What is the Swarm? Why is it indestructible?

What does Swarm mean to me?

As with all juicy stories, this one must start with a confession: the question is deeply flawed. What Swarm means to any one individual within it is largely irrelevant. The way that ‘we’ are organized means that no individual opinion matters more than any other opinion — as my father always says: for every economist’s opinion there is an equal and opposite opinion from another economist. And they’re both wrong.

I often feel that way about Swarm — what I think of it and where it is going, has been, and ought to go in the future is often only applicable to me and a few other crazy idealists within the organization, while every other logical person sets about trying to set up and run a legitimate Distributed Collaborative Organization (DCO) and make some money out of a truly revolutionary idea and network. They seem to be doing rather well for themselves, too.

But what Swarm means to me is also the only thing that matters…
And so, we have the sort of paradox which — combined with a good confession — makes for the start of a true epic. Swarm is nothing if it is not epic, and Swarm is nothing if it does not mean to each and every individual involved in it. That is how we generate value — by meaning far more than every lying politician, or every competing economist, or every selfish venture capitalist, or every incompetent, unelected bureaucrat.

Who needs angel investors (though we have some who seem to be good people too) when ordinary folks from across the globe can patch together quilted canopies which may not stop the inevitable Fall, but can at least slow the drop down enough so that we can appreciate the view from atop the shoulders of giants. Milton called it a felix culpa and his blind muses sang the line: ‘find within thee a paradise happier far’. While paradise must always be somehow lost if we are to remain human, the fall can at least be made into a happy one.

Swarm is a community, and it’s a business, and it’s a way of organizing that is radically different from anything attempted in the modern era. But most of all, Swarm is an idea. And you need only watch the underground scene in ‘V for Vendetta’ to know what that really means:

“Die! Die! Why won’t you die?”

“Because, Mr Creedy. Beneath this mask there is more than flesh and bone. Beneath this mask there is an idea… And ideas are bulletproof.”

No points for guessing who wins that fight. Another favourite piece of mine to quote is the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto: ‘Those with access to these resources — students, librarians, scientists — you have been given a privilege. You get to feed at this banquet of knowledge while the rest of the world is locked out. But you need not — indeed, morally, you cannot — keep this privilege for yourselves. You have a duty to share it with the world’.

Well, Swarm is about more than JStor and academic articles. Swarm is about opening access to basic finance to the entire world. And make no mistake — this is a moral imperative.

As with all moral imperatives worth pursuing, it is proving extraordinarily difficult to achieve. But make no mistake, there are people who will fight to their last breath to see it happen, so get on board, or find yourself on the wrong side of a fundamentally human history.

My Dream

I tried to save the world
and drove myself insane,
twisted dreamer of a
too-hot orb, backflipping
into swan-swum lakes
with kids smoking pot
and my favourite music
humming through the air
hissing temptation from
an old apple tree:
‘It must be getting
awful lonely’
my snake said,
‘tryna save the world,
just buy a collared shirt
and try and fuck
some girls.’
But a man with
Tibetan prayer flags
that disintegrated
in the winter winds,
absolute and true
signifiers of the mystery
as the threads became
undone,
who had been married
in the highest
Buddhist temple
to life’s sweet love
and an always-longing look,
who rescued me
from myself,
from the world of dreams
inside my head,
told me softly
about the strawberries
and the short summer
and how it made them sweet.
So wandering on I went
to old churches where
rivers met and saints
who walk among the living
having known and lived
their deaths came to me
one by one, trying
to humble me once more,
teach me to look outside
the narrow world of dream
to this all-too-wide reality
made of mystic men and women
and ordinary days
and ordinary days
which light our
dusty yesterdays all
the way to
death again.
The whole of time
lay bare before me,
in a tenseless manifold
of four dimensions –
and seven more above –
all connected through
truth to beauty,
enough to drive me
beyond myself until
I realised that connection
is joyous if you learn
to look in the places
you want to see,
the little spaces
where squirrels run
and ducklings swim,
one day to turn to swans
through some miracle
they’ll never understand.
God walked through
my fading dreams then,
muttering in Sanskrit
about all the holy texts,
reciting koans from the Torah
and English hymns
from the Qu’ran,
leading me back to life
in an old Norman church
as ancient wooden angels
curled their weathered wings
around me whispering:
‘This world will get better,
if you would be a better man.
I look out through All,
so save yourself and these
blue skies might extend
forever.’

Swarm is an Idea