Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It occurred to me a few days ago that this blog might be quite confusing for some folks. So far, we have not posted a clear overview of exactly what it is we are all discussing and exploring. I thought it might be helpful then to try to put into down-to-earth language the basic tenets of our (the contributors to this blog's) thinking.

Over the last six months, my work as a documentary filmmaker has allowed me to be in an ongoing dialog with Eric Harris-Braun and Arthur Brock about currency related issues. These conversations made clear to me that the core money issue goes much deeper than I had ever thought or imagined.

For me, their central revolutionary insight is that many social tools / institutions that we have previously put in different categories may actually share a common deep structure. The best way to understand what we mean by a "common deep structure" is to make a comparison to the concept of universal grammar in natural languages. Universal grammar is the deep structure of grammar that all natural languages share. While natural languages differ in an almost endless variety of surface ways (phonemes, written symbols, grammar, syntax, etc), all of them share the same deep structure.

What Arthur and Eric realized is that there is another type of language that humans use to coordinate group behaviors. We are all very familiar with the manifestations of this other type of language, but we don’t usually think of them as languages. Money is one (and in some ways the most obvious) manifestation of this language. Other manifestations include voting processes, grades, diplomas, reputations systems (like on Ebay), task management systems, movie tickets, and even brand labels.

What all of these social institutions have in common is that they establish flows of human action / information / meaning that, when taken together as a whole, create complex group behaviors. This includes identifying goals and milestones (both personal and at the group level), distributing labor among the members of the group (deciding who does what), creating personal and group accountability, determining the permissions and privileges of individual members if the group, and evolving the terms of these interactions as the need arises.

While we can describe piecemeal the particulars of a given flow, the complex behaviors that arise out of interacting layers of feedback become nearly impossible to describe or even imagine within the structure of conventional language. These complex flows may require an entirely new type of language to succinctly communicate; a FLOW language. For this reason, we have begun exploring the universal grammar of social contracts and the flows of human activity they enable.

As Jean-Francois Noubel of The Transitioner points out, as our society has tried to deal with complex social and environmental problems, it has become increasingly clear that our current form of collective intelligence is sadly inadequate. By understanding the deep structure of group coordinating systems, we hope to design a virtual platform that allows for the creation of a variety of new social tools that coordinate the behavior of groups while still respecting the autonomy of the individual (all open source style of course). These new tools for expressing, understanding, and influencing social flows are what we are referring to when we use the word CURRENCY.


herestomwiththeweather said...

Arthur's talk in Seattle last April was very enlightening (e.g his approach to examining the origin of words like currency). As I think about the ideas he shared, I think about how we process currency similar to how our brains act as a dual CPU system sharing a single bus to memory. The synchronous CPU responsible for language can overshadow the asynchronous one responsible for visual searching and pattern matching which is why this is such a challenging task to describe a flow language.

Arthur Brock said...

Nicely said Alan.

You make this inquiry sound deep and of profound significance.

Of course, it is both of those things. :)

[[ Woot! Comments work now! ]]

Anonymous said...

I'm going to say something that you're going to think is sheer lunacy, but there's evidence to back it up:

You've got to see the Damanhurian Esoteric Physics.

There, I said it.

"Now, was that so mad?" Well, just wait until you see it.

But before you do, realize that this is the product of one of the most ambitious and successful New Society building efforts I have ever seen.

They are 1,000 people, and have reached: 60-70% local food production, 60-70% local energy production, and are aiming for 100% by 2012. I have no doubts they'll make it.

They have one of the worlds most successful complementary currencies (il Credito Damanhuriano -- Bernard Leitaer noted it was the most successful he's seen in the Western world,) and have been using it since ~1980.

They run about 60 businesses, ranging from computer work and publishing to solar installation, experimentation, genetic field testing, and construction.

While doing all this, they also build enormous underground temples, engage in high philosophy, play games for the purpose of transforming life, paint beautiful murals everywhere and statues (for the purpose of developing solidarity, you see) up *everywhere,* run an ongoing Earth simulation, and, oh yes, they talk with the trees as well.

I will confidently say that, to the person, they're all better than me. I mean this in the sense that: "Obamaa is better than you and I." And they are so kind and generous.

Being a Damanhurian is not easy -- at all. The trade-off for all of this, is lots of very intense work -- personal, social, artistic, mental, and plain old manual labor. But, wow. What they have become!

At any rate:

They swear by their (always evolving, always changing) esoteric physics, -- a combination of imagination and high practicality and language -- and it deals with many of the kinds of things you're talking about in the "new language" idea you are talking about.

For example, it allows them to talk about time. Not time as it is measured by clocks, mind you, but rather, by time as it is felt, experienced, intuited, and lived. (The word "schedule" appears no where at all in there, though I have noted that Damanhurians all wear watches.) It allows them to talk about meaning, and dreams, and value, and complexity, and different kinds of evolution. The esoteric physics is a doorway in thinking, to imaginal realms, that connect the individual with a larger reality, and thus to make dreams come true.

So, you might want to check it out. Even though it's crazy, it, (or at least, the genre of thinking behind it,) clearly works. It's a piece of the puzzle.

So, here's another vote for esoterics.