Metacurrency Project

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= The meta-currency project is about defining an approach to creating a currency network: MetaCurrency is the name for the infrastructure and protocols necessary for an open source economy, and Free Currencies to flow in an interoperable and standardized way. This requires new technological capacities which need to function in a non-monopolizable manner.

URL = http://www.metacurrency.org/ [1]

Example: the Flowspace project


Characteristics

"We are building platforms and protocols necessary for an open source economy. This requires new technology capacities which need to function in a non-monopolizable manner.

  • Open Identity: Create, manage and own your identity in a trustworthy manner, independent of any central authority.
  • Open Rules: Know the rules of any currency you participate in and see when they change.
  • Open Transport: A protocol to enable a participant to transact with any other participant and a currency to interact with any other currency.
  • Open Data: The ability to share, decentralize and distribute data (like your account balance) and ensure its integrity and privacy… also, to allow you to be a reliable authority of your own data. (You can represent your own accounts, and I can validate your data.)"

(http://www.metacurrency.org/)


Introduction

Discussion

Eric Harris-Braun:

"What we are claiming in the meta-currency project, is that the seemingly different social phenomena of monetary exchange, eBay reputation points, grades, coupons, airline-miles, etc.., are similarly expressions of a common pattern. They are all:

- formal information systems that allow communities to interact with flows

And we call those systems currencies, i.e. trade currencies, reputation currencies, loyalty currencies, performance metric currencies, etc. In each case the flows they interact with, or the ways they interact with flows may be in different realms of social manifestation, just as sound, light and water waves all have wave properties in different realms of physical manifestation. But what we have found, is that once we recognize this common pattern, we experience a paradigm shift: we change our focus from the information tokens, to the flows themselves. We begin to actually be able to see these flows, and see how the flows are what create wealth, and how the information tokens just help us interact with the flows.

Thus, the goal of the meta-currency project is to create a new expressive capacity, a "flow mechanics" that amplifies our ability to see and shape the flows that underlie healthy social systems. This is much like how "wave mechanics" is an expressive capacity that gave us amplifies our ability to build physical systems.

In an e-mail to me Guillaume created a metaphor to illustrate the difference between currency and reputation systems as part of describing why he's not comfortable using the word currency for both. He said: "currency is the water in the conduit, the reputation is the filter in the conduit, but the filter isn't fluid." This metaphor certainly works to an extent, but it doesn't reflect the paradigm shift that I've described above. I think the metaphor is more powerful if it is expanded thus:

The flow of water is necessary to life in a house. We need lots of integrated tools to shape how that water flows. We need pipes to direct where the flow goes, we need valves to keep the flow going in the right direction and in the correct amounts, we need filters to keep out crud from the flow, etc... All together, we call this plumbing. It's an integrated system.

Our goal is to create a platform that will allow communities to build the social plumbing that allows them to interact in all the necessary ways with the many types of flows that will make them radiant and healthy communities. I am totally convinced that such a platform must be flexible enough to carry information about more types of interactions than just trade, precisely because the paradigm shift that I have experienced is about the underlying unity of the patterns and processes involved.

So, my current sense is that claiming an expanded use of the word currency is a powerful strategic move to help awaken the understanding of this paradigm shift. Using old words in new ways is a time honored technique to get us to change our thinking, and that's exactly what's needed. Guillaume does make an excellent point in the post about the how the word currency when translated into other languages doesn't carry with it the flow connotations we have for it in English. That is a serious strategic issue, but I'm not sure how important it is that if we expand the meaning of currency in English that we also have to do so in all other languages. If it doesn't work in a particular language why not find a different word in that language that does? Strategics I think are always language and culture specific. But please note, that I'm not wedded to forcing the word currency into talking about all these types of flow shaping tools. It's just the best I've heard so far. The point is that what I want to focus on is flow shaping information systems for communities to build wealth at all levels, because they are all integrated. But who knows, maybe the best strategic move is to call it the meta-plumbing project!

I want to reiterate that I'm not talking about using this language to explain how to use Twollars, or time banks, or eBay ratings, or any particular currency that is created using the platform. That makes no more sense than talking about wave mechanics when trying to explain how to use a microphone. But to build and design a microphone and the devices it is attached to, we had to have developed and gained fluency in the language of wave mechanics.

Just one more thing: This sounds like an overwhelming task, and really long term. At one level it is, in that the fullness of what will come of it is huge and will only appear in the long term. But getting started is not that hard, or that long term. I believe that at the very least, the crucial components of the kind of expressive capacity or language of flow needed to build this kind of plumbing are actually achievable short term. That, actually, it is like wave mechanics which boils down to some very simple relationships. There are few underlying basic relationships out of which all such flow token systems (including money exchange ones) can be built. These relationships become the basis of the meta-currency technical platform we are building, at the heart of which is the meta-currency protocol." (http://newcurrencyfrontiers.blogspot.com/2009/03/why-currency-in-the-meta-currency.html)

Metacurrency Project as a P2P Currency System

The Metacurrency Project may be the single most encompassing vision of the future of networked currency in the world. As such, it offers a host of options for a P2P Network looking to implement a P2P Currency. The vision allows for personal currencies, as well as network currencies, and it is possible to customize the rules for the currencies to meet the needs of a P2P network above and beyond the minimums of allowing peers to create an destroy currency, and understanding that the use of the currency needs to be understood as utility designed to benefit the network as a whole as well as the individual peer. The Metaproject is large, as already mentioned. So large, in fact, that some folks who see the site might get a little dizzy, and it would be easy then to become distracted by all the possibilities. Currently the project does not offer any turn-key solutions, though this may change rapidly as more groups and individuals seek out currency solutions. The Metacurrency Project Model is far more sophisticated than the Cyclos implementation, but Metacurrency is only an idea, right now, and not an implementation.


How the Metacurrency Project is related to Flowspace

Eric Harris-Braun:

"The MetaCurrency project has included me, Art, Alan, Adam, Jay, Jean-François, Fernanda, Gerry, Ethan, Lewis, and a few others as contributors over time as a loose network. One of our deliverables in the realm of "Open Rules" (http://metacurrency.org/content/open-rules) has been SGFL/XGFL/XPFL as a language, which has been implemented in the context of the Flowplace, as an example use of that language. The development of the Flowplace has been largely the work of Jean-François, Fernanda & myself, with substantial contributions by Adam & Art, and some contributions from others. That particular work has been most talked about in the context of theTransitioner because theTransitioner uses it in it's seminars! But our aim has not been to see it as territorial in any way but for it to embody in action the p2p philosophy. Thus the Flowplace has been open-source and freely available from the start. Also the meta-currency demo that is linked to on the metacurrency website is simply another instance of the flowplace-codebase, with various configuration options tweaked to simplify the UI for the MetaCurrency context.

The flowplace is not an organization. It's a tool created by people who are part of the MetaCurrency project and theTransitioner of which there is some overlap. It was created by individuals in service of the MetaCurrency project, but also in service of the wider goals of theTransitioner, and in service of anyone else who wants to play. It uses protocols developed under the name of the MetaCurrency project. And MetaCurrency isn't a particular tool, it's a project to create a suit of protocols and sample implementations, that any group (like theTransitioner) can use."

More Information

  1. Draft description at http://docs.google.com/Doc?docid=dfgbzhbp_274dxtmfpg5&hl=en
  2. Some background at http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/open-money-as-a-necessary-next-step-for-democracy/2009/03/23
  3. Progress report via the blog of Eric-Harris Braun: http://eric.harris-braun.com/
  4. first design document for the MetaCurrency platform at http://metacurrency.org/sites/metacurrency.org/files/docs/Design_for_a_Meta_Currency_Platform.pdf
  5. http://metacurrency.org/blog/2010/10/22/composable-abstractions-for-wealth-building

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