Sunday, 12 April 2009

The London Time Capsule

Is it me or does anyone else feel they have returned to the 20th century when using the London Tube? 

Each day I seem to spend a full hour in a World War II air raid shelter; one lacking the shared emotional energy of an impending death due to Nazi air raids, cut off from telecommunications and Internet services; not even an SMS can escape the time capsule! We enter into humdrum alienation, each acutely aware of each others presence, yet denied the liberty of expression, sat as we are: confrontationally; all dialogue silently discerned from this mornings choice of apparel. How I yearn for a telephone to break thru the rattling noise of the tube with a shrill rendition of the latest chart topping drivel! To overhear a reassuring phone conversation informing relatives of imminent arrival! To browse thru blogs, tweets, Googled answers or to send an email!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Altruistic Currency

When currency replaced bartering the moral value of one half of the exchange was lost. Since currency could be obtained from any source, traders were no longer in a position to judge the character of the opposing trader or customer by their goods. Consequently future economics were forever to favor unethical trade.

Today major energy consuming companies trade carbon offsets, whilst green energy producers trade renewable obligations certificates, just two examples of business ethics affecting profits.

With transition to a system of exclusively digital currency, or e-money, the ethical attributes may again be associated with money. Banks already maintain digital records of every electronic transaction. The next logical step is to add information about the source of every sum being exchanged, whilst also leaving a footprint on every account passed thru, so creating a currency market in which the ethical character of money has a value.

So Much Complexity, Is it Worth It?
  • Safer Business to Business Transactions : As money passes thru company or individual accounts, financial profiles of those entities are created. So providing more protection from fraudulent individuals like Madoff and Stanford
  • Protection from sub-prime lending: Any money borrowed, including details of interest rate, is part of an individual or organizations profile.
  • Providing a means of taxing black market produce, denoted import of unknown origin for instance. This would be applied during exchange.
  • Re-establishing a two sided moral value exchange.
  • Providing business and the consumer another way to make more ethical choices, when they can afford it.
  • Providing an additional way to incentivize ethical choices, e.g.: Recycling companies would offer greener money.
  • Allowing a shop or organization to more clearly identify itself ethically and be recognized as such by its trading profile: e.g. The Body Shop preferring money from green or charitable sources.
  • Associating an additional mark of respect with a persons occupation, for health care and teachers for instance.
  • Making money more noble by fitting the political profile of the individual or organization. Trading profiles could be published, displaying percentages of all money transacted in popular macro categories.
  • Imbuing a person or organisations economic presence with good will.

What Information Should be Maintained?
In light of Moore's law, we are in a position to store any amount of information about money. An initial list of suggestions for the types of information to record about money in a transaction might look like this:
  • Bank issue.
  • Resulting from export, from which country?
  • Resulting from import, produce from which country?
  • Resulting from import of unknown origin.
  • Charitable pay: healthcare, education, fire and police forces.
  • Carbon negative, neutral, positive value.
  • Location.
  • Non GM produce.
  • Organic produce.
  • Kosher produce.
  • Halal produce.
  • Fair trade.
  • Interest accrued in unknown investment.
  • Interest accrued in politically correct investment.
  • Previous owner.
Macro Groups
Clearly there are too many items of information for most people to make any quick and useful judgements about. In order to simplify this new classification of money, macro groups, relevant to each culture could be created for the various factions of society, composed of a number of limiting factors selected from the information available. For example:

  • Local: favoring exports and locally produced revenue, within a specified distance.
  • Jewish: Kosher
  • Islamic: Halal
  • Christian: Fair trade, Organic, Humane.
  • Green: carbon neutral or positive, organic.
  • Local: favoring exports and locally produced revenue, within a specified distance.
  • Generally ethical.
For the majority of us, the consumers, our everyday retail experience will not differ by much. Since money paid from a recognised employer will carry the label 'Bank issue', essentially a standard form, into which money again pools when exchanged at the bank. Gradually retail outlets would specify a preference for various currency types, offering financial as well as other incentives.
We already make ethical decisions when we purchase, additionally financial profiles of shops and organisations we are buying from could be made available.
For business to business trading many avenues of altruism are made possible, creating the opportunities for a healthier capitalism.

Associating an ethical attribute with money clearly has many advantages. Yet such a transition also has many issues which must be resolved; to name two:
  • What or who defines the exchange rate between ethical hues? A problem arises: few would deny that practicing medicine is a noble endeavor, but exactly how should that belief be quantified and by who? And what of those occupations we regard as noble but are less skilled?
  • What happens in a predominantly corrupt culture?