One could have long arguments over the exact definition of socialism if it?s posed as an abstract future-construction. However such a discussion will acquire different quality if we are to base it upon real processes which we can observe in the present reality which are already undermining and (or even outplacing in certain conditions) the established models.
Why not start with Wikipedia and other examples of so-called peer production that are challenging traditional hierarchical capitalist business models? Wikipedia is a profoundly anti-capitalist and even communist way of producing and distributing knowledge. It is based on the principle to each according to need, from each according to ability. The contributors or editors are not paid and the users are not charged, which again flies in the face of all capitalist logic. Furthermore, Wikipedia is egalitarian produced on the basis of horizontal reciprocities rather than hierarchical control.
Another famous example of peer-production is Linux. Thanks to the Internet Linux was build by thousands of computer programmers worldwide, most of them working for companies such as Microsoft, IBM and others, who collectively and voluntarily build a new and — according to many better and more stable computer operating system that today is used by major corporations like BMW and is massively used in countries like China.
Open-source production could (and probably will) revolutionise businesses worldwide, but these developments are hardly discussed by the left. The early defenders of open sources and peer production were ? and often still are — branded by the establishment as the new communists. In fact, there is a group on Facebook called Telekommunisten.
Of course, as with every new technology, capitalism tries to use these new developments into their advantage. A couple of years ago Google started an on-line encyclopaedia project trying to out-compete Wikipedia by introducing the concept of monetary rewards depending on the amount of visits of the page you made. The result was a complete and total failure. Hardly anyone can actually remember it.
Internet and peer production, by themselves will, not automatically create the conditions for a superior system that will destroy or replace capitalism, as some of the theoreticians of peer production argue. But we must consider them as an important bridge to a future society and the demands of the peer movement surely deserve the attention of the international left as many points seem worth being integrated in a socialist programme.
These examples teach us important lessons. It shows money and material gains are not the main motivators of scientists, intellectuals and high skilled technicians. Once their material needs are met, they are driven by curiosity, the challenge of solving problems, the joy of working collectively on a project, of contributing to a better world, etc.