Fighting Back

The Open Source Economy and Metacurrencies

Global Guerrillas

Here’s an alternative to complaining about how broken the current system is (or arguing about nonsense like what “should” or “shouldn’t” happen).  It’s a way to create something new that can improve all of our lives.

The article below is the latest post to the Metacurrency Project.  If you are interested, please join the mailing list (you can get digests either daily or weekly if you just want to keep tabs on it).

NOTE:  This is proving hideously difficult to explain all at once.  So, please bear with me.


Basically, what this metacurrency project is about (at least my intent) is to find a way to rapidly build successful open source ventures (and over time: build an open source economy).  These open source ventures:

  1. generate incomes for the participants ($$, yen, Gold, Euros, food, etc.),
  2. automate the allocation of rewards based on contribution, and
  3. don’t require a corporate hierarchy/bureaucracy to manage them (which ultimately dooms every corporation to stagnation/death/inefficiency).

The short term objective of the project is to build a social network enabled Internet venture, using metacurrencies, that proves the concept.

Let’s examine this in detail:

First, why focus on social network enabled Internet ventures?  They  grow very quickly, require little capital (fixed costs are low), and the tasks required to operate them are quantifiable. They are also VERY lucrative.  Further, the only true obstacle to building a successful venture of this type is a large network of people willing to advance the system.

Second, what is a metacurrency?  At the top level, metacurrencies make it easy to build a large social network that can accomplish complex tasks.  Let’s deconstruct this.

A metacurrency isn’t a traditional currency.  It more of a currency that awards currencies.  In other words, it’s about finding automated ways to determine who makes a contribution, how much they should be rewarded for that contribution, and when they get that reward.

All ventures, at core, are a bundle of tasks that run continuously.  These tasks, in aggregate, solve the problem the venture was formed to solve.  These tasks can be decomposed into specific functions that can be accomplished by individuals or groups. The measure of whether these functions are successfully completed or not can be automated.   Further, these functions can be attached to a reward.  The combination of automated  measurement of a venture function + reward is a metacurrency (the rules of which are transparent).

So, by extension, any venture = a bundle of metacurrencies. Some metacurrencies, like deal sourcing in Groupon‘s case, are venture specific. Others, like reputation and skill at a particular task, are applicable economy wide (part of the platform).

Metacurrencies can be configured in a variety of ways.

  • They can be binary = yes or no.
  • They can be continuous = like a meter that measures % of max contribution at any given time.
  • They can be complex, with feedback loops = ratings or completion metrics that modify the results of any single process (as in, the customer satisfaction level of this process is very high, so the value of the completed process is increased).

Where do we go with this if it works?  Here are some ideas:

  • It would be possible to leverage existing metacurrencies to quickly create new ventures.
  • The addition of MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) mechanics to metacurrency construction (structured randomness to some portion of the rewards) would accelerate adoption.
  • Connected metacurrencies (across ventures) would make for very interesting dynamics.  i.e. local food production venture connects with the reward allocation of a coupon venture.
  • Levels and status. Continual success with a metacurrency could yield advancement in skill level — unlocking new metacurrencies with new reward structures.
  • Rapid group formation that can accomplish a variety of tasks (i.e. resilient communities).
  • Etc…..