18 Mar 2015

Draft Proposal for a Currency Commons

in Commons, Community, Community of Practice, Currencies, Reputation

Blog Post Preface

Stones-Tumbles-GemsI originally wrote this in 2004 but only recently realized it wasn't available anywhere onlne. I shared this document with the community of currency practitioners that attended the June 2004 Local Currencies Conference at Bard College organized by the E.F. Schumacher Society. It was well received, but there was not enough unity or energy to follow up, so nothing came of it. But it was the original design of the application of Stones/Tumbles/Gems for a Community of Practice.

It's a little funny to read this now. My initial exposure to the complementary currency community was very commercial: people patenting their designs, algorithms and processes and wanting to charge others for doing things like accounting in two currencies. It looked to me like this industrial age strategy of competing with each other and marking off intellectual property would seriously cripple any ability for a movement to grow. Luckily, it turned out that more people in this space were closer to social activists, than corporate patent lawyers, so collaboration did occur. 

However, I still have hopes of creating a community of practice for currency designers. My current orientation would be less commercially oriented than the following proposal. A bit more like a guild... designed to pass sophisticated and arcane knowledge along to future generations of practioners.  But the original proposal should also be out there just for the record. :) 

21 Nov 2014

Designing Social Flows - Chapter 6 on Designing Incentives

in Collective Intelligence, Culture, Currencies, Currency Design, Design Principles, Social DNA

[This is an original / pre-edit draft submission for a book on Designing for Social Flows. It is being curated by Jean Russel and Herman Wagter collecting pieces from thought leaders in the field. I will edit this to link to the book once it is published.]]

Social Network DiagramBecoming a Culture Hacker

When I learned that building things alone is just not as interesting as collaborative creation, community became my canvas for building new things. In the mid-1990s, this surfaced as a calling to create “community at WORK together.” So I started a company with some friends with only a commitment to build co-creative magic. By ‘only,’ I mean we had no real business experience, no business plan, no revenue model, no product and no clear idea of what value we had to offer. But we had plenty of lofty ideals about how we wanted to build community, relate to each other, and work together.

We were extremely successful at building community, and surprisingly, it turned out we even did fairly well as a business. We found ourselves as an Internet company, growing quickly in the midst of the dot-com-boom. We were a self-organizing company, structured such that people did not have managers (only projects did) and growing like that presented us with a worthy challenge. How do you build an inspiring community of friends, peers and collaborators, yet still ensure the accountability, reliability and results needed for everyone to take home a paycheck with no management or supervisors?

19 Nov 2014

The Laws of Thermodynamics Reinterpreted

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Design Principles, Evolution, Flows, Generosity Economy, Paradox, Thermodynamics, Upward Spirals

Let's do a quick review of principles of thermodynamics for those who may be rusty. Remember, there are many different ways of precisely stating the Laws. I'm paraphrasing to convey basic meaning and context.

  1. The First Law is about the conservation of matter and energy. They can be neither created nor destroyed, but can change form.
  2. The Second Law is about entropy or energy dispersal. Whenever you use energy to do some work, or whenever energy is converted from one form to another, some of that energy is lost (dissipates as heat) in the process. 

These "laws" are understood to have been universally empirically validated. But mostly they are interpreted in a fairly restrictive sense to mean things like: the laws prove that perpetual motion machines (of the first and second class) are impossible.

Having spent so many years looking at the world through the lens of currencies (current-sees), I have to admit, it's hard not to also see these Laws through that lens. I'm used to seeing, and using currencies to help groups collectively see, system behaviors that emerge from making seemingly small, and simple decisions about flows which over time create huge changes in direction. For example, the seemingly small rule of issuing money as debt which bears interest has massive consequences on the large scale pattern of the economy (forcing economic growth to stave off currency collapse, creating artificial scarcity and competition between people, consistent wealth transfer to those who already have it, etc.)

18 Nov 2014

The Unfolding Story of a Life-Affirming Economy

in Commonwealth, Currencies, Gift Economies, Living Systems, MetaCurrency

Video from a TEDx talk from one of our lovely MetaCurrency leaders was just released. It's rather beautiful. Please take a few minutes to soak it in.

17 Nov 2014

Currency Design Training Materials

in Currencies, Currency Design

The combination of the blog post about designing reputation currencies and a conference call with the Earth Benign team to plan for upcoming currency design workshopping with their team had me working on documenting more currency design stuff today.  Unfortunately, the pieces are still scattered about in multiple documents and need to be unified into something more publishable.

Currency Token Life-CycleI'm re-publishing one cool thing right now, though - a map of the currency design decision space (according my 2008 thinking)

One of the things I encountered as I tried communicating with and working with people in the alternative currency space is that there was a lot of heated and emotional argument about fairly minor technicalities. Most people in the space focused on just a couple factors in currency design and seemed to ignore the whole rest of the decision landscape completely. This was my attempt to open up that landscape to everyone and hopefully move toward some shared language instead of getting tripped up over minor semantic differences.

FYI, the two things everyone normally focuses on is ISSUANCE and INTEREST. Who gets to issue the currency and how (e.g. bankers as debt vs. all participants as mutual credit) and do negative or positive balances accrue interest. 

15 Nov 2014

Reputation is Orthogonal to Exchange

in Currencies, Currency Design, Exchange, Gift Economies, Reputation

It feels like it's been a long time since I've posted about any of the principles of currency design that I've discovered in designing, building and launching currencies over the past 10 – 20 years.

This one seems worth specific mention, since it seems like such a frighteningly common mistake that everyone makes as they start to break out of the old school money model just a little bit.

It's tempting to blame Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom for setting this precedent in his depiction of Whuffie. I appreciate that he was at least creating a post-scarcity / post-monetary vision. But I don't think he started this problem, it’s just that many people fall prey to the same pattern of thinking because it's like the money we know.

Here’s the crux of it. Reputation currencies do NOT operate the same way as monetary currencies. Period.

01 Nov 2014

Who should issue our currency?

in Currencies, Decentralization, Money

The concept is really simple.

Since it is ALL OF US who create value, I believe it is ALL OF US who need to maintain our capacities to choose how to measure and account for the value we create.

If we surrender this ability to any special or narrow interest group (and like it or not, the government is one of those) then we surrender control of the value we create.

The real possibility of Occupy Wall Street is not about physical occupation of a street, but about replacing the role that Wall St. plays in wealth creation. We spoke at Re-Visioning Money Day on October 24, 2011 at 60 Wall St. Thanks to Katie Teague for filming!
29 Aug 2011

Future trajectory for our species?

in Collective Intelligence, Currencies, Evolution, New Economy, Social DNA

I just contributed to the Human Project on Kickstarter, but I'd also like to open an inquiry here about the direction of our species that doesn't sound like it's included in their plans.

Can we tweak what we measure and pay attention to provide game-like incentives which build better communities?
Urban Times