A personal view of how profit-at-all-costs imprisons us, and how Blockchain Technology can be applied to break the chains.
The box, from the inside.
The Blue Pill
I formally started my career in Engineering over thirty years ago. Back then it was fashionable to have an ambition of making lots of money. I was no exception. I liked to think that I would also make a positive contribution to humanity whilst doing it.
Further, as I really enjoy working in all things technical, it was win-win.
Or so it seemed.
Blue pills have a knack of making red pills invisible.
A Dark Year
Along came the recession of 2008. Everything changed. Banks crashed, property prices, share prices, and the price of everything dropped through the floor. Also, perhaps not coincidentally, my marriage of effectively thirteen years blew up.
What the hell happened?
We were tricked into believing that everything was worth more than it actually was. Our perception of the actual value of everything became obscured, exaggerated. To some extent, it still is.
We watched as the trail of blame eventually led to the Banks. They were admonished briefly and then subsequently bailed out of trouble, effectively rewarding their bad behaviour. The bubble was thus repaired, and most of us carried on as we did before, in ignorance of what will happen when the bubble finally bursts for good.
Along came Bitcoin, perfectly timed.
For techies like me, finally, an instrument that blended the technical world with the financial world. We gobbled up the Bitcoin White Paper. For me, it was also my first introduction to the financial world.
In my professional career up until then, I had been happy for all things financial to be handled on my behalf by other people, who were interested in that kind of thing, so I thought infinitely better suited than me to deal with it.
The Red Pill
After the Bitcoin paper sparked my interest, I started to do some research in my spare time. Little did I know the red pill was now lodged in my throat. It was not long before I came across Paul Grignon’s documentary, “Money as Debt”.
I watched it. And again. And again. At least the part of it where the basic astonishing true reality of Money as Debt is explained in very simple, inarguable terms. I swallowed hard and down went the red pill.
I will never forget the struggle I had with my mind being completely repelled by the very concept, just as Paul warned it would. He was so right.
In those few minutes, everything I’d been taught to understand about Banks and money was turned upside down, screaming, on its head, forever. Ten years later, the hairs on my arms still stand up when I remember the feeling I experienced with that new knowledge. Thanks Paul, and I mean that. You will never know how much that changed my life, and for the better.
With the realization that we have been conned by something so blatantly huge and yet so pernicious it transcends our consciousness, we rise up out of that box of blissful, hollow ignorance and we start to see it, and so many other things, the way that they really are.
We start to question everything we see, and everything we hear. There is no better training towards the academic ideal of critical thought than a red-pill moment. Of course we carry on as normal, prisoners of our circumstances, but now at least we can see our confinement.
The Box, from the outside
A few things seem clear now.
Take products and services. For me, these fall into two categories; Luxury, or Necessity.
Supplying luxuries for profit is a given. I have no problems at all with that. It was the subject of my Masters Degree, and an honorable activity I’ve always enjoyed doing. It fits with all of my original ambitions when I first set out to be an Engineer.
The decision to pay a premium for something elite, is one made voluntarily by those lucky enough to have excess income. I would argue that this free choice itself is an identifying feature of civilisation, even a vital component of such. It should be available to everyone in some form in a civilised society.
But Elite often has a definite lifetime, and this is now shorter than ever.
Elite is no longer elite when it becomes commonplace, expected, normal.
A Definition of Luxury
I would class a Luxury as anything Elite to a civilised society.
Everything else should be classed as Necessities to a civilised society.
Throughout most of the Industrial revolution, working for profit was always seen as a noble cause, and rightly so. It appears to have served us well throughout most of that period. Virtually all of industry was involved in the development and supply of things that were elite to civilisation, thus luxuries.
But now we are entering the next phase. Much of what was previously considered luxury, has become necessity for civilisation. And yet we still supply these things with a view to making profit.
The Malpractice of Supplying Necessities for profit
Much suffering and abuse is seen as a result.
In the developing world
I don’t need to say much here. Everyone knows; Water, Food, & Medicine are basic necessities for people, and we can see millions suffering around the planet because there is no profit to be made in supplying any of it to them. This is a well known problem that has been around a long time. We are already de-sensitised to it. But the problem is worse than ever now. And it won’t stop getting worse until a remedy is implemented.
In the developed world
Private Healthcare prescribing often addictive drugs, prolonging, managing, and even creating more disease, because this makes more profit, than curing. Scientific research carried out to further the aims of profit making entitities. The lobbying of government for changes in legislation by profit seeking entities. Governments themselves becoming driven by profit. Trade tariffs and trade wars. The relaxation of fire prevention standards by authorities, eventually leading to incidents like Grenfell. The construction and sale of properties to absent Rentier investors, whilst other people sleep and die in sleeping bags, tents, and cardboard boxes in the street. The wholesale continued supply of food in plastic packaging, toxic to the environment. The systematic poisoning of the same cheap food with dangerous preservatives. Aggressive GM crops designed to be harvested once only for free, then supplied at profit from then on. The list just goes on and on.
Add to this the effects of profit driven media, and we have a whole new world of fake news, and advertisements that look like news, creating new factions, confusing, dividing, radicalizing, conflicting, and sensationalizing, with the effect that on average we have difficulty telling facts from fiction.
On advertisements, my question is this: If part truths are not acceptable in a court of law, why does the law accept promotions and advertisements (Virtually all) that do not tell the whole truth?
In the parts of the world we call “Civilised”, we are becoming more and more aware that we ourselves are being held to ransom for necessities by the very system we ourselves created and work for. And all the while, we watch as the price goes up, and the quality goes down, all for profit.
There is simply no place for profiting from the supply of necessities in a truly civilised world. Most of us do it by default because we are kind of locked into it, working at least as employees for, and/or suppliers of necessities for profit. Many even hold shares in such as part of some kind of portfolio of stashed wealth, hoarded for a rainy day sometime in the distant future when we might be too old, too ill, or just too lazy to work. Prisoners of our circumstances. If we don’t run with the herd then we get trampled.
Luxury in the Age of Plenty
Using the definitions of Luxury made earlier, we can see that luxury is actually very specialised in this modern age of “Plenty”. 95% or more of business in the modern world appears to be in the supply of necessities.
Power, Residences, Sewerage services, Waste collection, Public Healthcare, Public transport, Postal services, Education, Government, Law and order, and of course, Money itself, are all necessities for civilisation. I would also put Telephone, International air flights, Internet access, Scientific Research, and even Space Exploration on that list.
Where those things are supplied for profit, we can see all of the progresses made towards civilisation, especially those made during the industrial revolution, being gradually undone.
What happened to Concorde? What happened to the Space Shuttle? Those are just two examples of some of the most amazing Engineering feats in history; shining icons of our civilisation, all gone, because in the end, the governments themselves who funded them became profit driven. There was no profit to be made in the continuance of those projects originally conceived to further the interest of humanity. All of the expertise and investment, including even the sacrifice of lives on those projects, are now lost. If we wanted to rebuild, we would need to do it all over again from scratch. And next time we might not get it as right. Did we really do all of that for nothing?
For now, the future of space exploration, at least in the Western world, appears to rest in the hands of a few conventional private companies who indeed started from near scratch, with ambitions of profiting from future space tourism. Maybe they will, at first. At least while it is still a luxury.
Suffice to say; for the sake of profit, lately we appear to have been going backwards, both technologically, and as a civilization.
The Root Cause
This brings us to Business itself. The activity of exchanging things of perceived value, is itself a basic necessity for civilization.
Power, Internet Access, Business Premises, A telephone, Transport, Banking Facilities, and good staff at reasonable rates are all examples of necessities for a typical conventional (Profit seeking) business. Most conventional businesses fail because the cost of paying for those things, offered only at a profit, outweighs the profits available from their produce. It is impossible to imagine all of the new and existing products and services we’ve lost already because of this.
Currently, all businesses need to have a bank account. A compulsory startup requirement of any new conventional (For-profit) business is to show how and when profits will be made, so that the bank can be confident they will be able to have some too.
So all conventional (For-profit) companies immediately have compulsory overheads, driven by profit. This already makes a conventional company completely incompatible with the supply of anything for free, or even at cost in the case of physical product.
Back to Bitcoin, and the Blockchain technology it brought with it.
The concept of non-profit technological community working is something uniquely enabled. ICO (Initial Coin Offering) funding opens the door to a whole new world of research, which ironically, will herald a new age of development of products and services which are elite to civilisation, i.e. luxuries.
Looking through the hype, it seems plain that the technology itself is nothing less than the key to the future of civilisation. There is literally nothing in life that it cannot be applied to. And it came at just the right time.
ICO vs IPO
IPO funders give money to a new business with the single aim of receiving that money back again, but with interest on top.
ICO funders give money in exchange for tokens, hoping that they can be sold again later at a higher price.
In the case of an IPO, the funded project has to make a profit in order to fulfil the contract with its investors. So it has no choice but to seek a profit from its produce. It literally cannot be used to supply anything for free.
However, an ICO fulfils its obligation to its investors as soon as it provides the agreed number of tokens for the investment. After that, the project has no obligation to make a profit from its produce. The future price of the tokens held by investors then depends only on the perceived value of the project community.
Bitcoin has shown us what can be achieved; the robustness and sustainability of decentralized non-profit technological communities. Add the associated technology of Ethereum and executable contracts, and we have a glimpse of an alternative future, a future driven by a population of people now painfully aware of the problems of life driven by profit at all costs.
Of course there is also greed and deceit by the bucketload around Bitcoin, blockchain, crypto-currencies, and ICOs. This was brought mostly by non-technical speculators, crooks, and others wishing to try to profit from it (Or even by trying to sabotage it).
A basic rule of thumb to identify a class of doomed token projects, is to look at whether or not they are profit driven.
As explained, it is not possible to exist on a non-profit basis, if the company and/or project, or any part of it was founded on profit-making principles, therefore it cannot offer anything for free, and it cannot compete with anything offered for free.
So we should steer clear of profit-seeking blockchain projects, unless they are offering something truly elite to civilisation, and even then we should be aware of the likely short timespan of that elite status.
A further class I would advise caution with are commodity tokens designed to represent physical investment commodities, such as precious metals, stones, oil, and even Bitcoins. It seems that those token projects offer tokens representing commodities to investors, but try cashing them in for the actual commodity and see how far you get.
Take the idea of a token, or pure crypto-coin, such as Bitcoin. By itself it has no value other than that which might be perceived of it. Even though it might have cost a large amount in terms of energy to create, the value of a Bitcoin is not tied to anything. In this respect, it is no different than conventional money, just much more difficult to spend. It is worth as much as you are willing to pay for it, and it could be worth nothing tomorrow.
The real magic begins when we start to associate the generation of tokens with distinct intrinsic value, within specific communities.
How do we define value?
For me, most human activity has value. For example, I get paid for creating and adding value to products and services. In a fair world, bloggers and journalists get paid for creating and adding value to articles. Professional artists, songwriters, movie makers, performers, choreographers and the like get paid for making artistic masterpieces. Refuse collectors get paid for collecting refuse. You get the idea.
Who decides how much all of these folks should be paid? And how much is a creation worth compared with the work required to complete it? Value is in the eye of the beholder. If you say something is worth a fortune and no-one agrees with you, then it is not worth a fortune, in fact it might even have negative value. But if most people agree with you, then it is worth something close to a fortune, and you should be rewarded accordingly.
Who gave it that value? The people who decided how much it was worth. So they should be rewarded also, for adding value to the world.
If we consider the brain itself as a democratic system, we can define a basic democratic unit of value as being an indication of a decision made by a human brain, i.e the expression of a vote.
For a familiar example of how to apply this, let’s tokenize a fictitious non-profit, zero overheads business, otherwise similar to Medium. For a giggle, we’ll call it Tedium (Tokenized Medium!).
Clapping would show our appreciation of a Tedium article. The action carried out by clapping could be programmed as an executable contract to automatically generate and assign tokens to the wallets of users. Every user would have a personal wallet. Let’s call the token the “Clap” for some more giggles. The reporting feature if used would definitely show our disapproval of an article. Appreciated items undoubtedly have value. I would argue also that heavily reported items should be thought of as having negative value.
Let’s replace the reporting feature with a negative clapping feature. This could then be used to register how much an item is disapproved. For a final giggle, we’ll call these negative votes “Slaps”.
Clap if you like it, Slap if you don’t!
Value as Votes of Appreciation
The net measure of the value of an article could simply be the sum of Claps minus Slaps. The author of such could be automatically rewarded or fined in real time accordingly, as each vote is made. Much slapped articles depreciating to a negative value would soon be removed by the author(s), because they would effectively be fined by the community for allowing them to stay. This again would be adding value to the Tedium community from the viewpoint of its users, by removing irritating or offending articles. Unwanted advertisements would fall into that category.
By identifying valuable articles, and having bad articles removed, everyone reading and clapping would effectively be adding value to the community, directly reflected by the generation of new tokens. Every vote made as such is worth something in theory, and so should be fairly rewarded. The folks doing the reading and clapping could be rewarded for those activities, regardless of whether or not they created articles themselves. Obviously creating articles would be the best way to earn, but for those without the inclination or ability to create, a basic income could still be made just by reading and clapping/slapping articles at leisure.
The proportions of each new clap that might go to the voter, always positive, compared with the portion assigned to the author of the item voted on, positive or negative, could itself be put out as a vote, and thus entrusted to members, allowing The Wisdom of the Crowd to decide.
An Income for Tedium
The business of Tedium itself would obviously also need an income. A further division of each new clap could be assigned to it, always positive of course (The House always wins!), with that portion again being decided by the crowd. As the Tedium business itself is non-profit, democratically driven by its users, all with similarly vested interests, this level would be most fairly set by the users themselves.
I am sure that this alone would sustain the Tedium business, with the only condition being that it remains non-profit. At the same time, instead of users paying for a subscription, they would in fact be rewarded for their activities. Everyone would have the potential to make a basic income. Win-win-win. True magic.
Value Outside Tedium
What would the value of the Clap token be to the world outside Tedium? Again, the answer is; as much as you would like to pay for it. Claps can be thought of as community shares, representing the value of Tedium. As the total number of claps in the community increases, so also does the value of the Tedium community. They could be bought, sold, and exchanged for tokens of value from other conventional and tokenized entities in the same way as shares and money in conventional companies. This would allow speculators (Gamblers), to take part in exactly the same way. Let them have their usual fun. Live and let live.
A Non-profit World
If all of those communities were operating similarly, on a non-profit basis, constantly generating tokens of intrinsic value, the store value of a particular stash of tokens relative to the total stock would be gradually decreasing, thus reversing the incentive for any privileged minority to partition wealth from the rest of the world by amassing and hoarding large quantities of tokens. After all, if all necessities were available for better than free (i.e. we could all earn a basic income from any or all of them), why would anyone need to hoard? The only reason we might wish to save up, would be to acquire luxury.
I would argue a libertarian ideal should apply there. No-one should be excluded from those kinds of markets, otherwise they would not be truly driven by democratic, unbiased crowd power. We’ve seen and heard various academics, and other government and industry establishment figures arguing their concerns over total crowd power, but I have yet to come across one that holds water. To them I would say if you do not believe in crowd power, then you do not deserve to be part of it, and that would be your choice. Go and develop an alternative system based on something else and see how long it lasts in comparison. Live and let live.
I have faith that all of this will come to pass, (Though not specifically my Tedium example!), with even the services of law and order eventually becoming tokenized in the same way, driven by crowd power. After all, how can any necessary product or service offered at profit compete with others offered for less than free? The final death knell of profiting from the supply of necessities will come not long after, when the very specific conditions of beneficial working for profit are recognised, and working for profit abolished for any other purpose, thus restoring the good image of that noble cause to what it once was.
The Way Ahead
The simple tokenization example of Tedium I’ve provided here can be extended to cover virtually anything. The concepts of rewarding for value added are from my own VRENAR project; Another example under development, of how to create a tokenized community.
Where necessities are being offered monopolistically at profit, for example, Public Water Supply, there may be no scope for immediately setting up a free alternative. In such cases, establishing non-profit tokenized communities in the supplier chains to such businesses is a way in. No profit seeking company can refuse anything for free, even if it involves giving away company assets in return. Short term gain rules all in the eyes of speculative shareholders.
So in short, if you happen to be a Red Pill prisoner, get involved in the non-profit blockchain revolution by joining some communities, buying some tokens in, and/or doing some work in. If none exist that inspire you, create your own. You’ll feel much better, and the world will be well on the way to becoming a better place.
Clap if you like it. Slap if you don’t.