Mark Nadal Founder

Is the Reputation Economy a Dystopia? [Discussion]

China is transitioning itself to a Social Credit currency. Facebook is evolving from a social network into a bank. Credit card companies leak how "risky" you are to hackers. The world is changing, and fast. And so should the conversation.
Please join us, in the first ever HackerNoon "conversation", a text-based podcast about the hard and interesting discussion around the future of money, economy, ethics, and - well, our reputations:

Carl at 4:19 PM

I think the scary thing is that these interactions are very nuanced and organic. Trying to hardcode it WILL be dystopic. Virtue signal economy. 

Jace at 4:20 PM

Yeah I thought so at first as well. 

Carl at 4:20 PM

I help you, you upvote me so that everyone knows what a good person I am. 

Jace at 4:21 PM

That's why context is key. The truth would eventually come out. And when it does it would be damning. Like a bankruptcy. 

marknadal at 4:22 PM

It is only dystopic if those who are at the bottom are not cared for, because they're given no humanity because "they don't make money therefore they must not be providing value to society."
#Freeism only thing that can invert that, even a complete consumer is given gifts to survive, live, flourish. 

Jace at 4:22 PM

But people who just do a lot of good favors honestly start to become more prominent. Kind of like what the internet did for Keanu Reeves, but on a mass scale. 

marknadal at 4:24 PM

well, @Jace this is why I am scared of reputation systems, I don't want things like "bankruptcy" to be possible, any destructive/negative force (that includes taking money) in an economic game will be harnessed by those trying to game the system, so downvoting, bankruptcy, etc. far too dangerous & prone to abuse of toxicity than just having upvote only. 

Jace at 4:24 PM

These people are private, not secretive. Whereas the system cheats are secretive, and once a secrete gets out it's more destructive than it's ever been. This is how it will all self correct. Yeah downvoting is a bad idea. But negative forces happen naturally. Like guilt for hurting someone. Or excluding someone who you know is a cheat. This doesn't take enforcement systems like China has, it will happen naturally on a p2p basis. But ironically the very reason people are Skeptical of this is because they think there is not enough people to do it. Once there is the data to prove people want to be more honest, then it won't be a matter of if it's possible, it'll simply be "what's in it for me?". First comes community, then the why. 

Carl at 4:28 PM

@marknadal maybe you can crowdsource the creation of understandable simulations/models for #freeism.

@Jace seems to get it.

Jace at 4:29 PM

I don't think that's a bad idea. 

Carl at 4:30 PM

Create a git repo or git wiki that collects documents or something. 

Jace at 4:30 PM

Good idea. 

marknadal at 4:30 PM

Carl at 4:30 PM

Like a sequence diagram maybe? UML? Haha. 

Jace at 4:31 PM

I could do some gifs. I do a lot of vlogs, podcasts, and articles on this. But I've been needing some visual aid. It's easy to explain the nuance individually, but connecting the dots gets hard to do on the macro level without visual aid. It's a lot of yin yang stuff in a world where we've only seen the yin/Centralized side of things. It's just nonlinear. Like quantum science. Which people love to try and understand but very few do comprehensivly. But I guess that's economics is like... only more practical that quantum engineering haha. 

marknadal at 4:35 PM

@carl huh, what about phrasing it this way:
"If you remove the ability for people to be toxic, you'll have a less toxic system, people will then try to be toxic through less-easy routes, so then if you disincentives those routes then even fewer people will have time/effort to be toxic, finally you're left with a system that optimizes and incentivizes flourishing behavior, therefore you'd expect to see this system grow faster than other ones, such as systems that enable toxicity through 0-sum game mechanics." Thoughts?

Carl at 4:36 PM

@marknadal sounds nice. But it sounds dystopic. 

marknadal at 4:36 PM

economics yeah is very probabilistic like quantum. Good news is quantum gives very precise measurements. @carl :O dystopic? do explain!

Carl at 4:37 PM

If I do something toxic because I had a bad day, I get the thumbs down and become a pariah. 

marknadal at 4:37 PM


Jace at 4:37 PM

Well I think it's more about removing the incentive to be toxic. Toxic people will find a way to be toxic, but removing the incentive is why this in effect Incentivizes them the self correct to be less toxic more efficiently than the current system.

marknadal at 4:37 PM

there is NO thumbs down. you can't downvote!!! downoviting is 0-sum. 

Carl at 4:37 PM

Ok I have LESS thumbs up. 

marknadal at 4:37 PM

where on earth do you think you can downvote in #freeism !!??. 

Carl at 4:38 PM

People see how many thumbs up I have. 

Jace at 4:38 PM

This way people can't capitalize on being toxic. People can still be toxic, but it doesn't help them. This way people aren't punished for having a bad day or having a meltdown. 

Carl at 4:38 PM

@Matthew actually @marknadal is the guy from the talk! Sounds good.

marknadal at 4:39 PM

ok let's edit 1 more variable @carl. this isn't actually accurate, but for sake of debate. imagine that the FEWER thumbs up you have meant the MORE material goods you were given?

Matthew at 4:40 PM

How do you do that?

marknadal at 4:40 PM

how would that make you feel? @Matthew this is hypothetical actually. 

Matthew at 4:41 PM


Jace at 4:41 PM

It happens naturally though. People who are in need but don't have a bad reputation are more likely to receive help. But these people are in front of limited audiences. Increase their audience and increase their likelihood of receiving help.

Carl at 4:42 PM

But this is where I’m always stuck. Where do the givers get the goods that they give.

I make a basketball in a factory. The factory owner gives me a basketball and remains in charge and in the 1%. This sounds absurd. 

Jace at 4:42 PM

Without middlemen to potentially corrupt things. 

marknadal at 4:43 PM

in #freeism consumers are given stuff, but proportional to the abundance factor (Flaw 1: variable A from the talk).
However because "rich people" can only get richer by giving stuff to people, the economy naturally incentivizes startups to work automating manufacturing / scales-of-economy of currently scarce goods that are highly valuable. Cause if they can mass give them away, then they'll become "the biggest giver", and the consumer of consumer person is given those goods. So very similar, but not exactly. 

Carl at 4:43 PM

@Jace write a novel about this world. A freeism version of An Ayn Rand book.

marknadal at 4:44 PM

@carl did you read the Walmart employee % example?

Jace at 4:44 PM

I've been thinking quite a bit about that ironically.

marknadal at 4:44 PM

it was pretty straight forward on the math, but I know math doesn't help "click" anything. YES!!! NOVELS. and STORIES. 
that is why I'm building the Productivity Tools with Meta Editor! if you saw my "vision for meta editor" about telling entertain-ucational content. 

Carl at 4:44 PM

A day in the life of an average guy in freeism. A day in the life of an average ceo in freeism

Jace at 4:45 PM

I've been working on the characters and story Arch's. 

marknadal at 4:45 PM

THIS is the way you ... "teach" ... people stuff, just have stories, not math. EXACTLY, yes yes yes. 

Carl at 4:45 PM

How do you avoid having this priestly class of givers that become the defacto moral arbiters of the world?

marknadal at 4:46 PM

Walmart twitter example again (sorry, it explains the math) . @carl that is why I don't like reputation systems. 

Jace at 4:46 PM

@carl that's a great question. 

marknadal at 4:46 PM

reputation systems result in fame & morality. 

Carl at 4:46 PM

@Jace you could start with short story vignettes. And if you like those characters, expand. Just put something on medium etc. 

marknadal at 4:46 PM

while if you measure utility value. 

Jace at 4:46 PM

That's actually pretty simple though. 

marknadal at 4:47 PM

then you get the biggest givers being "famous" but only "useful" not moral. 

Jace at 4:47 PM


marknadal at 4:47 PM

this is the EXACT divide between the quickly dystopic nature of things very similar to #freeism and #freeism not being that. 

Jace at 4:47 PM

The easier it is to get context the harder it is to keep those kind of secrets. 

Matthew at 4:47 PM

It seems like you need a way to begin this, like a comprehensive plan of behavior that people could sign on to. "We will only (or perhaps preferably?) do business with those following these behaviors.". 

Jace at 4:48 PM

Yeah. Very similar to what they're doing with the new B Corp structures. 

marknadal at 4:48 PM

@Matthew Ooo! please not behavior, cause behavior also -> morality. but elsewise I agree with you. 

Carl at 4:48 PM

It seems like you need a way to begin this, like a comprehensive plan of behavior that people could sign on to. "We will only (or perhaps preferably?) do business with those following these behaviors."

This horrifies me. I hate codes of conduct.

marknadal at 4:49 PM

yeah, my game plan is sadly still stuck in finishing testing the technology at scale. 

Jace at 4:49 PM

Ironically those are only bad if we have to conform. 

marknadal at 4:49 PM

but once GUN can handle 1% of the world's population (which we'll be able to test against likely within the year!). 

Carl at 4:49 PM

@Matthew are you a tech guy at all? Programmer?

Matthew at 4:49 PM

Wow... ok. Here I was trying to think of practically doable stuff, which is in the realm of behavior. @carl Ha! No... I'm a dime store philosopher... I do the philosophy I can afford to do. 

Jace at 4:49 PM

If we could easily make our own then it would be easy for computers to check if our values aligned. 

marknadal at 4:50 PM

then I'm going to be heavily focusing on "gamifying" things with Party. 

Carl at 4:50 PM

@Jace exactly. It quickly becomes “eat the bugs, live in the pod, use these pronouns, comply”. 

Jace at 4:50 PM

Like all having our own custom terms of service. 

Matthew at 4:50 PM

So how do you gamify something without talking about behavior? I was using it very generally. 

marknadal at 4:50 PM

@carl yes, extremely important the economic metric is utility not morality/behavior/reputation/etc. 

Jace at 4:50 PM

Having it that Decentralized to the p2p level it wouldn't ever be able to become dystopian. Like having our own personal constitution. 

Carl at 4:51 PM

@Matthew so some background with this concept is that the technology behind GUN enables free services at a mass scale. So this economic system is like the implication of that. 

marknadal at 4:51 PM

and YES @Jace yes the power of running our own decentralized ML filters rather than Google/Facebook deciding it. 

Jace at 4:51 PM


marknadal at 4:52 PM

@Matthew yes, sorry, wasn't meaning to jump on you (I got what you meant) I am just being sensitive to the language stuff because it was the recent discussion with @carl. 

Jace at 4:52 PM

If we all had the power of mega Corporations they would have less power over us and we wouldn't lose anything but we would gain things and they wouldn't lose everything, just Control over us.

Carl at 4:53 PM

Yeah I saw something today. You basically are your own moderator. Or you can choose someone else to be your moderator and abide by their blocks and bans etc. 

Jace at 4:53 PM

It would be the most tectonic shift in power of the Status quo since the invention of the personal computer. 

marknadal at 4:53 PM

@Matthew gamify behavior by encouraging creating content rather than commenting/criticizing content. I know that sounds extremely out of left field and vague, but it is 1 of LOTS of other components that we're actually programming and can have measurable psychological impact. 

Jace at 4:54 PM


marknadal at 4:54 PM

kinda like we were talking about earlier, trying to remove toxicity from the game, not that people won't still be toxic, just the more difficult it becomes, the more disincentivized it is. 

Jace at 4:54 PM

That's the concept of constructive feedback which everyone appreciates. But giving people the power to cut out the noise... Which isn't easy online right now... 

Matthew at 4:55 PM

Hmm... but criticism can be constructive. One way I've been thinking of to do that is to have open channels to criticism which contains solutions but not criticism without. 

Jace at 4:55 PM


marknadal at 4:55 PM

still catching up with your comment @Jace nice about corporations/govs not losing stuff just us gaining power and being on equal footing. Egalitarian. 

Carl at 4:55 PM

It would be the most tectonic shift in power of the Status quo since the invention of the personal computer

In some respects. Not everything is handled in tech though. So the entry point would only be via popular tech services today. Uber, Facebook, tinder, Instagram. 

Jace at 4:55 PM

Right now it's very all or nothing. 

Carl at 4:56 PM

Freeism starts as a disruption of the information industry. 

Jace at 4:56 PM

Turn off comments or leave them on. If you're lucky, on some platforms you can ban words and individuals from commenting. But all in all very little control over what we see in our screens. 

marknadal at 4:56 PM

@Matthew I cover this a bit in this article (which is also a motherload like Freeism was, less interesting, but a critical piece that built up towards Freeism)

Jace at 4:56 PM

As a marketer myself @carl I couldn't agree more.

Carl at 4:57 PM

@Matthew has a background in art I think. 

marknadal at 4:57 PM

@Matthew not that criticism can't be good, just if you disable downvotes, then people have to comment their dislike, and that takes more effort than downvoting. So you can easily sentiment analysis on "lazy" negative comments versus "effortful" comments (which may or may not be negative still, but increases odds it is constructive). these micro-adjustments have long tail macro differences. 

Matthew at 4:58 PM

So it appears that this is a kind of technology driven movement, right? It depends on having the right kind of infrastructure more so than the right ethical framework? I suppose parts of my project are to though... 

marknadal at 4:59 PM

G2G. gotta pick up my kids. I have 2! 

Matthew at 4:59 PM

Have fun. 
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