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.