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Greetings fellow animal! My name is Robbert Schep. I’m a male human of 32 years old. I live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the country I was born in. For the better part of the last 6 years, I have been setting up my own business in mobile app innovations. Although accomplishing successful, and mostly, experimental innovations in the live music industry, nothing I did seemed to make sense to me and my mind was always troubled. A few years ago I figured out why that was. Now I still have a troubled mind but at least I know where those troubling feelings are coming from and are able to do something about it.

The paradox of the hamsters in the wheel

While I, like everybody else who is hooked to the Internet, grew more and more aware of the thousands of problems facing humanity, I realized that nothing I did seemed to contribute to a solution for even one of them. Moreover, I realized that almost 50 years after the publication of ‘Limit to Growth’ by the Club of Rome, the growing awareness about the poor state of our nature and her proven interdependence on the way we shape our cultures, has not lead to any real fundamental changes in our societal structures. I found that relatively nobody is working on solving real problems by working on real solutions. The paradox is that we are getting better and better at measuring and calculating the exact effects of our cultural systems on our nature and science is getting more and more accessible to people through the internet, but somehow we find ourselves apathetic and disconcerted in the midst of a complex information war between the biggest economies and political systems that seem to be designed to prevent societies to unite and get to work on fixing our self-caused problems. This is the greatest paradox of our time that is causing confusion, misinformation, disorientation and an overall feeling of impotence among people all over the world. After all, deep down we know we are the hamsters running the wheel ourselves. In a way, this paradox, being upheld and used conveniently by the enemies of democracy and progressive minorities, is the central issue of this essay that I want to expose and break.

Our Momentum is Now

I also realized that the effects of this paradox must be in the process of growing into a common sense of injustice and anger among progressive-minded people. There must be a growing natural resistance within progressive minorities all over our societies. They must look at our societal structures and be appalled to still see a system that is being kept in place by the conservative majority and is guiding and stimulating people in working for companies and organizations that are, mostly indirectly, part of the problem.

I believe that it’s going to be vital that we change this and create an economy where people are enabled to work on solutions for real problems. Right now we are trying to save our only natural habitat in the whole universe (that we know of), in our spare time, as if it is a charity or a part-time job. I believe the only way forward is to make ‘saving our biosphere’ a cold, hard business and center it in our economies and societies. The idea of Smartup Zero is that we create a new type of business that can be the vehicle that drives us there. The growing anger among the progressive-minded and the ‘window’ our environmental scientist forecasted for us, equals a momentum for us to strike. We have to get organized and get busy.

The Structure

I decided to put my money where my mouth is and went to work in search of a practical way to give meaning to this important insight. The result is this essay proposition for a trial and error experiment that I want you to participate in. It was insurmountable that it would become an extensive essay because there are just too many ideas, concepts and insights that I need you to understand. Still, it’s not only words. It all leads to a practical experiment that set’s us off into the construction of a new institution that is able to create and governs technologies that the world is in need of AND can sustain . It’s build-up in three chapters.

  1. How to make people want less stuff (by enabling them to give more) 

    Here I’ll set out a theoretical framework that connects key insights and ideas to understand the need and urgency for the Smartup Zero experiment. 

  2. We have to Smartup.

    This is the guide that describes the Smartup Zero experiment and covers the details on how we can start building and owning our own technologies. 

  3. Onlive: the social information network for the real world

    A technological blueprint for a social information platform that acts as the first subject for the Smartup Zero experiment.

Overall, ‘Smartup Zero: a blueprint for disruption’ must be seen as a call to action where I propose a transformative set of ideas, aimed for a better future for all. These ideas all come together in a practical experiment to find out, through trial and error, if these ideas can help us break the Paradox of the Hamsters in the Wheel.

Ultimately we want to prove (by doing) that we don’t need our governments, corporations, leaders or even a majority of people to start reforming our societies. We can show, as a hands-on, determined, progressive minority, that the people themselves can be in control of how we change our way of living. That’s what a Smartup is all about. This essay is a roadmap towards the launch of the first Smartup in the world and describes how this new type of organisation can create and govern revolutionary technologies that enable people to transform their own communities from within and enhance their changes to create a civilisation that thrives with nature. 

Acknowledgments & Disclaimer

In the past two years, this project has completely taken over my life causing me to neglect my company, social life, and financial stability. I sacrificed my reputation as a promising entrepreneur and got into debt with a lot of friends and family who supported me despite the fact that nobody really could grasp the essence of what I was working on. The publication of this essay is dedicated to them, my family and friends, who had to put up with me, the one who got lost in theories and concepts and took the risk of drowning in them. Hopefully, you’ll understand, now that you can see where I want to take us. 

This essay is addressed to those who want to stop talking and start doing. To those who do not accept current reality and seek a way to alter it. It is for those who are eager to start building a new world and don't want to wait until our governments and leaders are brave enough to make the transformative changes our scientists and children demand. It is for those who are angry and tired of waking up in a world where a very small minority of people and organizations have acquired all the wealth and power by exploiting the majority of the people on this planet, and most importantly; the planet itself. Smartup Zero is for you if you are ready to start taking control, responsibility, and action and ignore all those who say we can’t or don’t have to change. We have to and we will.