When talking about “r/Futurology,” the r might stand for reddit, but it could just as easily be a prefix denoting “our” futurology, as in our/Futurology, our shared future(s) together.
I’m calling on all of you. Voices large and small. We need to start envisioning the functional economic models of our future. We need to start changing the fundamental problems of our short-sightedness by creating a radical new model of reality; a web application production platform. This can only be done with an open source project.
- 1 Preface, Facing the Problem Head on
- 2 The Case for Distributed Compensation Models
- 3 The Utilization of Simulation Services
- 4 Breadth of Audience, We Cannot Simply Preach To The Choir
- 5 What Motivates Us, and Justification for Change
- 6 What Could This Platform Look Like
- 7 Technologies to be Used
- 8 Closing Words
Preface, Facing the Problem Head on
This open-source project is an integration of web applications with a specific focus; building ad hoc collaborative teams and finding the individuals to accomplish their goals and achieve their incentives. Gradually, a minimum stipend for everyone is introduced but with internal tracking that knows which contributions are most productive, useful, or have the broadest cultural impact. This allows people to earn a living by pursuing the goals they set for themselves- being coached by the people that they respect.
Terms like “Resource Based-Economy” and “Unconditional Basic Income” have been tossed around, but with little leverage or institutional planning involved. They are nebulous ideas and they need to engineered into functional “design documents” that can be implemented in the real world or tested in a simulated reality. Promotion and discussion of these ideas is a good start, but it’s not enough. We need to act now as a crowd-sourced think-tank and build experimental web application tools to foster organic collaboration. Rather than pitch this project blindly to the public, we prove that it works by having success for initial users.
There has been quite a buzz lately about the nature of our economy being incompatible with the future of labor and the rise of automation. Yet, very few functional alternatives have materialized. There are too many vague ideas and never enough proof of concept. We, here and now, shall change that. We seek to gather all of the different and divided organizations, find our common threads, and produce a paradigm shifting tool. We need to find our common goals and move forward. BuckMinster Fuller said it best, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
/u/Xenophon1 has started /r/FuturistParty as a possible solution to breach this coming problem. However, the commercial nature of bilateral American politics means that no compromise will ever be made to allow non-traditional parties into the discussion. It is accepted in our society that politicians of both parties are held hostage by the purse-strings, with absolute hegemony over all popular communication channels. The solution, our solution, is to construct digital infrastructure that can govern and distribute better than existing government by using intelligent systems. Its purpose- transparent incentives visible to all, editable by all, optimizing towards our global future.
Politically, this might fall under the Green Party or “left libertarianism,” but with a technological spin. A “new Left”, as Dexter Taylor described it. A Libertarian “Futurism” as Peter Thiel characterized it. Essentially we want a society with the following traits, echoed across our Futurology, Technology, and Transhuman communities and the broader information industry:
- Decentralized authority or central control, especially economically. Approximate to Bitcoin but perhaps with different measures on the guiding logistics function.
- Reduced use of force by policing agencies, address systemic poverty problems instead of treating socio-economic classes akin to enemy combatants.
- Ideology independent leadership and infrastructure with transparent goals and no hidden agendas.
- A radical redesign of the work force landscape, empowering networks more than just registered entities, or Corporations. Make the form of the LLC even more liquid and encompassing.
- Unconditional Basic Income in response to encroaching automation, and increased minimum resources for every individual. Fight structural unemployment with an improved resource-based welfare system.
- Either statutory minimum vacation/leave hours, increased minimum wage, OR livable passive income streams from tractable work within a contract ecosystem.
- Gradually, all core survival needs accounted for in that welfare/UBI system (Food, water, housing, healthcare.) This would require wide reformation of our existing tax system, or a replacement on our internal tool for the international tax system.
- Free and abundant information, fast and free internet. Possibly as public utility. In the name of Aaron Swartz, let’s liberate knowledge.
- Absolute knowledge about personal privacy. Identity management and the choice for anonymity.
- Responsible natural resource management and models for renewability. Transparent models with all available measures shown publicly. Accountability for the waste of resources.
- Add your own here. We need a list, and a statement. Then a video, then developers.
It might be easier to approach existing members of the Green or parts of the Libertarian party who lean towards these ideals, and bootstrap upon their work. However, right libertarianism resembles Social Darwinism and that’s downright dangerous. I doubt any currently electable politician would take seriously a UBI system, especially not Libertarians. They want to do away with welfare and social security. The only agreement is in “small government,”. What we envision is “small, augmented and efficient” government, where everyone has a voice through git pull and push similar to the German Bundes Git model.
It’s difficult to conceptualize having a decentralized authority create an increased welfare state. It seems counter-intuitive. Communism is a powerful central state that performs this redistribution. However, a single party state is elitist, corruptible, and promotes an increased police militancy. So rather than have a governing body collect and share assets, envision a platform that does it automatically, transparently, and scaled to the demands of the local environment.
Treat it as a common language rather than a lengthy doctrine or as an engineering problem rather than a centralized head-of-state which distributes and redistributes. Build a system that rewards instead of punishes, uses crypto-currency, ties debt to resource inefficiency instead of labor shortage, and is built to scale to inflation. Pursuing the flaws of the entire economy at once is foolish. Instead, imagine small footsteps that start with a small niche of the information industry and gradually expands into our physical commodities and resources. We need economists to challenge, rebuke, and criticize (constructively) any models we devise. Then we need macro and micro economists to take our defense and build a stronger case with us.
The Case for Distributed Compensation Models
We need to unite many private sectors of the information industry to build a technical solution for these ongoing social problems. We need a network of platforms that pay people for participation. This infrastructure we create could allow individuals to find collaborators, form an ad-hoc group, build/market resources, and catalyze a natural healthy economy. Over time, if these projects are used in a commercial capacity or sold in the digital marketplace, our intelligent hosting systems would acknowledge this. A percentage of sale would go to the people who created the source libraries automatically. If a project is free to use, there are no costs distributed.
More than this, a cryptocurrency could exist that is generated and distributed across many areas. An automated model could know the global and local level of inflation, and provide support accordingly. It also could examine your individual profile, determine the value of your contributions in multidisciplinary projects or how much traffic your marketing achievements have generated. (Or later in food service or retail, how well scored you are, or based on what volume of commodities provided.) The purpose would be that you have a system that knows how much wealth you need to survive, adds a 30% buffer on top of that and then rewards you additionally based on your merits scored across various web applications.
Now, the three big challenges here are:
- Moderation: Protection from abuse and scammers. The best solution is to make pursuit of happiness more financially rewarding than abuse ever could be. Some investigative agency might be needed, but intelligent, transparent systems would handle bulk of exceptions catching.
- Food providers: How do you prevent resource hoarding in a system that ensures everyone has enough? You “tax” waste heavily and make resource ownership transparent. You create a currency rule that rewards a person or group for sharing a resource. You essentially give transactions the ability to have “sex,” every time you trade one coin for a can of beans, an inverse tax is generated to be pooled for distribution again, but in slight favor to the resource producer. Then you ensure that any person can become any type of resource producer without barrier.
- Unpredicted Inflation: The system described would be “credit” based rather than debit based. Inflation might work differently under those circumstances. However, algorithmic control of UBI wage based on regional prices might help.
If you use Facebook, or search Google, you are participating in a digital marketing engagement. You are evangelizing a product or a service, for someone else, for free. Or if you use Google, you are being used as part of a responsive learning algorithm to provide improved contextual searches. To Microsoft’s credit, the did try to monetize Bing with rewards, but the reward is small, it’s not a compensation model. In the end your feedback is more valuable than the occasional reward you receive.
With the widening gap between productivity and income, and unskilled labor jobs not covering basic costs, we fast approach the situation where a systematic welfare state is inevitable. With congressional cuts to food programs, it’s almost as if there’s a plan to kill off the impoverished. Again, Social Darwinism is a terrible idea and it should stay buried for good. The “new jobs will be created” concept is nice and all, but it’s not happening that way anymore.
The Utilization of Simulation Services
My focus recently has been in simulation, because I think the best tools for modeling positive change in society require predicting the future accurately. The best way to do this is a universal simulator that can use an extrapolation of the past and present. Consider it the ultimate test of the Turing machine: once we surpass AGI, we will have a “Turing Test” for the whole of humanity. Can a computational reality be indistinguishable from our own?
Furthermore, histrionic emulation allows for people to start thinking in terms of societal level decisions, and empowers cultural understanding. Conceptualizing societal forces of the past, we can better understand the context of conflicts and thus minimize it in our current age. This can be a learning tool for understanding foreign perspective, long term thinking, and the general scientific worldview. Imagine “Spore” but more real. The R-rated version can depict the grim prospect of war with brutal accuracy, instead of glorifying it like modern FPS do. We can optimize models for peace and safety.
Our early models would still be massive holistic simulations. These simulations would need to cover everything from weather and climate, to single computational agents. Those agents can be run in swarm mode for large populations, and instanced as independent AI’s with neural networks–to depict decision makers and game-changers. This means a few hundred thousand versions of “WATSON” running at once, each one playing a character from real life.
As computational resource becomes more available, more agents can be rendered as full AIs and eventually you have a roughly mirrored 7 billion people. A starting point today might be Ben Goertzal’s OpenCog, or Jeff Heaton’s Encog, although deep learning projects being done by Google and IBM might provide a deeper experience. The MIT labs ConceptNet is said to have IQ equivalent to a 4 year old. It won’t be long before AGI is functional enough to start using in applications. So we should have the foresight to prepare some of those applications.
Ultimately, we are looking at this problem from a cosmological perspective. Any organism has two primordial motivations; survival and reproduction. Holistic world simulation is the pre-cursor to “offspring” universes. Whether this is possible in reality is irrelevant- we need to try regardless of the result. This is our fundamental imperative as a global and united species.
Look at the productivity of our society now, with 7 billion minds. Now imagine 700 trillion minds, virtual and real, distributed across our solar system and nearby systems. Not only should we aim to provide realistic environments for AI to develop in the image of mankind, we should also use the alpha-release as a tool to get us to that point in the first place.
IMPLICATIONS FOR SOCIETY ENGINEERING
Most importantly, we won’t need spy systems like PRISM to keep tabs on everyone. Instead, we can take measures directly from public sources and monitor change statistically and without Personally Identifiable Information (P.I.I.). If our simulations are convincing enough, it might even serve to overwhelm spying platforms with a plethora of conflicting information that is both real and fake, but made indeterminable as to which one is real. Of course, a few subpoenas could end that, but for an open source system that anyone can run, it’s hard to enforce. The best route is to convince our world leaders that stochastic society modeling with additional voluntary data can work better than an absolute police state. (And simultaneously enforce a soveriegn government’s legitimacy.)
This type of simulation for policy and resource infrastructure functioning can be done iteratively. Fundamentally, the Agile software method is applied to our broader society. It’s a self-selecting genetic algorithm and can be provided an input of; “make all individual’s lives better and more affordable while reducing resource and environmental waste.” Suddenly, we have this deep, intelligent, and engaging system as depicted here by Tom Skazinski of Zemerge.com.
Of course, we would start with a very simplified agent state of intelligent machine models. Think of video games and early simulations as the “eukaryotes” of alternate universes- eventually they will be complex independent organisms but for now, it’s just flickers of life in the goo. This is why I started /r/Simulate, in hopes of having a place for shared ideas, learning, and experimental projects. We’ve made some progress, and are hoping to do more. The biggest challenge is our time and resources, but we have the start of a great design thanks to some hard working volunteers!
Breadth of Audience, We Cannot Simply Preach To The Choir
There are movements out there that are anarcho-capitalist or Pseudo-communist with centralized resource distribution. These movements might have traction within our futurology, technology, singularity, and transhuman networks, but they do not speak to a broader political audience and all of their core tenements are fundamentally philosophical. Worse, their extremism might fail to establish our voices as legitimate.
As I mentioned before, we need to seek out established allies with similar perspective. We must untie the common threads that are tying us all together. The Venus Project, Zero State, Zeitgeist– but none of those ideologies can ever be mainstream enough to warrant a majority of public support. This is not partially a content problem as people might perceive said ideas as too far removed from what exists in our world today. Or, moreover, it’s likely a marketing issue. Money = Audience, and most of that audience only engages through televised news. We are the off-the-grid population.
Indeed, none of these movements have yet to engage mainstream society. UBI is starting to be discussed in broader circles similar to the early talk of 3D printing merely 3 years ago. So maybe we have begun the stepping stones in the right direction to a powerful future.
In terms of the general Singularity concept, it’s a widely upheld belief in some Silicon Valley circles with immense currency amongst our digiteratii elite. Yet, it is not established seriously in most of our society. The only evangelist who has come close is Jason Silva, but again he appeals to your identity and your personal philosophy. There’s very little economic depth or discussion of the transitory period we are steamrolling towards.
We need a method to engage segments of the population who are not actively intellectual and accustomed to forward thinking. To do this we need to gamify on a massive scale, and have a content delivery platform that actively steers people towards creative thinking and then build non-traditional personal resource and revenue channels. Undeniably, people will listen to the sound of money and the chance for vocational freedom.
Most people are only interested in reality television or buying their way to happiness. People behave the way they do because of mental conditioning by consumer forces. That does not elevate our Futurist hobbies as better than theirs, but rather as different. It’s nice to think that we are the Software-Socialists or Programmer-Proletariat, but in reality product consumption has more political power than the flimsy Utopian ideas we throw around. We need to understand the perspective of everyone and communicate with everyone, or nothing shall change. There is one common language that essentially everyone follows, money. Let us redesign how the existing model of money can work and how people earn/receive it. Then prove it. That will catch their attention.
What Motivates Us, and Justification for Change
So how do we create this “next economy” and this “new Left”? What can we do to ensure that the unemployment gap doesn’t bury the human race alive and screaming? I propose we build a Meta-Platform that functions as a web-powered browser-accessed operating system. It would interface with all major social networks and web applications and connect to web payment systems. It would allow problem solving and assessment across all industries, discipline, and experience level, and permit individuals or small teams to take on work or finance their own projects.
Many groups have tried this before and failed, so how could we operate differently? How can we succeed where others have failed? Well, if we ran this type of project as more of a resistance movement than a solitary business, open source and crowd-source the majority of it, it could just stand a chance.
Additionally, we add online skill building like Udacity, Coursera, Codecademy, but instead of just offering courses, give the learning a *purpose*. A purpose that can reap financial rewards. Have learning be project based, driven by mentorship, and most importantly for struggling graduates… PAY THEM as generously as possible. Simultaneously pay them in USD, BTC, and any other cryptocurrency.
We have this problem in the industry that it’s hard for people to get started. It’s highly challenging to build core skills as a working professional or full time student stuck doing other less productive work all day. So let’s find ways to provide small living allowance to people to learn the technical skills our society actually needs. I know this reversal sounds perverse- why pay students for learning?
Well, there’s a labor shortage for technical skilled work. Do the math. Now if these projects were cummulative upon each other, and worked towards a massive computational simulated whole… Suddenly we have productivity gains and a commercial distribution platform that can steer our society towards world simulation for further optimization and further intelligence.
If the goal is UBI, people will be able to pursue projects of their own volition. Intrinsic curiosity is the single most powerful motivating factor in the world. All the money in the world cannot motivate a person more than raw incontestable freedom. I don’t mean /r/Murica freedom either, I mean real liberation. Money based on scarcity is non-optimal.
Let’s train and pay people to make games, make art, go hiking, save wildlife, visit other cultures and combine this with resource production; building AR drones, 3D printing, automating farming, designing cars, and more. People will always chase prestige and money but they no longer would be required to as their sole subsistence. Really, there’s so much life out there outside most people’s reach, and our whole cultural mindset is geared against it.
If you’re anything like me you feel trapped by the current structure of labor. I never could afford to travel overseas or spend more than a few days backpacking the wilderness, economic forces have trapped me indoors and forced me to create the next frontier instead of exploring it outside. As an American who hosts couch-surfers from Europe, I’ve come to realize just how bad the situation at home is.
I don’t have healthcare, there’s no stautory minimum vacation, it disappears whenever you switch employers, and I have barely any disposable income. Yet I’ve provided cheap labor for three fortune 500 software related companies; and if I feel like I’m struggling, I have plenty of other non-“educated” friends who are hurting far, far worse. There are destructive economic forces at play and I think compassionate software can alleviate some of the pain.
What Could This Platform Look Like
Our community has the talents it requires, I know this because I ran a survey a few months prior and a bulk of the readers on here have a computational background. These were the results.
Some initial mockups:
- A News, Mail and Social Blotter Hub
- A Collaborative Drawing Tool
- Project Canvas
- Early Redesign of Side GUI
The most important element here in my eyes is the Project canvas. You could have different pools of people and organizations that could be dropped into an empty space and connected to form projects. Later you could attach new members to projects. Embedded into such a system you would have a history of those individuals, and their contributions would be registered on this same tool (via Git, or some tag in an art asset, etc). This would allow people’s work to exist in an ecosystem that records your creative output.
You could operate anonymously, or as yourself. You could work anonymously and only announce your successes. You could have a score like StackOverflow, or we could just integrate S.O. Most importantly, is that any monetization or service done through this platform would know who contributed to any libraries you used. So if one person made a game, they could borrow content or code at no cost. However, if they wish to sell their game for profit (excluding hosting), some attribution cost could automatically be generated back to the original library producer.
Would that work in practice? I don’t know. That’s why we need contract law and IP experts, economists, and market research to be done. It’s very easy to get data on the gaming industry, but we’d have to know about each sector we tried to bring in. How does it run, what tools do they need for it to run more efficiently. Then how do we crowdsource ideas and contributors to that industry? And additionally, make it lucrative for both parties involved? Do we raise more profits to distribute, or come up with some unique alternative currency? Do we start with just USD/EUR/CNY/BTC and tack on more after that? There are some tough questions to be answered and we need to tackle those together.
Technologies to be Used
There are technologies like nVidia Grid or Onlive which are cloud driven graphics processing, and if integrated into browsers, you could have a much different experience on the web. As it currently stands, WebGL 3D is lagging behind consumer graphics. Although it is catching up quickly and doesn’t have the same network limitations. I think both could be utilized in building a platform for simulation and web-driven tools. Of course for processing there’s plenty of services, Heroku, AWS, GCC, Azure, Rackspace, and tons of smaller players. Potentially we could use all of the above and allow user applications to live on any of them!
We could have interactive data environments that show information visually and intuitively. One example might be this Sankey diagram, or any other from the d3.js library (or similar libs). They would be embedded into the site and available as a means to have interactive resource planning. With the right messaging service, you could have two people constructing economic plans together. You could see funding happening before your very eyes. You could produce videos or do 3D modeling together online much like you would code together on Cloud9. You could simulate an entire agriculture process, then drop in automated components, and then implement them in real life.
So let’s scope out technology and skills requirements needed to get the ball rolling. What will need in terms of:
- Technology platforms (which stack? probably an existing set of JS libs)
- Web server subject knowledge (Django, Flask, Node, Rails, .NET, all of the above?)
- Languages (JS, Python, PHP, C++, C#,)
- Database types desired (SQL–postgres, MySQL, T-SQL, OR NoSQL: MongoDB, riak, Hadoop) There will be multiple.
- Hosting solutions (Cloud VPS and cost to scale* as discussed above.)
Which APIs and web applications should be integrated first?
- Identity Applications: (Facebook, Google, LinkedIn) OAuth
- Resource & Community: (Reddit, G+ hangouts, StackOverflow)
- Hosting Solutions for Users: (AWS, GCC, Azure, Heroku, etc, but we initialize by proxy)
- Tools, Builders, IDEs: (Cloud9, pixlr, 3Dtin, we must build some new tools or borrow O.C. ones)
- Finance & Accounts: (Paypal, Amazon, Google wallet)
- Integrated crowd-funding/financing: (Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Selfstarter)
- Streaming Content (Youtube, Vimeo, Our own WebGL game platform, Steam?)
- Blogs & Forums (WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, phpBB, we should try to escape PHP and go full responsive though)
- Ad Hoc Manufacture & Office Space (Shapeways, Regus)
- Education (Codecademy, Khan, Udacity, Treehouse, etc)
- Avaible talent for initial progress (O.C. Contributors, Raise capital for FT work, vested)
- Legal expertise (Someone who understands internet based contracting)
- Tax specialists (To use aggregate microcontracts to employ everyone needs some big considerations with tax)
- Patent system streamlining (Automated patronage and troll-protection)
- Economists and Bitcoin/Cryptocurrency Specialists
Our biggest challenge is finding the time or resources to make this happen, especially when getting it started. Every developer and technically trained individual I know are maxed out in available bandwidth. A 60+ hour week is very common in the information industry, I don’t know how any Open Source projects manage to stay active unless workers are allowed to contribute during paid and unpaid time. We need probably 2-3 people full time or 6-10 part time. After the initial foundation is laid, we would become an “attractor” and have more resources pouring in.
So, I throw a lot out on the line here. Call me on my bullshit, but offer something constructive too. I’ve been in discussion with someone from the Netherlands who wants to optimize something approximate to this for pan-university project funding and call it Aedos. I’ll let him discuss the merits of that idea for himself, but wanted to note that a lot of the concepts I’ve come up with above have been shaped by the discussions we’ve had. So thanks Kevin!
And also, again, look to /u/Xenophon1, his /r/futuristparty is a type of engagement with existing policy that I do think is essential that we have. Arguably though, you can’t go the politics route without a large base of money, which exactly the issue we are trying to affront. How do we design the structure of work and utilize the concept of wealth better than the existing methods?
Honestly, I feel like Reddit, and in particular this community is far more appropriate a place to start this type of discussion than anywhere else. It’s a vastly public soapbox, it’s democratic, and in our /r/Futurology everyone is future-facing and long-term thinking to begin with.
“We are engaged in a permanent war of ideas, and which ideas will govern our societies. Money buys a lot of “free speech” and it buys a lot of votes. Reddit offers a mechanism to deal with this inequality and keep democracy healthy.” –Zdnet
And thank you guys for listening, and for any ideas, designs or work you might contribute in the days to come! Cheers!
tl;dr Let’s make an alternate economy starting with a website geared towards creating projects. Build a system that rewards instead of punishes, uses crypto-currency, ties debt to resource inefficiency instead of labor shortage, and is built to scale to inflation.