FOREWORD: this article wouldn’t exist had I not been inspired by Toni Lane Casserly (aka the “Joan of Arc of Blockchain”) with whom I had the luck of collaborating for a short period. A very remarkable young woman, so incredibly smart and gifted, a force of nature who put all the energies she had into building a better future for all powered by the blockchain. She died in April 2020, aged 29. You can get a glimpse of who she was in her TED talk.
Is it possible to build an economy based on kindness? In the past this idea would have been considered utopia, and rightfully so. Today, for the first time in history, it should be technically possible to build it and not too far from our reach. Today it’s “eutopia”, as to say a practical aspiration that should be possible to turn into reality.
First of all, let’s define what needs to be in place make this innovation possible: an economy running on blockchain and governed by DAOs (Decentralised Autonomous Organisations). All technologies that already exist or are being shaped, which although in their infancy today are destined to prevail. It may take a couple of decades, maybe more, but we will ultimately adopt them because they are far more efficient, cost effective, and adequate for a global interconnected world that runs fast.
The inevitable disruption of our economic system
In the near future we can expect the job market as we know it to be disrupted by AI and automation, which will steal or devalue our jobs at increasingly fast rate. Singularity, or the point in history in which the intelligence of the machine will be indistinguishable from ours, is expected for 2029. Just a decade from now. Realistically, humans without a full time employment will be the majority by the end of this century, probably much earlier than that. The erosion of the middle class, already fast paced, is going to increase dramatically. A wide and prosperous middle class is one of the main justifications for capitalism.
As jobs for humans disappear, we will be forced to review the old capitalist dogma that sees the right to live our life with dignity dependent on earning an income through our job. This will just become unsustainable, unless we want a future devastated by misery (few super rich and a vast majority of poor), social unrest, violence, and illiberal regimes. Not very smart to keep this dogma in the most prosperous and rich in opportunities world ever, with machines serving us pretty much as slaves. Introducing an unconditional basic income for all, as birth right, seems to be the most reasonable solution to avoid a dark age for humanity. Possibly the only solution, like it or not.
Socialism strikes back?
The return of socialism, in a different form, seems to be inevitable, also because we can’t keep aiming to perpetual growth of production and consumption. It’s unsustainable to the point of threatening life on Earth through pollution and climate change. If our species wants to survive (or survive in decent conditions) we need to switch to a system based on efficiency, sustainability, community, and resource sharing. Today’s technology makes building this system possible for the first time in history.
The socialism I am describing is nothing we should fear like those we experienced in the last century. Blockchain by its nature should eradicate the flaws that made socialism turn evil in the past (centralisation, bureaucracy, corruption, plus lack of transparency, meritocracy, and means for self realisation).
Indeed, our technology has also the potential to turn our world into a totalitarian nightmare like we never witnessed before given the unprecedented, granular, and automatic control it allows. In the end though we cannot blame technology for the way we choose to use it. Machines are neutral. If people don’t like freedom or are so stupid to trust ignorant populist scum, they will get exactly what they deserve: slavery. Nowadays knowledge is always at the reach of our fingertips, we are free to speak and free to vote (in most places at least): humanity has no excuses. We are no victims. We are the makers of our destiny.
Economy of kindness: how it can work
In this future scenario I described I believe we can put in place an economy of kindness to run in parallel with the regular economy. This innovation will be made possible by the unprecedented flexibility blockchain allows. We can get creative in setting up how value is created and shared.
My idea is to create a special currency just for this economy of kindness. Let’s call this currency Kudos.
Every month, along with their basic income (plus their income from work, if they have one), people will receive by default a personal allowance of kudos. The peculiarity of kudos is that you won’t be able to spend those you receive as a personal allowance every month by the system. Those can only be gifted to others (who will be able to spend them, with some limitations).
People will gift kudos from their personal allowance to others based on the help and support they receive from them. When giving kudos away they will need to justify the donation on their device (AI will review data to prevent frauds).
Examples of actions that can make people earn kudos from others:
- supporting those in need (sick, disabled, people with mental health issues etc.)
- providing assistance to elders (even by just spending time with them)
- educating children
- helping your neighbours
- volunteering in general
Or, why not, helping your own family or just being nice to them (I’d limit the kudos people can share within their family).
The amount of kudos people will receive every month (kudos that can only be donated) will be variable and governed by AI according to these parameters:
- Age (the older you get the more help you will tend to need. Elders would receive more kudos than the young).
- Health (those who are sick need more help and support, more kudos for them).
- Karma (measured according to the kudos you earned in your life. The more you helped others, the more you will get help later in life).
In practice the system will be designed to incentivise the young and able to support those in need.
What can people do with kudos received from others? These kudos are intended as a gift, a reward for our good deeds, not something to get rich with. To keep it this way, I would set limitations to the kudos we receive from others such as these ones:
- they can’t be given away to other people (although you can buy gifts for them, and these gifts can’t be sold — AI would know…).
- they can’t be used for business purposes.
- you can accumulate them but they need to be spent within a time limit (say, 2 years) or you lose them (they will still count for your karma).
Typically, kudos would be spent on goods, gifts, food (i.e. a good restaurant), holidays, entertainment. They will be like a bonus to make our life better in a way that basic income won’t allow as that would cover just our basic needs. If you want better food, you have to earn it, either by working (as today) or by being kind to others.
As we have been able to build an economy that incentivises greed and self interest, we should be able to build a parallel economy that incentivises kindness. Today we finally have the technological means to do it.
That’s all for now. I put it down very simple, I realize life and humans are complex, plenty of adjustments will be needed to make this economy of kindness work and avoid abuses. But let’s not forget that this economy will be governed by an exceptionally smart AI that will reason on parameters similar to the ones I defined, which can all be measurable and instantly communicated in automatic.
This is just version 0.1, your contribution even in form of criticism is very welcome!
Image: Barabeke, I, Gorilla III, BBK08X003.