Asymmetric Accounting

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1. Greg Rader:

"I want to introduce the term "asymmetric accounting" to describe systems that record and track the provision of value rather than the volume of money transacted. Asymmetric accounting mechanisms are congruous with the reality that freely given advice or knowledge can be just as valuable as purchased knowledge. Such systems would not require a market price in order to recognize value creation and provision. In taking this broader view, asymmetric accounting reconciles our economic notions with the reality that value exists independent of whether its recipient is obligated or able to provide equal compensation." (

2. Alan Rosenblith [1]:

"What's most important about this new mode of production is that it is NOT about the quid-pro-quo, something-for-something social contract. The primary motivation for participation is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Therefore, in the most fundamental way, this new currency will NOT be based on the quid-pro-quo social contract. This is difficult for us to conceive of since all modern money is based on the assumption that producers of value should be incentivized with rewards as determined by the market. Even most alternative money substitutes simply recapitulate this basic pattern. The logic of the quid-pro-quo market goes something like this "I'll provide my service at $50/hour but not $30/hour, and if you can afford it, you are worthy of my time."

Instead, these new currencies will be about making it easy to find the right place to put one's own efforts based not on extrinsic reward, but on intrinsic value. In other words, where will my efforts be the most fulfilling to me and most in harmony with my community? This is about right placement, and about being in economic communication with people all around the globe." (


Alan Rosenblith:

"Instead of choosing where to gift your energy based on a future obligation, you might base your choice on information about what has happened in the past. You are always free to decide where to give your time and energy, so what information would you want to help you make those decisions?

I can’t tell you how to direct your gifts, but I can tell you some things I might consider.

  • Values: How does this gift I am about to make support the values I care about. Does this recipient spend their time to better the world (according to my values), or to degrade it
  • Karma: If I choose to give here, does that energy dissipate or does it make a cyclical pattern? How does this gift get returned to me? In material form? In the form of a safer or friendlier neighborhood? In the form of a cleaner environment?
  • Efficacy: How much is my gift appreciated? I don’t want to give my gift if the recipient doesn’t appreciate my time and effort in a way that is consistent with the energy I put in.
  • Satisfaction: How do I feel when I make this gift? Have I felt good in the past giving to this person? Or did I feel exploited? Have I learned something in the process?"



1. Gregory Rader:

"How would this accounting be accomplished? The challenge is to devise non-invasive mechanisms of value recognition. "Non-invasive" implies that these mechanisms should not create the expectation of reciprocation. Consider for example - How do you react when someone approaches you with a "free" offer at the entrance of a store or on a crowded commercial street? If you are anything like me, you quickly avoid these overtures altogether. You realize that the offer is not really free, that there is an implied expectation. Even if the initial token is free, the goal is to create an implicit obligation.

When money is our only accounting system and transactions are the only ubiquitous means of reciprocation, we are condemned to this state of affairs. We avoid generosity in order to avoid the obligation to reciprocate. Internet social platforms create new possibilities. Anyone can hit a Like button, or subscribe to a blog, or amplify a message. These actions record the recognition of value without requiring any exchange of scarce currency. Over time, accumulated statistics begin to delineate who has provided value in the past and who is likely to provide value in the future. These first experiments with social media will develop eventually into comprehensive tools that record the creation and provision of value in many forms.

These tools will reframe our notions of for-profit and non-profit, enabling more subtle distinctions that better describe new business models. The coarse distinction between for-profit and non-profit is only necessary when our notions of value preclude non-monetary value. "For-profit" becomes a misnomer when many businesses dedicate funds to charitable ventures while many others simply fail to generate monetary returns. Ultimately what we mean by "for-profit" is: Seeking symmetric exchange. Seeking to be compensated to a degree commensurate with the value of the products or services delivered and the costs of their production. When the monetary system assumes that all exchange is transactional and symmetric, then a new category, "non-profit", is required for ventures that don't fit this description. But, these distinctions are not as clear as legal distinctions would lead us to believe. Some ventures truly seek symmetric compensation while other ventures, to varying degrees, disproportionately benefit some stakeholders over others: Google is a for-profit corporation funded by investment and ongoing revenue, yet stills outputs far more value to users than it will ever gain in revenue (monetary input) Government institutions are non-profit yet, in many cases, deliver far less value in output than is allocated to them as monetary input Volunteer organizations generally consume very little monetary input and yet often create significant value as output Current accounting methods treat $1 million of Google employee salary as equal to $1 million of public employee salary, irrespective of the value produced by these disparate endeavors. Furthermore, volunteer organizations, to the extent that they avoid monetary transactions, are accounted for as if they provides no economic value at all.

Asymmetric mechanisms will remedy these anomalies, providing a more subtle and granular interpretation of value. As they become more comprehensive, our economic notions will become more consistent with reality and our markets, broadly conceived, will better encourage value creation in all its disparate forms." (

2. Alan Rosenblith:

" If we were to consciously design an algorithm for the economy's adaptive network to function by, I would argue that insisting on symmetric accounting is a big mistake. Let's assume that our goal is to encourage lots of innovation / experimentation and provide reinforcement for the production of goods / services that add value to people's lives. By this logic we would want to measure the value-add of any good or service provided. However, you will notice that the price is agreed upon before any value is added to the economy. Consider for a moment how much distortion this causes. As a buyer, I might be suckered in by advertising that promises some great value-add for my life, only to discover that the product in question causes me nothing but grief.

Also consider that the buyer has every incentive to understate the amount of value they expect to receive, as this expression takes the form of them parting with their hard-earned money.

In order to overcome these two major barriers to a well-functioning adaptive network, I propose the following. First, we eliminate the concept of expected value as expressed through "price" entirely, and shift to a model where we are measuring the real value of the good or service received. There are, of course, many ways we could accomplish this, ranging from hard data derived from sensors to subjective reviews and ratings systems. The second would be remove any incentive for either buyer or seller to express anything other than their authentic experience around the transaction. And we all know that experiences can be asymmetrical." (