My interview with the Institute of Customer Experience in Mumbai, is now live. In it I talk about some of my favorite science fictions authors, scenarios of the future of money and I wax philosophical about the movie Inception and dreams.
I've got a new article up on Medium about Bitcoin. Please check it out and hit their Recommend button! Thanks!
The past couple weeks has seen a media saturation on Bitcoin reminiscent of a similar hype peaking in June 2011. Change a few numbers in this MIT Tech Review article reporting about the 2011 bubble and it’s déjà vu. Here’s what causing the boom in Bitcoin from the perspective of a financial futurist.
Paradigm shifts take time. Often we don’t realize one is happening when we’re in the middle of it. This is because the full shift can only be seen clearly in hindsight. It takes system thinking, which trained futurists deploy to connect seemingly unconnected subjects, to call out a paradigm shift in real time. Topics and trends are mostly explored and understood in their own context — but for futurists, they become exponentially more powerful when seen through a broader lens.
Bitcoin bridges two paradigms: the traditional financial paradigm, focused on clearly defined 1:1 financial transactions, and a new paradigm, in which non-financial data is layered on top of financial transactions. Bitcoin transactions include shared social values layered on top of the financial transaction mechanism. The social values encoded in the DNA of Bitcoin are DIY, peer-to-peer, distrust in government and central banking systems, technology elitism, and anonymity. Buying something with Bitcoin can be construed as an act of financial activism —not just a purchase.
Bitcoin early adopters are rewarded today for holding the currency long term. You might call some people lucky because they bought Bitcoin and then forgot about it. But they bought it for a reason, and based on my Bitcoin research survey in 2011, most early Bitcoin purchasers were believers in the social values the currency represents.
The use of Bitcoin for speculation and market manipulation is an unfortunate side effect of its capabilities for real-time beta testing. Because Bitcoin is a smaller system, those with the resources to purchase large amounts can manipulate it. This has attracted speculators looking for short-term gain, which resulted in the 2011 Bitcoin bubble and crash. Consider this part of Bitcoin’s growing pains.
Despite the rising bar in the stock market; inequality between the rich and the poor has never been greater in the history of human civilization. This is why people are willing to experiment making money in new ways. Retailers can now accept Bitcoin because the transactions are easier to process than in the history of the currency, more people are using it, and its gained mainstream credibility, especially through the positive reception at the Senate Congressional hearings. In addition to increased sales, Bitcoin-friendly retailers garner media attention as well as community goodwill as reported by Kasmir Hill in this Forbes article.
“[T]he real worth of taking [Bitcoin] may be the publicity Cups and Cakes has gotten as one of the first stores to accept the currency. Her little shop has been featured in international news: on the BBC, in the Financial Times, on NPR Marketplace, and beyond.”
From a financial futurist’s perspective it appears as if Bitcoin is going to keep increasing in value, so there’s little downside if you have steady regular currency sales. The Bitcoin sales are gravy.
The future looks like this: a diversification of currencies. I don’t believe we will see our traditional economic system disappear. Most people will need dollars for daily needs. But you’ll be able to use other currencies for certain things. You might need dollars to pay your rent or car payment or internet bill, For your local farmer’s market or coffee shop, you might use a community currency like Bernal Bucks or Brixton Pounds. And you might use Bitcoins to transact online or when traveling to regions like Berlin with robust Bitcoin economies.
You might ask, is it too late to get in on Bitcoin? It depends on your reasons. If you wanted to get in at the beginning, well, you’re four years late. However, if you believe in DIY and peer-to-peer sharing, distrust government and central banking systems, consider yourself a technology elitist and prefer anonymity, what other currency options align with those values? Are you willing to put your money where your values are? No one can predict whether you will make money, but with each Bitcoin transaction, you are actively creating the future. For many, this ability to influence the future is a worthwhile investment.
I've talked about using Kickstarter as an experiment in crowd-funding The Future of Money TV Series. But there's another experiment hidden inside the Kickstarter...
Back in 2010 I created my first set of future scenarios about the Future of Transactions. Briefly they were:
I conceived of the Neux three years ago. While launching the Kickstarter, I was not content to merely experiment with what exists today, but with what I believe will be possible in the future.
Novenify has a innovative payment philosophy. While we accept standard currency for our Analysis and Pro-Active Extension Program, our other programs accept payment only in Neux dollars.
Neux dollars are our own currency, developed and created by our Founder, Ms Hill. Ms Hill crowd-sourced the funding for her ground-breaking research, with all early investors having the option to receive their investment returns in our currency. At that time, Novenify was the only company who accepted this payment. In the past decade, Neux dollars have been approved for transactional currency status by the Alternative Currency Consortium. Neux dollars have subsequently gone into regular circulation.
Neux dollars can be currently be earned by highly conscious and humanity contributing individuals. Please contact us to apply. (source)
I saw this experiment for real when I met the Amsterdam Artist, Dadara, in March of this year. He showed me his Love Currency. This was more than just a voucher... it was a currency with a non-financial value encoded into it. Much like I had envisioned with Janet Hill's Neux currency.
When I went to create the Kickstarter, I decided to make NEUX for real and encode certain values in it.
I'd like to introduce you to the NEUX.
The values encoded in NEUX are not financial. It is a belief in a positive, inclusive, systematic view of the financial system that abundantly offers/creates the ability for currency to circulate in the market system, for the co-existence of diverse, complimentary and even adversarial currencies, products, systems and infrastructures to co-exist.
You can get your own NEUX by financially backing the Kickstarter. You're exchanging a financial value into a non-financial valued currency. The ratio is 1 to 1 at the $100 level. Want some NEUX? Choose from one of these two levels with a bonus round:
What may become of NEUX currency? I have some ideas I will share in time. Like in the Novenify scenario, there may be a time when NEUX currency is the only form of payment for certain products, services or information.
This is an experiment in layers. Like my films show layers of the future.
Don't be left out of the NEUX experiment. Come play with us and together we will create the future.
It's been a wild ride, this Kickstarter experiment for the Future of Money TV Series. Yesterday marked the beginnig of our two week count down. Two weeks to raise the remaining amount or ....
I have been joined by 137 amazing people. People including Bank Executives, Burning Man founders, Bitcoin enthusiasts, Community Currency Creators, Bank Startup Founders, Futurists, Startup Veterans, Science Fiction Authors, Scientists, Marketers, Journalists, long time friends, brand new ones and many people I haven't met… yet!
I'm amazed to bring this diverse group of people together who believe in a positive vision of the future of money. I know this series will transform lives, will transform minds, will transform the world.
Fast or slow, this is going to happen. You can be here at the beginning. Any amount helps! Join us!
Photo by infomatique
I'll be in Chicago this weekend speaking at the World Future Conference 2013. It's going to be another marathon conference for me, as I am speaking twice at WFS in addition to organizing the APF ProDev day and running a workshop there. Here's the rundown of where I will be. Come by and say hi!
I'll be around Chicago all weekend, so be sure to grab me and say hi. If you don't see my purple hair, find me on twitter at @heathervescent.
My Tedx Zwolle talk went online, so if you're were not able to attend in person, you can watch it online. I hope you enjoy my latest presentation on the changes happening to our financial system. Enjoy!
As our economy and technology evolve, the Annual Future of Transactions Survey tracks the way we spend money and the types of money we spend, including questions about Bitcoin, Mobile Payments, virtual and alternative currencies.
The 2011 and 2012 results were analyzed and thanks to the financial support of Innotribe, produced into two short video scenarios depicting how we will buy and sell in the future, “Flowers for Grandma” and “Fly Me to the Moon,” which was nominated for Most Significant Futures Work of 2012 by the Association of Professional Futurists. Data from the surveys was shared with audiences at SxSW, Web 2.0, Future of Money Summit, and the Digital Money Forum.
Click here to participate in the Third Annual Future of Transactions Survey!
The results will be available later this year, and will be combined with the data from the 2011 and 2012 surveys to track the emerging trends in our transaction behaviors.
Flowers for Grandma shows an emerging concept called Intentcasting, spearheaded by Doc Searls. Lots of information on his site at Harvard. The idea is a paradigm reverse that enables shoppers to request fulfillment. Retailers respond to the request. As shown in the video, a 5 second request results in 12 responses.
There are a few things I'd like to draw attention to. While the main focus of the short is on Intentcasting, several other concepts are braided into this design future.
The technology to make this vision real already exists.
If you're interested in the inspiration for this short, it's from my real life. I really send my grandmother flowers each month. Because that's the kind of world I want to live in.
Updates: Rob's Hummingbird comment reminded me to share the shooting story behind it's cameo. It was a Sunday morning about a year ago, and we were shooting at the house. There were these two hummingbirds that would not leave us along. Over and over they would zip around the crew. One was particularly bold. He dive bombed up several times. We kept rolling, something wrong with each take (a shifting overcast Los Angeles sky). Finally, the lighting was perfect and we rolled. It was during this take, Mr Bold Hummingbird zipped into the frame and paused right in front of the camera for more than a split second. I was watching from the porch and my heart almost jumped out of my chest.
There's also an inside joke for a certain Internet Identity community. ;)
My latest design future, Slices of Life, is about personal data, personal clouds and how we might have our data work for us in the future. I'm really proud how this came out.
I hope you enjoy it.
After 6+ months of work, I'm finally able to talk about this amazing project I've been part of. The Digital Asset Grid is a new platform to enable safe and secure transfer of personal data assets. With control of personal data assets with the individual. It's a paradigm shifting idea.
Here's a short documentary I did about the project, and the video, Slices of Life, that describes the scenarios will go live on Wednesday.
There is an unspoken assumption when one engages in a transaction, it is _one_ transaction. Most of the time the transaction getting the attention is the one that deals with money.
Do you pay in cash, credit card, mobile wallet, via square, via a different app on a smart phone? There's a lot of information about that kind of transaction that goes uncaptured.
Value like your Yelp rating, your LinkedIn Recommendations - experiences you have about the transaction itself. Meta-Transaction information. With the help of Information Technology, this is changing.
Still from my short future film, Fly Me to the Moon,
of a Smart Check with specific integrated rating mechanism.
We know the importance of having a good reputation. It used to be calculated by the size of your rolodex. Today, we have LinkedIn Recommendations. While I can't cash out my LinkedIn Recommendations to pay my rent, they do have a direct influence on my cash flow.
Our consumption today is more sophisticated than ever - did we really care about shade grown free trade coffee before 2002? Or whether our consumer goods were made in ethical factories? (I'm looking at you Nike and Apple.) Perhaps not so much.
These values are generally difficult to specifically track. Sure the trends are strong, but the lines are fuzzy and often understood only after a delay (and there's a positive feedback loop going here too). Information Technology could change this.
From the results of my research on transactions, I coined a new phrase: "Value-Encoded Currency." I use this term to describe a bunch of new "currencies" being explored in the marketplace. I use the term currency creatively - I do not limit it to financial instruments such as the dollar, euro, yen or renminbi. I may not go so far to say that data or reputation are currencies in themselves - in some ways they are, but they also lack some key characteristics and are generally pools of currency potential. Reputation and data have values and I consider them proto-currencies.
Bitcoin is a better example of a Value-Encoded Currency because it has both the characteristics of a traditional currency (exchange, transactions, an agreed upon value that can be exchanged) and it ALSO has specific values encoded into the DNA of the currency. The values encoded in Bitcoin are peer-to-peer, decentralization, distrust in government/central agencies and highly technical. (Based on my survey from Summer of 2011.)
To some extent the US Dollar is a value encoded currency, with (watered-down) values of capitalism, free open markets, circulation, the American Dream.
This is what I mean by a Value-Encoded Currency. The currency has certain values associated with it.
People will care about these values as we increase they ways (which includes apps and hardware dongles like Square) we can pay for things. More on that later... let me get back to Klout.
I've watched Klout since it opened. I was skeptical at first. I did not agree with the behavior its ranking system encouraged. You could game the system, rewarding people with higher scores for certain behavior. This made the system that Klout is trying to create less valuable overall. (Or perhaps only valuable to those who wanted to play within the Klout ecosystem.) Perhaps they realized that, with their two score resets (that I remember).
I interpret these score resetting or algorithmic tweaking as QA testing. They're not testing their software, they're adjusting the intelligence of the system.
Klout is one of few companies exploring these waters, and I see it as the tip of an iceberg. That is, if they don't get seduced into the world of advertising and marketing building their network audience only to sell them out to the highest bidders. The advertising model is at best short to medium term. There is a much bigger pie long term, and Klout could play a defining role in that. Klout is already playing a defining role in it.
Long-term, Klout could become a platform for currency creation based on specific values. Take their K score and a dating matching algorithm add etsy and an open market transaction. Throw in local and collaborative consumption for the icing and cherry. A platform for creating and managing value encoded currencies. As the platform for these currencies, it could create/support/enable a mechanism for inter-market exchanges of value encoded currencies.
Currently no platform for this exists. I always saw this utility provided by an entity that was more standards based (ahem, who was my last client?), but hey, the open market is a wonderful thing.
This is why I watch Klout. This is why I think this company could be poised to transform the future in a way few of us can imagine.
If I'm honest with my futurist self, based on my research and the trends extrapolating into possible futures, it's not a question of IF this functionality will be created, but only BY WHOM.
Society, consumers, people are demanding this type of currency. They're being fed a shallow version of it through marketing and brand rewards - but the hunger is not sated. The behavior has been primed by virtual (gaming) and alternate (rewards type) currencies. And many people are experimenting already with systematic work arounds (reselling gift cards network).
It's only a matter of time, and who.
Klout is one company that could execute on the possibility. And that is why I watch them.
Crossposted from @localrat's blog, my co-conspirator in presenting awe-some futures work this weekend.
My co-conspirator (@heathervescent) and I are participating in two sessions at The World Future Society Conference. Last year, we presented on the “Best of Houston Futures” panel and renamed it “The Future of Money, Sex and Politics”. Look out Toronto- we’re back!
At first glance, our topic areas are seemingly disparate. But think of them as your favorite cocktail combo- an unlikely mixture with intoxicating results. We’re futures mixologists and promise to inform, intrigue, and inspire. Here’s a sneak peak of what’s ahead:
Saturday 2:00 pm- 3:30 pm: The Future of Shopping: An Immersive Experience
It’s the first time we’re piloting this type of session! Heather and I have been conducting independent research on the future of transactions and retailing. We’ve decided to merge our interest areas into a scenario based futures immersion. During this session, you will have the chance to create and experience a future retail environment- complete with alternative currencies, rotique vendors, and virtual incentives.
Sunday 9:00 am- 10:30 am: Best of Houston Futures: The Demographic Transition
Heather and I were awarded third place by the Association of Professional Futurists for our systems model of the demographic transition. This is our first public showcasing of the model! If that doesn’t get you in the door, this should- two amazing futurists, Josh Lindenger and Jason Swanson, will also be presenting on the future of locomotive media and learning management systems. Best of Houston is a session for futurists who want to leave WFS tantalized by a wide breadth of topic areas they haven’t considered.
I’m now off to grab a real cocktail in the hybrid space. Tweet me (@localrat)!
I am SO EXCITED to co-present these two sessions with Emily. We got the idea to combine our research after last year's Houston Futures session (mentioned above) and submitted our idea. We've been working like mad the past week putting the final touches on our very interactive session.
The second presentation, on the demographic transition, is something I am particularly proud of. The systems model we created is decidedly complicated with more than 160 equations in it. While challenging us, it only whet my appetite for more systems analysis. I'd really love to do this kind of work for the government (gasp!). I am also especially proud of our 3rd place award. It's always gratifying to be rewarded for excellent hard work (not always the case in the business world).
If you're not able to be in Toronto and are interested in our research, invite us to present to your group or company. We'd love to share this research broadly.
If you like what we've done, let us know. And yes, we can be available for your projects.
Back in the summer of 2008, before we entered financial no man's land, I had an epiphany.
I knew for a long time (call it gut knowledge) that our existing financial systems were going to shift dramatically. I had no idea how and it terrified me how it might impact humanity negatively.
One day, driving over Laurel Canyon to the San Fernando Valley, with the top down in my convertible and my dog in the passenger seat, I saw a glimpse of the future. Relief. Curiosity.
The rules would change.
We do not live in a static world. The rules (and regulations) that govern us, our systems today - did not always exist. The rules are our own creation. We change them on a regular basis. Even if the rules (or repeal of some rules) created today's situation; there is no reason to think that we (our governments, banks, institutions or people) will continue to play by those rules. I think the opposite is more true. When we don't like things, we change the rules.
Sure, if we DID decide to play by the rules, it could be a very bad scene. But who wants a bad scene? We'd have to find someone to blame - it's not easy or safe to take responsibility for our wrongs in our world. So we change the rules. And we will continue to change the rules.
Our rules will change and evolve, the system will be pushed and gamed and played (in response), and rules will change and evolve (in response).
We're watching and changing the rules around money, value and transations today.
or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Economic Collapse
If you weren't able to catch me at SXSW or Digital Money Forum last month, my presentation slides are posted below. SXSW captured the audio of my talk, so you listen to me speak very quickly (I had a very short period of time and wanted to show a preview of Flowers for Grandma). I went into a bit more detail and showed both Fly Me to the Moon and Flowers for Grandma (sneak peak still photos below.)
In September 2010, I conducted an initial survey on the Future of Transactions. The response to the survey was overwhelming and launched my obsession into Future of Transactions.
The Scenario, "Dinner with Friends" based on my research results
I shared the results of the survey in 2011 at
Finally, I was invited to join the Swift Innotribe team as their Innovation Leader for the Americas in August 2011 where I am working to make my preferred future, co-re/creating our financial systems with the financial community, a reality.
The intention of the updated survey is to gather yearly information in order to explore how we may "pay" for items in the future. Results will be shared at upcoming conferences including SXSW, Digital Money, World Futures and the Future of Money & Technology.
--> I invite your participation in The Future of Transactions Survey, year 2. <--
I'm very excited to report my film, Fly Me to the Moon, which was created to show the results of my research at Sibos has been nominated for a Most Important Futures Work by the Association of Professional Futurists (disclaimer: I am a member of the APF). This is a huge honor and as you can see by the competition is very high with Nassim Tableb's Black Swan, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and Jane McGonigal's online game, Evoke. You can click through to see the other nominations. You can watch the video below, which was proudly shot and produced in West Hollywood, California, USA.
-Heather Schlegel, SWIFT Americas Innovation for Innotribe
(cross-posted at Innotribe's Blog)
I'm excited to announce the Innotribe Startup Challenge. For the past month or so, I have been working behind the scenes on this Global Event Series that connects innovative financial startups with the big guys in the industry.
Back at Sibos, I had a revelation:
I had a vision of connecting daring, risk taking, disruptive startups (and divisions inside larger companies that act like startups) with traditional big companies and incumbents in the industry. Startups are often looking to disrupt the existing paradigm (well at least those from my Silicon Valley background) and surprisingly enough, from what I've learned in the Banking industry, banks want innovation. They are searching for it. Yearning for it. Everyone knows the industry is changing, but how exactly? That's up to everyone in the industry.
The Startup Challenge is a way to connect innovative financial product/service developers with the people in big companies who want to support it, encourage it, potentially invest in it. Startups are invited to apply, with semi-finalists selected to pitch at the NYC Feb 8, 2012 event. You can read more about the details of the challenge.
The Startup Challenge is the first event I am producing with Innotribe, and I'm bringing my usual heathervescent energy, style, fun with substance and value. It's also my first New York event, and I'm determined to bridge my California culture with New York's. (Hence my deep dive into New York.)
What can you expect on Feb 8? 15 pitches by interesting companies to a room full of "the right people." Conversations and connections with decision makers who can be your startups lucky break. A positive wildcard that may be the defining moment (in retrospect) for your company to thrive, while you create (or in some cases) re-create our financial paradigm.
I hope you will spread the word about the Startup Challenge.
I'm looking for collaborators to help me flesh out the rest of this systems diagram that shows the flow of tangible/dollar transactions to non-tangible transactions. Basically it's an attempt at showing how non-financial transactions come out of financial transactions. Contact me if you have experience with systems diagramming/thinking and are into this space. (Yeah, I know it needs a lot of work!)
On the outside, it's a boring looking box - building material enclosing a space, the interior, ripe for possibilities. I ride up the escalator, hear music playing, see lights flashing, the space is filled with stages, activities, people.
I weave through the crowds, looking for familiar faces, scoping out the layout, observing the scene, finding new friends. I'm reminded of a Malibu house party years prior. I retreated from those crowds. I found myself a balcony and watched the scene. Detached. It's what I want to do here, now. I tell myself my inner introvert was left back in the states, in my LA office. Besides, I don't live the same life twice. I decide to fully engage in the scene.
Movie scenes play in the back of my mind, memories of playa parties, Silicon Valley parties. We're all humans, despite the industry. I look for the meta-view. "Pull back camera," as Jodorosky says. I gather data. Observe. Wait. On the dancefloor, I pretend it's Bootie. The mashups are in my mind, while my body moves. I spill the wine.
The next morning, as I blear through customs and security finally arrive to the coffee shop. I dig in my wallet for the bill I won. I hand it to the cashier who hands it back to me. Not Canadian. I laugh. It's Euros. A 20 Euro bet, I would have done for the thrill. An exchange to display the courage to take a risk beyond the usual. A transaction.
I've converted/compressed the value of something that can not be exchanged on the stock market (in it's original form) into the binary exchange. Did I just exchange social capital/wuffie into Euros? I don't know.
One of the negative points that is sometimes mentioned with virtual/alt/complimentary currencies is that they are/were created out of nothing. And the reason the economic systems works is because of scarcity.
I'm calling a big fat bullshit.
Observe where all the money is going and for what? To make MORE MONEY! Out of "nothing." We're in this problem because we are using a scarce system for abundant methods. You get money, you use it to make more money. Where does that money come from? Debt? The Fed's quantitative easing?
The problem here - is the current system is not set up for the abundance paradigm. (Please bear with my hippy language.) Interesting isn't it, that this is the paradigm people want - and are using in some cases. No wonder the current system is freaking out. It's not designed for the abundance paradigm.
So quit fighting the system. Create the place where anyone can create "something" out of "nothing."
It's what we as humans do. It's not a bad thing. It's what we humans are here for. It's a ratification of the raw materials of the universe.
I regularity makes things real based on electrical signals in the cellular matter just inside my skull. You could call that something from nothing.
A couple thoughts on Money and Transactions have been fluttering in my mind. Until tonight, I've been out experiencing my first Sibos, International Banking convention. It's been a wild mix of activities, observations and surprises.
Incumbents and Start-ups: They need to work together. I'm concerned with the disruption coming from start-up land because I know how start-ups are run. I'm a start-up girl. I love the risk, the challenge of building a new idea, making it real, taking it to market, to the people. Building something, a beta, launching, rapid product development. I know how long it takes for good QA cycles (even with Agile development) - and when we're talking about about a living infrastructure the world depends on - this is not something I want left up to my wonderful, disruptive start-up entrepreneurs. There are serious risks, liability. The necessary requirements for up time and consistency would kill a start-up.
We watch consumers get pissed on social media with any little thing not perfect? Wait till their finances get as messed up as their airline travel. Not a pretty sight. Start-ups and the Big Financial Incumbents need to work together. To do what they do best, so they can keep doing what they do best. To help each other innovate, create/build standards and infrastruture and provide solid, risk reliant financial products and services. There is a place for both the start-up and the incumbent in our new world.
The current system doesn't deserve to be destroyed. Just because it's had some major problems recently, doesn't mean it should be killed. I DO NOT Believe the existing money system is going away. We are BUILDING upon the existing system. The existing system is a FOUNDATION upon which more value is being created. These emerging things could not emerge without prior existence of our current system. Just as our current system evolved out of the previous one.
This is not a case where the phoenix should be immolated only to rise again. Let's create a new metaphor - joining the strength of the past, building upon this strength and pushing, expanding, extending it out into the unknown, the impossible - and bring our hands back full of start-up ideas for an expanding ecosystem. This is pragmatic futures work.
Embrace and extend. I use the not so loved metaphor to explain my thoughts on what I prefer to see happen with the current system/situation. Incumbents embrace these new systems/concepts/ideas and extend the infrastructure into these new area. (There's a place for start-ups too.)
Market Externalities. Triple Bottom Line. Encoding a new language. Creating the interface to plug currently understood non-financial values/transactions into the market system. Giving/Letting the market system do what it does best. Loosen the bonds holding back the flow of currency.
There is no black and white. All bets are off. We are traversing new ground (while we create it in front of us - just as Iron Council's railroad tracks). Drop your judgements, your expectations, your assumptions. Do not indulge in the dystopian. Challenge yourself to join me (and a less sarcastic Candide) in the Protopian Flipside: a thriving ecosystem of possibilities, waiting to be plucked and incubated into reality. Further refining. The most magical of all: creating a lot of somethings from "nothing." Creating value. Creating the infrastruture for this value to participate in the system.
Reading Esther Dyson's excellent post about The Attention Economy reminded me of an attention exchange from days past.
I was walking down Valencia Street in the Mission and there were the usual panhandlers asking for money. I wasn't in much of a giving mood, but this one panhandler started walking with me down the street talking to me. I was probably saying something like I don't usually give money to people on the street, trying to shake him off but he would not be deterred. He eventually asked me to give him a moment of my attention. I immediatelly stopped and turned to face him directly, looking him in the eye, saying nothing, giving him my full attention. Open. Receptive.
This action startled him. He didn't know what to do with my full attention. I said, he had just asked for my full attention, and here I was giving it to him, a much rarer item than the few coins he was asking me for. He paused, took it in for a moment, and then thanked me. For the moment, gave him my full attention - without judgement, without expecting anything in return - and something "happened." I don't know what it was. It wasn't for me to get - the moment was for him. It was a gift. Of Attention. I can't get that moment back, I can't get that attention back, but it's ok. He asked for it - I gave it.
I will be on the Future of Money panel with a lot of great minds at Sibos in Toronto later this month. And yes, I do think there is a role for banks in the future. :)
Are you interested in Complimentary Currencies? Then join me, along with Hollis, Micki and Sanjay to discuss what is happening in the complimentary currency space at this special Mindshare/Project Butterfly event. Details and (cheap!) tickets here.
I leaned across the cashier counter where I usually pick up my favorite pineapple fried rice; but today is different. No thai is being cooked up in the kitchen. A table where I usually enjoy the best panag curry in LA had been transformed with white table cloths, crystal and china. Surrounding the scene is an array of vision capture mechanism: actors, cameras, sound operators. And others, those who would take a vision from my mind one night in November and bring it to the screen.
I remember that night. Sitting here at my computer. Darkness surrounding me, sirens sounding in the streets, Steely Dan and Stereolab coming through the speakers. Immersed in my research results, papers strewn over my desk. Sitting back in my chair and rolling the results in my mind. How would this data become the future? What do I see - what do I want to see? I wrote these two paragraphs. It was a story, a vision: realistic, based on possible technology and a positive outlook on the future.
Watching from my vantage in the back, I took in the scene. The actors at the table, the lights, the sound equipment and boom operator, the camera, DP, Director, 1st AD, extras in the back and all the crew. Everyone here at my request - to take a vision from my mind that night, and bring it to the world.
A positive vision of the future.
During a break later, the sound guy came up to me and asked, "When are we going to have this?! I always have this problem when I go out to dinner with my friends (10+ people) at conferences. Even if we all have cash, it's still a hassle because no one has change."
Exactly. This future is coming. I don't know how long it will take to get here, but it's what the people want, and there's a LOT of money businesses and banks can make, if they'll just embrace it.
* photo by Anna Metcalf
His data was so good, I had tears in my eyes, my brain full of positive visions of the future and then his world collided with mine.
Jump to slide 122: The Bug in the Software: Our Market System can't effectively deal with Externalities. Our market system is very good, but it's limited to the things than can express itself in the current language of the market system. The big problems we need to solve don't fit into our existing market system. The language of the market system is money, currency, transactions. We need a way to turn our shifting values into an input to our market system. That input is a currency, something than can be transacted, tracked, traded, bought and sold.
And this is why banks and the financial industry needs to embrace, encourage, build and extend into the realm of alternate currencies. Here's where we'll jump to my presentation on the Future of Alternate Currencies and Transactions, slide 9, where I talk about Bitcoin and Ven.
The point I hear everyone missing when talking about new currencies are the additional VALUES encoded in the DNA of these new currencies. These concepts are being expressed in collaborative consumption, freecycling and lending/borrowing activities today. Companies are revolutionizing these activities. ProBono and Gift Economy are not tracked on any balance sheet because they can not be expressed in the current market economy language.
When Naam talks about a Carbon tax, why not make it a carbon currency? No one likes taxes, but people love currency: money! Wouldn't you love to trade, earn, sell carbon currency?
Let's put the values we care about into a metaphor the market can utilize: an Alternate Currency.
There's lots more money to be made with many currencies than with fewer. Wouldn't like you to have more opportunities to make buckets of money? If you do, consider embracing alternate currencies. Make more streams for the money to flow.
But back in 1999, DHTML was new. No one was using it.
I had the opportunity to usability test our first product and prototypes: a web-based presentation and a word processing application. Basically PowerPoint and Word for the web. I'm talking about creating, editing ppts and word docs in a browser. Netscape 4 browser. A whole new paradigm. My testers understood the concepts quickly and loved the ease of use. Many got how paradigm shifting this was and loved the idea. The company planned to build an entire suite of productivity applications using this technology.
But then, we got acquired. (Well, it wasn't so simple as that.) And next thing I knew, I was down in Mountain View presenting the technology to large internal groups. My role shifted and in the next year, I must have presented this technology (thanks to the amazing dev team) to over 30 groups inside AOL. Many groups immediately saw the user benefits - stuff that you and I take for granted today. Pop-ups, mouse-over dynamic windows, i-frames, divs.
Inevitable, the question would be asked about metrics. Back then, all metrics were page refresh based. Ads were displayed based on each page refresh. So if there was no page refresh (because we no longer had to refresh the page each time a user did something) that decreased the number of page views, which decreased the number of ads that could be served. Sure, we'd show that people stayed for minutes on a page, instead of leaving immediately, but even this metric was too new a concept.
Our new technology could not be "successful" in the terms of the old paradigm. Sure, we'd make the application more interactive, user friendly, basically have the user stay in the property using the application a LOT longer and increase usage, but.... it didn't show an increase in metrics that defined success at the time.
And that's because, the new paradigm was not "successful" by the metrics of the old paradigm. The mental mindset had to shift. The definition of success had to shift. And it took 4+ year before that happened.
The success metrics of the current paradigm stifled the adoption of the new paradigm.
And that's just one challenge when you're working with/creating paradigm shifts.
I'm headed to Vancouver this week to speak at the World Future Society's Annual Conference. I will be on the panel, Best of Houston Futures, 9am Sunday morning, moderated by Peter Bishop, the Director of our program. I will be joined by two excellent colleagues from the program. I've had the opportunity of reviewing Emily Empel's work on the Future of the Sex Industry and it's surprising! I've heard great things about Sara Robinson's work. You won't want to miss our visions of the future. Full panel details are below.
The Value Exchange is an alternate scenario of the future based on my Future of Alternate Currency and Transactions research results. This future world juxtaposes augmented reality, activist web cam monitoring, a weighed value exchange and a group of renegade cacophonists who target those of a certain value score for "re-programming." It's the love story between the cacophonist minion sent to acquire the target for programming, and the target - a beautiful biotechnician, the daughter of Nobel prize winner Janet Hill, founder of Novenify. But of course, not all goes as planned. And not everyone is who they say they are.
I've been following Bitcoin since last year as part of my research on the Future of Alternate Currencies and Transactions and boy has the interest, media articles and general discussion exploded recently!
Most of what I have seen covered in the media channels is not what I find most interesting about Bitcoin. Additionally, the perspective is from a non-user. The researcher in me wants to know the perspective from the inside. To do that, I have released a survey exploring Bitcoin usage. Like my past survey, I will release the results to the community and it will be anonymous.
If you are a participant in the Bitcoin economy, user of bitcoins, mine bitcoins; would you please take the survey here: https://bitly.com/kMkYHJ
I sincerely thank you for your time.
Bitcoin may be a tragedy as it tries to bootstrap itself as a new currency, reflecting changing social values.
I've been following Bitcoin since late last year as part of my research on the Future of Currency and Transactions. Bitcoin in itself is an interesting concept in currency, self-organizing and do-ocracy. However right now, it's attracting a lot of speculators, which while are driving up the price and attracting a lot of media attention, are not helping spread the core ideology of the currency.
You see, Bitcoin is a currency that sets itself apart because of it's philosophy AND the application of technology to encode this philosophy in the system itself.
I see Bitcoin as a currency ahead of its time as well as reflecting shifting values of our time. Time will tell whether or not it will survive - and how much governments and banking institutions see it as a threat and want to "crush" it.
Media coverage has really heated up in the past 4-6 weeks starting with this sensational (as in sensationalized media) piece by Jason Calacanis
I generally love Calacanis's work, but he poured gasoline on the fire there. Attracting the wrong kind of people to Bitcoin. I inwardly groaned when I saw this come out. It didn't help attract the type of people who could help Bitcoin grow to be a viable currency.
ArsTechnica came out with a more well rounded article on Bitcoin which I recommend.
And the Economist had an article a few days ago, with shocking news of a first hack at the end of it as of today (6/15/2011).
I myself, have watched this question/discussion on Quora (which includes my answer and my perspective). It's been interesting to see how the responses have heated during the media hype time.
My comment on Bitcoin from Quora
Bitcoin is one example of a decentralized currency created with values encoded in the "DNA" of the "currency." It is "good" if it aligns with your "values." It will be used by those who ascribe to the values encoded in the currency. It is one of many emerging alternate currencies with specific values encoded in the currencies "DNA." If you don't like the values encoded in Bitcoin (anonymity, peer-to peer, disruptive, tech-inclined, early-adopter bias, scarcity); there are many other emerging peer-to-peer, disruptive currencies you can also participate with, e.g. "influence" tracking, time banking, local currencies, etc. that have different values encoded in their "DNA." Bitcoin is not unique in it's execution of the values it ascribes to
My post explaining three concepts I'm use more to think about currency and transaction mechanisms: Efficiency | Resiliency | Anti-Fragility explains the structure in which I think about emerging alternate currencies. Bitcoin emerges distinctly in the Resiliency bucket encoded with technocrat values.
But here's the problem. The Bitcoin system has attracted a bad element - speculators among one. Anyone who does community development knows you have to be careful who you include in your early adopter community if you want to create a specific type of community. Speculators are not there to help you build your anything. Speculators don't care if you (or your company or community) is devastated and left for dead once they've got their cash out (or barely keep you alive while they can get their cash out).
What we have here is a clash of social values in an economic system. A system was created with certain values encoded in them, but those values are being watered down with the current use. But Bitcoin won't be the only currency with these values encoded in the "DNA" of the system, even as they are the first.
From my research, I've come to think of the economic situation, included the expression of new currencies as these three ideas.
Efficiency aka Fragility
When you optimize something for a specific output, it can become extremely efficient - but only in the way that it has been optimized. While this is great for achieving the task you have designed it for (perhaps product output) it can not necessarily withstand shocks to its system without receiving some damage or losing its integrity. You could say that this highly efficient system is also fragile.
While not the most optimized, something that is resilient can withstand shocks without losing its integrity or functionality. Resilience also includes diversity, options and variety. A resilient entity can withstand shocks.
This is a term coined/defined/invented by Nassim Taleb, author of The Black Swan and Fooled by Randomness. He describes Anti-Fragility as something that benefits from shocks to itself/the system. An example of anti-fragility is bug testing new software. I see my work with the Cacophony Society as an expression of anti-fragility to social culture. An interesting thing I've noticed about anti-fragile things, is that at some point, something that is anti-fragile, becomes (more) resilient. Return to the software bug example, as you pound on the new release, finding (and then fixing) bugs, the software becomes more resilient.
I see these three concepts as ideas that are moved between on a continuum. From my research on the Future of Alternate Currency and Transactions, it seems to me that the explosion in alternative currencies and transaction platforms is an emerging phenomum coming from the resilance bucket. Because the traditional economic system has been manipulated for hyper-efficiency. Many of the developments in alternate currencies are bottom-up, emerging from communities and individuals who are looking for more stability and security in the economic system. These are a direct response to the manipulated hyper-efficiency. (I alluded to it in this post, Why Alternate Currency Economies are good for the Traditional Economy.)
Now, these concepts are pretty raw, and the application of them to economics even rawer, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Note: The ideas of efficient, resilience and anti-fragility are not my own. I have been significantly influenced by this paper from authors Lietaer, Bernard., Ulanowicz, Robert E., Goerner, Sally J., McLauren, Nadia. "Is Our Monetary Structure a Systemic Cause for Financial Instability? Evidence and Remedies from Nature" in the Journal of Future Studies.
Additionally, conversations with Dr. Oliver Markley and his work on resilience and wild cards have directly influenced my thinking as well as ideas written and spoken more eloquently than I, by Nassim Taleb. I am also very much influenced by Theodore Modis's work on S and Bell Curves and Harmonic Substitutions/Transitions.
What I have done, is take these concepts and braided them based on observation, intuition and results from my research on Alternate Currencies and Transactions of the Future.
Thanks to Sanjay Sabnani for the anti-fragile example of bugs in software. Many thanks also to my professors Andy Hines and Peter Bishop for their continuing support and dialog.
I'm coining a new word: the Protopian.
Tired of the dystopian/negative futures and well aware of the naive polly-anna limitations of Utopias, I hearby name the protopian: a positive portrayal of the future.
Protopians differ from utopias in that they deal with difficult problems without succumbing (and limiting themselves) to negative portrayals. Protopians are fundamentally a positive portrayal of the future with both style and substance. Protopians are both stories and people who think positively about the future. Problem solvers who don't shy from big problems, nor limit themselves to solving problems with existing tools, mindsets and paradigms.
ps. After writing this post, I did a little research on this term and found that KevinKelly recently wrote a post on it. I swear I did not see this until after I wrote to above. Excerpted:
I think our destination is neither utopia nor dystopia nor status quo, but protopia. Protopia is a state that is better than today than yesterday, although it might be only a little better. Protopia is much much harder to visualize. Because a protopia contains as many new problems as new benefits, this complex interaction of working and broken is very hard to predict.
I would be more radical about my definition of a protopia and not limit the definition to being just a little bit better than the present.
pps. I got my inspiration for this post in composing a tweet about an upcoming future project.
It's no surprise that the traditional economy doesn't like these new economy (alt currency) upstarts. They are a potential threat. But not really.
The traditional economy is broken. If the traditional economy was fixed, well then, the competition by these alternate currency economies would be reduced dramatically. We didn't see much innovation or development of alternate currencies back in the boom years. It's because people had enough money to get their needs met through the traditional economy. But now, no more. But people won't go without, so they are getting creative. We shouldn't be surprised by this. Human creativity should be expected.
So if you're a company or government that doesn't like these alternate currency economies or feels threatened by the development of them - there's a really simple answer: fix the damn traditional economy. But if you can't, it's no big deal, there are plenty of people/companies that are going to try. You just won't have a piece of that pie.
I don't write about my research enough on the blog, mostly because I have so much to say on it - where to start? But today I want to share an analogy of how I think about the evolution of "currency."
I've started explaining these thoughts with an analogy. Start by thinking back to a plot or story line of a movie made in the 70s (or TV show). Most of those stories had very simple to follow plot lines: a single developing plot lines. Contrasted that with films and TV shows today which are filled with multiple main characters and complicated weaving story lines. Steven Johnson makes the point in his book "Everything bad is good for you," that these more complicated stories have made us smarter.
I think these complicated story lines have developed our attention as well. It's no longer difficult to follow multiple streams of content - asynchronously. It's not just challenging, but fun to follow multiple storylines in the same story. We expect it. We've trained ourselves to do it. And it's not just film/TV. It's with the internet, tabbed browsing and multiple apps. Multi-tasking and ADD/ADHD. We context switching and following these streams more than ever. And by increasing our participation in these activities, we're training our attention, we're changing the way we use our brain.
My research found five major trends impacting the Future of Transactions
This last trend is very important - and one of the most subtle. It goes back to the point I made earlier. It's the key understanding in the second half of my analogy.
We have our 70's plot line of making transactions. It's the money transaction, whether we make it in cash, credit, paypal, etc. But we've got this extra mental bandwidth available, bandwidth that we've been increasing in ourselves because we use it in other parts of our lives. We're no longer satisfied with the binary transaction (money flowing one way or the other), what I call the 70s single plot line of transactions. We want to share more information about these transactions - AND 1) we have the mental bandwidth (which we've trained on other activities I mentioned above) to pay attention to it and 2) we have the technology that enables us to somewhat track some of these things.
Those with extra bandwidth (more attention streams) have the desire to collect, cultivate, track and use these additional "currencies."
These currencies will not and do not replace the existing traditional economy/transaction mechanism. I do not believe the old model will be replaced by any of these new models. Instead, these additional currencies, embrace and extend meaning and value of the transactions.
I can't cash out my LinkedIn recommendations to pay my rent. But, those recommendations do/will/might influence my traditional economy cash flow (e.g. how much I get paid, the number of jobs I get, increase or decrease opportunities, etc.). Those recommendations are a piece of the transaction-data. Some transaction-data can't be cashed out in the traditional sense. Others might and do.
The key points to get here are
Add a crummy economy after a boom time, where people are creatively looking for ways to get their needs met and you have a perfect storm for creative currencies. What we're watching happen here is the evolution of currency. But it's not evolving in one direction and there are other things influencing this space. This is just the first of many growing pains as these concepts grow, mature, fracture, devolve and just maybe evolve into something that currenly doesn't exist.
NOTE: I would like to thank Art Brock, Stan Stalnacker, Tara Hunt, Micki Krimmel, Anna Metcalf, Eric Harris-Braun, Danger Ranger and Autumn Rooney for their contribution to my research. Conversations with each of these people have significantly influenced my thoughts in this area.
Monday, Feb 28th, I had the great opportunity to share a first look at the results of my Future of Transactions Research at the Future of Money Conference. My presentation shared the results of my research (survey and individual interviews) providing the answers to:
If you were unable to attend or missed it, you can purchase the presentation with detailed notes and 1 hour of my time. Very shortly I will have this research available in a report form. If you are interested in the report, please email me.
If you have a group, community or conference that is intersted in these trends, I would be happy to come speak to you and share my results. Please contact me to arrange.
It is my intention to make these results as widely available as possible, while supporting the additional research plans. If you are a company working in this space or a thought leader, I would very much like to speak with you to include you in my next round of research. Please get in touch!
I want to extend a big Thank You to Brian Zisk for giving me the opportunity to share this research at his conference. It is up to us to use it to create the future!
In January, I began studying disruptive technologies in the Financial Sector. The most interesting areas I found were in Lending, Transactions and Alternate Currencies. After completing a high-level baseline forecast and several future concepts of those areas in May, I decided to explore the Future of Transactions in more detail this fall.
Transaction is an area to watch with the changes in the global financial markets and mobile technology trends. My own participation in non-hard currency transactions like the gift, barter and swap economies along with tracking the stock markets, global financial meltdown, gold and commodity price fluctuation leads me to believe there is a possibility of transaction disruption. Much like the slow but eventual creative/destruction blog publishing platforms had on traditional publishing.
Last week, I launched a public survey asking the question: How will we pay for things in the future? The response has been great with almost 200 participants. I plan to use the data to create multiple future scenarios and will share the data and these scenarios in a report in a few months.
To everyone who has taken the survey: THANK YOU! You're really blown my mind. There were several technologies and ideas I specifically left _off_ the survey (didn't want to go too future out there, ;) ) that several folks wrote in. Thanks for validating the viability of those ideas. I hope you're as excited about the future as I am. Let's co-create it! Oh wait, we already are. ;)
Big thanks and shout out to everyone who forward the survey, via email, twitter, FB and word of mouth. Kudos to the following folks who RTed or forward the survey via Twitter. Check em out and follow them.
I will be expanding and extending my Impossible Futures and look forward to sharing them with you in a few months.
In the meantime, the survey will be open until November 15th. Please feel free to continue to share it until then.
See you in our co-created Future!