Monday, December 22, 2008

Shaping Tomorrow

I just re-read a post that I made on a online group that I belong to called Shaping Tomorrow which is a group of futurists. I thought it spoke to my passion and the overall image that I am getting of our economy and the points at which I think we need to put some pressure in the hope of effecting change.

I think the fundamental question is why is the system rewarding excessive consumption, massive flows of money and huge deficits and debts? How did this come about and what drove this process? American's are certainly the "largest" consumers but there are many other consumers in the world. I know I was shocked when I went to Asia and saw the massive malls and the huge desire to consume and posses stuff - it is not only an American phenomenon we are just the leaders.

The economy rewards the creation of useless products - trinkets, environmentally destructive extraction and production technologies, and "over-spending". Why?

Our economy grows when we "consume" and shrinks when we don't. It is what drives us - it is like having a constant carrot and stick scenario in our collective conscience. The reality is the economy is not something that operates without humans - however it can create and incentivize certain human behaviours leading often to problematic outcomes. This is why Stiglitz is one of my favorite economists because he realizes that the economy is actually part of us - rather then us as part of the economy.

We need to seriously reevaluate the values and behaviours our economic system incentivizes and work at changing that. I think it is pretty simple - value abundant clean resources, value industries and products that are zero waste and zero negative environmental costs, value human sustenance through cooperation, remove scarcity as the central driving factor of the pricing mechanism and create a pricing system that assigns increased value to increased abundance of life sustaining resources.

Just some thoughts!!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Time Magazine Talks About Complementary Currencies

I think it is really cool that Time Magazine did a three page article about complementary currencies. You can check it out here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Netsquared/USAID Challenge Proposal

I have a submitted a proposal to the challenge and I would love all of you to take a moment and go on over and register and vote for my project. I have until the 12th of December to get enough votes to get into the top 15.

The short description of my project:
Develop a mobile phone m-banking application aimed at enabling the creation of community based complementary currencies. Using open-source software, FrontlineSMS, the application would operate in much the same way as Wizzit and mPesa.

We will be working closely with Ken Banks who helped create FrontlineSMS - and whose technology is involved with the very successful Ushahidi.

There is much written on the net about complementary currencies of which there are over 1,900 currently in operation. From Switzerland to USA to Argentina to South Africa and on to New Zealand and Malaysia to Japan. Some of these are even sanctioned by governments and can be used to pay local taxes.

As we can all see in today's world there are series questions around the viability of our current financial system. We all see very clearly that when our national currency fails to circulate we are left with almost no means of trading with each other. This is not because I don't have something to sell that someone wants to buy - rather the missing ingredient is money.

My goal is to explore ways of adding additional resiliency to our financial system - one that has multiple layers of currencies. Not to end the national currency but rather to add to the system (a lot of this thinking is based on ideas of complex systems and their need for resiliency over efficiency). There are other inherent issues that are raised by the way our money is created that will ultimately need to be addressed - the false scarcity, the need for perpetual growth, the problems of compounded interest and the competitive nature that the system helps propagate.

Ultimately creating complementary currencies and getting them into the poorest communities could offer some novel development opportunities. The problem in these communities, once again, is not that no one has labor to sell or doesn't need stuff. The problem is no one has the means to pay each other!!

Okay I think I need to leave it at that. I have of course dropped some big ideas without indepth explanations. But, I wanted to keep this shorter then it already is.

So if this seems interesting and you want to help vote for my project!! (pretty please)