Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Differentiating "Open Source" and "Open Currencies"

Alan’s last couple of posts have attempted to address confusion Openness and what we mean when we talk about that with respect to currencies or the new economy. Responses from various folks indicate that more clarification would be useful.

Let’s start by talking about Open Source Software.

Basically this means the source code of a software program is available and licensed in a way that would allow people to download it and adapt it for their own use, and possibly republish modifications for others use.

Open Source is a HUGE BREAKTHROUGH in terms of an Information Age gift economy. Software developers have learned that we can actually produce better software which evolves and adapts more quickly by freely sharing the product of our labor and asking others who use it and adapt it to also share their changes back to the community.

This is a huge strategic advantage over closed and proprietary software applications. In the currency space, Cyclos is probably the most feature-rich and mature example of an Open Source application. It continues to evolve and grow because of the Strohalm Foundation and a supportive base of users and geeks. However, it is built in the traditional siloed computing paradigm.

Traditional Siloed Computing

The traditional approach in pretty much all computing and information technologies is to separate applications into very distinct silos. This means, we run our applications in a very controlled environment (whether the original source code is open or closed). We keep our applications secure by limiting access to our server and databases.

If somebody penetrates the "castle walls" which protect our applications, they can wreak all kinds of havoc: change permissions, modify source code, delete files or records, modify data in the database, change accounts or passwords, etc.

This whole approach creates an inherent power imbalance between a very clearly defined "us" and "them." There are those who control the server, applications and settings, and then there is everyone else (such as users of those applications). The people who can go inside the castle walls control everything, the people outside the walls don’t.

Currently all software applications, whether open source (like Cyclos) or proprietary (like Paypal, banking software, the Visa Network, ACH or GETS) operate inside this siloed approach.

Why We Need Open Computing

What we are undertaking with the Metacurrency project is no small feat, because we are talking about a whole new architecture for software applications and information technologies. And this is why we’re spending so much energy clarifying what we mean by OPEN.

What happens if you want to write a check against your bank account, but there is a discrepancy between what you believe your balance is and what the bank says? Who is the authority? Who decides whether the check clears? Who decides what fees you’ll be charged if it doesn’t? What interest rates you’ll earn or pay? What other random fees and charges may happen? What the rules are and when they change? How much you can withdraw from an ATM in a single day? Etc…

The short answer: THEY do. Your only option is to move to another bank. Another bank where you'll be in the exact same position again. One group of people holds all the cards, makes all the rules, sets all the policies. And you have no authority to represent your own account, your balance, the rules you’ve agreed to, etc.

So, I ask you... If we are making a whole new model for currencies, do we want to repeat that pattern? Are we going to just trust that well-meaning, community-minded folks will never abuse the inherent power imbalance built into that approach to computing?

There's a reason for the saying: "Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely." Currencies are extremely powerful tools. If we want to break the pattern of humanity serving currencies and instead have currencies serve us, then we must break the architectural pattern of power imbalance which gives one group ABSOLUTE POWER and withholds it from the bulk of participants. It is an inherently corruptible structure. If we build the new economy on this inherently corruptible foundation, can we expect any outcome other than corruption?

Exactly how naïve are we?

We need a whole new model of computing which allows BOTH individuals and communities to be sovereign entities and maximizes the freedom of independence of both for a truly Open Economy.

Currencies Are Like Games

We find that currencies operate very similar to games. Currencies are a shared set of agreements about value, counting and transacting with each other just like games function by a shared set of rules, scorekeeping and making plays. Players choose which games they want to play, their strategies, their own moves and they should be able to see the part of the game relevant to their play. Each player is sovereign.

The rules may evolve, but players should not be able to change them willy-nilly. The rule-changing function operates at a different layer of governance than players making plays. BOTH levels need to have their own sovereignty. College football and professional football leagues can and do make different rules. And it’s important for players, spectators and referees to know the rules the game is being played by at any time.

If you want to play football with a group of friends in the park, you all can make your own rules deciding to play touch football instead of tackle. Each community of play is also sovereign. But a player on the field never make decisions via community governance, they choose for themselves where to run, throw or block.

Should the game of currencies provide any less? Under the current system, you are playing a game of earning dollars, but for most of the players, the rules are not visible, the state of the game is not visible and they are not even an authority able to represent plays they’ve made or their current status in the game.

Imagine trying to play chess where the rules change without your knowledge or consent, you can’t see the state of the board, you don’t know what plays your opponent is making, you aren’t even authorized to represent the plays that you yourself have made, and you're not allowed to quit the stupid game. Does that even sound fun?

Our Approach to Open Computing

We identify three core components for an open, distributed, and decentralized approach to computing and currency architectures:

1. Open Transport: A protocol which can be used for participants to directly interact with each other and for any currency to interact with any other currency.

2. Open Rules: A means of representing the rules so players know what game they’re playing, what plays are valid to make, how those plays are handled and how any game/currency interacts with other games/currencies.

3. Open Data: A tamper-proof way of distributing data so there is no centralized point of failure nor power imbalance between the participants and the management/governance of a currency.

Digging Deeper into Open Data

Alan has mostly spoken about items 1 & 2 (using the metaphor of HTTP and HTML). This metaphor falls a bit short because, generally speaking, web pages don’t alter the state of other web pages, but connected games or currencies do. As mentioned, this certainly includes the ability to have universal IDs, but that is fairly negligible part of the problem we're addressing (so we don’t even mention it in our list). We can use something like OpenID for now, but in the long run we need a completely un-enclosable namespace with no central or top authority. [But that is a conversation we’ll reserve for another time.]

I believe that the most groundbreaking part of the model has to do with item 3 – Open Data. Instead of managing data integrity and security through exclusion and obfuscation, we need an inclusive architecture THAT BUILDS INTEGRITY AND SECURITY INTO THE STRUCTURE OF THE DATA ITSELF. (Sorry for shouting, but I want to underscore that last point.) That is the only way to transcend the technological power imbalance between admins and users which is inherent in siloed computing architectures. [See previous post about Open Data]

The mechanisms for doing this involve new technologies that have never been assembled in this manner before. It means having a distributed, segmentable data engine which can store chains of linked, digitally-signed transactions. You can sort of think of this as using the digital signature validation that GIT uses for source code repositories, but for a distributed database application. It would also be helpful to the means to run signed instances of distributed applications and embed them in this distributed data engine.

This enables you to validate any play (via its digital signatures and copies from various players, governance bodies or 3rd party notaries/auditors) and to see the state of play for any player. However, this does not necessarily mean complete transparency of all data. You can encrypt secret data into the transactions, or couple private entries in your own private data store to transactions via their transaction id as a foreign key. This is just like how in some games, you receive cards that are face-down, for that player’s eyes only. Other players can see that they’ve received a card (that a transaction was made), but cannot see the content of that card.

If the governance of a currency gets bogged down in bad politics, makes bad decisions about rules, or even gets shut down, the players can pick right up where they left off with their own tamper-proof account statuses by selecting an old rules version (or forking with a new version) and deciding to continue the play. In this kind of true peered architecture, there’s no way to force a game to shut down as long as there are players that want to keep playing it.

Twollars as a Open System

Twollars gives us a glimpse of this power. You can define a new currency and anybody can use it via a public transaction medium (Twitter). Everybody can keep their own records (or record ALL transactions in the currency), transactions are transparent in the twitterstream, and if the twollars tools went away, you could keep using twitter on your own and track the transactions yourself.

Twollars have an open transport, and completely transparent transactions, Unfortunately, they still rely on centralized Twitter servers, the method for defining rules is rudimentary and not transparent to users, the data is not distributed, there is no accommodation for privacy (cards face-down), you have to compete for names in a limited twitter-account-namespace, and the currencies don't interact with each other.

Even so, it's a beautiful step toward an open transaction architecture. Through it, you can begin to imagine new types of currencies and easy ways of transacting which don't involve too much effort for the start-up team or currency participants.

Final Conclusions about Open Currencies

Open Source Software in siloed architectures still creates closed games with a clear division of us/them between system managers and players.

Openness is NOT the same as Transparency. Privacy can still be accommodated as appropriate to the rules of the game being played.

New platforms and data structures are required to for truly Open Currencies, and we’re busily building them.

I hope this helps with the outstanding questions. :)

P.S. Not to confuse matters, but we are also releasing all of the Metacurrency tools and platforms as Open Source Software. We also believe that is still an important part of Openness.

MetaCurrency and Cyclos - Clarifications on Open

It has been requested that we try to describe the nuances of “open” and how the MetaCurrency Project compares with Cyclos in this department. I am not sure I am the best person to do this (Arthur and Eric are definitely more qualified), but here is my best attempt to describe the various types of openness we are talking about.

Open source is great. This means being able to openly access source code, change it, and share changes with a community of developers. Very awesome. And for Cyclos’ open sourceness I heartily applaud it.

However, when people set up an instance of Cyclos, they are establishing a place where users have to set up an online identity (or account), and that ID is only relevant to that currency. I can’t use my ID to participate in other currencies or access other currency platforms (like GETS), so it is a closed network. I also can’t use my ID to set up a new currency with access to the same user base. This means that if the governance (no matter how inclusive) screws up, the users become scattered. People wanting to trade become dependent on a structure that may not serve them, because the currency is operating in a informational silo.

In contrast, if I could use my ID (or account) to establish new currencies or participate in any existing ones, the ecosystem of currencies could freely evolve. It wouldn’t be a huge deal if one currency turned out to be flawed because anyone using that currency would be connected to the broader network and could simply play a new game.

Before SMTP, email was similarly challenged. I could email others using the same service provider, but I couldn’t email people outside the service. So, open standards are the key. When SMTP was invented, email took off. When HTTP and HTML were invented, users could suddenly get ANY information resource from ANY server, and the world-wide-web was born. Closed networks (like Prodigy) didn’t provide that kind of dynamism, so they quickly disappeared.

The MetaCurrency Project is doing the same thing for currency as HTTP and HTML did for the web. It is establishing a simple protocol for defining a currency game, and making a play in that game. So anyone using a currency service provider will be able to play in any game they choose or start new games of their own design. That is very different from anything that has come before in the currency world.

What really excites me about this new world is the implicit invitation to developers to make client software that serves different needs. Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Flock are all browsers that serve different needs, but they all use HTTP and HTML. Java, flash, php, etc. are all things that evolved to work along side html as the needs arose. I imagine an analogous pattern will manifest with currency. Developers will come up with new client features that we can’t even imagine yet. People will find uses for currency in places we never dreamed of. Did Tim Berners-Lee fully anticipate how much was going to come from http and html? Probably not. A tidal wave of innovation was unleashed by the openness of the web. Similar innovation will be unleashed by openness of a currency protocol.

So, Cyclos could become more open by adopting these open protocols, enabling it to communicate with ANY other client using the protocol. It would also be more open if it allowed users to create their own currencies rather than depend on administrators to do so.

I hope this clarifies.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

HTTP and Metacurrency

For anyone not paying attention to the Internet (and since you are reading this blog, I consider that highly unlikely), the last fifteen years have seen a massive transformation in almost all nooks of society due to this marvelous invention. The Internet itself has been around for decades in various guises, but it wasn’t until the advent of the World-Wide-Web (from now on “WWW”) that the Internet gained mainstream acceptance.

The WWW was built on a few remarkably simple yet profound principles. At the core of the WWW is HTTP
(hyper-text transfer protocol). HTTP is simply a way of having one person using a computer connected the web make a request for any information resource on any server also connected to the web. In other words, it is a way of saying “Hey, I want this information resource.” and then being able to receive the reply “Okay, here it is.” Requesting information from any computer on the network sounds horribly mundane, but think about how different that is from previous forms of mass communication. Previously, all mass communication had to pass through gatekeepers. The New York Times’ famous motto does more to illustrate this point than anything else: “All the news that’s fit to print.”

In other words, some authority or middleman had to approve your message for mass communication. Sure, there was freedom of the press, and, in theory, you could start a newspaper that printed the things you wanted to say, but how many people could realistically do that? Doing so was cost prohibitive for 99% or more of the population. HTTP changed all that. What sounds simple, “I want this information resource” / “Here it is”, is actually at the core of a new paradigm in publishing. Anyone anywhere can now instantly request any information resource on any server connected to the web. This ability enables direct communication between the consumers of information and the producers of information. A third party is no longer needed to mediate this exchange.

Today, we see the results of this amazingly simple yet profound pattern of communication. The newspaper business is about to go bankrupt. The music industry is in a similar predicament. Even advertising is floundering. Fundamentally, the democratization of communications has taken a GIANT step forward. All because of “I want this information resource” / “Here it is.”

Let’s now look at how this relates to currency. As Eric Harris-Braun has posited, let’s consider for a moment that a currency is a game we play among each other with an agreed upon set of rules. If we think of all currencies in this light, the equivalent statement of “I want this information resource” / “Here it is” would be “Here is a game I am playing” / “Here is a play in that game.”

Right now all our currency games are mitigated through an authority or middleman just as publishing was before the WWW. With dollars, banks are in charge. With commercial barter, commercial barter companies are in charge. Even with time-banks, a relatively benign form of currency, there is a central organization that is “in charge.” In theory, we can create our own currency providing organization, but in practice, who among us has the time? Doesn’t that sound a little like newspapers before the WWW?

Does this mean that the advent of a "MetaCurrency Protocol" (analogous to HTTP) will mean that currency systems won’t need people whose job it is to perform maintenance on the currency (brokering transactions, strategically signing up new users, etc)? Of course not. What it means is that anybody will be free both in theory AND in practice to start new currencies whenever they deem it necessary, and to effectively engage potential users of that currency.

Currently, if we want to trade goods and services, we need to use a currency created and administered by a them. We can’t opt out of these systems, because to do so would be to lose the ability to trade. This means we are coerced into playing currency games we may not want to play, or for that matter even know the rules of. In the new model, if the managers or the rules of a particular currency aren’t serving the needs of the users, users can go elsewhere without forfeiting their ability to trade. For example, I can still read the New York Times, but I can also get news from blogs. I don’t NEED the New York Times (or its analogs) for news anymore.

In short, this new “MetaCurrency Protocol” (or MCP) will create the same fundamental transformation in the domain of currency as HTTP did in the domain of publishing. Think of the possibilities. We have only just begun to discover our true potential as a species.

Please see “The MetaCurrency Project” for more details. Big thanks to Eric Harris-Braun and Arthur Brock whose work on same have illuminated these possibilities.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Meaning of Open

I have been doing my best in recent weeks to drum up enthusiasm for creating an “open” economy. Here in Portland, I travel in both tech savvy and tech challenged circles. My experience has been that while the tech community really embraces “open” as a practice, the non-tech community seems a little bewildered. And what’s more, both communities seem to have confusion around applying the word “open” to anything currency-like. So here is my attempt at clearing the cobwebs.

At its heart, “open” is about creating a new commons. In medieval Europe, there were common grazing pastures in many settled areas. These “commons” were not owned by any person or entity, and were used by all the residents to graze their animals. For a variety of reasons, beginning in the late 13th century, these commons began to be “enclosed” by less-than-common interests. The “tragedy of the commons” refers to what happens when individuals over-exploit the commons, each in their own short-term best interests, to the detriment of the group’s long-term interests.

Since this period of time, a major political debate has existed about how to “govern” the commons. Left-leaning people usually think the government should be in control of the commons, and right-leaning people usually think private commercial interests should. Legitimate arguments abound on both sides of this debate. Conservatives argue that the government can’t be trusted, and that the free market is the best way to govern everything. Liberals argue that the government is the only defense against the havoc the free market can wreak. However, in both of these scenarios, the commons really doesn’t belong to us anymore.

In recent years, the commons has been mostly in the hands of a “them.” Whether that them is a government or a business, it is still a them we give up our sovereignty to. It took the development of software to remind us that there is a third way.

Since software is so darned complicated, it became very common among programmers to share bits of code. In fact, the only way much software is even possible at all is through sharing and recycling code that has already been written. Few in the coding community wanted to completely reinvent the wheel every time they sat down to write a new piece of software, so everyone benefited. Hence was born, “open source” (source as in “source code”).

This new kind of commons is different from the old kind since it is no longer tied to the physical world. A commons of land is finite and bounded. A commons of knowledge is neither.

Wikipedia is the most often cited example of this kind of knowledge commons. The Wikimedia Foundation does not take ownership of the content of wikipedia. The content belongs to everyone. Anyone can duplicate all of the content and set up a parallel service should they so choose. So while the Wikimedia Foundation may administer the site, fundamentally they are not a them. Should they start mishandling the site, a new site with identical content would pop up overnight. This openness keeps The Wikimedia Foundation honest, and working for the benefit of all. Compare that with government. Sure, if we’re lucky we can vote out a bad leader after four (or eight) years, but do we have the ability to change the agenda? Not really, and certainly not in a particularly dynamic or responsive way. Government is a them. Wikipedia is an us.

So how does this all relate to open currencies and open economies? Tom Greco refers to the space in which money operates as the “credit commons.” In other words, the credit commons is the common space in which we make rules for issuing and accepting IOUs. So far, this commons has been exclusively created, governed, and managed by a them, be it the government or banks.

Even well-meaning community currency practitioners are all too often a them in their own communities. When the them messes up, the community pays the price. Open currencies remove the need for a them. We will only need an us. Of course, there will still be people whose job it is to help maintain the currency, but they will have that job because they’re serving the community, not because the community has given over its sovereignty to a them.

If The MetaCurrency Project is based on openness, is it different from the open source CC software, Cyclos? Enormously. Remember Prodigy? Prodigy was a closed proprietary attempt at the World-Wide-Web. While it gained some traction in the early 90’s, there really wasn’t widespread adoption of the Internet until http and html enabled the open network that is the current World-Wide-Web. What would have happened if Prodigy had been open source, but still only operating in a closed network (like Cyclos)? Probably nothing. What enables the web is the ability for anyone to request any resource anywhere in the network using open standards of communication. Open. Who would use a service that only gave them access to some of the content that’s out there? Unfortunately, that has been the pattern in the community currency world. Creating lots of small, closed (and sometimes proprietary) networks. I would assert that until a comparable set of open standards exists for the community currency world, it is unlikely to be of any more significance than Prodigy.

That is what the MetaCurrency project and open currencies are all about.

Monday, May 4, 2009

We use currencies to keep records of currents...

I originally posted this to the Complementary Currencies discussion group on Skype in response to a question from Christoph Hensch. But it probably merits inclusion here.

Christoph, I believe we are in the lazy habit of thinking that the flow of the currency itself is the one that matters instead of the actual flow of goods, services, resources, knowledge or participation which flows COUNTER to an exchange currency.

Those real-world currents shaped and enabled by currencies are what make them so valuable and powerful.

The currency itself is actually just a flow of information. But there are two reasons we myopically focus our attention on the currency flow as if it is the one that matters.

1) We are big-brained, symbol-using creatures, and it's much simpler to us to deal with those nice clean symbols than the actual sloppy flows (dollars are easier to account for than time, various units of various things and other stuff which doesn't even unitize well (such as the state of relationships)) and

2) The REAL flow is an event which happens in a moment and is gone. If you were NOT there to witness the service being performed, the good being exchanged or the participation of that person, then once that moment has passed, the only consistent way we have of knowing what occurred is the record we keep of the event. We use currencies to keep records of currents.

I believe this is the single MOST CRITICAL CONCEPT for currency practitioners to grasp. It allows us to break out of bad habits of thinking about currencies in very outdated ways (such as believing they have or should have intrinsic value because precious metals were once used as coins). This allows us to see currencies for what they truly are: formal systems which shape, enable and measure currents which allow communities to interact with those currents.

Let me paint a more concrete picture. Imagine being out for a walk in the snow, and you see a set of small animal tracks where it bounded out from under a hedge and crossed a field toward another shrub. Then you see them end in a sudden deep indentation, with some wingtip marks on extending out from either side. These tracks tell a story -- a flow of resources and relationships that took place in that field.

Of course, the story itself has passed. All we have left are the tracks. But the tracks can tell quite a lot to the right set of eyes: what types of animals were involved, how long ago it happened, which direction the bird flew off, etc. This is the role that currencies play in our economy. Actual currents of resources and relationships occurred and currencies are the tracks they left behind. The tracks are very informative to the right eyes, so we use them to make business and policy decisions.

Different currencies leave different tracks. The design of the currency makes certain things visible and leaves others invisible. It also determines who has what ranges of movement and track-laying powers.

LETS and Time Dollars have flows of currencies as units are transferred from account to account even if they are a mutual credit currency with a NET total of zero units at all times. Individual account balances are not necessarily zero, and the changes of these balances tell a story about relationships and resources as they moved within the community. It is those counter-flows which the currencies enabled and also the different mobility and track-laying powers that they gave to people who may be disenfranchised from dollar access.

The real power that we gain from these insights is that MONEY is not the only kind of CURRENCY. There are many other currencies that we use. We know that we use currencies as a medium of exchange, but also as units of account or measure, as stores of value, and even as tokens of status, worth or reputation.

Our real power as currency practitioners comes in understanding how we currently use these tools in our communities to lay value-tracks and all the ways that currencies can (and should) be used to track our stories of value.

We value excellence in a chosen domain. For many, winning an Olympic Gold Medal stands as the ultimate symbol of achievement within a sport. But it is not the gold that makes it valuable. In fact, different gold medals have been traded and sold. Their price has been determined by who won it when and how noteworthy their accomplishments were. Olympic medals are a token of status currency which tell us a story about races which have long been run.

Even though they can’t be traded, the points, scores and times achieved in each Olympic competition are also currencies which tell a more detailed and nuanced story of participation which has passed. The possibility of winning a Gold Medal shapes the flow of participation of millions of athletes all over the world. Scores are our official way of keeping TRACK. There is a formalized system of agreements about what counts and how it is counted. Certain people or roles are the ones allowed to ISSUE scores and medals. You cannot issue them yourself.

Anyway, I don’t want to wax at length about the various non-monetary currencies we actually use and why they are in fact currencies, there will probably be disagreement enough over this one example.

But let me leave you with one thought. There is incredible power in this model of understanding currencies which is largely untapped. Money is so powerful, because it is a currency, not just because it is a medium of exchange. Currencies are the means by we collectively interact with real flows of real resources. Healthy design and implementation of truly powerful currencies at all levels of endeavor gives us so much more than we get from money substitutes.

I look forward to partnering with you all in that context.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

MetaCurrency Video (6 min w/ transcript)

The MetaCurrency Project from alan rosenblith on Vimeo.

F: Why is the open source economy important to talk about now?

A: [0:12] 25 years ago, if you had a decent sized business and had to choose technology platforms for increasing the productivity of your business, streamlining your operations, that kind of thing, the safe choices were obvious. [0:26] Generally you went with one of the big players who was likely to be around and setting the standards, because everything at that time was proprietary. [0:35] So you didn’t want to go with some smaller shop that then wouldn’t be around to support your business, [0:42] because fundamentally what you were doing was tying significant value of your business and its operations to another business, another proprietary company.

[0:54] And today, the choices are very different. One of the things that has happened is that open source software has given us a completely other kind of decision to make. [1:05] It’s still possible to choose to go with a proprietary system, but it’s also possible to choose open systems that let you have more choice. [1:16] If you need to customize it, adapt it, or take it in a different direction, you’re not reliant on some third party to be able to do that because you have direct access to controlling the software itself. [1:29] And we don’t think about money that way.

F: Hmm I hear you. [1:33] How should we be thinking about money or currencies?

E: [1:39] What currency is is an endless debate, but I want to offer you a simple analogy. And that is simply to say that a currency is a set of agreements that add up to a game. [1:50] And there are players who have agreed to play in that game together using those agreements. [1:55] So the standard game that we think of when when we think about currency is the game of equitability. Right? [2:05] I have to earn money before I can take resources from the community. So I go out and earn my keep, I get money, and then I can take something back from that community by using that money to buy my food. [2:18] That’s a game we play, and that game is deeply embedded into our society. [2:23] Unfortunately, as all of us are seeing right now, that game and the structure of that game is not leading to equitable wealth-building. [2:33] And people have taken control of the production of these forms of money, and left us in a pretty bad state. [2:41] So we are in place where we need to have a newly open, democratic, easily available place to create new currency games and play them with each other.

F: [2:55] Do we have the infrastructure to use open currencies now?

A: [3:00] Currently we don’t have the tools to have open currencies. Our whole economy at the moment operates in closed proprietary systems. [3:10] When we look carefully at it, what that really is all about is information management and managing the integrity of that information. [3:20] That’s what we’re trying to do with the metacurrency project is create that new infrastructure.

F: [3:24] So what kind of new infrastructure is needed to have open currencies?

A: [3:30] There’s really three new components we need to have the tools for open currencies. [3:40] One is an open transport system for the currency messages to be sent over, as opposed to right now the Visa network is a closed proprietary thing. [3:53] The electronic banking funds transferals is a closed network just among the banks. So one thing is an open transport. [4:03] Another is opening the rules. What type of currency are you participating in, and under what ground rules? [4:11] And do you know when they change? And then the last thing is open data, [4:16] because right now, and this is kind of the norm in the computing space as well, but right now the data is protected also inside of a vault, behind big castle walls. [4:29] And you can’t represent your data as an authority. The bank is the official source of your data, and with that comes a lot of power imbalance. [4:38] They decide who has access to it. And if we want to be able to reclaim that power and choice, we actually need the technology infrastructure to support those three things: open transport, open rules, and open data.

F: [4:54] Eric, you want to add?

E: [4:57] One aspect of why you want an open rule system is transparency, so that you can tell when it’s been changed. But I think much more important with open rule systems is the openness of being able to add new rule sets in. [5:10] And the capacity of saying, “okay I like this rule set, but I also want to add this extra rule set to it. Gee, who wants to come play with me?” [5:19] And in the geek world we call that forking, right? That’s part of an open source project. What makes it so valuable is that you have a whole program, and if the people who are going down the line of developing it are neglecting what you need, you can change and add that yourself. [5:35] And if it falters, you can go and set up a new one. And that whole capacity to fork is absolutely essential to open rules. [5:45] And that capacity has to be built into the infrastructure.

F: [5:51] Hmmm, I thank you. It’s a great energy that you are carrying. You have the evolutionary impulse going with you. [6:00] You’re surfing that wave and opening new paths and possibilities for the new economy.