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    Commoncy & Ecommonies: The Future of Money
    Project: Polytopia

    People are shifting their focus to the energy in their work and its impact rather than material they accumulate. Considering what their time is spent doing - rather than what resources are spent having; this is a shift from ownership to experience seeking.

    Concentrations of power in our economy, often come from concentrations of monetary wealth. This economic structure allows for a great imbalance of power. 1% of the world maintains 50% of the wealth. 50% of the world lives on $2.00 a day. As long as a system allows for this type of imbalance, it becomes a system destined to comply to power-law distributions. Disproportionate concentrations of power breed behaviours in humans which are highly competitive and for the most part undesirable. This type of system compels individuals to create win-lose, or zero-sum, situations; themselves against others.

    What if a system could, at its roots, support collaboration, encourage non-zero sum relationships, balance personal and collective action, while also discouraging stagnancy? What if it could be based in a measurable constant that could never be falsely inflated, fractionalized, or twisted through centralized manipulation of the system? Better yet: what if we could grow it from inside the old system?


    We will need to update our monetary system to reflect the new tightly integrated and widely shared infrastructure we depend upon. On our planet with finite amounts of resources and space we must play a win-win game of allocation. Such a system would have to reflect the contemporary values of people, i.e. the way they spend their time.

    A Commoncy note is an electronic device which keeps track of tasks to which you've accepted & delegated. As well, it keeps a constant tally of your influence exerted and capacity remaining.

    Time will be the new Money. More accurately, your time, and other peoples time, are a new form of currency. We all have the same amount, every day. Whether we are rich or poor in dollars, we are all equal in time. This is an incorruptible constant onto which a currency can scaffold it's security and stability. This scaffolding for a new system will be called the Ecommony, and it's measurement will be Commoncy. It will measure what you can do, and what you need done. Everything becomes shared, except our own personal time which will be the basis of the new Ecommony. Commoncy will measure how individuals spend their time to contribute to the commons of human progress. Ecommonics will be the study of how people contribute most meaningfully to this commons.

    How it Works
    There are a few key items in regards to how to measure and trade one's personal time.
    1) Social Influence
    2) Personal Capacity
    3) Ecommony Task Index

    Social Influence Capital

    Reputation is built out of the work you've done for others and how you treat people. The better reputation you have, the greater your influence. People will be more likely to accept task requests from you, and you'd be able to ask more of others, having already proved yourself useful. This type of inflation is actually sustainable! As it expands and contracts it matches the needs of the system. You've been recognized by a distributed body of people as having put more work into the collective, which frees up time for others, which you then have a say in where that time is spent. This is "Social Influence", and it is finite for all individuals.

    Personal Capacity Capital

    Abilities of individuals to get work done is the measurement of their personal capacity. Your personal capacity is finite due to the amount of time in a day, but grows as you become more efficient. This efficiency increases your reputation. This expanding of the pool of human capacity, opens up room for more to get done. As a reward you have the say in deciding where that surplus is spent by putting the request out there.

    Transfer Point for delegating and committing to tasks

    Requests are made by coupling your bill with the bill of the person with whom you are trading. Alternatively, through a network transfer point which links you to tasks on the distributed Common Market (ecommony task index)

    If this sounds like it's a barter economy, its not. Barter is limited to person to person trades. This is about individual and collective resource management. One who has what you need may not be the person who needs what you have! This is a key limit in barter economics. In the ecommony, skills are allocated naturally to the people who can handle them by adding degrees of separation to person to person trading. This transfer of value from object to representation is one key advantage monetary systems gave us and is worth building on. However, there are finite boundaries to what individuals can deliver and request due to the simple capacity and influence structures. Influence and capacity cannot grow to power-law level of difference the way money can. This protects the system from intense aggregation of power. It's natural systemic tendency is to decentralize power with smaller peaks and valleys which proportionately represent contribution.

    Where will it Begin?:

    Some people need this today, the rest of us need it tomorrow. Open-source communities could collectively track the contributions of individuals to a commons, determining the next steps the community will take, then delegating that work to the people most apt to perform, all at once. People within ecommonies will be given a new and amazing freedom: to vote with their time, their ideas, and their work, rather than with their dollars.

    Ecommonies can gain footholds just as nations once did, by taking the people in diverse geographic places and giving them a shared currency to get things done. Ecommonies will instead rally around a set of individuals rallied around an idea (like mozilla) as incentive structures to encourage their constituents to contribute. As multiple Ecommonies spring up, they will join forces allowing the wealth of the group to be shared with the wealth of another. Partnership increasing the power and diversity of each, much as states within nations combine up to a large common good today.

    Closing Thoughts:

    A key acknowledgment will be that this is but one of many systems required for a healthy society. Certain goods and services might always be best traded in a monetary economy. Remember that if all this seems really far out, check and see if you have an Air Miles card or other points based loyalty program. Air Miles is now the 2nd largest currency in the world. These economies are all around us, and can succeed wildly when they reward us for behaviors we enjoy.

    In the future we won't look to monetize our ideas, we'll look to monetime them. Turn them into tasks that others can help with, as we've helped them with theirs. As we understand that all physical resources are belongings of the earth, we will find our roll in collective stewardship of it's resources. Then we will look to manage the most valuable resource remaining in the metaphysical world, to manage our time and ideas.

    We will collectively decide on what needs to be done using technology to augment and amplify one of the most natural social and biological systems: reciprocity.

    Ask, and do. No one is without a say, and no one is without a hand to help.

    Also posted on Prototype, blog of The Movement

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    Spaceweaver     Tue, Nov 4, 2008  Permanent link
    This is a very creative and attractive idea. Regretfully it suffers from a few serious difficulties that are not obvious at first sight:

    1. In order to implement such a system, one must establish a consensual and pretty rigid system that defines what is a task how long each task should take as a norm etc. Additionally the measures of influence and capacity should be established quite rigidly for such a system to be stable. How would you measure capacity and influence anyway? It seems to me that the underlying social system needed for such implementation will have to be very ordered centralized and rigid. What if not everybody agrees to how tasks are defined and their associated value? Is there a place for competition? For dispute and resolution?

    2. People having niche capacities might become extremely influential in a manner that does not make any sense: Suppose I am a person who is accomplished in performing one very specific complex yet boring task no one else is interested in doing. I become the only one that can perform such a task, and since it is a very needed task I will probably gain a lot of influence by performing it. But me being the person I am, have no great ideas or tasks I need to ask anyone else to do. The influence and time that I will aggregate will not be recycled into the community, value will be lost.

    3. The system proposed does not encourage creativity and innovation: Suppose I am an extremely innovative person who has an idea that amounts to a paradigm shift in the community I live in. Like it is always with novel paradigms, no one recognizes any value or utility in my ideas because everybody is still bound to old conceptions. No matter how capable or influential I might be, it will be very difficult to implement my ideas simply because they are outside of the consensus about what is valuable. I will have to spend a lot to gain very little in terms of my goals. Probably I will exhaust all my time achieving very little or nothing. This example shows that in general such a system as proposed here does not encourage change and innovation.

    Money as we have today has many serious drawbacks. Yet, it realizes a very high abstraction of value, and therefore a very high degree of freedom. This freedom is an immense power that drives our economy, but this freedom allows for misuse and abuse as well. It seems to me that the system proposed here creates a high level regulation in the definition and usage of value, but it also seriously restricts the freedom represented by money. I think the problem we should address is how to responsibly handle the freedom that money as a concept allows and not how to restrict this freedom to ensure a morally balanced behavior.
         Wed, Nov 5, 2008  Permanent link
    I like these ideas a lot. They're definitely the best first steps I've seen so far towards what we're looking for here. Of course, spaceweaver's comments here show that this very prototypical concept has a lot of wrinkles to be ironed out. Also, I'm going to ask a hard question here... How do the people less able to contribute work into this? Take, for example, someone with no legs. They're generally less able to contribute, so would they have less equality in time? Is there much capacity for balances in such a system?
    Wildcat     Sun, Nov 9, 2008  Permanent link
    see this: Time Dollars Service Exchange
    nom the puppet     Wed, Mar 4, 2009  Permanent link
    This is a really interesting alternative theory of value. Also a couple slight concerns, ones we don't have to worry about in the next few years or more, but still interesting to think about is deflation due to space travel in a relative universe, product/owner distinctions breaking down as computers outpace human production and taking the concept with it, suicide vs change debates (memory storage, identity issues, temporal abolitionists).

    @spaceweaver: concerning #2: They will probably have to function as most people in that position do— as a connector. If they are needed by everyone, and they have a monopoly on that supply, they will be useful for bringing people together and spreading ideas, like a watering hole. They would have a tremendous social responsibility that could be checked by the population through coordinated voluntary labor/consumption strikes, but most necessities that don't provide for the public efficiently enough are usually out-competed by making them obsolete through innovation or price reduction. But most of these people doing the boring jobs will ultimately be calculators with no conscious functions. (hopefully)

    concerning #3: innovators may be those complex function monopolizers in #2 but with interesting tasks. Because innovation is so difficult to measure in long term value, it will either have to be considered a sunk unknown cost or it will be felt in effects that are shared by all.

    concerning #1: maybe a task could have a root of:
    seconds of personal time + tip/consumer appreciation = value

    this way, tip will account for the demand of the capabilities of that person's time while still endowing everyone with a base allowance as a given fact that they own their labor, over-tippers will be overwhelmed with offers thus creating a pressure to conform to standard pricing in public arenas, but still allowing for rare aberrant personal exchanges of appreciation to have more value. Under tippers will be pressured to conform up to normal price due to the reductions in offers of services made for their time, but still encouraging smart shopping practices. The best producer will become the most capable consumer. All producers will have an open source receipt system to track their average tip, that must be verified with the consumers checkbook in an international database. The problem is stopping hackers from price-gouging their appreciation values by gaining control consumers' checkbooks. It might encourage slow industries in the beginning, but with the level of technological capability available to us at the present it shouldn't be too hard to find the means of comfortable subsistence at an affordable cost. Hand made things might take on a whole new luxury value that couldn't be expressed in our old economic system.

    I'm going to throw an idea out here, I'm not sure where it goes and I'd like to get a second opinion: What do you think of the statement 'Human subsistence and reproduction is an act of labor and should be treated as such.' in relation to the Ecommony ideas in this thread?