Timebanks, Cryptocurrencies, Barter Systems and Community Currencies
What are they? What are the challenges they seek to address? What are their limitations? How can the limitations be overcome?
What are their common goals and intentions? Will they continue to operate as separate entities, or will they merge into one? What about issues that relate to security? How can we 'bank' them for larger investments, such as buying a home? If not backed by banks, then how? Locally produced alternative energy perhaps?
Date: July 14, 2014
Hangout in text below. Video at the end.
4:18 – 9:50: Introduction from the panel
10:02 – 22:30: What’s are the issues alternative currencies are working to solve?
22:42 – 32:25: Localised Management
32:45 – 41:45: Currency Convergence
42:48 - 45:42: The Commons Economy
45:42 - 48:56: Enter Star Trek Utopia
48:56 - 50:13: Local Vs Global
50:13 -54:51: Managing Value Systems Peer To Peer
54:51 - 57:34: Commons Based Reciprocity
58:10 - 1:04:25 Questions from the panel
The questions we didn't get to: The Great Currency Debate!.
The Hangout as featured on Google+
Host: Caroline Smalley
Co-Founder and the designer of CM's framework, Caroline is a philosopher, entrepreneur and outdoor enthusiast living in the mountains of Whistler, BC. With a background in network management, since moving from England to Canada in 2001, Caroline has developed slogans and ad campaigns, created and run election websites, and takes an active role in discussions and initiatives for impacting global reform.
Special thanks to our panel of experts...
Michel Bauwens: P2PFoundation.net
Michel Bauwens is a Belgian Peer-to-Peer theorist and an active writer, researcher and conference speaker on the subject of technology, culture and business innovation. Founder of the Foundation of Peer-to-Peer Alternatives, he works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property.
Edgar Kampers: Qoin.org
Note: Edgar was out of country at time of call - unable to connect.
Edgar Kampers is Co-Founder of Qoin. A Dutch not-for-profit focused on setting up and managing both ‘out of the box’ and tailor made currencies, Qoin’s ongoing research helps them to develop new tools and approaches for increasing the impact alternative currencies can create. Edgar has been working as a Community Currency expert since 1993. He is specialised in sustainable economic development, corporate social responsibility, and changing consumer behaviour. Edgar has an MSc degree in Political Science, and worked as Director of NU-spaarpas, researcher at Social Trade organisation (STRO), and manager of the Climate and Economy team at SNM.
Leander Bindewald: New Economics Foundation
Leander Bindewald manages the international Community Currencies in Action (CCIA) project for the Finance and Business Team. Part of this work is managed through UK based NewEconomics.org, which aims to establish greater coherence in theory and practice across this fast developing field of socio-economic tools, support the dissemination and innovation of currency solutions in the public and third sector across Europe, develop an evaluation framework for Complementary and Community Currencies and provide support and training for existing and new currency initiatives.
Founder of 'Mindful crowd funding for artists, authors, and activists', dana.io, when it comes to alternative currencies, Scott Nelson’s expertise rests in the crypto kind. Think Bitcoin.
Matthew Slater has been working in community currency accounting systems for six years, and by living as a nomad, has come to know many monetary activists around the world. As co-founder of Community Forge, he helps to maintain nearly 100 LETS and Timebanking web sites.
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Hangout In Text
4:18 – 9:50: Introduction from the panel
L.B. in referring to his work in ‘Community Currencies In Action’, which has partners throughout northwest Europe:
“...not so much on the economic side, which often captures Bitcoin enthusiasts, but on the social and environmental side…
“In this one we are communicating about all the different kinds of Community Currency we know out there, so that’s to draw a line between any kind of currency, we say Community Currencies are best described as those that don’t actually have ‘for profit’ objectives, and that then again can be anything from social Timebanking Currencies to Local Currencies and also Business to Business Currencies / Mutual Currencies, if they are governed in the appropriate way.” – Leander Bindewald
10:02 – 22:30. What’s are the issues alternative currencies are working to solve?
What ‘is’ currency? Why was it created? What are the ‘failures’ of today’s systems that alternative currencies seek to address?
S.N. Decentralization and Censorship
“...my main attraction was though it’s censorship feature. The fact that when the US brought it’s blockade against Wikileaks, the only way you could transfer support to Wikileaks was through Bitcoin.”
“In terms of the purpose of Cryptocurrency, the intentions are clear from the anonymous author who was very clear he was working against central banks control and management of the economy extensively… to create something that isn’t subject to human folly – or wisdom, for that matter.
“...my main attraction was though it’s censorship feature. The fact that when the US brought it’s blockade against Wikileaks, the only way you could transfer support to Wikileaks was through Bitcoin.”
As for other Cryptocurrencies, they attempt to tweak the Bitcoin code ...and wrapping other values around it. The critical point about the (Cryptocurrency) paradigm is that there is no central authority that determines which transactions go through, and which don’t.” – Scott Nelson
M.S. Medium For Exchange
“So the purpose of currency is therefore to bring liquidity to the marketplace to allow people to trade.” – Matthew Slater
“For me the most important feature of money is it’s function as a medium for exchange, as opposed to the ‘stored value’, or ‘measure’ of value. The medium of exchange means we can buy something from one person and give it to another person without having to go through the complicated business of having to find someone who wants to buy exactly what you have to sell. So the purpose of currency is therefore to bring liquidity to the marketplace to allow people to trade.
“Currency in the modern world isn’t really about that. Everything is a commodity currency, and they have a very different function, which in my view, is about taking the wealth – the value created by the other producers – and giving it to the rich people.
“...so, for me, the most important thing which community currencies need to achieve, is to help us to get out from under the boot of those (rich) people who have all the value and to enable us to create our own marketplaces, where we can trade with each other on an equitable basis.” – Matthew Slater
L.B. Promoting Shared Values
“It’s mostly the case that it’s easier to explain these social technologies – these tools – as various vehicles seeking to achieve something in the world. It’s rather about the objectives they may have that they see as underserved. We then delineate between currencies that have a social purpose… or an environmental purpose where you use the currency to change behavioural patterns, such as reducing carbon, or there’s currencies that have an economic purpose – again serving something that’s lacking from the national or international economic systems at the moment, and each of these then come with a set of design criteria, with different stakeholders.
“When you start looking at the different stakeholders you need to bring together, that’s where currency design and operation becomes really tricky, and iterative a very dynamic process, because it’s not as easy as national currencies that rely on structures from outside the currency world – our democracies and nation states – to provide a substrate for money and currency to be issued. We’re building two systems at the same time: the community and the governance system around that, plus the currency that the community will then use.
“...the shared value that it’s users will base their exchange on, is the most fundamental thing for me to design and understand these currencies.” – Leander Bindewald
M.B. Equalizing Distribution Of Wealth
“There’s more inequality in Bitcoin ownership than there is in money already in society, so it increases inequality rather than solving it. What Bitcoin does have is that it remains a reserve currency – it remains an activist tool, and what it shows is that you can globally scale an alternative currency, which – until then – I thought was a weakness of alternative / complementary currency.” – Michel Bauwens
“I agree with Leander that we need a pluralism in the currency world and the design that we implement depends on the objectives we want. I have a scheme where I distinguish four different technology regimes, where you have global, centralised control versus distributed control; ‘for-profit’ versus ‘for-benefit’ orientation.
“The first one, which I don’t really see in currencies right now – what I call natartical capitalism, a hierarchy of the network – we have peer to peer frontend, but the whole backend is controlled by platform owners in centralised control.
“Now Bitcoin is for-profit orientation with distributed control. I think if we look at the reality of Bitcoin, we immediately see that that doesn’t actually work because the distributed coefficient of Bitcoin is higher than national money. There’s more inequality in Bitcoin ownership than there is in money already in society, so it increases inequality rather than solving it. What Bitcoin does have is that it remains a reserve currency – it remains an activist tool, and what it shows is that you can globally scale an alternative currency, which – until then – I thought was a weakness of alternative / complementary currency. Of course some are designed to stay small, because they have a local function, but I think for people like me and probably people like you, we feel the need for an alternative currency that can scale. In this sense I think that Bitcoin provides, because Bitcoin is not a commons currency, but a Bitcoin COE (Centre Of Excellence) is a commons, right? So we can work and tweak and change the code of Bitcoin, and maybe try to make something different that has commons aspects in the code.
(referring to various attempts that have been made) “...but if you don’t do something to maintain equality, you’re going to move towards a concentration anyway, because some people make better decisions than others, they start accumulating, and before you know it, you have it becomes highly skewed.
“So you need to think in terms of design. Can we design in a way that avoids concentration? I’m not sure I have all the answers to this, but want to give you some examples of where this is at work. If you look at Amazon and Apple iTunes, they usually talk about a long tail: that if you have distributed music, you will enable and empower small musicians to have niche audiences. But this isn’t true. If you look at Amazon, you find that it’s more highly concentrated. There are exceptions though. There’s a music platform in France call Ojingo, that implements protocols to avoid concentration. They have a pretty long tail because they implement these measures." – Michel Bauwens
22:42 – 32:25 Localised Management
“How can we engage local/regional populations in the ownership / management of their own currencies? Are there successful examples of this?” – Scott Morris
L.B. Engaging Participation
“People don’t realise that they can actually choose and design a different money; engage in money a different way, and that’s of course a very long game we’re playing in that sense…” – Leander Bindewald
“I guess that requires some education that has to happen first of all. Of course the financial crisis helped to raise the topic on the agenda for everybody, but unless people understand that money is really a social technology that they can influence; that they can participate in, it’s a really hard pitch for any complementary practitioner to go out there and tell people ‘hey look there’s something new happening, why don’t you participate?’ People don’t realise that they can actually choose and design a different money; engage in money a different way, and that’s of course a very long game we’re playing in that sense…
“...it’s a ying yang process: you have to propose and then engage people with it in a way that becomes their own currency, and they take ownership of it. (but) These currencies are not quick and easy… it’s a very long endeavour.” – Leander Bindewald
S.N. Not Bitcoins Approach
“Bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies are world-centric currencies. There’s nothing to encourage them to stay within any geographic region. In fact, quite the opposite, so they’re really not meant for this kind of thing. You see a lot of local initiatives: lots of attention on Africa, how can we use Bitcoin for remittances, for example – reducing the cost of remittances in so called ‘less developed’ countries, like the Philippines. That would be great, but that’s really twisting the point of the question, as we’re really talking about the global movement of money.” – Scott Nelson
M.S. Do It Yourself!
“I don’t really have to engage people, because I’m too busy working with people who approach me. When people reach out to me, I can give them the tools to go and develop a currency themselves.”– Matthew Slater
M.B. Has To Be Easy
“It (alternative currencies) has to be something that’s as easy to engage as ‘real’ currency.” – Michel Bauwens
“Of course we need engagement, but engagement is also a problem. What I mean to say is, when I was a busy professional in my 30’s, I engaged with a LETS scheme in Belgium, which in that time was so time-consuming that it was impossible for me to do it. You look at the sociology and, I don’t know if this is still the case – but certainly at that time – it was the greens, the unemployed, the hippies. It wasn’t exactly a cross-section of mainstream society. It was very particular minority groups that were interested. Nothing wrong with it, but there were problems scaling it. I remember reading at that time, that the average LETS system had 240 people in it. Now this will have changed with digitalization, when I imagine the cost of maintaining (LETS systems) went down. (but) Still, you take into account that when you have a mainstream currency that works – unless you have a currency crisis, such as the one in Argentina – in most countries, the function of currency works reasonably well, so it’s difficult to persuade the mainstream. It (alternative currencies) has to be something that’s as easy to engage as ‘real’ currency.”– Matthew Slater
L.B. Serving Real Needs
“...there is an appetite for local merchants to access cheaper credit, and if you offer currency that speaks to the needs of people, you don’t have that problem of engagement at all.” – Leander Bindewald
Referring to the ‘dichotomy referred to by Michel between engaging something and serving it’:
“...to me that is the same thing, because it is an uphill struggle to engage people who don’t get anything out of the currency but it’s natural for people to engage in something that delivers the outcome they want to see.
“The example of the LETS system doesn’t mean they don’t work as there have been people who have engaged from all over the world – each of them quite small, but there are literally thousands of them out there, so there is still something out there for people to still do this… for them to engage in something as trivial as The Bristol Pound, if you like, because they have an appetite to raise awareness of this neighbourhood and local production… there is an appetite for local merchants to access cheaper credit, and if you offer currency that speaks to the needs of people, you don’t have that problem of engagement at all.
“That’s why planning for outcomes of currencies is so crucially important, and there I see technology doesn’t make such a difference. Yes Bitcoin is easy for tech-savvy people, but is more useful because it has the property of being able to buy it at the right moment, and selling it. If any of the other currencies had that property, they would be more forward in that sense, but I think currencies that engage to people’s needs don’t have that engagement problem. Take Timebanks, for example, if they are doing something right for the community then people will use it. One it ceases to have a purpose, it might wither and wane again, but that’s a deeper design question than just the monetary or technical sides of it.” – Leander Bindewald
32:45 – 41:45 Currency Convergence
Enabling convergence of currencies that support common values, such as equal opportunity, promotion of local enterprise and use of local resources, would serve to increase their marketplace, so the impact they make.
Is there a way for alternative currencies to converge? What are the difficulties in doing this, and how can these be overcome?
M.S. The People’s Market
“...we need a system of API’s to allow those transactions between the systems, and to validate that those transactions are not fraudulent. Of course the blockchain itself; the distributed database underlying Bitcoin would be excellent for that.”– Matthew Slater
“Well the classic way that currencies converge is through a marketplace, and the marketplace is separate from the currencies, such that people discover the marketplace through which they want to sell their goods. So anything you can buy and sell can converge through a marketplace. I’m interested in converging currencies in a slightly different way, where you don’t have the rules of the free market, where the ‘biggest’ and ‘baddest’ people always continue to get the best prices. I’d like to see markets set up run by the peers themselves, with exchange rates agreed and maintained by the communities.
“Setting those up requires a lot of politics to be done. I think it’s worth it. There’s a lot of technical work to be done as well, because all of those separate projects are all using different software and places, so we need a system of API’s to allow those transactions between the systems, and to validate that those transactions are not fraudulent. Of course the blockchain itself; the distributed database underlying Bitcoin would be excellent for that.”– Matthew Slater
S.N. Equality & Privacy Are Contrary
“...once you have that (privacy) backed into your system, it seems to me that the ability to have some mechanism that would somehow make sure there’s equitable distribution is just impossible.” – Scott Nelson
“This question on the distribution… i’m longtime… eco… justice… quality… all that good stuff. It seems to me that one of the opposing values with this notion of equal distribution is privacy around the transactions. If you build any measure of privacy into your currency for when you make a transaction, which – again – is very important when you consider the case of something like Wikileaks, right? Not everyone support Wikileaks or supports it to such an extent that they support it financially. We know you are going to be put on some kind of watch-list somewhere. Last years happenings with Snowden helps to illuminate what’s going on in terms of this kind of data collection. If you do design that into your currency, and that’s designed some extent into Bitcoin – it’s only considered pseudo anonymous – but, there are other currencies that are taking a much harder look at the privacy of transactions, such as Dark Coin and Zero Cash, it seems to me that once you have that backed into your system, it seems to me that the ability to have some mechanism that would somehow make sure there’s equitable distribution is just impossible. It’s just not possible. If you’re going to prevent accumulation in some way, shape or fashion, that involves knowing who owns that portion of it, so I just see those fundamentally as opposing values. That’s not to say you can’t design a currency that has different mechanism for its initial distribution – you know – there’re things like Aboro Coin, which was an attempt to create a Cryptocurrency for the citizens of Iceland, and so they mined all these coins then every citizen of Iceland would get a percentage of the coins as a way to kickstart a currency. There’s a community in the States that’s looking at doing the same thing. I’m talking to Squamish here, who are also interested in doing their own Cryptocurrency, but that said, I just see that privacy and equality are just contrary in both a fundamental and philosophical way. I’m just super-curious as to what the others have to say about this.” – Scott Nelson
L.B. Compare And Offset
“...for me thinking about the different currency regimes and how they can come together and combine is fundamentally limited by the different values that underlie these currencies.” – Leander Bindewald
“Scott had that one pointy line in there saying these are opposing values, so for me thinking about the different currency regimes and how they can come together and combine is fundamentally limited by the different values that underlie these currencies, and the problem we have with monetizing these currencies and bringing them to market as it stands today is really that we’re just trying to subsume all the different values – human values, economic values, natural values – under this one value system, which is money at the moment. If we could just maintain different values and then compare, and offset one value from another, that would be a different regime. (but) In the same way that there are so many different values between the global and tech community, and the local, and the very ‘underground’ communities, what happens in this hangout and in the tech industry doesn’t actually mean so much to very many people in their daily lives. So, as much different values as there are in this complex and diverse – and hopefully even more diverse and complex society – the need for different currencies and different valuing systems is out there, and trying to combine them all through a mechanism defeats the point of maintaining different values with the appropriate expression modalities in a currency. The who debate of what Bitcoin is good for, and comparing that with Local Currencies is really worlds apart, and it’s being treated very carefully. That’s why we often introduce the notion of Bitcoin as a payment mechanism, with all its benefits and values in that way. How it’s distributed, how it’s designed, and how it’s earned and maintained, might oppose what people want to have, or that might be beneficial to people. What Bitcoin has above and beyond other currencies has yet to be decided: how Bitcoin might be able to help implementation and spread of these systems. For that I really would like to hand over to Matt, because I know he knows what his technology is achieving on the ground, and is involved in these trading protocols, and what maybe the Bitcoin protocols might bring to that.” – Leander Bindewald
M.S. Comparable Values
“You might want to question how many of your hours are worth a lump of gold - a number of philosophical questions come in there, that I don’t want to get into right now!” – Matthew Slater
“I just wanted to add what Leander was saying: when I was talking about a marketplace where local currencies can interact and exchange with one another, I did mean comparable local currencies, so a currency you might use to buy food, and – I don’t know – say teaching services, would be interchangeable for a similar kind of currency in another area. (but) You could have other currencies that are not interchangeable for those kind of things, maybe reputational systems, or currencies linked to gold. You might want to question how many of your hours are worth a lump of gold - a number of philosophical questions come in there, that I don’t want to get into right now!” – Matthew Slater
42:48 - 45:42 The Commons Economy
“As far as I understand, currencies like Bitcoin can be created with any purpose, Solar Coin, for example.” – Javier Creus
“So I’m wondering if there are currencies in this world, where ethical companies that are commons friendly – that create for the common good – can actually create from the bottom up?” – Michel Bauwens
“That’s my understanding as well. I’ll ask another question to answer it. My concern and my dream, if you like, is that there’s this whole emerging world of peer production, where productive communities design common code, common design, common knowledge, and create vibrant communities around it. (and) So, software economy, the open hardware economy… and there’s one calculation where it’s said to be one sixth of GDP in the US, and 17,000,000 workers. It’s called ‘The Fair Use Economy Report’... all the economy generated by shared knowledge. So I’m wondering if there are currencies in this world, where ethical companies that are commons friendly – that create for the common good – can actually create from the bottom up?… a kind of functional currency, that would reward this kind of engagement. It’s a question I have and something I’d like to try at some point. For example, I’m working now with The Catalana Integral Cooperative in Barcelona, and they have several different projects. One is, by way a Bitcoin project, called Dark Wallet. Their thinking is that they want to create an economy that is outside of capitalist accumulation, right? So these are not Community Currencies, in terms of things like LETS or Timebanks, this would be specific economic currencies that emerge from this new world of value creation and distribution, that is not a typically capitalist economy, but is something that is already different. That currency would have to be a commons orientated currency. So it couldn’t be like Bitcoin, where just because you’re early, and you can mine, and you have 10,000 computers you know... you own everything and the more farmer in India… he can forget about it because he’d have to buy it with a 3000% mark-up. We have to look into the future, and I think this would be a really important development.” – Michel Bauwens
Caroline (host): “Scott: What Bitcoin oriented systems have you seen that reflect what Michel is referring to?”
Enter Star Trek Utopia 45:42 - 48:56
“Well, a couple of things came to mind when Michel was describing that. One was, of course the utopian, vision of Star Trek. In Star Trek they seem to have everything they needed. You know, they had their replicators… you know, it’s just a MakerBot basically… better than the MakerBot we have yet… and I say yet ...there was never any mention of money, or paying for things, or currency, you know? You did not have to open your Bitcoin wallet to pay your replicator to make a cup of tea – but – the question is how? Is this just a utopian ideal, or have they progressed consciously? It’s only possible in a post-scarcity situation, in my mind. As long as you have the scarcity – the scramble – I mean that’s the impetus for the accumulation and the greed that you see.
One important point I want to make about Bitcoin for all of it’s.. you know, I was an early adopter, I was a minor, I profited, so I’m ‘one of those people’... the point I’d like to make about Bitcoin, whatever is going on, so far in the history of Bitcoin, it represents a massive transfer of wealth to crypto-anarchist politics, and I think that’s a very good thing to be happening at this point in history, with what we see going on with surveillance.
So I’m expecting a lot of that capital to flow directly into projects that bring back privacy online and it’s basically a reaction of what we see. (and) I think that we’re going to see a lot of very interesting technology coming out of that community, which can now fund it. They have managed to suck in massive amounts of venture capital… you know, the speculators are all there. I mean, I’m not a Day Traders. I do tell everyone ‘do not get involved in Bit-Trading’. That’s not the purpose here, but I just can’t see how you keep Day Traders out when there are these kind of dynamics – these kind of markets – going on. That’s just what Day Traders do. So, anyway, that’s a long-winded way to make a point. Really, I have no idea, but I like the sound of it, so thanks Michel!” – Scott Nelson
Local Vs Global 48:56 - 50:13
"I would like to add to what Michel said about maybe creating a global currency for a movement. I think if you regard a currency as a marketplace, and really define a scope of users, and of products and services, and of trade – I think if you make it global marketplace – then you’re left reaching out to an awful lot of different kinds of people in different languages and countries, and trying to sell them the market proposition ‘come into our marketplace and trade’. (and) I think in order to do that, you need to be quite well resourced, and that’s why the local currencies, which have worked – to any extent – have worked, because they’ve been able to target the local populations and say: ‘Look. Come into this local market and you can build community.’ I think doing this on a local scale is much harder, and I haven’t worked at a way it can work yet, without a lot of resources to do the marketing, build the platform, and everything else" – Matthew Slater
Managing Value Systems Peer To Peer: 50:13 - 54:51
Caroline (host):“Is there a way we can manage systems peer to peer? If we had a global marketplace that’s created by uniting community-driven solutions that share the same values, can that be managed in a peer to peer fashion?”
S.N. “Yes!”laughter… J
L.B. “Yes it can!”more J
"I saw in the question asked in the ‘proposed questions’ you sent earlier. Depends what you mean by ‘peer to peer manner’. This is often confused with people proposing Bitcoin as the peer to peer currency, which I always ridicule in a way: ‘Okay, so if Bitcoin is just a cash currency, then the peer to peer policies is just as much as the cash I have in my wallet now. I can hand it to anyone, and I can do it in a peer to peer transaction like that.’
The peer to peer element of that really comes in with the design and the governance structures of these things, and it’s just as easy to imagine a currency being governed by the stakeholders: by the people using it in a cooperative manner, with very old fashioned protocols, and old fashioned corporations, that you put into the terms and conditions, and say everyone using this currency has one vote that will help determine the use and distribution, rights, and whatever else the currency is comprised of. With that, you wouldn’t need a Bitcoin protocol to bring it into a distributed ledger, but that is not necessarily what the question is here.
Trying to link that to with what Michel was alluring to with that ‘Peer Production’ world we might move into, there’s a very hard distinction between ‘as long as things are scarce’, that might not work. (and) There is a very fuzzy boundary between where we say there is this world where everything would be abundant, and we live in this star trek utopia world, where everything is abundant, energy is free, and free everything – yes, of course, you wouldn’t need money as we have it at the moment – and, naturally, money changes, systems move on. This can change wisdoms, or so you would hope, because as the moment it’s kind of curious that you have situations called depressions, where people still have productive capacity as before, and people on the consumer side still have needs, wishes, hopes, needs and dreams as before, they just don’t get together – these two things – because there’s change in the middle, where politics and money, ‘in the big term’, really has a lot to do, and these niches and marginals scenarios in currency design can really do a lot of good to help propel our society towards that.
(in) Discussing utopias and end-game scenarios in a completely different way, is one thing; trying to find something that is actually nudging our daily lives in practical applications is really the hard and valuable game at the moment. Many people are experimenting with currency that will be appropriate for completely distributed, peer to peer, green, open, abundant world: Reputation Currencies have been around a long time, and work in some niches already – even in the for-profit sector, like Ebay – your reputation built in Couchsurfing and AirBnB… something like that… they don’t necessarily work from scarcity, but – yeah – it’s these two sides of the game that also make this world very attractive: the open, utopian, abundant, philosophical, political dimension, and; the very practical, ‘on the ground’, ‘how to make it happen’, part of it.” – Leander Bindewald
“I’m very for the Star Trek Utopia here (laughter J), and I think that the more distributed we get, and the discussions we have together, the more that the more open we are, and the more we find ways of approaching all problems and challenges in a peer to peer manner – taking care of the elderly, and so on – that the need of governance will perhaps start to reduce, and the power of the people will increase. (such that) Some of the ‘stuff’ we have that’s blockading us from peer to peer management will disappear, such that we just exchange, and this Star Trek Utopia starts to happen.” – Caroline (host)
Commons Based Reciprocity 54:51 - 57:34
“I actually have a little scenario I’d like to share to, erh.. go to the Star Trek Utopia. So imagine this. First step we have communities, who create common pools of knowledge on design and code, which is already happening on a massive scale. Imagine that those people – instead of working for the man – create their own vehicles; their own cooperatives so they are ‘Commoners’ contributing to ‘The Commons’, but they are also cooperators, creating added value around these commons for the market. So the surplus value, if you like, stays within the same sphere of these ‘Cooperative Commoners’.
Imagine – this is the next step – you have a new type of license, which I call the Commons Based Reciprocity License. Now the key idea here is, if it’s non-commercial, you can do it. If you have a social goal, you can use it. If you’re for-profit, and you contribute, you can use it. There’s one little exception. For-profits, who do not contribute to the commons have to pay for use of the license. (now) It’s not about the money, it’s about introducing the notion of reciprocity in the marketplace.
Now imagine you have this. You have The Commons... you have an ethical coalition around The Commons. At that point, when you have that solidarity, you can open logistics and open supply chains, and then you already are in stigmergic mutual coordination. Everyone can see what everyone is producing, and you don’t really need money. You can use resource-based economics. You can use any measure you want to maintain reciprocity in a system. It’s still utopian at this stage, but we’re working on this. We have a few little companies that have adopted a license, and we’re going to try it out and see how that works. (you know) It already works for code and design, and everything that we produce materially has a… you know… a material representation. (so) I think we have a good shot to do this within the next few years… to have a sphere – a demonetized sphere – of mutual coordination at the heart of our economy, that will start small, but could grow eventually to something bigger.” – Michel Bauwens
Questions from the panel 58:10 - 1:04:25
“I have a question for Michel. Michel: I know that Satoshi Nakamoto was an active participant in your forums on your website, and your service, and discussed various aspects of the design of Bitcoin. I’m curious, what would you say to Satoshi now? What requests in terms of changing the design of Bitcoin you would make to Satoshi at this point.” – Scott Nelson
“(right, well…) Essentially that I think the peer to peer aspect of the creation of the money should not be a computer, but a human being. There should be some technique that ensures every human being can make the coins (and), so it doesn’t depend on the number of computers that you have, right? (and) Then some protocols, like the ones you use in Jamendo, where – if the song gets too popular – instead of every vote counting, it’s every ten votes, then there’s a threshold where it’s every one hundred votes. (and) So they have all these mechanisms that keep a distribution – not fully equal – no-ones asking for that, but within bounds, right? Remember the salaries. We used to have one to eight, or something in Japan thirty years ago, and now we are – what is it? – one to every eight hundred. These people aren’t working eight hundred times better than the ones who have one. So I think the money should also take into account social aspects, not just… you know… basically, greed. Bitcoin is designed around the deflationary design, for people who think they’re going to get richer over time, and I think a more balanced design is something that I think would be valuable.” – Michel Bauwens
“Can I just throw in there the concept of social proof of work, so that Bitcoin is given to machines who prove that they have expended the processing power in validating the network, but a social proof of work would be a currency, as you say, which is given to people who can prove they have done something socially valuable. That would be a really excellent way to issue a currency, it’s only a question of who decides what work is valuable. Who decides what work has been done?” – Matthew Slater
“Yes, where again you are down at local governance issues and necessities...” – Leander Bindewald
“Are you guys familiar with the Open Value Accounting System? From Sensorica and others? I’ll give you my understanding. I’m not sure I’m 100% correct, but more or less, it’s like this. You contribute to a project – freely; passionately – but you log your time and a project number. You have a peer review that creates a score, so the combination of your self-declaration and a peer review creates a karma score. (and) That karma score is linked to a social contract that says: ‘If we make money from this at any time, the money will flow back to you according to your karma. (and) I think this is a neat sounding solution, that answers that question where you have a combination of autonomy, but also a peer review, that balances out the declarations that could be made.” – Michel Bauwens
“Michel, I think that’s a really great starting point. I think that there is also a fundamental problem with social proof of work, which is that it’s probably going to be easy for groups to game. (and) The whole point about the Bitcoin is you can’t game it by pretending to offer to processor cycles.” – Matthew Slater
"I see that another problem with Bitcoin is that you can’t have a social policy with it. You know, as much as we criticize national currency, and I think we should criticize it – the central banks – because they are not democratic enough. They’ve been embedded in a neo-market state, and they’ve become servants of concentrated forces. (but) At least theoretically we can imagine… you know... taking them over, democratizing them. With Bitcoin, it’s absolutely impossible to do a social policy, so – I think Scott said crypto anarchists, but it’s also anico-capitalists, right? It’s a very particular political ideology, which has embedded it’s values within the currency, and the local community has done that with the LETS and Time Banks. What I’m waiting for is the Global Commons Movement, embedding some of it’s needs and values within the code, which I think does not exist yet, but more people are talking about it. There was recently an interesting conference in Italy that was about ‘what is the money for the commons’ – a lot of interesting things came out of it. So I think it’s a bit early in the game, but we will get these kind of experiments with new types of currency, which are globally scalable but is based on trans-local virtual communities that co-produce some kind of value together. That’s what I’d like to see.” – Michel Bauwens