Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Hi. I'm the Layman Pascal. You might remember me from such exciting concepts as: the Metaphysics of Adjacency, integralist vs. integralite, the 2nd Tier questionnaire and the 5 Pillars of Planetary Wisdom-Civilization. Today I would like to introduce you to my latest innovation -- TETRABUCKS!
A tetrabuck is a possible form of integral currency which combines value from all four quadrants. That means that 25% of every dollar and every cent comes from each of the following (a) trade value (b) social approval (c) ecological utility (d) human well-being. Ordinary "orange level" money only reflects the first of these four dimensions of value. Consequently it has no choice but to function in an imbalanced and reductionistic manner. And people have to waste a lot of their time working desperately to protect valuable things which are not represent by dollars. But before we get further into the concept of non-reductionistic currency, let's quickly remind ourselves what money means...
How many chickens is a cow? Tough question. If you and I wish to trade things we need to poetically "feel out" a negotiation which represents our best guess. After a while we probably slip into some regular habits -- like five chickens per cow. Then we can start to do some interesting things. For example, we can carve a large stone disk with a hole in the center. We can inscribe the runes 5chickens-cow on it. Now we have money. Every cluster of tribal humanoids devises their own scheme to create a vibrant cacophony of local "quantities" for trading. Then the priests, bureaucrats and militias serving the city-state oligarchs will have to impose a creative standardization. Gold or some other venerably flexible material will be consecrated by the totalitarian institution which officially controls the nation-folk. A sacred "royal accountant" is put in charge of making tables of correspondences of numbers which are (ostensibly) backed up by the gold in the treasury vaults. Inspired by the new power of arbitrary currency transactions a new caste of modern, metropolitan Financialists appears. They create a diverse web of privately controlled institutions who are authorized to obey the rules which govern the "inventing of money numbers". These "banks" or "loaning hubs" move beyond gold and start using pledge-papers which promise flows of effort and energy. Such pledge-paper dollars have enormous potential to incorporate knowledge of the world and initiate building projects. The idealized trade of arbitrary pledge-dollars could act as an unseen hand which regulates society according to a higher intelligence. Trade itself could spur social progress. Unfortunately this system does not quite work in practice. Its idealized form never arrives. Its very structures inevitably produce a narrowing of wealth into the hands of pledge-dollar traders, mass environmental devastation and chaotic effects on human well-being. The failure of pledge-dollar markets, their ruthless self-preservation attempts, and their staggering blindness to their own systemic errors is called: capitalism. It provokes post-capitalistic attempts to create better and smarter markets -- attempts variously called socialism, communism, anarchism, p2p economics, etc. Such trials have sought to promote values which are excluded by the narrow connection between economic quantification and mere trade value. Thus they have sought to foil reductionistic economies with decommodifications, quality-not-quanity, and "beyond growth" notions. Yet in practice these attempts have proven to be overly idealistic, hard to set up, strongly opposed and vulnerable to every kind of human corruption. The ethical force of post-capitalism has not yet been equaled by the emergence of post-capitalistic structures. In particular the question remains: where should pluralistic and trans-pluralistic economies get their "numbers" from? What quantification engines should be employed and what logic should they use?
New currencies may breed like bit-coins in digital hives but what sort of information about the world is being enfolded into these digits? As integralites we must be very concerned to make sure that new currencies try to encoded value in UR. LR, LL and UL domains. If this could be done then anyone making money would be benefiting the quality of human and ecological life. And all those who are idealistically concerned would have an incentive to engage more dynamically in economic markets.
Basically we need the "numbers" which are being entered into the economy to indicate four simultaneous values: human well-being (UL), social approval (LL), trade value (LR) and the ecological worth of organisms and resources (UR). At the moment we attempt notoriously to gauge the economy according to GDP. That is a huge problem because it does not distinguish between benevolent and malevolent forms of trade. GDP goes up when resources are squandered, when objects become trash, when crises occur and when speculators decrease the relative worth of actual resources. GDP means that we are rewarding ourselves for doing those things. A few alternatives exist. Famously there is a "Happy Planet Index" which evaluates human happiness relative to carbon footprint. That is a great start because it involves personal and ecological value. But it has some real problems. Amish people and South Sea Islanders score the highest on this economic chart. That's nice but "low carbon footprint" also means less creative effect upon the world. These groups are not inventing the internet, going to the moon or curing AIDS. And there is always a risk that religious and racial groups with overestimate their own contentment as a show of fidelity to their group. Clearly we need something more sophisticated. Let's look at each quadrant:
UPPER RIGHT. What is a tree worth? Organisms do not currently get numbers. That seems somehow appropriate and also we think it would be pretty hard to give them numbers. But if a tree has no monetary value then cutting it down and selling the lumber for 5000 credits is a clear profit. But what if the living tree (a lifetime of oxygen production, carbon sequestration, soil integrity, etc.) was actually worth 10,000 credits? Then selling the lumber would be a loss of 5000! No greedy person would cut that tree down without a very good reason.
Where to start? Some "ecological economists" have already started giving a market value to the existing environmental resources of our planet. Every organism is a percentage of the overall value of the ecosystem.
UPPER LEFT. A sleep-deprived, angry, malnourished person lowers the average inner well-being of humanity. But that does not change the $50 in my pocket. Maybe it should. What if it did? What if the average bio-psychological wellness of "a human" -- more abundant states and feelings -- actually effected the value of money? However imperfectly this process might be to start... any start will be an improvement. Under such a system, any "making of money" is correlated directly to an experiential improvement of human feeling.
Where to start? This will necessarily involve some subjective reporting and some neuro-biological data. Body chemistry and brain waves are a good place to start. They are objectively quantifiable and systems like "neurofeedback" and "brain training" already specialize in digitally quantified connections between brainwaves and subjective states.
LOWER LEFT. Is trade value the same as social approval? No. Recent studies show that unpopular companies are not punished in the capitalist marketplace. There is no functional feedback. And having a legion of exuberant Twitter followers does not necessary gain you any cash. Artists, thinkers and entertainers suffering from free digital access to their content would be empowered and liberated if their "approval" were already a form of monetary wealth.
Where to start? Google. Youtube. Facebook. Likes and links. Google's rise to power was based on their notion that "links" are a form of recommendation. Combine this with "likes" and you find that today's largest companies are already banking on the quantification of social popularity for their own benefit. This could be extended to become a general part of the economy built implicitly into the very numbers of our money.
LOWER RIGHT. This is the value established by potential trades. It is already what our economy runs upon.
Imagine that each of these contributes something like 25% of the value of any amount of money. It is complex. It will be work. It will have problems. But our current system has constant problems AND massive proven flaws AND does not take the four quadrants of value into consideration. It is hard to imagine social progress as long as we are running around trying to exploit or rebalance the fact that trade-value is not necessarily linked to social approval, human well-being and ecological utility. And there is no idealistic form of future economy which can operate as long as it does not provide a mechanism for self-serving sociopaths to make things better for everyone. Orange meme is not going away. Red meme is not going away. Immoral, non-empathic psychopaths are not going away. Our only hope is to devise a system in which their desires have good effects for everyone else... and in which the best, brightest and most sensitive people feel that the world market is really something they want to get involved.
So I give you (in admittedly an incomplete form) THE TETRABUCK!
The value of a dollar is constantly changing. Terms like “inflation” and “currency trading” remind us that numbers in our bank accounts do not have an absolute worth -- but rather they indicate our temporary share of a general economy that is always in flux. While this was true of paper money and even of gold coins, it becomes especially obvious with digital currency. International electronic systems can provide us with real-time updates about the shifting conditions that determine how much our numbers are worth... and where they are coming from.
Many of us long for an old-fashioned sense that the dollars in our pocket are firm and reliable but we will have to get this sense of confidence from somewhere else. Treating money like an “object” makes us easy to manipulate by those people who have their sharp eyes upon the flux. And it also leads us to a selfish view which ignores the ways in which our wealth is constantly dependent upon general circumstances.
Our social credits are abstract units which are stored in various accounts. They may be bank accounts, savings bonds, gift cards, lines of credit or a $10 bill. Each of these is simply our current share of the total possible credits in the system.
How is are these numbers determined? They are currently determined by trade agreements. Your salary is a trade agreement -- numbers for service. The price of a hamburger depends upon trade agreements... or “what the market will bear”. It has been asserted by ideological capitalists that this is a nearly perfect system. They claim is that the number of credits people are willing to promise to exchange for anything IS a number which already includes all human concerns within it. However there is a constantly slew of studies indicating that in most cases this does not really happen. The idealized market place does not exist. Our world is filled with people complaining that human, ecological and social values are not adequately represented by the relative “wealth status” which is the output of the Economy.
From an integral POV we would say that where wealth (w) simply equals promised exchange value (xv) there is a reductionistic “flatland economy”.
Integral Theory does not invent the values which it describes. Quadrants, levels and lines are being continually asserted by all sorts of people from every angle. Integralism consists of the attempt to stabilize these existing, interactive forms of value within the basic system map. That is the innoculation against reductionism. Therefore it should be apparent that the basic integrative move in economics is likewise attempt a conscious stabilization of the basic complementary value-spheres within the basic representational unit of the economy... the currency.
An all-quadrant currency is the simplest kind of integrative economic seed. This is what I call “tetrabucks”. It means that we define the amount and worth of the numbers as as relative share of FOUR interlinked economic value-spheres: exchange, ecology, human feeling & social approval. W = xv+ev+hv +sv.
xv is simply determined using our current market mechanisms. We hope to improve these mechanisms, eliminate parasite distortions, etc. but “tetrabucks” can be implemented prior to the success of such endeavors.
ev is a measure of the total functional utility of bio-material resources which make up the biosphere. The purchasing power of our credits must be tied to the relative abundance of life-positive environment conditions. And the simplest way to start doing this is to begin the mandatory inclusion of the pre-processed value of ecological resources within basic economic calculation. Within the calculations which determine the value of one’s money itself.
hv must be an objective measure of human inner well-being. The experience of “inner richness” requires at least a token representation within the real economy. This can be done initially by resort to our current best notion of the body chemistry and neuro-electronic patterns associated with “flourishing”. But in order to make in generally benevolent this number must be derived as the average well-being of all those who are participating in providing their subjective condition.
sv is a degree of interpersonal edification. It is a combination of at least the “how much” and “how intensely” of standard social indicators of affinity/popularity AND some equivalent measure of quantity and intensity as a measure of informed interest in the quality, suggestiveness and structural coherence of any person, product or service. Again, the benevolent switch to four-value currency does not have to wait until the many problems of fairly evaluating social approval are taken into account. They may actually be more quickly addressed once they become serious economic players.
It should also be noted, as common sense indicates, that the “owner” of a product or service is legally entitled to the credits which correspond to the popularity of their creations. Thus a miserable author of a beloved classic has more social wealth (and therefore more REAL wealth) than his personality would suggest. And conversely, a popularly used product which everyone finds off-putting or reprehensible should suffer direct negative feedback without resort to hypothetical future “market mechanisms”
Our goal must be threefold:
1. Seed and promote the idea of a minimally all-quadrant economy
2. Experimentally implement versions of the idea
3. Improve and expand the adequacy of these versions.
Pascalakirti, Happy New Year's evening to you, sahib. I simultaneously like & appreciate this idea, and dislike & fear it. And I think that's a good start: creative thinking on such core issues must push and challenge the envelope of habit and expectation. On the one hand, the "tetrabuck" is a very natural extension of integral thought: treating the economy like a holon. On the other hand, this is my concern: it ends up converting everything to money or "bucks," completing the "creep" that has already been taking place under the steady pressure of an interest-based economy (as money and debt grow, we need ever-new things to "monetize"). Now, we might say, this just forces us to acknowledge the value of many things that do not currently show up in our accounting. And there's good reason to desire that. But it does this by tying everything to currency, and in that sense, "money wins." Should it win? It's like the economic "quadrant" suddenly ballooning and swallowing the other value spheres, converting them to its own currency. How might we foreground other values in our social decision making, without making them into money (or without letting them be collapsed into money)?
The sense of creep is very natural. I think every sensitive person is pretty much sympathetic to a decommodification/extra-monetary approach. Yet it is pretty hard to see how that really has a chance. At the same time what we mean by "money" and "currency" is really just "numbers" and "exchanges". So it is not that money wins. It is that math and cooperative exchange gets smarter and more benevolent. Money is absolutely nothing, on the one hand, except a language in which to organize the arrangement of resources and the force of the "solar plexus". There is no future, especially in an all quadrant vision, which does not have something money-like. And presumably that will be more diverse and abstract than it is now. But will it be more benevolent? Only if we cause it to be more benevolent...
I think we have for a long time seen signs of a stalemate. A good solution, a good idea, a provocative possibility, should not just involve some form of integral concept but also provide a way which cuts the Gordian knot stretched between "commodified" and "more-important-than-commodified". Niether of those two sides, it seems to me, can possibly win. Each must made to resemble the other.
Let's get German for a minute. I think in the Heidegger (technological thought will continue, regardless of attempts to overcome or rebel, until it produces something of its own kind which transcends itself) and Hegel (Natural Spirit will continue to unfold through phases of social and material history until it can perfectly mirror, re-generate or stabilize itself in the form of the world.. i.e. the materialization of spirit) help us to understand that we need to be orienting our feelings and gropings toward those future pathways in which computational, technological reality and spiritual-organic-affective reality comes close enough to dock together.
The spiritual progress of history requires something of a different order than is requires by the spiritual progress of individual interiors. It requires an extraordinary bridge-building which increasingly reiterates the basic successful function of culture... the render of subtle reality in gross form. Computation and technology, and therefore artifact and economy, are poised to exceed their ancient distinction from spirit and nature.
This is what culture has always been doing and we must expect its next phases not only to "redress the imbalance" but also to "carry the project forward on its own terms" in the very same movement. So trans-commodification will require a profound simultaneity of (a) the style and mood of decommodification, (b) the systematic process of super-commodification.
Yes, I can relate, in spirit, to the spirit of adjacency that informs your approach (docking, co-resemblance, Deleuzian transformative becoming by drawing maximally near to the other, etc). After writing to you earlier, I began to think that, instead of arguing for keeping the economic/money quadrant in its place, we could also encourage a similar inflation or ballooning by all quadrants, so that each overlaps and encompasses the others -- each reflecting the others within it, in a sort of Net-of-Indra-esque or circuminsessional spirit (of mutual in-dwelling)...
I'm not sure how a tetra-buck would work, practically. I'd like to hear more concrete details about what you're thinking. At the least, I see a place for tetra-valuation, or for tetra-books (enfolding multiple values into our social accounting or 'bookkeeping': perhaps by further cultivating other means of 'counting value' that have already been developed, which will impact the objects and entities we value rather than the money itself).
Concrete details are exactly what we need. As with my awareness of the need to quantify "collective intelligence" to begin providing a practical metric to evaluate group-decision making systems, I fear I lack the calculus to innovate completely in this area. What I can do is press the ideas and moral necessity forward. So my tetrabucks proposal suggests places to look for acquiring preliminary quantification with which to supplement trade-value. "Links and likes", neuro-electro-chemical "wellbeing" of humans (averaged), and the estimated worth of the material resources and biological utility of organisms in the ecosystem are three areas in which numerical amounts already exist in various forms. Obviously these are incomplete but any attempt would be progress. My limited math skills suggest that weighting each domain as 25% of each quantity of "money" is a place to start. If there is a better way to try encode this data then I am excited to hear it.
It seems that no truly integrative culture can exist without ensuring that our common symbolic quantities involved "amounts" garnered from all quadrants. This is philosophically no different than saying that our language must be able to describe experiences in all quadrants.
In the end, a lot of real time data acquisition (quantified self, etc. and my "pillar" of "massive internal profiling") will be necessary. The interior-correlates of average human well-being (or at least the average of participating human beings) and the ecological situation and the social situation are in as much daily flux as "the market". But we manage in terms of the market because those number incentive people to do so. It can be done. Will these numbers perfectly depict our values? No -- but they CAN do as good as job as they can for depicting trade-goods. An element of poetry is already involved in all quantification but once numbers start showing up people can start acting on them... en masse.
I would like to know whether "folding all four domains into any given currency quantity" is the better option... or simply commodifying the outstanding three domains would accomplish this. I have the fantasy that a man in love is literally "worth more" than a man who is not in love. Likewise the feeling of abundance created by a deep breath of good air should be reflect into a man's pocket book. But how to do this? And where to start? The most naive idea is to select a group of people (for the well-being and social approval vectors) and see who they operate with a trade system that does not allow externalization of environmental costs.
I cannot imagine such things are not already being considered in progressive ecological think-tanks...
(wealth measured in social credits and belonging to a legal entity)
(conventional trade-value money) +
(the positive or negative change in the general ecological and resource utility of the biosphere) +
(the number of uncoerced "links and likes" pertaining that legal entity or its projects) +
(the total neuro-electrical, chemical and self-reported well being of all participant organisms divided by the number of participating organisms).
and presumably an economic experiment of this kind could begin with any pool of participants with any amount of data on the four aspects... no matter how sporadic and inadequate that data was to begin with.
but, as i say, i am a little shaky on whether there should be a "divide by four" in this equation or not.
I have some questions on evaluating one's social worth based on likes/links. I for one will not participate in Facebook so won't have any of those ratings. Plus my work here and on my blog might be liked by a select few with the wherewithal to appreciate it but I doubt it's going to be commercially or widely liked. So do we evaluate just on the number of likes and/or the quality and/or weight of those who like it? Also many who might appreciate my work aren't even aware of it because I have no commercial network like a tv or radio show to promote it. Yes, my audience is growing by word of mouth but that is a slow, gradual process. Much more regressive sources with media and money backing no doubt get much higher ratings based on views, likes, etc.
Which reminds me of the regressive argument that progressive radio is not 'successful' based on audience share and ratings. What they don't tell you is that the regressives own most of the major radio media and will promote their favored hosts in many cities, while severely limiting progressive voices in far fewer cities and media outlets. It is far from an equal opportunity situation.
So there are two issues here. The first is the danger that would be posed if "likes/links" (or whatever) was the only metric -- but we can presume that it will be balanced out by the other three. Secondly, is the practical question of how we determine both the number and significance of social approval indicators. Who constitutes the relevant social body? Etc. These are important inquiries which, it seems to me, people are not strongly motivated to examine. Attempting implementation will, in various ways, push innovation forward.
In particular we want to look beyond merely a "flat" rendering of social interest. We do not want a simple generic majority but rather a decent calculation which enfolds expertise. But, on the other hand, we do wish to "capture" something which already exists. Essentially popularity of various kinds -- encompassing all the potential drawbacks and errors which are possible -- is already a kind of social currency. Barack Obama and Lady Gaga can certainly cause the repatterning of resources more dramatically than I can. And to some degree that is just fine and would be better if it was better integrated with other metrics.
Democracy in the modern sense is highly flawed and represented a distorted and flat popularity contest (among other things) but we still are somewhat justified in saying that it is superior to dictatorships, etc. And the ethical/functional superiority derives from a pretty simplistic wielding of professionally distorted mass popularity. This is not ideal but represents the beginning of something.
"Non-coercive" is a fallible but necessary qualifier when it comes to policing the calculation of social approval.
Any valid attempt to capture the ongoing "vote" must move toward methods which capture not just quantity but also intensity and relevant informed-ness. Perhaps a few other factors as well.
So I'm mulling over what to include in a post called "tetrabucks 2.0" -- so all these inquiries are very useful to provoke the idea further. Basically, I'm saying that in the emerging digital economy the basic unit of currency is something like an account -- whether it be a bank account, offshore holdings, gift card or $5 bill. Each represents a sub-dividable share of the general economy which you are legally entitled to portion out. The actual worth of the "credits" contained in any of the different accounts varies constantly owning to many factors which impinge upon global currencies.
So we wish to improve these "shares of the fluctuating credits". We do not wish to do so by introducing new sources of value necessarily. Integral Theory does not create quadrants, levels and lines but rather insists that they be included in the basic map. Thus an integral economics takes a small but comprehensive set of existing value sources which already interact with economics and try to be enfold it into the basic structure of currency.
Reductionistic shares of the general economy represent a portion of the total possible pledges to initiate trade flows. W=xv (exchange value). Our minimal integral move seems to be making sure that W is definite according to all quadrants. This is especially critical given the slew of studies which reveal there is no truth to the ideological assertion that ordinary exchange value already adequately encompasses other sources of value.
So we need a formula that provides at least a beginning to a system in which w=xv+hv+ev+sv. All of these will be complex, problematic variables but not any more so than the complex problematics involved running the current economy.
The variable "sv" indicates social value. This is indicates an edifying effect that we already rely upon in many areas of life. It has at least two crucial aspects -- the standard indications of affinity of a population & the qualitative or importance indications of a population.
Popularity/affinity must be a broad indicator of "how many" and "how intensely" people are attracted to persons, services, ideas, etc. Whereas quality is an indicator of "how many" and "how intensely" informed persons find something to be intriguing, valuable, well-put together, etc. These two sets of data must be combined artfully to produce a metric of social value which, through use, will provide many avenues toward improvement of the interpersonal edification metric (sv).