Circulate on Fridays: the end of the extractive economy?

Publication Date: 

Friday, 28 July 2017 - 1:09pm


Joe Iles

Circulate on Fridays is our weekly wrap up of the circular economy knowledge we’ve hoovered up this week. Have you got a tip for us? Get in touch on Twitter, @circulatenews.

Image: donatas /

With companies like Facebook and Amazon changing so many aspects of the way we live, one thing they are yet to disrupt is the model of capitalism itself. That’s the theme of this week’s Babbage podcast from the Economist, in which Kenneth Cukier sits down with Douglas Rushkoff to ask if today’s tech giants are responsible for ‘reprogramming capitalism’. Rushkoff’s assertion is that whilst the big digital players of the 21st century might look and behave differently, they’re still based on a model of extraction that is woefully outdated. Is it time for an upgrade?

NewCo Shift is becoming a regular feature here on Circulate on Fridays, with a steady stream of commentary on society, economics and technology, and there were two standout pieces from this week. First up, Chris Newman provides a shovelful of systems thinking for the agriculture sector, challenging the notion that we need a second ‘green revolution’ in order to feed a growing global population. He says that we don’t have a food shortage problem, but misplaced mindsets and priorities, summed up beautifully in the statement:

…nowhere is it written that a 21st century approach MUST involve advanced technology, precision-everything, and patching together a broken food system with duct tape made out of patents.

Secondly, and staying on the food theme, Russ Roberts introduces us to ‘emergent order in our daily lives’. Following the humble story of someone buying bread, Roberts illustrates how our economy is complex and adaptive, coordinated not by a top-down ‘tzar’, but by constant, silent feedback loops. It led us to ask again why we treat the economy like it’s a linear, predictable, controllable machine. Russ has turned his 4,000 word article into an animated poem, a practice that frankly doesn’t happen enough. More poems!

Economic Times of India has a great feature on how the market for sharing products, rather than owning them, is taking off in an Indian context. For long-time sharing economy fans, it’s easy to get bogged down in controversy surrounding big names like AirBnB and Uber, and the conflation of terms like ‘on-demand’ and ‘gig’ economy can be a turn off. This article offers a fresh perspective, with new case studies in clothing, furniture and home appliances, asking important questions about how businesses can maximise use of assets – crucial for the circular economy discussion.

Over 2 million people have seen this animation since it was released on Wednesday, but if you’re not yet one of them, find five minutes to watch the latest short from Munich based design studio Kurzgestagt. ‘Optimistic Nihilism’ quickly skirts around existential crisis and inspired us with the notion that “if the universe has no principles, the only principles relevant are the ones we decide on”.

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