Are shared units of wealth still relevant in a world of open data?

Our current paradigm with money is one of a centrally-managed, privately-issued, state-guaranteed, accepted unit of value that we pass around in exchange for goods/services. If you look at this as an information system, this is a very primitive one inherited from the times when money was a commodity.

Given that credit money is merely information, many monetary reformists have questioned whether our money should be centrally-managed, privately-issued, etc. but most monetary reformists have assumed the use of a shared unit of value, if only at a community level. Shared units of value unfortunately always come with very difficult definition, adoption, and ongoing management issues. For instance, there must be rules as to how they are issued and how they move from one person to the next.

Tokens you pass around are like point-to-point communications model such as email, where messages are sent from one person to the next, forwarded, etc. We know the limitations of such a communication model. What’s valuable is what people decide to send you. A much more powerful communications model is the publish-subscribe model. This is the model of the Web/blogs/twitter/wikis: I don’t send to someone in particular, but to a shared space, where those interested to follow me get notified or know where to find the updates. What’s valuable is what you decide to receive.

In a world where huge amount of data flow every minute, what we need are not shared units of value in which we can express ourselves in an arithmetic way. What we need are the personal version of enterprise business intelligence tools that help us interpret our world in the way we want so that we know where to direct our energy.

Our personal intelligence tools, and how they render the world we live in, will drive an increasing portion of our actions, including giving away services or goods. Others will not necessarily owe us a favor or debt for these gifts, but will similarly act and give to enjoy the feedback of their actions. In the next 5-10 years, we can expect some interesting developments at the frontier of activity streams, information visualization and games. Expect to see people sharing their own renderings, which others will combine with others’, etc. This will be particularly interesting as the Social Web morphs into the Web of Things.

Power will move from influencing the distribution of money to influencing which personal intelligence tools we use and how we configure them.

3 thoughts on “Are shared units of wealth still relevant in a world of open data?”

  1. Do you think these activity streams could also be combined with more traditional money (before we finally get rid of it)? I love the idea of Flattr ( and i'm hoping that in the future microdonations will be the driving force behind internet productivity.

    I'm also building a new web app for Twitter, with the idea that for each tweets users read they have to respond, wheter they “liked” it, don't find it interesting, or simply have “read” it, removing it from the stream of “new tweats”. This information is used to valuate tweets based on who has written them and what content they have (things like hashtags), and in the future show “liked” content higher and “uninteresting” content lower in the stream.

    I'm also playing around with the idea, of how this could be great platfrom for giving microdonations. If the system learns who has produced which content (based on semantic syntax, like /by @user), you could use it like Flattr, dividing, lets say 10€/month, to creators of content that you have liked.

  2. Yes, I think it is possible we might see a payment-related activity (Facebook has in the past been testing the idea of making microdonations to content posted by friends).

    But in a way, my point is: it's not needed since we can rely on “Mark as Liked” or “Mark as Favorite” – which are more meaningful – to then compute how to direct our energy (in the case of, how to split our monthly $ commitment).

    Reusing the existing Twitter functionality “Mark as liked” and computing automatically a fixed $ amount sounds like a great idea.

  3. Hi Guillaume,
    I saw your post and I thought you might be interested in this.
    For a whole year, I'll be living entirely on a community currency – the Dibit.
    I'll use the currency to cover everything from food to rent to health care.
    I think the project will do a lot to show people exactly how far you can go on a secondary currency.
    Here's a link if you'd like to read more:


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