Scarcity, more than anything else, determines the conditions in which we live. Things that are in abundance determine not only our quality of life but our safety, happiness and ability to access the things we need. Scarcity, on the other hand, defines our struggle, and the things we need to survive. They are what we must fight for, seek and need desperately to live a better, easier or safer life.
Scarcity has changed through the ages, and when it shifts it alters the fabric of society. These shifts mark not only progress but determine whether we are experiencing a revolution or stagnating. Scarcity determines how quickly we progress as it is the bottleneck for development, progress and evolution.
What was scarce was safety and food. We had evolved to become hunter-gatherers but the hunter could still be hunted. We didn’t have homes or settlements, what was scarce was knowledge and safety. We had yet to develop the sensibilities to set up shop in a specific geographic location, instead choosing to migrate with the season in order to ensure a steady supply of food.
What was in abundance was time. Employment was nowhere on the horizon, though people had responsibilities. We were each responsible for our own sustenance, each person a sovereign individual who determined their own riches and standard of living. Some people hunted, some people cooked and society operated on a small scale with tight-knit communities of families. Trade had yet to develop, so we were forced to create and produce everything we required.
We encountered the next revolution, agriculture, if you discount the advent of tools, weapons and fire along the way. The previous scarcity’s of safety and food were eradicated by technological progress. Farming emerged creating an abundance of food which enabled us to live in larger settlements where people were able to specialise in a specific trades. An abundance of food meant we no longer had to dedicate all our time to not starving. What now became scarce was land. Harvest was determined by the quality of our farms for crop growth and by how the suitable it was to feed the animals we domesticated.
Conventionally held belief that barter emerged is a fantasy. There is no evidence to suggest that it was ever a widespread means of facilitating trade. For one-off transactions it is a possibility, but for everyday exchange it is impossible. How could your requirement for a cow ever match with someone else's need for shoes? How could you ever balance that transaction — how many shoes are equal to a cow? At various points during this period different things were used to enable trade. Dried fish, stones, precious metal and even reeds acted as currency. This ensured that prosperity and quality of life could continue to rise as consumer purchasing meant you didn’t have to create everything you needed.
The next revolution was thrust upon us. The advent of steam-powered engines and electricity ushered in the industrial revolution and scarcity shifted to capital. Capital in this instance means both human and machinery. We never had enough people or machines to produce the energy, products and services we needed to ensure continued progress. Technology enabled productivity on an industrial scale, where one person could create 1 product a day, with the help of machines we could now create 100’s or even 1,000’s of times as many. Mass production was realised. Machines allowed us to harvest our land far more efficiently so this was now in abundance. It took a long time for us to move from blue-collar fabrication jobs to service-based jobs but we got there eventually. This enabled an increasing number of people to escape poverty. Over time, through relentless automation, capital has become less scarce.
It shifts again. Computation effectively eradicated the scarcity of capital, and electricity is no longer an issue, albeit in the developed world. Scarcity shifted to money. Capital was still a means of accruing wealth, but to purchase these pieces of machinery and to pay for the people who operate them lots of money was need. The problem was that it was expensive. Interest rates were high, banks were incredibly selective and investors were reluctant to entrust money to risky ventures. If you are able to accrue 6% interest simply by parking capital institutions why take any risks at all?
The implication and reason for the 2008 financial collapse is that money is cheaper than it has ever been. Interest rates are terrible, banks are desperate to lend money in order to cultivate growth in the economy and investors are willing to take risks in order to accrue money which is not available by historical means. That’s not to say that it is easy to get, only that it is far easier than it has ever been.
So what is scarce today? Truly there is only one thing. We no longer worry about food, housing, capital, or money, comparative to historical precedent.
Our attention is the prize every single technology company in the world is competing for. Our phones, TV’s, the radio, printed media all compete relentlessly to steal our focus and our time. Things are free because we are the product. Companies make money off not just the number of eyeballs they have looking at them, but the length of time they do. Each must accrue inconceivable volumes of data in order to allow them to target you better.
It is almost impossible to escape. Minutes spent scrolling social media turn into hours. The smartest people in the world literally spend their lives exploring ways to hijack your time and attention. The colour of buttons, the size of logos, the specific words used, manipulate our behaviour by playing to natural human instinct. Instant gratification is achieved through a constant stream of feedback which keeps us engaged. Not only that but companies like Facebook experiment with the manipulation of our thoughts, feelings and moods in an attempt to elongate user engagement. Morally this is repugnant but what can we do? We sign up and allow ourselves to be exploited.
The internet is a battleground. We may no longer experience the same violence that was prevalent in the 20th century but there is a virtual war being waged to win your attention at all costs. If you use the internet and their services you consent fully to whatever tactics they decide to employ.
We all believe that money means something. We think the fact it is backed by a government that there is an underlying value which each dollar or pound represents. The truth is money isn’t worth the paper it is printed on. Incredibly, whether you choose to believe it or not, it hasn’t been worth anything for nearly 50 years.
In 1971, President Nixon of the United States cancelled the Gold Standard, which it had been moving away from since 1933. In short, what this meant was that the value of the dollar was no longer tied to the value of gold. Previously, there was a commodity which underpinned the price of a dollar. Nixon enacted policy which led to the unilateral cancellation of the direct international convertibility of the United States dollar. The implication of this was not only profound for the dollar, it was for almost every other currency in the world. Consider that each is measured against the dollar, with its value often derived from it, and you being to understand that all the money in the world was now not worth the paper it is written on either.
With countries holding such large volumes of US treasury bonds they are reliant on the continued success of the USA. If the dollar sneezes, the world not only catches a cold, it has the potential to cripple the majority of the worlds financial systems. The United States is an Empire in all but name, just look at the regions where the it has military basis, and the world the world relies on them they need them to keep the charade of money going. If the States fails the whole world does, and the house of cards falls down.
If you owe the bank $100 that’s your problem. If you owe the bank $100 million, that’s the bank’s problem. The United States owes the World $17 Trillion, thats the world’s problem.
This is the system by which the majority of the world operates. It is the practice whereby a bank accepts deposits, makes loans or investments, but is required to hold reserves equal to only a fraction of its deposit liabilities.
Central reserves and Banks are what determine the amount of money in the world, not economic activity. They might hold $1 trillion in reserves, but they enable $10 trillion of economic activity — 10X the reserves the hold. With money that is underpinned by nothing, by a banking system that has no means of repaying the money lent/spent, What happens if people stop borrowing or believing in the value of money?
Reserves are held as currency in the bank, or as balances in the bank’s accounts at the central bank. All this means is that the world in which we live is underpinned by a massive amount of debt. Prosperity, the measure of people being lifted out of poverty into the middle class, has been achieved on the back of massive borrowing. A rise in wealth can only be achieved in one way — expansion of available capital for growth. We need more money.
A theological construct critical to enabling the exchange of economic value. That is all. Think of it as a universal ledger where the money is the entries.
There was once an island in the Pacific Ocean called Yap. They existed a few thousand years ago and like us they had money to purchase the goods and services they needed. The only difference is that they didn’t have paper money with government symbols written on them, they had large stone rocks which they mined. The money worked through ledgers which recorded who owned which, and how much of, each stone. If you needed to buy bread, you did so through the exchange of a fraction of a rock. Other people did the same thing for shoes, and this is how the economy operated.
One day, a family set off to mine their stone, sailing a boat across the sea. The boat sank during their return and the stone fell to the bottom of the sea. The family survived, as did the deck hands, and once they got home they and their witnesses told everyone how big it was and it entered into circulation. For hundreds of years, this family exchanged parts of the stone on the collective belief of everyone that is existed at the bottom of the sea somewhere and it was the size that other people said it was. It still had a perceived value.
So what is money? Literally, whatever we believe it is — as long as we believe.
Web 1.0 gave rise to internetWeb 2.0 gave rise to the giants who dominate itWeb 3.0 will give rise to distributed networks that take it back
My most bold contrarian belief is that advertising as a form of revenue will disappear in the next decade. The rise of a decentralised internet where everyone owns everything but nothing simultaneously is inevitable. Google, Facebook, Netflix and any/every other online business will be replaced. This will be in recognition of the fact that we should control our own destiny. Why should these multi-national conglomerates commoditise our attention by turning us into zombies whose only contribution to society is the accrual of capital to drive consumer purchasing?
If advertising disappears how will creators of products, content and services be paid? It is already incredibly difficult to receive payment for products and services online, there would need to be a foolproof way to guarantee this without the need to physically pay for things with money. For this, I look towards the periphery of legality. What is happening right at the edge of what is legal, exploiting loopholes and the day’s innovative technology to do things that had previously been impossible? The answer is digital taxation.
The technology isn’t quite there yet — and the cost to produce technology is still relatively significant that payment has to be of a sufficient amount to cover costs. With the marginal cost of technology trending towards zero with each additional user, distributed global platforms will solve this problem. A digital taxation will be achieved by using your CPU/GPU to mine a currency which is distributed to creators as per the volume of attention you provide to their product, service or content. Energy costs will increasingly trend to zero, as will the cost to produce physical goods and services as production is automated entirely. The same trend is already emerging in transport and food.
The only thing that matters is attention, that will be the only real thing of value. Money doesn’t exist outside machines yet people doubt the value of cryptocurrency. There is no reasonable argument out with the existing trust we have in government, meaning the existing people who will except it as payment, as to why Fiat currency has any value over modern form. That will change
How many of you possess a cryptographically secure wallet? There is no good reason why you don’t other than having to download something you don’t understand. It requires you put your trust in a digitalised system which is accessed by public and private keys and seed phrases. A platform will emerge that lowers this barrier to entry — it will replace your bank and change the world.
A platform will merge which places a financial management account at the centre of it all. It will still be where you manage your finances from, make payments and store what you believe is valuable but you will forego your entitlement to cashback fees and interest. Instead, you will receive tokens which entitle you to fractional ownership of an investment fund, creating economic value for you from asset classes you are currently unable to.
Simultaneously, it will analyse your spending and compare it to what everyone else is paying. Where you are paying more than other users on the platform so the same products and services, it will tell you how much you should be saving. The technology is emerging to undertake these reductions of cost on your behalf. You will save money simply as a by-product of having an account.
Imagine the influence. A diverse distributed network of individuals providing intelligence that the whole platform can collectively profit from. With this comes influence, power and control. Instead of being able to negotiate on our own for products and services, we can collectively bargain as one. That platform would be able to achieve lower prices than each individual could on their own. Where the intelligence you provided initially enable comparative cost reduction, the network effect of hundreds of thousands of users will achieve a reduction of costs for the benefit of humanity. Ultimately the power of the internet will be its ability to organise masses of people to operate as one for collective interest. To punish bad actors by preventing their participation.
By pinning this to an existing bank account the possibilities are endless. How could you receive a reward for your attention and engagement? Furthermore, how could you do this in a way which appeals to human instinct? The key is mutual self-interest. A large number of people acting selfishly for payment, which enables the whole platform to profit collectively. By tokenising your bank account, linking it to an asset which has growth potential, users on the platform can be incentivised to take actions for tokens. Envision 100,000 people sharing the same message on social media. Picture 1m demanding a supermarket begin stocking a product. Imagine 10m people purchasing their home and car insurance at the same time from one place.
The account becomes the most critical piece of infrastructure to enable a decentralised world. By linking it to existing currency, individuals are able to accrue a modern currency which is linked to an asset based on their commitment to the platform with no barrier to entry. Their ability to expand their piece of the pie isn’t only linked to how much money they put on the platform, it is grown through their attention and contribution. It expands by growing the pie for everyone. Exploitation can be eradicated and you can get a fair price for your time.
We aim to disrupt the 1% by using a commitment of capital from each individual to rebuilding all the products and services we use. This isn’t something that can ever work on a small scale, it required humanity to collaborate on an unprecedented scale, organised by technology. It can’t be an existing company or intermediary, it has to be something fresh, bold and new which will upset, disrupt and challenge every entrenched institution.
This isn’t about money, it’s about creating a new system, equal opportunity and exposure to the growth, change and revolution.
The most exciting opportunities grow from the people imagining the most amazing alternative reality and telling the story, inviting other people to hope with them. Only in the belief of evolution which completely alters the fabric of society can revolution occur.
That is my story.