Debugging the Profit Motive: Part Three — Pressure

A banker offers you a loan so that you can buy a house located near your cushy new job. You sign, comfortable that your salary will allow you to afford the payments. Months later, your employer downsizes, and your job disappears. With no job, you can’t pay back your loan. But the banker’s not upset — in fact, he was hoping for this. As you miss payments, your interest rate goes up. You need a new job to pay your increasing debt, and conveniently enough, the banker is the only one in town hiring. This is the crux of the issue with the profit motive: those who profit can put harmful pressure on others.

At its core, profit is power. Whether it takes the form of having many coins, being owed many debts, or something else entirely, profit is a measure of one’s ability to get other people to do things. By giving a merchant money, I can get her to give me her product. By reminding my friend of all the favors I’ve done for him, I can get him to do me a very large one. I gain these abilities through profit.

As I’ve tried to drive home, this is a perfectly reasonable thing to desire, and a perfectly natural thing by which to be motivated. But today, sometimes profit enables us to make people do things that they don’t want to do. Is this a necessary evil, or just another fixable bug?

This is an article in a series on how Zacqary proposes society might debug the profit motive. This is the third article, on the bug of pressure. The others are on the profitable bad behavior bug, and the “shiny gold coin” bug.

Problem: Pressure to Do Undesirable Things

In part two, I discussed the problem of wealth inequality: some people simply don’t have the means to engage in all of the Theoretical Pure Free Market Mutually Beneficial Transactions (TPFMMBTs for short — pronounced “tehpiffumbutts”) that they wish to. Often, this is for very silly reasons, like being born into a family of a certain wealth level. But let’s imagine, for a moment, an ideal world without this problem, in which everyone is completely capable of engaging in whatever tehpiffumbutt they desire.

I do not want to wear a pink tutu and scream out “I’m a pretty, pretty princess!” in the middle of Times Square for three hours. I have absolutely, positively, no desire to engage in such a thing. Unfortunately, the only people in the world who sell the life-saving medication that I need don’t accept any other form of payment. For whatever reason, these demented pharmaceutical peddlers would greatly enjoy watching my public humiliation, and find it to be worth a few of the pills they produce. So, in order to survive, I’ve been pressured to do something very undesirable.

Come on, Zacqary! It’s not a mutually beneficial trade if only one party is happy with it.

Stop interrupting me, Div Class Redbox, nobody likes you. Of course this isn’t actually a real tehpiffumbutt, because a world in which everybody is always capable of making a transaction that equally satisfies both parties is just as ridiculous as the idea of me declaring my royalty, beauty, and femininity to New York City for three hours while wearing ballet clothing — especially as a form of payment and an alternative to death.

The point is, when our entire economic system depends on quid-pro-quo, with no rational incentive for just plain altruism besides “feeling good about it” (which doesn’t go very far), people can get stuck doing things that they’d really, really, really rather not do.

Solution: Incentivize a Gift Economy

What if there was a world in which everybody just did stuff for each other, without demanding anything in return? If this world existed, there’d need to be some kind of system of incentive for behaving this way; otherwise it’s just as ridiculous as a pink tutu-clad John Galt.

Speaking of science fiction novels about libertarian-utopia-theme-parks, let’s talk about one that’s slightly less absurd: Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom. One of the central premises of Down and Out is a monetary system called Whuffie, best described as a reputation score. If you do something that somebody likes, they up your Whuffie. If you do something they don’t like, they make your Whuffie go down. As the novel describes it:

Whuffie recaptured the true essence of money: in the old days, if you were broke but respected, you wouldn’t starve; contrariwise, if you were rich and hated, no sum could buy you security and peace. By measuring the thing that money really represented — your personal capital with your friends and neighbors — you more accurately gauged your success.

And in the book, it works: people with high Whuffie scores get invited to parties, get waited on hand and foot, and can generally depend on others to help them. People with low Whuffie scores don’t get much of anything from anyone. But whether you have 1 Whuffie, or 1,000,000, your opinion still affects the Whuffie of others equally — it’s truly egalitarian. This is a gift economy with incentives: the more gifts you give, the more Whuffie people give you.

Most importantly, in a Whuffie economy, there’s no real pressure to reciprocate, or do anything in return. The only real pressure, if it can be called that, is the unspoken pressure to do good things that make other people happy. That’s a very broad field: you could make people happy with paintings if you like to paint, with inventions if you like to invent, with building homes if you like to build, or whichever calling you find in life — all without having to worry if people have enough money or credit to pay you for it. Rarely, if ever, would you find yourself in a situation in which the only way to make anybody in the world happy was to do something that you absolutely didn’t want to do.

To some degree, Whuffie is already emerging: all over the web, we have Like and Dislike buttons, Thumbs Up and Thumbs Downs, +’s and -‘s. Doctorow, in fact, got the idea for Whuffie from Slashdot‘s Karma system. Flattr is already adding monetary value to a reputation score, by backing each button-click with some Euros. As our online actions become increasingly aggregated, and all of these Likes and Thumbs and +’s and Flattrs come together, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the Internet will eventually be keeping track of how well-liked we all are. Our Whuffie scores may be building up already.

And offline, people already have social capital with one another. The more your friends like you, the more they’ll do for you. Whuffie just quantifies this social capital, allowing it to be tender with people whom you haven’t met before.

In most regards, the profit motive now runs smoothly. To profit, you need more Whuffie. To get more Whuffie, you need to do good things and be appreciated for them. At last, profit and good are the same thing, and the bug is fixed.

Problem: Technological Limitations

Unfortunately, another central premise of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom is a future post-scarcity society. Death has been cured, all the necessities of life can be manufactured limitlessly, and the only things in short supply are people’s time and effort. The technologies to make this world a reality will take a very, very long time to see the light of day.

Until then, we live in a world where we have quite a few things to take into consideration before deciding to give a gift or do something useful — many of them more important than “how much do I like you?” Janice the baker has to consider whether she has enough flour to make more muffins, and the flour company has to consider whether there’s enough wheat in the world to make more flour for her. Even if Kevin has a million Whuffie, she can’t just give him a thousand muffins, no matter how nicely he asks. This failed transaction could go one of two ways:

  1. Kevin could completely understand, and take just two muffins.
  2. Kevin could get all indignant on her, and be all like, “I’m a Whuffie-millionaire, bitch!” And then Janice would be all like, “Oh no you did not just call me that! I’mma down-Whuffie yo’ ass!” And he’d be all, “Girl, don’t you be takin’ mah Whuffie! You just got down-Whuff’d, ho!” And then Janice’s homegirl would be all, “Oh hell to the no, K-Dawg! That’s some bullllllllshit you just pulled! Yo’ Whuffie goin’ dooooooown, sucka!” And so on and so on with more people until a total economic collapse occurs in East New York, Brooklyn, because that’s apparently where we are if everybody talks like this.

It would be nice to assume that the former outcome would always happen, but if the civilized and highly intellectual dispute over scarce resources that is the latter outcome is possible, we have to account for it. But scarcity isn’t the real problem in this situation; it’s the fact that there were no real limits on how much Whuffie damage everybody could do to one another.

With today’s closest Whuffie analogue — the like/thumbs up-click — there are discrete, individual things that the button click applies to, and it can only apply once: one thumb/like per person. In Down and Out, the Whuffie system is controlled by brain implants, and it’s implied that the system separates the actions of others into discrete, individual things that can only be up- or down-Whuffied once per person; upping or lowering someone’s Whuffie presumably doesn’t count as an “action”.

Until we have brain implants, these kinds of rules aren’t enforceable. Or at least an AI to police the system and throw out bogus transactions — the amount of them happening 24/7 would be too much for humans to review. Since it turned out to be a lot of fun on part two, if you’d like to leave a comment on this article, please include the word “pancakes” to prove that you’ve read this far.

Scarcity does cause a problem in that the rational incentive to pay attention to Whuffie is limited, compared to the incentive to pay attention to who has the most of a certain thing. At this point, we’re back to square one. Whuffie may not be sustainable before post-scarcity.

But is an incentivized gift economy really not feasible with today’s technology? Let’s see if we can’t debug the idea to make it work today.

Solution: Credit/Reputation Hybrid

The system I’m about to describe is an idea I’ve never seen brought up before, and I’ve never seen anything like it actually attempted. While everything else I’ve said in this series is rooted in observations of the real world — by myself and others I’ve learned from — the following is a hypothesis; an untested, alpha version of an idea.

Let’s take the core ideas of Whuffie, and mix in some of the mechanics of Ripple, the credit system I described in part two. I’m going to call the result Chutzpah, because, like “Whuffie”, it’s a very silly word.

Everybody starts at 1 Chutzpah — the minimum. Individuals can increase one another’s Chutzpah based on the difference between them: Alice has 9 Chutzpah and Bob has 6, so she can give him up to 3. Like Whuffie, her Chutzpah doesn’t get spent; it just increases Bob’s. Alternatively, Bob could give Alice 1 Chutzpah; 6 minus 9 is -3, but the minimum is 1. Let’s call this the D, for Difference: D = (Giver’s Chutzpah – Recipient’s Chutzpah), or 1, whichever’s higher.

Let’s say both of those possibilities happen: Alice gives Bob 3, Bob gives Alice 1, and now Alice has 10 and Bob has 9. They can just keep on giving each other 1 Chutzpah forever, right? No. To better illustrate why, let’s say Bob comes back later when he has 15 Chutzpah, accumulated from other people. His D to Alice is now 5, but he can only actually give her 2. Why? Because 3 of the Chutzpah he has already came from Alice — his Chutzpah partially relies on her. Let’s call this the R, for Reliance: R = Amount of Giver’s Chutzpah previously obtained from the Recipient.

Therefore, when giving Chutzpah to somebody else, the total Available Chutzpah (AC) = D – R. The minimum AC is 0. This is just the maximum that can be given, of course; giving less is permitted.

But once you’ve got your Chutzpah, that’s not the end of it. If the people who gave you your Chutzpah start to dislike you, and feel that you’re throwing your Chutzpah around where it doesn’t belong, they can take it all away. Bob only has that 3 Chutzpah for as long as he’s a good person in Alice’s book, and vice versa with what he’s given to her.

However, if Alice takes the 3 Chutzpah back from Bob, only Bob loses Chutzpah, not the people he’s given it to. For example, Bob has 15 Chutzpah and Charlie has 10, and Bob gives him 5 (15 – 10 = 5). After Bob gets knocked back down to 12 by Alice, Charlie still has 15 Chutzpah — and his Reliance on Bob is still 5. Because of this, Charlie’s still got his Chutzpah, but he can’t use it to bail out Bob (AC = (15 – 12) – 5 = -2, rounded up to 0).

Got all that? Okay. With Chutzpah, there’s a limit to how much a single other person can affect your reputation; this mitigates a low-tech Whuffie’s potential problems, like the aforementioned well-mannered and cordial disagreement between Janice and Kevin — they can’t just de-Chutzpah each other over and over until they both have nothing, nor can all of the bystanders.

Additionally, there’s now a real, tangible advantage to having a better reputation: individuals with higher Chutzpah have more Chutzpah to give to everyone else. People with high Whuffie scores get waited on hand and foot just, you know, because. On the other hand, people serve those with a lot of Chutzpah in the hopes of joining the club.

While the High-Chutzpah Club does have tremendous power, they have to keep on being good people in order to maintain it; the moment they start to abuse their power, all the people who helped them get to the top can drag them right back down again. Chutzpah’s not quite as egalitarian as a technologically-complete Whuffie system, but it still works out well.

Known Issues

Whuffie, even with all the necessary technology in place, isn’t perfect. It would arguably favor popular opinions and actions, sometimes unfairly — though this is hardly any better with our current monetary system. Additionally, as it’s described in Down and Out, it would eliminate economic privacy, as everyone could look at the transaction record and see whose Whuffie comes from whom. Chutzpah would be much the same, along with a whole slew of other potential issues that I’m not thinking of — I’m sure you’ll all have a blast pointing them out in the comments. Perhaps these problems are worth the benefits, or maybe they’re just more bugs waiting to be fixed.

We’ll likely never have a perfect system. We may never be able to make individual profit completely synonymous with the common good. But I’ll be damned if we can’t try, and we can get as close to perfect as possible. The profit that individuals seek is measured today in shiny gold coins, and slouching towards shiny gold math coins — that’s hardly the best we can do.

Free market theory posits that individuals will act in their rational self-interest. As human beings, our rational self-interest is a better world for everyone. Every time a person lives impoverished, uneducated, malnourished, and powerless, that is one less unique viewpoint and one less voice in our global conversation. Every time we allow a small minority to accumulate wealth at the expense of others, that is one more threat of a chaotic revolution to throw a wrench into society. Every time a human being’s potential is wasted and squandered by forcing them to fight for survival instead of utilizing their unique talents, we all miss out on what they could have done. All this because our definition of “profit” is broken and misplaced.

This bug is marked as critical. I’m assigning it to everyone.


  1. […] Continue reading at Falkvinge on Infopolicy /* […]

  2. von

    Please Rick, when I come to I want to read what YOU write. I don’t want to read about how to make stinkjuice, and I don’t want to read about how we should all replace money with pancakes.

    I thought you advocated a decentralized privacy-respecting economy, with Bitcoin as an interesting example of how one might do that. This guy seems to want a monetary system based on transparent individuals, rather than on privacy.

  3. Jacob Hallén

    the Golden Rule of Art and Culture says:

    The one who has the gold makes the rules.

    You are trying to make rules without having gold. You will have the same effect as a fart in space. Try changing something where you can actually make a difference.

    1. Noe Qoment

      Click-click-bloody-click pancakes!

  4. […] article, on the bug of shiny gold coins. The others are on the profitable bad behavior bug, and the pressure […]

  5. […] bug of profitable bad behavior. The others are on the “shiny gold coin” bug, and the pressure […]

  6. Lol Sir

    Pancakes are very tasty

  7. Jonas Grolin

    As a strong proponent of a resource baste economy I would say intelligence is an important resource. More sow then “shiny gold coins”. This articles message is a expression of intelligence and as such will grant its author influence.

    Modern problems require modern solutions. Here are a few examples:

    The Zeitgeist Movement
    Responds to Egypt & the Wikileaks Fallout:

    RSA Animate – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us

  8. Rickard Olsson

    Let people generate or trade Chutzpah like Bitcoins, complete with the limited supply. Yes, you can name them pancakes if you like.

  9. Scary Devil Monastery

    Hrm. Chutzpah – “that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan.”

    Not a bad name for currency in general, but even having read “down and out” my Doctorow I find it hard to believe we’re anywhere close to the required infrastructure to process this. For one thing, in order for a Whuffie to suceed it needs to be generally accepted. secondly we still rely on people acting according to rational self-interest.

    Certainly, like the OP states we already have a similar system in place. Bloggers with adverts getting people to donate eyeball time for the advertising companies and the aforementioned flattr buttons etc…

    It isn’t farfetched to think this way of earning money growing. Question is just how well it will scale.

  10. Jixtreme

    1) Companies — How would “companies” work? If I wanted, say, an iPod, would Apple just give me one in hopes that I would give them some of my Chutzpah? And who would I give it to? Steve Jobs? Would he then be able to “trickle-down” those Chutzpah to his management team and further, should he choose? And they would then trickle-down more Chutzpah to the grunt workers who coded the OS or assmebled the device? Or shipped the product overseas or to your local Apple store?

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Apple could be an entity that had its own Chutzpah to receive and give… because of a technicality: What’s to stop me from starting up a pancake company, “hiring” 10 self-interested individuals who Chutzpah the crap out of, only to be fully-Chutzpah’d in return? Hell, why stop with one pancake company, I’ll start a hundred. Free, limitless Chutzpah. And pancakes.

    2) The poor — Those who have nothing will still be “forced” to do something they would rather not, simply for enough Chutzpah to feed their family.

    3) Government — If I wanted to “buy” an uninhabited plot of land on which to build a house, government would decide, based on my Chutzpah, whether I was deserving of the land… -OR- a far more sinister alternative, someone within government would grant me the land in return for some of my Chutzpah. Start thinking about companies and larger-scale policies, and we find a very scary realization: People/groups with Chutzpah would utterly OWN government. The ultimate special-interest.

    Conclusion) I don’t think there will ever be a time where currency ceases to exist. Even in the days of yore when one’s Chutzpah was honored, currency existed. And despite being a respected figure, SOMEONE still paid your bill. I can possibly imagine a coexistence of currency and Chutzpah, but, as you mentioned, that’s sort of what we have now with “like/up-down…” only the Chutzpah isn’t worth that much. Not many people will do something for up-votes.

    Nevertheless, I think the ‘net could stand to have a unified, universal rating system…


  11. Sepp

    Let me be contrary here, just for discussion’s sake.

    I say there is nothing wrong with the profit motive.

    The wrong is in the shiny gold coins. And the bug is in the persistence of the shiny gold coins. They are as good on day 583 as they were on day 1. That gives a lot of power to someone who – by whatever means – has accumulated a heap of them. He can wait to spend them until such time as he gets the best deal for the least of his shiny coins. He can refuse to spend them on anything that doesn’t promise a greater return. So those coins have a nasty habit of accumulating in places where other shiny coins are already located. The greater the heap, the more it attracts other coins. The more nasty the owner, the greater his success in increasing his heap of shiny.

    But let’s posit a simple strategy, that would make it much more difficult to profit at other people’s expense.

    Let’s turn the shiny gold coins into rustballs by requiring and electronically stipulating that each rustball accumulation loses one per cent of its mass to rust powder, which cannot be spent but can only be turned in to a central recycling plant which takes all the powder, melts it down and makes new, shiny rustballs out of it. The new, shiny rustballs are distributed every month to everyone who’s participating in the economy.

    Let’s say this is a well tried and fairly routine activity, and we get so much rust powder each month that everyone gets ten new rustballs from the recycling plant – for free. They can spend the rustballs for whatever they like. Period. Since rustballs are pretty valuable, people can live a decent life on ten rustballs a month.

    Many will say they’d like to have more and therefore they will do work for others willing to give them some rustballs. The profit motive is still intact. Companies continue to function. Basic needs are met and extras are available for those willing to do something others appreciate and reward with additional rustballs.

    But the big accumulations will not happen. The rustballs have a way of always rolling around.

    In the recycling game, someone with few rustballs will lose only a few hundredth of a rustball, but they will still get ten each month.

    Someone with an accumulation of rustballs may lose 25 whole balls to rust and only get 10 back. So in time, the heap will tend to get smaller.

    In this way, we still have the profit motive (which is a powerful motivator for action) but we won’t have accumulations of rustballs. They’ll get recycled in time.

    And we won’t have big bad House-on-the-Hill men with lots of shiny gold coins wielding their power. And neither will we have poor people doing work they don’t really want to do for the bad House man because they don’t need to. They can live on their ten new rustballs out of the recycling plant. If they really want to do some work, of course they can and probably many will, because life on ten rustballs is not much fun. Gaining ten more rustballs – or even twenty – by working on something that they like, lets them live well and with amenities.

    They made a profit and they can spend it. And they will spend it because if they accumulate too many rustballs, they’ll get on the wrong side of the redistribution equation, where they lose more than ten rustballs to dust that gets recycled, and they still only get ten new ones with the monthly distribution.

    Of course we don’t want to get our hands dirty with rusty balls, so we’d organize all this by putting a few computer programmers to work, turning the shiny bitcoins into rusty bitcoins…

    1. Zacqary Adam Green

      That…kind of sounds like income tax. Except not. Because it’s peer-to-peer and decentralized and not technically coercive.

      That’s genius. I think. Or maybe it’s crazy. Or crazy genius.

      I’m not sure how to express incoherent, astonished stammering in written form, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

    2. Morten

      This would discourage saving. Saving is the enabler of economic progress, also known as bettering ones living standard. A person who saves, is producing more wealth and capital goods for others than what he is consuming right now. This will make it easier for others (through lower prices or the guy lending out money) to invest time to make further increases in wealth and so on. Now, if it was not permitted or impossible to use these savings in the future, no one would save. We would get large-scale wasting of resources and over-consumption. Much like the world today, where our money actually is loosing value all the time.

      Of course, people who wanted to save would just buy something else for the rustballs, much like any smart person today buys gold, and save that, so you would need some totalitarian rules to keep this going, or people would start using these other things as money in stead. I know, why don’t you just put a value added tax on everything, and therefore make the alternatives even worse,

      Also, where in history without monetary policies interfering do you find large heaps of gold collecting in the same place? And why was this so bad?

    3. piratgurra

      Ah! Alright. Well. This is interesting 🙂 Like some kind of an “unspent wealth tax”. Thanks a lot for the idea! I can also see how it could be viewed to work with some kind of a “civil wage” (how do you say “medborgarlön”?).

      But how would it work if you wanted to accumulate enough wealth to buy… say a car or a trip? Those kind of long-time saving would be more difficult, right? Or would “depositing” / “borrowing” money work in any similar way as today?

    4. Vitalik Buterin

      Why destroy the old rustballs? Won’t their value naturally dilute as new ones get introduced into the picture?

  12. Sepp

    Thanks … the genius actually isn’t me.

    The idea is by a guy called Silvio Gesell. He made his proposal about a century ago, and left a record in his book “The Natural Economic Order”, which you can find in English on the net.

    I did enjoy your articles and Michel (Bauwens) prevailed on me to introduce them on the p2p foundation blog. Scheduled to appear on 31 July…


  13. Morten

    If only your reputation was what decided how much capital you would be given access to, I think there would be massive, large-scale waste of resources. We would likely be back in some sort of tribal hunter-gatherer society fighting for survival before a year had gone by.

    There would not be any constant measuring and weighing of different peoples desires and needs through the price mechanism and thereby giving those in control of capital signals of when they are using more wealth than they are producing.

    Now, there is nothing wrong with reputation systems. Not at all. Just don’t try to replace any naturally occurring moneys for them. (You don’t have to try so violently hard at keeping some paper money going either, like governments do today)

    1. piratgurra

      So… what is a “naturally occuring money” ? There is no such thing. The concept of trade is nothing more than – set A has a value for me! – set B has a value for you! Then we can start trading with each other by exchanging stuff in our A and B boxes. If people stop using whatever kinds of “money” because they decide it has no value. Then it will be useless… If people stop agreeing that immateria has any value – then it will cease to have. If people stop thinking a certain company has any value – then it will cease to have.

      Realizing you can really decide/judge for yourself what has any Value is the most important aspect, I think. And that includes the different types of “money” in itself.

  14. DeepThought

    What about having 2 (or more) coin types for different things?
    For example one coin for (practically) unlimited resources, such as pancakes, food, gadgets (assuming no IP laws makes everything really cheap) etc, advancing a post-scarcity economy where possible, and one coin type for limited resources (each gadget has a certain amount of coltan/gold/diamonds etc). Digital goods are practically unlimited… also most food (in the developed countries atleast)…
    Thuss some of our economy transforms to post-scarcity economy, as for limited resources, the “r-coins” (resource-based coins) will be shared by everyone, as the earth’s resources do belong to all of humanity (or per nation if the enlightened version isn’t applicable yet).
    People who give mass contribution to society might get more r-coins (or maybe exchange coins for r-coins at some rate) than others, if this is what helps them to utilize limited resources that are needed for entrepreneurship etc…
    Also with technological unemployment human labour might be considered as a limited resource…
    I haven’t thought this through, but it seems like such a system will release our economy from preventing utopia from happening…

  15. […] In the third article titled Debugging the Profit Motive: Part Three — Pressure […]

  16. piratgurra

    This is just the same in Communism as in Corporativism – Monopoly is always the springing point to oppression. Where the monopoly resides – be it in state or private business or religion or other – is really much less important.

  17. Dirk Chivers

    First, I feel the idea of labeling the behavior of another human being a “bug” is extremely patronizing and controlling.

    In your previous two articles, you’ve mentioned two things and I agree that neither are solutions to the problem of power abuse. One is never trusting anyone, and one is trusting everyone absolutely. Thus the need for both trade incentives and regulation. I believe the solution you presented here is also not a solution. And while I find the idea of “debugging” human behavior abhorrent, I love taking ideas apart and finding out what’s wrong with them. So I’ll accept your challenge and try to get some of the kinks out of your plan.

    Basing everything effectively on forums karma is a non-solution because it forces you to eternally seek the permission of society for every resource you’d every need for any goal. Society in real life doesn’t really care about curing deadly diseases, making efficient renewable energy, colonizing space (or at least maintaining global communications and keeping space free from debris)… you get the idea. At the very least, not the society that votes things thumbs up or down on youtube. I know, I know, “but *I* care”. Sorry, but the numbers are just plain on my side here. Setting aside your resources to find ways to treat waste water in the third world would be every bit the risk it is with our “sniny coins” system as it would be with your pancakes system.

    Except now you’ve thrown credit into the mix. And it’s not just avoidable credit either. You’ve decided that swimming in debt isn’t something that college students should have to suffer alone. No, anyone with noble intentions ever should enjoy walking a few miles in those shoes under the (Paranoia tabletop RPG inspired?) Chutzpah system. Every second you spend not giving WOW gold to noobs, putting pictures of cats on the internet, and helping people through breakup drama, is a second you’ve made it permanently harder to feed your family.

    Basically, you haven’t made it any easier on people that genuinely want to make life better for other people. You’ve treated people doing things that aren’t “good” as a problem, decided that the internet should be the arbiters of what “good” and “not good” is, and have distributed all personal power across the web and coupled it with a permanent record.

    Yes, this technically solves the problem you set out to solve. Man, does it ever solve it. Believe me, people will do nothing but “good” things under your system. I’m simply suggesting that maybe the problem you are trying to solve, itself, is what needs a little tweaking.

    1. Vitalik Buterin

      > Society in real life doesn’t really care about curing deadly diseases, making efficient renewable energy, colonizing space (or at least maintaining global communications and keeping space free from debris)… you get the idea. At the very least, not the society that votes things thumbs up or down on youtube. I know, I know, “but *I* care”. Sorry, but the numbers are just plain on my side here. Setting aside your resources to find ways to treat waste water in the third world would be every bit the risk it is with our “sniny coins” system as it would be with your pancakes system.

      Substitute “curing diseases, making efficient renewable energy and colonizing space” with “building pyramids”, and you see the problem with that argument. A system of government that implements thing A that people don’t care about, but you care about, will also just as easily implement thing B that people don’t care about, and you don’t care about either. If nobody wants something it shouldn’t be done. Who wants diseases cured and third world waste water treated? People in the third world do. They’re part of the economy too. That’s the source of the desire to to those things in the first place – because people want it, not because it’s morally virtuous in some abstract sense that probably can’t even be defined.

  18. That "Ball" Guy

    “I do not want to wear a pink tutu and scream out “I’m a pretty, pretty princess!” in the middle of Times Square for three hours. I have absolutely, positively, no desire to engage in such a thing. Unfortunately, the only people in the world who sell the life-saving medication that I need don’t accept any other form of payment. For whatever reason, these demented pharmaceutical peddlers would greatly enjoy watching my public humiliation, and find it to be worth a few of the pills they produce. So, in order to survive, I’ve been pressured to do something very undesirable.”

    In a truly free market, all the competitors to that pharmaceutical company will be at a drastic advantage, since they will accept many other forms of currency at competitive pricing. Teva pharmaceuticals charges an exorbitant amount for Copaxone (a Multiple Sclerosis modifying drug), when Sandoz labs has announced that they have produced a generic. Sandoz isn’t even getting to test their generic, due to the prohibitive rents imposed by state aggression.

    And you cannot “force” a merchant to give you merchandise, the merchant is of their own volition engaging in commerce, and many places, merchants reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. I’ve come to enjoy most of the discussions here on, but the false premises your article operate on have left a foul taste in my mouth.

  19. That "Ball" Guy

    The problem of “profit is power” is drastically reduced (if not eliminated) when we cut out the state and leave things like regulation, currency systems, and mutual defense to truly voluntary means

  20. potmo

    I think one improvement to this alpha model would be to make it so that when Bob looks up Alice’s Chutzpah status, he only sees the amount he has transacted with her. I don’t understand the need to eliminate privacy.You could only be allowed access to view the persons total Chutzpah and to add or remove up to the maximum allowable amount of Chutzpah which you can give to or take from that person. I don’t see this system reliant on having to broadcast where a person got their Chutzpah.

    To avoid the popularity award effect, a person’s rating on a five star scale to measure quality after a person’s Ch (tired of spelling it out) reaches 20 or 50 or whatever magic number makes sense. This way mom and pop’s neighborhood bar and grill isn’t less valuable than the International House of Pancakes..

    I’m guessing this isn’t the panacea to solve all the world’s problems, but it seems to me that at least it has some practical application if not as a currency substitution. The notion of rethinking how we measure profit instead of voting whether profit is good or bad, is an idea well worth exploring. I love your articles.

  21. h&mラグビー



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