Tiberius Brastavicenau on the Open Value Networks Practice at Sensorica
"Since 2008 I have been involved in building infrastructure for commons-based peer production. In the open value network model that we propose, the economic activity of all the network affiliates operating in a peer production network is recorded, activities are compared and weighted against each others based on metrics that are agreed upon democratically. The redistribution of benefits is in part quantitative, turning someone's efforts into coins, which can represent equity or debt and can be later used to get tangible benefits. Qualitative characteristics of economic contributions and behavior are also taken into consideration, based on how the contribution is made, on different dimensions of reputation of the affiliate, etc. All this is packaged into an IT tool, a contribution accounting system and an algorithm for computing the redistribution of benefits that we call a value equation. This represents a social contract among affiliates, designed to generate a sense of fairness among them and to render the economic activity effective and efficient.
This system for capturing, recording and comparing economic activity has been implemented in SENSORICA, the first open value network. The same system can also be applied to other types of organizations, more or less networked, more or less open (with respect to access to participation) or transparent (with respect to access to information).
This system has profound consequences on how the global economy works. Let's enumerate a few of them.
When I was in my teenage years, I worked on a farm situated a few kilometers north of Montreal, Canada, picking blueberries and strawberries. We were payed by the weight of fruit that we picked. Throughout the day, we would bring our fruit baskets to a tractor, where they were weighed, and a record was produced. At the end of the day, everyone was paid according to the total weight gathered (a metric for economic activity). Some were making a lot more than others. It was a purely meritocratic redistribution scheme for a simple economic activity, using a very simple metric. This is very different from the normal employment setting, where employees are paid a fixed, negotiated and agreed upon salary, formalized as a job contract. The employer agrees to pay a certain number of coins to an employee before even starting working. This requires some diligence from the employer, which comes in a form of a filter, a job interview. Moreover, this also requires constant monitoring of the employees' contribution to the company. Companies engage in time management and regular performance reviews. There are at least two important setbacks in this employment setting compared to the first one. For one, the managerial overhead for time management and performance monitoring. Second, the inability of the company to dynamically adjust its workforce and talent base, because of the heavy filtering mechanisms and the contractual agreements in place. We will expand on this below. In the raspberry picking case, the payment is proportional to the production, therefore the need to filter and for time management is less stringent. The reward is directly related to the production. This case presupposes the existence of means to evaluate contributions. The activity that doesn't result in a positive contribution, or that causes damage can be dealt with in various ways. For raspberry picking, the evaluation scheme is obvious: total weight of the picked fruit. The new information technology allows us to go far beyond this simple case, to deal with the complexity of numerous and various tasks involved in our normal workday. A contribution accounting system coupled to a value equation gives flexibility to organizations of all sorts and help them reduce costs.
Another important consequence of this technology is that it allows an organization to tap into the world's massive human resources in a very dynamic way. At any given moment, there is someone on this planet that has the solution to your problem. Finding this individual or a group of individuals is one important hurdle. But once that hurdle is passed, we need to be able to effectively integrate this new talent into the stream of activities and its associated reward mechanisms. The possible contributor can be far away, which means hard to identify and authenticate, hard to monitor, hard to reprehend, … In these circumstances, the classical mode of employment is long, costly, and sometimes even impossible if we take into consideration all the geopolitical hurdles in place. These opportunities are lost most of the time, and the company is obliged to work with what it has. Different crowdsourcing platforms have emerged as an interface between companies and the crowd, but in my opinion their value proposition is not resonating well with the crowd. Crowd-based problem solving schemes work very well in open source projects and in projects with a great social impact, They are not performing well when only corporate interest is behind the problem. Companies can develop less exploitative and less alienating mechanisms for managing their own crowd-based activities. In order to do so, they must move away from contractual relationships and time management, to interface directly with the crowd by using tools for contribution accounting and evaluation.
There are other important consequences that we can discuss here, but I think we should jump directly to the one that has, by far, the most disruptive effects on our global economic system. That is the possibility to put information about past economic activity back into the system of redistribution of resources.
A dollar bill that you receive from someone doesn’t come with a description about how this individual acquired it, or about how this individual is seen by his peers in a context of work. It could have been earned honestly or dishonestly.
The contribution accounting system and its value equation implemented in the SENSORICA open value network is used to reward participants based on past economic activity. This data accumulated for every affiliate can be distilled into a socioeconomic profile that can be consulted by anyone around the world. It is very dangerous to allow all this information to be gathered and controlled by private interests. These systems should not be deployed by organizations like Facebook or Google. They must be developed on top of p2p infrastructures like block chain for example. That is precisely what we are striving to do with the open value network infrastructure.
Sensoricans designed and experimented with a system that allows redistribution of benefits and privileges, eliminating the problem of the classical monetary coin, for being detached from the role of the individual in society. This is very similar to the situation in my mother’s village. The system can be scaled and it is using digital technology instead of clay tablets, which makes it easy to gather, store, analyse and retrieve information about socio-economic activity in real time, with no spatial barriers. This is not a Big Brother situation if applied according to p2p principles.
We are in the middle of a socioeconomic revolution. It is still unclear what the future will look like. In order to inform this transformation we need to revisit a fundamental concept that is used in all these approaches, value."