Posts tagged open source
Great little 25 minute documentary telling the story of this incredible little circuit board that is a staple tool in any hardware hacker’s kit.
Just wanted to post the promo video of this superb project management tool and governance system for open, distributed, collaborative enterprises founded on social missions.
This is probably the smartest, most creative, beautiful and inspiring
web video I’ve ever seen. I’m blown away. Sign me up!
Money has a near “mental monopoly” on our conception of currency because it has grown to become the most accepted and powerful form. In the United States, its source is proprietary; it is controlled by private banks through the Federal Reserve. The “everyday people” who use this currency have no input into how it is designed and issued.
This money is not open-source. Modern money isn’t even a free-market creation, it exists by government fiat. Instead of building a reputation of trustworthiness within the market, conventional money is created by decree. Its value is declared by fiat and its acceptance guaranteed by legal tender laws, as immortalized on every bill: “This note is legal tender for all debts, public and private.” If money had real, inherent value, there would be no need to legally assert its acceptance!
Street translation: you are getting pimped. The pimps/gangsters are the government and the banks. But don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Money, as we currently use it, is just one form of currency. From the Latin currere, “to run,” like a river, currency is a current, a flow of energy. There are billions of unique energy flows in the natural world: the hydrological cycle, the movement of nutrients in an ecosystem, the biochemical process of metabolism in cellular life, the food chain of an ecosystem, the migration of herd animals or the way ants move little pieces of leaves.
Human civilizations (as well as pimps and gangsters) use financial currency to model and track obligations to each other. Money is supposed to be a social contract allowing for the specialization of labor within an interdependent community. In other words, if we couldn’t trade with each other, we would have to produce everything for our selves. However, the specific design of our currency is based on scarcity; money is valuable because its supply is lower that the demand for it. *
If conventional money has failed in the task of facilitating community solidarity, how can we design a currency system that might succeed? Perhaps we should consult the oracle of nature. Biodiversity makes an ecosystem more resilient, so perhaps we need more financial diversity. A system in which Federal Reserve Notes are considered the only legitimate currency is a financial monoculture.
What would financial permaculture look like? The first step in permaculture is observation, so we recognize, identify and track value in a variety of energy/information currents. If we can see and understand the actual energy flows happening around us, we will eventually be able to interact with them using whole-systems insight. Without the confusing and awkward filter of mono-money, movement of wealth can be tracked in such a way that values the unique and specific qualities of that wealth.
Money as Information
Open-source, parallel currencies may create a language of exchange that requires less translation, or “monetization” because the exchange is tailored to each specific form of wealth. We could have a suite of financial instruments for different functions: an educational currency, wherein you take a class and are then obligated to teach and equivalent amount to pass that wealth along; a health currency; an energy currency; a food currency, an entertainment currency, etc. When you buy something, it would be priced in a combination of currencies, reflecting the types of wealth that were used to create it.
This ecology of currencies can work in parallel to each other in a complimentary way. People would use multiple forms of currency for a complex transaction, or convert wealth into a different form of currency if they are trading outside of its community of acceptance. If a currency becomes imbalanced, the users can redesign it to account for new or destabilizing factors.
Sound like a lot of work and thought? Maybe, but how much worry and energy do you put into hustling up some cash when you are dead broke? That problem –being broke despite having valuable skills- only exists because money is scarce.
(For more on financial permaculture, check out the work of Catherine Austin Fitts.)
Bringing Currencies Back into the Competitive and Collaborative Market
Some qualities involved in designing currencies are: trust, reciprocity, value, reputation and diversity. People who have different ethical values need different currencies, or combinations of currencies, to account for the way they want to participate in the world. But the exchange media and accounting mechanisms must be convenient, intuitive and accepted where you want to use them.
So how can we create a system wherein people and groups can create their own currencies, customized to their needs, values and context? We can use the model of open-source software development to create the tools people need to create their own currencies. We also use actual open-source software as the platform upon which these currencies will run.
Once a group has created a currency, like a start-up business, it has a low probability of success. So the currencies that are better designed and supported will therefore gain more popularity with people. Like websites, companies or social networks, currencies will compete for attention; on the web, attention is already the measure of success.
If currencies themselves are subject to the rigors of competing is an open market, they will be humble, nimble, and adapt to conditions as they arise. They do not have a privileged position to strong-arm those with less empowerment. They are accountable to serve the needs of their users, and if they don’t, they will disappear into irrelevance.
Building Social Capital
The transparent culture of open-source projects builds social capital (education, mutually-beneficial relationships, healthy and equitable community) increases connectivity and creates commonly-held assets.
A financial language that recognizes and nurtures real wealth has the potential to address some critical issues of our time: global warming, poverty, community building, funding for non-profits and government, resource wars and access to education. Triple-bottom line, or full cost accounting (people, planet, profit) can be engineered into a currency! For example: say I want to start a community center to connect the green business, non-profit, social justice, art, healing and wisdom communities under one roof so that their synergies can build upon each other. I bring the idea to leaders in each of these communities, and everyone loves the idea.
The problem is, we don’t have the money to build our center. We could water down the model to attract investors, but that would be sad. The energy and enthusiasm exists for the project, so how can I find a way to use that creative enthusiasm to build the community center? The enthusiasm of the community has value, so we just need to measure and exchange it. So, we create a volunteer, or “sweat-equity” currency. Needs for which we would normally use money, we try to find someone to fulfill as a “community investment” of sweat equity. The project proceeds, logging work hours as a way of building a good reputation to eventually leverage for further growth and progress.
Instead of financial investment, which requires burdensome interest payments and centralized risk, the project is taken on collaboratively, similar to how open-source software is developed. We track the contributions of these “community investors” to potentially be “paid back” in future benefits (such as membership, ownership or some other form of credit) once the center is operational. In this way, risk is distributed, and there is even value gained by simply engaging in the project, strengthening connectivity and building resonance with the other collaborators.
For now, hard costs will arise that must be paid in old-school Benjamin’s. This system can at least offset the need for conventional finance, and provide an endearing path for proving credit-worthiness.
The devil, as we say, is in the details. How do we design an elegant currency that people want to use? This is where collective intelligence comes into play. Each community doesn’t have to reinvent the proverbial wheel every time they want to design a currency. The global subculture of complimentary currency geeks will be happy to assist you! All of their experience and insight is at your fingertips.
The key to a successful new trade system will be educational; people must understand how currencies operate in order to use them effectively. As folks master their comprehension of the new currencies, they will be able to refine, tweak and create improved currencies. This is the open-source, user-generated model. This is collective intelligence. We must all become amateur Wall Street financial whiz kids of a whole new kind.
To support each other in designing successful currencies, we can partner in a robust “Currency Commons” where we can share our ideas, experiences and data with other currency designers.
Transitioning Toward a Gift Economy
Love is a beautifully supportive energy flow between and among individuals. How can we create an exchange system that honors love, but does not monetize it? Instead of debt, guilt and taxation, imagine a social flow based on offering, contribution, volunteerism, compassion and support. What does this look like? How can we achieve this?
There is a crew of currency geeks and world-changers that are working diligently on these questions. I have learned much of the content of this article from their web presence. The people and networks working to build an open-source, meta-currency platform are: The Metacurrency Project, OpenMoney, Thomas Greco, the New Currency Frontiers blog, Targeted Currencies, and The Transitioner, to name a few. I see the Open-Source Meta-Currency system as a transitional step toward a gift-based economy.
Someone made a great analogy about the transition from conventional money to complimentary currencies: we currently use external trust in our economic dealings; this is like riding a tricycle. Our (financial) tools are designed such that external agencies* control the stability, so people will feel confident riding the flow. Open source currencies are more like a bicycle; each participant must trust themselves, and each other, to stay balanced, but once we learn to ride the bike, we will have improved speed and maneuverability!
*This balance is regulated by the Federal Reserve, and known as the Fed Window; and it essentially balances inflation (when there is extra money in the system, each dollar becomes less valuable) with economic growth (when there is not enough money in the system, people and companies cannot participate in as much economic activity)Open