I’ve been in debates where arguments were made for the necessity of unit currency. Though I find it to be an argument based in heuristics as opposed to systemic analysis and consideration; the notion still begs more in depth scrutiny. I don’t want to be one who pawns the support upon the claimant when it’s such an interesting question to explore to begin with. I began thinking of what a model of society might look like without unit currency. Naturally I went back in time to the advent to consider what else might have been done.
From that point it seemed logical in many respects; however the issue of unaccounted for externalities was already present. I decided to go farther back in time to the beginning of agrarian society and hence the birth of civilization. That is where we seem to have made the largest of our economic mistakes. We don’t have written history going back that far but we do have the works of a number of talented scientists across a wide variety of disciplines to draw from in order to build from there.
The advent of abundance:
When agriculture was invented, time was freed for early civilizations to be built. Instead of constantly hunting and gathering to feed smaller groupings, larger, more permanent settlements emerged, with the surplus of food stuffs to thank. It wasn’t however just the more efficient usage of time, it was also the added need to store large quantities of grain and to some extent dried meats. This is where the ensuing entropy seems probable. The large storage of food would likely be the object of scavenging by the less fortunate. This would have likely been done by the surrounding animals and humans. This may have been the beginning of warfare as competition for resources tends to be at least one of the common pressures.
The cause of this occurrence may be rooted in emotional bonding and Operant Conditioning. The previous economic system was based in hunting and gathering for one small group with emotional ties and trust. The lack of change to accommodate the new technology with respect to the externalities of the time, likely resulted in the disruption of the surrounding ecology. In order for the newer, more advanced system to mitigate disruption of the existing system, distribution might have been a feasible solution.
I would suggest that this is probably the best place to begin building the model. Suppose the technology (agriculture and storage) were shared with the surrounding groups. This would likely normalize many of the adverse consequences that would have emerged with the introduction of the new technology. It would also have created a distributed system of resource acquisition and distribution that could have benefited even the individual groups. This is possible with the sheer abundance of resources acquired by the entirety of the collective. Surpluses could have then been passed to the individual groups that were suffering lean periods. Reciprocity would of course likely be the engine of sustainability. At the time it would have essentially been a scaling of the previous Gift Economics system.
I would like to suggest that such a cooperative economic system would likely mitigate many of the social issues that appear to be a product of hoarding. These would include but not be limited to coercion, prostitution, theft, disparity, slavery, homelessness and war.
Advancement with abundance
Advancement, in principle could have occurred in a distributed state. The foundation would have been built by the previously instated, distributed economic system. It might have resembled a democratic, nested, hierarchy similar to that of the US, with state and local governance however not necessarily centralized. The diplomacy that would have already been instituted via the economy could have been a foundation for productive communication and cooperation. Trade might have been motivated and leveraged by need and availability as opposed to personal gain. There would not seem to be a need for physical, unit currency in such a system as Democranomics is essentially being applied. The currency, instead would have been public support of the node in need. In addition, distributed intelligence would have been native to the system and likely would have offset any need for simplification. Many of the other technologies that emerged would however have been needed, such as written language, mathematics etc.
Many of the more modern resources for entrepreneurs are not unlike this. Croudfunding resources aren’t necessarily functioning with the unit currency as their currency. Systemically; it is just a symbol of public support. The success of a project can fall solely on how well one sells it to the public and maybe whether or not the public is ready for it. Just the same; the basis of it is democranomic. It takes the current approach of arduous planning and funding by wooing the lenders followed by expensive advertising and turns it on its head by openly going strait to the consumer for funding and feedback. This could be a much more efficient system that might even mitigate the aggregation of wealth.
I would like to suggest that this would also likely mitigate social issues like but not limited to Oligarchy, revolt, crisis cycles and class warfare. 90% of the civilizations throughout history; essentially all who have had the opportunity, have risen to Oligarchy and fallen to revolt. If you follow David Brin, he will never let you forget that. 😉
A future with abundance:
Considering the long list of existential risk factors that have likely emerged from our lack of addressing externalities, I would argue that fundamental change is likely our only option for a future. As much as we loathe change and fetishize rarity, we will still need to overcome our heuristics and insecurities and do what must be done for our survival. It seems that the legacy human is likely to be a niche organism as we seem to have crested our potential. Many of the more recent advancements we have made have been due to our technologies.
Unlike the musings in the Star Trek series, some of the most gifted people on the planet are suggesting that; though creating human level and beyond AI is extremely difficult, it may not take centuries and then be “rare”. I can’t even begin to make suggestions about how we would coexist with such entities as they are, at this point figments of the imagination. I am however concerned about what we might teach them along the way. It is observed that we process environmental information as much or more than we do anything else. We are a product of our environment, much of which we have created and our collective behaviors have become not unlike that of a disease. We “create” with ourselves in mind and this is something that we really really need to consider.