said operation.

But will this solve scarcity?  No. Even if we switched to a globally networked system tomorrow scarcity would not end, it would just manifest itself in new forms.  Fueled by the exponential growth in technology[4]  humans will continue to find new problems to solve and areas to innovate.  Therefore we should build a society that maximizes opportunities to experiment and innovate in every aspect of human life.  If we agree with the previous statement, then we should abandon the notion that we must have a singular form of socialism to succeed.  By raising the potential of every individual we create the foundation for a society that can collaborate and cooperate on a much deeper level than ever before.



To Marx, work was a hateful burden to overcome.  For much of the world’s population that is a painful truth.  But this only because of the values and structure that we have created for ourselves, or we could argue, that has been designed for us.  Like anything humanmade, it can be undone and improved.

Work doesn’t need to be a hateful burden.  The right kind of work could become an environment for agency and empowerment for individuals who grow as they transform the world around us.  Work would require the same socialized base structure mentioned earlier, but again our imagination need not be limited to the abolishment of work.  Instead, let’s frame it as the expansion of what we define as being human. The government could heavily invest in research and technology development to speed up the process of automation as no human should have to do the job a machine could do.  Instead, humans should focus on the creative and the new. By creating this level of access, we provide a platform of maximum opportunity for the collective.


Marx was a brilliant man and a founder of modern economic theories, but he was also a product of his time.  His ideas have laid a tremendous foundation to build upon, but his revolutionary reimagining of society need not become a dogmatic anchor.  Instead, we can build upon the founding principles while expanding on what we envision as the next great society. As we continue our collective journey to expand humanity lets commit to staying focused on transformational vision without binding ourselves to a singular limiting way of manifesting that vision.

[1] Engels in Neue Rheinische Zeitung November 1848 The Victory of the Counter-Revolution in Vienna by Karl Marx

[2] Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State  IX. Barbarism and Civilization by Frederick Engels

[3] Trends in party affiliation among demographic groups 3/20/18 Pew Research

[4] The Law of Accelerating Returns 2011 Ray Kurzweil

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Branding the Progressive Movement

By Ron Rivers,

There is a lot of buzz around the Democratic Socialists of America with the recent primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez the organization has entered the consciousness of hundreds of thousands of Americans. Reviewing their website we see that their current projects are focused around medicare for all, empowering unions, and forming a consensus for electoral power. These are relevant projects to our time, but are they enough? More importantly, what lies beyond? If progressive alternatives are going to succeed in America, we must first lay the framework that will support and drive our vision.

Politics today is entrenched in branding. Tribalism fuels division that has been created and perpetuated upon the American populace by the entrenched political class and their corporate and private donors. The term “divide and rule” is attributed to the ancient Greece king Philip of Macedonia who lived during 349 B.C. Tactics used for over two millennia have brought us to the position we are in today with the poor and the middle class struggling against one another while the wealthy continue to grow more prosperous. This division presents unique challenges for a new paradigm entering the contest, but also provides a tremendous opportunity for a new brand to emerge.

Before defining what the Progressive brand should be, we will explore the existing Democratic and Republican brands. The two brands employ consistent and predictable strategies. Republicans fight for more market and less state. Demoratics argue for more state and less market. Republicans run on a promise of more freedom, while Democrats strive for a world of higher equality.

In truth, both parties offer only a superficial level of both freedom and equality, never choosing to address the core challenges that bind the populace. Democrats and even the modern Progressives introduce and fight for efforts that merely humanize the Republican efforts, like offering universal health care in the face of consistent financial cuts to the current system. It’s like playing your favorite sport but continually staying on defense. How can you ever hope to win?

The Progressive brand’s best strategy is to innovate and disrupt, and there is an apparent weakness in both the Democratic and Republican strategy. Both Democrats and Republicans are limited by the failure of imagination to reach outside of our current institutional thinking. They are beholden to the current regimes of institutional thought, reinforced by their continued practice. Herein lies the foundation of the Progressive brand – the economic, social, and political problems of tomorrow will not be overcome through the institutions of today. Therefore the Progressive brand should focus on institutional reformation, a complete reimagining of the social structures and soulcraft that define the human experience.

The blueprints for institutional reformation are detailed and will be explored in future articles. Examples would be redefining the laws between property and contract, decoupling education from municipality funding, and most importantly, understanding that there is no single legal and necessary form of a market economy. This type of transformational vision frees our collective citizenry from the limited efforts of a stagnant political class.

This strategy is not without its challenges. I am deeply skeptical that a watered down version of Progressive alternatives could succeed in the current political climates. Compared to traditional parties, candidates and citizens supporting institutional reformation are grossly underfunded and lack the deep structural administration of their competitors. Introducing transformative vision into the current singular regime is unlikely to create a sustainable increase in the level of excitement of citizens. Finally, the movement must start locally. But, fortunately for everyone it already has. Organizations across the U.S. have sprouted to help change perceptions within their communities.

All political paradigms must answer the same question. What is the role of government? For progressive thinkers the answer is clear. Government is an extension of the people and therefore must exist to create the most significant benefit to collective society. The role of the next generation of government will be to ensure the maximization of opportunity for transformation among every individual citizen. It can be accomplished by deepening our connection to one another and expanding our abilities for innovation and experimentation within all aspects of life.


We’ve got a long way to go, but the path is clear.

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Writing our story

By Ron Rivers,

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the big picture story of the OurSociety Experiment.  We’re entering the last major push of 2018; the launch of the platform with the focus on local municipality elections.   Thousands of hours spanning over the previous two years have brought us to the point of a complete MVP, a defined but evolving strategic purpose, and a growing team of volunteers excited about the change we are manifesting here in New Jersey.  We’ve met with hundreds of citizens and candidates, sharing our elevator pitch of the value we provide and expanding where time would allow. Brief encounters and short formal meetings don’t do justice to the type of fundamental change the OurSociety Experiment is working towards creating.  To shed light on our potential, I’m going to dive deep into the overarching vision that fuels our efforts.


Our commonly cited focus is that of empowering more people to become involved in leadership roles within their communities by removing the financial barriers to entry.  Citizen users benefit from the process because we’ve conveniently consolidated all of this information while providing tools such as our Social Value Matching to help users choose which candidates to vote for based on personal preference on specific issues.  Our pitch is direct and recognizable, it tells people our immediate value-add and allows us to move to the next steps of recruitment. However, the nature of our outreach and the time of people involved limits us to provide only a fractioned vision of what could be, reducing the scope of the broader movement at hand.


The real story of our problem is the growing yearning within the global population to live an ascendant and transformational life.  Everyone one of us was born into a world of structures and systems, designed by men whose interests focused on the consolidation of power and resources.  Generationally, these structures become naturalized as if the universe was governing their existence, limiting our imagination of the possible. When people dare to dream of a world beyond a purely market-driven economy that defines humanity beyond the scope of competition for wealth and power, they are labeled as heretics, socialists, and communists.

Still, the unrest swells.  Deepening communications empowered by exponential technological progress increase our connections to one another and shed light on the harsh realities of our situation.  Rapidly intensifying inequity[1],  climate change[2], mass extinction[3]; all occurring on the cusp of a new resource frontier[4] that has the potential to transform our overall humanity radically.  Our problem is that our social, political, and economic institutions are not sufficient for the transformation we are undergoing, and our political leaders are too entrenched in the way things are to awaken to the way things could be.  We dare to believe that government, as an extension of the people, should be designed to maximize access to opportunity for every individual.

Our collective humanity develops through expanding our powers and potential in different directions, yet our current institutions limit us tremendously in a single and narrow definition of what is possible.  By bringing politics directly to the citizens (the P2C model, as we call it), we can begin to experiment with innovative methods that could bring about the fundamental transformation our society requires. By growing our citizen user base, we can expand the reach of innovators and experimenters within our communities, providing real alternatives to the current political regimes and those who inhabit them.  Together we can implement changes to our legal and institutional structure to expand past current paradigms and proactively move towards the future we desire.

Product wise, we envision OurSociety to be publically owned and funded.  Staying true to our purpose of radical transparency and access to and within our political process, we believe OurSociety will become the platform for empowering people to become involved in community leadership.  Public funding of a platform like OurSociety would cost citizens a few cents at most while providing immediate and convenient access to the local legislatures and their visions for the future.  More importantly, a publically funded OurSociety would allow us to build robust feature sets that continuously evolve to make campaigning and connecting at the local level more seamless than ever before.

OurSociety is a single brick in the foundational reformation we seek to accelerate within the U.S., and, eventually, the world.   At our core, we’re focused on increasing our access to one another in a format that focuses on institutional reformation towards a more equitable, open, and just society.  Democratic governments are intended to serve as extensions of the people. Therefore we argue that the purpose of government should be maximizing every individual’s opportunity for transforming their situation.  OurSociety is a way for us to begin the process of manifesting these transformational efforts today without having to rely on entrenched interests to exit the system.


[1] Wealth Facts:

[2] Global Climate Change –

[3] Biological annihilation via the ongoing sixth mass extinction signaled by vertebrate population losses and declines.  Gerardo Ceballos, Paul R. Ehrlich, and Rodolfo Dirzo PNAS July 25, 2017. 114 (30) E6089-E6096;

[4] The Potential $100 Trillion Market For Space Mining Emily Calandrelli June 9th 2015, TechCrunch

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