Future of Money Interview. Part II. Part II On digital currency, politics and identity

Interview between Heather Schlegel (@heathervescent) and Guillaume Lebleu (@giyom), co-founder of Credibles.

Recorded on July 18 2014, funded via the Future of Money Kickstarter.


HS: So let’s think about the future. Let’s go 10 years in the future or maybe 5 years. I’m curious how you think it would be interesting or you’d like to see crypto equity or some of the ideas you’re exploring with Credibles. How could those become more an everyday experience. What world do you see or would you like to see in 5-10 years?

GL: One of my favorite own quotes [laughters] is: in the future we’ll pay with our own promises, and we’ll vote by accepting others. And I’m not saying this is what we’ll do all the time. But I think there is truth to the fact that money and politics are very much intertwined.

GL: One of the reasons for money, the idea of guarantee liquidity in a given country, is to tax. People try to think, we’re going to create apolitical money, and Bitcoin is this, and I think the two [money & politics] are very much related. I think money will evolve alongside with new ways of governing ourselves. I’m just going to give you an example that I think is possible. Today for instance, governments fund themselves by going in debt, they borrow money, and pay back interest. I think in a 5-10 year timeframe we could see governments, cities, simply issuing credits into circulation. Maybe as a way to pay some people or just to deal with some of the fiscal difficulties. And today this is viewed very negatively by markets, and I could see in a 5-10 year timeframe it may not be seen so negatively. At the government level at the macro level, there’s also the discussion about technology disrupting jobs and the necessity of having a universal basic income, which also goes against this idea that governments have to borrow money. So, I see a future where a lot of different entities will issue some type of promises redeemable for something. So for a government, they’ll probably still do tax, but they may be issuing these credits to fund some projects or give purchasing power to their citizens, and they may tax it back in return. At the company level we could see that as well.

GL: The whole system of having debt and equity, it may be such because it was too complicated to use these assets [equity] as money, as a medium of exchange, but if everything is very easily transferrable and easily priced, I can go to a merchant and [transact with it] …. you know I was in Europe when they did the change from national currencies to the euro, and at the time, it was a big challenge to have two currencies. Every store for two years I think had two prices on each item. Very expensive. Now for bitcoin, we don’t have a bitcoin price tag for each dollar price tag, it’s on our app. Our mobile phones become the price tag, or they can give us a view of the price of a particular product given what we have in our wallet. So I think it’s much easier to imagine a cryptocurrency/equity being more and more widely used by companies, and debt being less used basically. I don’t think this is a 5 or 10 year thing, but it’s probably in my lifetime.


HS: So I totally agree with you 100% about money and politics being intertwined. I have started doing some separate research on the future of politics and how things are changing in the political landscape. I realized has to do with our relationship with our government and government entities are not the top of the most powerful in the world. One of the things I’m look at is: What’s the future of nation states, or what’s the future of a state-backed currency, like the US dollar, the euro or the reminbi, that is attached to a country. Then there is something like Bitcoin is decentralized. I can see there is value in both. I agree with you that one of the reasons, the large trend I noticed with money, and I talk about the US dollar and how it has all these values collapsed in one, so it makes transactions very efficient, you either have the money or not, if you don’t you can’t buy it. But we don’t leave in that world anymore. Just because you don’t have money, there are lots of other ways to get what you want. You can barter or swap. Maybe you want to buy from this person instead of that person, maybe b/c that person shares more of your values. These are all nuances that people are thinking about that are becoming more transparent because we have the knowledge at our fingertips. Also from the perspective of how our brains work. Having been on the Internet for 20 years, my brain expects a lot of information about things. It’s almost that as a human species we’re used to process more information than 50 years ago. I think we have extra bandwidth to want to know this information and the technology allows us to be more transparent and understand more about it. So rather than everything being super simple and collapsed, and it’s all about the money. We do care about: Where is it coming from? are they using organic locally sourced products? vs factory farming or doing something that is degrading the environment. I think these are all things we think about.


GL I think we have the tools, more importantly. I think there would be some benefits for instance to have supply chains put their accounting data and inventory data on blockchains. That would provide some information, today is impossible to capture that and efficiently collect and process it. But I think there are big benefits for companies to do that. Most businesses today still send each other invoices and checks. In the food supply chain they do that a lot.  Even when they do electronic, they still use these constructs. I think moving to transparent public ledgers will bring a lot of efficiently in supply chains. And then ultimately will allow people with access to the data to make more informed, or identity-based decisions.

GL: I think of a wallet as a way to help you decide. Today it’s mostly: can I afford it? how much can I spend? should I save instead? can I get a loan? it’s very banking oriented. I think the wallet is also: well I have 500 different kinds of assets in my wallet, some of them I don’t even know I collected, through my activities, and when I go to the store, the price I see for a product is just for me. It may involve a lot of different things and I may not be interested to look at the details, but I may be interested to say: I don’t want to accept this type of currency here and I want to actually hold more of my wealth in that kind of currency.

GL: You won’t be able to do that without a very transparent system. The kinds of things we do today at our level, you go to a grocery store, you buy product, the payment system does not know what you bought, they don’t have access to the UPC codes, but that’s clearly is going to happen. Companies like Google have a strong interest to that, the payment processor know what you bought, so you can automatically apply coupons, discounts, prepaid balances or other assets or any kind. So I think we’re not too far from that.


HS: I also totally agree with that. Fidor bank in Germany is a banking dashboard and they allow you to basically assets. It’s not just assets you hold at that particular bank. My bank allows me to put in other accounts b/c they are probably accessing through APIs. But it’s still within the traditional banking system. But It’s not like my Amazon credits, or my Amex rewards points. I love that I can buy stuff on Amazon and pay for it with my Amex rewards points, it’s really interested how I choose which things I’m going to to use my rewards points for and which ones I’m going to pay money for. Sometimes I talk about AI, it’s really about a smart system that understands your values and your beliefs and when you’re in this store, I want to use these, or if something accepts this is my preferred currency to transact with in these situations I’d prefer to transact in these other ones. 


GL: One thing that’s going to be interesting is the connection between identity and money. Dave Birch’s book [I haven’t read it] is titled “Identity is the new money”.Something I found recently interesting is that: in a way on the blockchain we are all pseudonymous, because there is no identity, there is no social security number, there is an account and that’s what in this account, or these are the events attached to these addresses. The identity is really in the wallets. The wallets are the collection of addresses on one or more blockchains. So you can see identity as saying: I’m going to share you these assets here that I own. What I have, which assets I have, defines who I am, and I can decide to expose which I want to show, so the notion of persona. When people talk about identity it seems it’s all about tied to your DNA, your passport number and stuff like that. There is that and it’s very important. I’m much more interested in creating personas out of what assets you own on different blockchains. If I have YesYesYesCoin, that tells something about me. I may want to expose when I transact, and the way I do that is by proving that I own some. I can prove I own these things. In a different context, I may not want to share that I own some bitcoins. So it’s just interesting that maybe we’ll build identity around the kinds the crypocurrencies that we own. [in other words, is money the new identity, instead?]


HS: If I can go sci-fi here. There is some ideas about creating separate identities that may or may not be linked to me. If you think about internet of things, where you have a car as an identity and I’m the owner of it. When I am no longer the owner of it, maybe it will go off and start have an identity of its own.


GL: From the standpoint of internet of things, I would not call that identity. Certainly, all the keys, whatever requires me to start the car, or open the trunk, will become tokens on of some these chains. I think anyone would reasonably expect to be able to look up the complete history of the car from public records, meaning on the Internet, on the chain. In general, I’m really struggling with the notion of Identity. It seems with bitcoin, we solved the problem with double spend in a decentralized way. But with identity we still have to crack that problem. How do we humans prove that we are humans. Right now the only thing we have is computers who are able to tell something about us. I’m always looking for where identity intersects with currency, with these cryptocrurrencies, because I haven’t yet a solution that satisfies me from an identity standpoint.


HS: Are you talking about KYC within crypto currencies?


GL: I think the identity in that context is very much tied to your tax ID and government records. But people need some privacy and they will want. I don’t expect to have my identity stored with one party. It’s something that’s very dynamic that I want to change over the time. Things like having a collecting of tokens of the Web that I can claim my own I can prove my own and in some cases I can transfer. That’s an interesting way to build an identity system. Namecoin for instance is interesting. I can put a piece of data on name coin and I can prove it’s mine. I’m really fascinated by building identity on top of bitcoin.


HS: I’m writing a brief right now on reputation currencies. You’re talking bout showing/hiding different currencies you hold. It’s almost a different type of reputation currencies, it’s using currencies to create reputation, and show your identity through your financial assets and show different assets.


GL: Yes, it’s the fact that you have assets – a layer that’s pseudonymous – and that you wallets on top. Instead of having wallets directly holding assets, tying your identity to assets. In a way in a bank we have account numbers and we have assets in these accounts, but really there is no bank you can do a transfer just with your account number, you have to prove your identity, and by that they mean showing your government card. What’s interesting with bitcoin is that it’s bringing again this separation between assets, accounts, and building wallets and identity on top of which assets I control. That means I can decide I can prove I own one or not, and even if I can prove it I can decide not to show that I do. It may not be the identity model that governments may want but it’s a very interesting one for people.

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