Posts tagged ‘community’

Future Fungible - Multiplicity or Singularity?

by Joshua Klein

The biggest concern for me in facing 2015’s currency issues is that of proliferation - I can barely manage the multiplicity of social currencies I have now. I shudder to think how it would be if I were to find an order of magnitude more limited-platform transactable commodities I had to trade in order to realize their value.

How would we manage, or fail to manage, multiple currencies whose value is in many cases unregulated and only socially restricted? Will cross-platform transactions be available only on a case-by-case basis? Will currencies have all the vague value implications of favors?

What’s more, how will these massively multiplayer economies resist all the pitfalls of classic economies? Will World of Warcraft suddenly go bankrupt due to Second Life land loans? Can a nation state bail out a reality shard? Can IRC serve as a guarentor for an RSS feed?

[This graphics is built through service and property of IBM.]

When value becomes intrinsicly relative to a social group that is porous, both geographically and psychologically, what does that mean for the ability of the group to transact? Is a commodity only as good as its owner? Is reputation the gold standard of interactivity and trust? If so, what does that mean for online smear campaigns and the future liquidity of the digitally aged?

On the other hand, as we saw in the scip currencies of old Austria, perhaps living off a currency that is only as good as your last blog post will prompt better human relations. Right now hard federal currencies are embroidered with mores that gift them their true value - dollars are only as good as your banker, as Iceland recently learned. If reputation economies take an upper hand in measuring the worth of your word as mitigated by quantifiable computer systems, perhaps we can live and die by more than google.

This multiverse view expects that the rapid fluidity will exceed human capacity for mass manipulation and exploitation, which might also be folly. Will AI emerge that can manage the tender mercies of public opinion for personal gain? Will spamfarms move over to subtle, innocuous posts across the blogosphere which serve to tank certain currencies and bolster others? Will the resistance of a currency to devaluation increase its net worth, and hence its scarcity?

Or will we all be bound into a single, universal currency - one ring to rule them all - in order to facilitate commerce, legal or otherwise?

Starting from scratch

by Heather Moore

This is a thought exercise:

Imagine waking up in 2015 and all money has disappeared. All cash, credit cards and forms of currency, gone. Stock markets, kaput. A world without money.

What’s more, you can’t even remember that it had existed or that it had been important to you or the world.

All you have is yourself and the people and ideas you value. You have your unique combination of history, talent, skills and creativity. Your understanding of the world based on your DNA, your upbringing, your geographic location and your influences. You have your thoughts, ideas, perceptions, sensory experiences.  And you have the need to process, share, express and inspire.

Then imagine people coming together to solve problems with nothing but this, and with no prior knowledge of what exchange used to be.

Would you think in terms of what you need or what you can share? Would you exchange or contribute?

If you were to offer something to exchange, what would it be? How do you conduct this exchange? How is value established, among individuals? Among communities?

How might you set up an exchange that leverages everyone’s talents, creativity, perspectives and passions? How would you form groups? How would you solve problems?

And how might you prepare now for this future?

[Note: This is meant to be a thought exercise to explore omission, and inspired by one of John Maeda's Laws of Simplicity: 'Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.']

From now to 2015

by Nicolas Nova

Important, uncertain, uncontrollable. These are the 3 characteristics shared by the events we are looking for till 2015. Foresight is mostly about sketching and playing with the factors that will have an important influence on how we live, that we cannot be sure of and which we cannot always control.

10 years ahead, the big picture is quite clear, let’s set up the scene using some common pointers. On the environmental side, the pressure will be more and more important, with the beginning of the natural resource exhaustion in some petro-region, the possible re-localization of production in places which used to outsource it to developing countries. In terms of demography, developed countries will experience both aging population and the arrival of younger migrants, which will surely lead to some unbalanced repartition of wealth and social protections. Of course, developing countries will keep seeing a booming young population, only a part of it may escape and leave for the western world. Globalization will be more and more reinforced with the interdependence of different economies but in 2015, some weak signals of today may even be more pregnant:

view globalization

* the competitive advantage of countries with low cost of labor may decrease, and the transportation cost will rise

* the creation of wealth will be even more affected by technological and industrial factors thanks to the advent of computer-based design tools (such as 3D printing), new materials and energy sources.

* the preference of consumer will more and more go to locally-produced artifacts and food.

* on the political side, states and institutions will try to reduce the dependency their territories have with other sources of production.

* jeremy rifkin’s “age of access” will be the right metaphor here as consumers will have tons of “services” at hands mediated by various technologies. The difficulty to maintain the interoperability of these services will of course lead to weird scenarios and misunderstandings.

* social relationships will still thrive with an even wider range of links: merchant-based, family-based, politically-based but, above all communautary-based with an shape: the diaspora model. The cohabitation of communities with different needs, ethnic and religious ideals, sources of wealth and desires will of course lead to some frictions.

The quick and dirty picture I’ve painted here is of course characterized by a clear lack of balance and symmetry between various actors (developed/developing countries, migrant versus others, those who have access and those who don’t) which will eventually lead to conflicts and crisis. Globalization will foster migration, re-localization, nuisances caused by transport and their creeping infrastructures, etc. The asymmetry between different communities will also lead to greater surveillance and threat of privacy. One of the answer for this will be the recurring “calls for more regulations” in the economic, cultural, political and perhaps even religious spheres. Regulation at global levels will be so slow that nothing may happened through the UN but some regional blocks (such as the EU) may manage to structure a bit their socio-economic system. The side-effect of regulation will inevitably lead to resistance and the reinforcement of the aforementioned communities.

In my next post, I’ll try to address what this means for the evolution of transactions and how these factors may reshape the exchange of value. Or, to put it shortly what happens at the individual or social level.

The near future of on-line bartering

by Nicolas Nova

by Nicolas Nova

The reason I enjoy reading science-fiction is not because it features MIT-inspired and glossy technological devices a la Minority Report. Instead, it’s how this genre enables the discussion of the implications of change, be they technological or sociological. For instance, to get back to the topic at hand - the future of value exchange. I find it less intriguing to observe the über geek representation of digital devices that may replace tangible coins than looking at what shape relationships between people would take.

If you read Charles Stross’ Accelerando , you would find a curious character called Manfred, who is supposedly at the “peak of his profession”. Half consultant, half spin-doctor, he delivers ideas and insights to others, who subsequently turn them into loads of money. However, as seen in the novel, Manfred is not paid with cash. The model is very different: essentially coming up with whacky but workable ideas and giving them to people who will make fortunes with them. He does this for free, gratis. In return, he has virtual immunity from the tyranny of cash; money is a symptom of poverty, after all, and Manfred never has to pay for anything. (…) The Internal Revenue Service is continuously investigating him because it doesn’t believe his lifestyle can exist without racketeering.

In design, we would call this person an “extreme user” because that character’s non-revenue model may clearly be unique and limited. Nevertheless, it offers us an interesting extreme case of value exchange. What is important here is not to take Manfred’s job as the sort of activities a normal human would do but rather to think about his business model (or perhaps one should say his life model). Therefore, let’s call Manfred an extreme user of the future. His walk of life is meaningful because of the underlying mechanisms that could be applicable for a more general group of people. We can look at him as a way to provide insights regarding human interests and desires, relevant for foresight outcomes.

What does the “Manfred case” mean for the future of value exchange? Simply, he represents how certain people could live: by trading services instead of cash. While Manfred trades potentially rewarding business ideas against a hotel room and a fresh toothbrush, others could simply barter a bit of help with gardening and get some fresh fruit or vegetables in return. This model is actually not so farfetched or futuristic: it currently exists. It’s called a local exchange trading system (LETS) but the French term is more intriguing. It’s called a SEL (meaning “système d’échange local”, system of local exchange), while “sel” in French also means salt.

I won’t enter into much detail about what the state has to say about that, nor will I try to depict how this reshuffles the notion of value. What I want to delineate here concerns what this would look like in a technologically-mediated environment. To some extent, I am thinking here of a sort of bartering platform where you can trade goods or services. What we need here is two things: a bartering platform and a service layer.

Bartering is the easy thing. Try to picture a second-hand objects marketplace such as eBay in which instead of paying you would offer to trade one or some of your belongings against the artefact you want to get in return. We’re close to that; the first brick of such platforms actually exists. Look for example at folkd or giventake , which offer debuting solutions for that matter. There is a whole ecosystem of modules (such as cclite or sweblets ) and software (xolimited , bartertrainer ) which support bartering mechanisms.

Additionally, we also have the service layer somewhere in the Web2.0 realm: Amazon Mechanical Turk or innocentive are two instances of platforms where you can offer your horsepower online and get something in return, generally money. Turk and innocentive are examples of a new kind of marketplace that enables a web-based program to co-ordinate the use of human resources to perform tasks which computers are unable to do. What we need to facilitate Manfred’s business model is basically a platform that hooks up such a service layer on top of a bartering system so that users can exchange their horsepower against goods or services.

The two examples I’ve chosen here are all but random: while the former is about micro-tasks, the latter is about collective work. Both have interesting characteristics that can serve as a model for a service-based bartering platform. Micro-tasks are indeed pertinent in a collective context because they can enable us to do small things multiplied by big numbers, which can lead to big influence.

Fungible currencies

by Joshua Klein

by Joshua Klein

Are digital economies going to be socio-local or geopolitical? Virtual economies are certainly being exploited by real-world ones; modern governments are concerned about online money-laundering, which is widespread and almost impossible to limit. The increase in pervasive mobile technologies means that geolocative relationships will be increasingly integrated into value chains that enter and exit existing (and monitor-able) economic systems, clouding identities and exacerbating the problem.

At the same time, these virtualized systems provide increased means to analyse, understand, and stabilize current established banking systems. For example, German economist Frank Westerhoff and colleagues have used agent models to build realistic markets on which they impose very small taxes on transactions in foreign exchange markets to help to reduce market volatility. They’ve found evidence that it works, but also that it has a surprising sensitivity to small aspects of market mechanics. This sort of analytic capability, when paired with well-monitored transaction tracking, could potentially help prevent catastrophes like the current sub-prime mortgage crisis in the U.S.

Then again, it could not. Virtually sociolocalized groups, like MySpace friends or Stickam clans, could instead keep their economies to themselves. If they kept the value of their currencies tied explicitly to the relationships they represent, then exchange would stay prohibitively expensive. You can’t buy a new house in Second Life with a sword in World of Warcraft unless you cash the latter out for dollars and they buy the former, and in both cases you’re violating the terms of the producers of the game.

On the other hand, if a globally available transaction API was made available to provide a market-balanced trading forum for virtualized goods, it may be possible to see the concept of “value” normalized across a global conglomeration of virtual worlds. If that happens, would the so-called “invisible hand” drive emergent economies? Could cause a drop in the price of Steel Boots in World of Warcraft? Would the discovery of a new world in Eve Online lead to a sudden flush of investment in MarioWorld Karts?

Right now these currencies are limited because they’re not fungible, but their ability to be transacted across systems is getting more and more likely. In fact, “virtualized” systems have historically used non-fungible currencies and interacted with monetized systems just fine. The example of the Hawala system is a good one, in which a reputation-based system builds on a base unit relationship to bring power to bear between strangers. This sort of authentication-based system, rather than one based on verified identity, has direct analogs to modern encryption and authentication systems used online today. Given that, it’s no great surprise to see similar reputation economics in places such as Wikipedia, Digg, MySpace, and others - or to imagine them expanding into (or over) monetized economies.

It’s not just reputation systems, either - explicit virtual economic systems are being increasingly subverted to suit the cultural groups who form their base. In World of Warcraft, “twinking,” or equipping a lower level character with high-powered weapons and armor, is a well-known permutation of the game. Once you’ve hit level 70, there’s nothing left to do but play the game differently or not play at all. At that point players have essentially “won,” but their investment in time and energy to master the skills to play the game well need to be applied differently if they’re to be enjoyed at all. Taken another way, once you’ve maxed out your character all you have to spend your hard-earned cash on is another character.

In the same way, Eve Online - which is a space-faring game essentially about trade - has its own economist to maintain a balance in the in-world economy, and even he observes that “the players themselves have actually created a lot of extra services, which allow them to earn income through in-direct game mechanics. … There are player-run banks that are being established, who provide financial services - people can even live off of the capital that these services earn.” Is Eve Online going to see virtual trust-fund babies exploiting new aspects of the existing economic system to achieve goals well outside the game’s intended industrialist growth? Is this sort of fractal capitalism leading to an integration of virtual to real currencies?

[This graphic is built through service and property of IBM.]

Either way it seems as though the tension in digital economies between sociological versus geopolitical forces is squaring off over the battle for fungibility and integration. Small culture groups are increasingly seeing real value in their virtual labors, and large-scale economic systems are finding it increasingly difficult to capitalize on same. Are these systems going to integrate through a wholesale, flat and unified system, or are they going to go scattershot into a future of radically disassociated economic relationships?


by tomislav

[This graphic is built through service and property of IBM.]

A LETS is a locally initiated, democratically organized, not-for-profit  community enterprise which provides a community information service and records transactions of members exchanging goods and services by using the currency of locally created LETS Credits. The LETS Credit currency does not involve coins, paper money or tokens of any kind but rather acts as a scoring system, keeping track of the value of individual members’ transactions within the system. It is simply a community information system attached to its own market-place.

The attached document deals with the theory and diffusion of Local Exchange Trading Systems and similar communities around the world and includes all necessary information on how it works, who is using it, where the most important communities are located, what are the benefits and the disadvantages. In addition, the documents offers several links guiding you directly to internet websites.

Kash Klash project - the vision

by Irene Cassarino

We create our future as much as our past creates us. The relatively new digital world of the internet has offered us new methods of communicating, of discovering and of interacting. We have learned that we don’t have to simply copy familiar physical forms and adapt them to this new environment, but that we can use our collective imagination to invent new forms and tools, as dynamic and holistic as we are.

Friedrich Kiesler in 1939 defined this as co-realism: ‘an exchange of interacting forces’ and situates the idea of expanding human capacities within it. Here is an opportunity to transform our recent past as consumers and producers to that of active co-creators of our collective future— to create something new with all that we have learned from farming culture, academic enlightenment, master craftsmanship and industrial efficiency and use the essential elements to light a path through our new integrated physical/digital world.

Are we prescribing or determining form and behavior? Are we making means for a specific experience, or are we creating conditions for what has been called the experimental exercise of freedom? - Mies van der Rohe

KashKlash is a space to share thoughts on, and to shape, the future; a playground for visionary people like you, who, in a sense, are already living a few years ahead. One particular aspect of the future we are particularly keen to explore is related to exchanges in our culture. Let’s start from the basic consideration that people have always shared and exchanged things. Sure, it comes to us naturally. But today’s digital communication systems are changing and expanding this age-old behaviour: not only are there new things to share — pictures, music, ratings, writings, videos, data and information — but there are now also many more platforms and opportunities for sharing and exchanging to take place.

Can we consider such exchanges to be ‘economical’? Sure we can, as in the original Greek  meaning of “one who manages a household”: although these exchanges often don’t involve money, they are rapidly growing in importance. Yet, our current capitalist economy is based on the assumption that everything has a monetary value, and ought to be traded according to that value. What is challenging our imagination is that the uptake of digital technology is starting to undermine this assumption.

Consider a person uploading a picture on Flickr, with an open license.  She is making a ‘gift’ to the Flickr community in the sense that she does not expect to have any financial compensation in return, but she does get other things instead: e.g. the feeling of belonging to a community of peers, a great potential visibility for her picture, the recognition of the beauty of it, the happiness of having her friends and relatives virtually gathered around that picture, and so on. The exchange has become non-financial and is definitely shaping a different, or if you want, alternative, ecosystem. An alternative to the mainstream.

Of course we know that alternative economies are nothing new: Local communities worldwide have always practised sharing and trading things (both material and immaterial, like time) without the support of money. Even now in 2008 this local practice is still very widely diffused, yet it sits at the margin of the dominant economic model and has a reputation of being naïve. What is new, with respect to a few years ago, is the increased interaction between digital/global and physical/local sharing through digital, especially mobile, communication tools.

Personal/Shared Values vs. Monetary Value

The current world of physical currency offers a degree of anonymity that allows individuals and groups to disassociate what they produce with what they consume. What have we lost in blurring the association between the two? Does the web, rich with connections and openness, offer an opportunity to reclaim this lost territory? What are the implications of this? Can both forms co-exist? In the merging physical/digital world, will other types of compensation - time, skills, services, a sense of belonging, visibility, public recognition, identity and so on - be increasingly important?

What might replace money as it exists now? What could be sharable and what cannot? What impact could this have on people and communities? How could a post-money economy best be organised, especially given the failures of the current economic model? How do communities of sharing shape and maintain themselves? How do they build their values? Do they have explicit or implicit values? What are the differences between global/online and local/physical communities of sharing? To what extent can digital/mobile communication tools help people in both online and physical communities manage their sharing and exchanging practices? What would the rules, rituals and habits of this future world be?

To address these questions, we created KashKlash, a forum to debate, imagine and co-create this future.
It is worth noting here that the focus of this understanding is on a possible future ecosystem, rather than on the technological tools underpinning it. We want the technology to adapt to the landscape we are trying to sketch out, not to be pulled in a certain direction by technology.

We want you to feel free to express your view, even if you feel that it is loosely related to the subject of the discussion: this platform is a simply a playground for ideas coming from people who are in love with the future and we are looking forward to seeing the amazing jigsaw puzzle of insights that results!
Please experiment with your thoughts and transfer them to us through words, images, sounds, videos, whatever medium you prefer.
We know how powerful ideas can be when a suitable space is created for a diverse community of people to express them.

KashKlash is a public domain project, set up by Heather Moore of Vodafone’s User Experience group, where all the content is public and open for all to use, allowing everyone to gain from everyone else’s contributions.
Such an open and spirited climate should not be hampered by Vodafone’s involvement, and it should be clear to everybody that opinions presented within this project are not somehow attached/attachable to Vodafone but are opinions from individuals, belonging to them and to the public domain.