Towards an urban economy driven by multiple values
published on 8/7/2016
Emerging high and low-tech innovations make various economic circular systems possible that are not driven by one currency, but by a variety of value systems, which corresponds to older concepts of exchange. At the same time, these new systems pressure cities to think how they should be physically but also socially better organized to accommodate such possibilities. To discuss how city dwellers can pay, get paid and store value in a more circular way, Design+Desires organized the event Money of the Future at Hôtel Droog.
In one presentation the benefits of the Blockchain technology came to light. Everyone has heard about the crypto currency Bitcoin, but its underlying technology called Blockchain is equally promising, especially with regard to energy transactions in the city. In our poll Social Citizens stated that they would like to use solar panels in their ideal city. Some, like architect Alfredo Brillembourg, don’t even mind carrying these around themselves. Precisely Blockchain could enable Social Citizens to sell and purchase their self-generated solar energy. The way Blockchain works is that it logs all transactions including information on time, date and participants. The mathematical principles establish and safeguard the nodes, which are constantly confirming every transaction and making them public, so that everyone has access to a single source of shared truth. Users then can assign any type of property to each unit, not just monetary ones, but also items such as energy in the form kilowatt-hours. Blockchain offers a new way of control for city dwellers, it contains a record of every transaction that was approved or accepted by the network of its users. It is impossible to change it without people noticing, and thereby offers maximum security. In the near future, urban electricity thus could be controlled by smart contracts.
Money of the Future at Hôtel Droog.
Another way to bring society, ecology and economy more together in the city is with the Eco Coin, which is currently being developed by Next Nature Network. The idea stems from the thought that our economy and ecology are at war with each other. For many of the companies that provide us with good and services, financial value is the main driver and goes at the expense of the environment. At this moment, our money does not benefit the biosphere we live in. For example, a forest isn’t worth anything by itself in direct economic terms, but chopped down in logs it becomes transferable and worth something. Eco Coin tries to counter this, by connecting ecology and economy based on valuing the various spheres we live in, meaning the biosphere, geosphere, but also the technosphere (e.g. our daily connections via the ever-growing internet). Citizens who, for example, recycle plastics or use a bike instead of a car will get a reward through Eco Coin. They can then use this coin to buy fruit and vegetables. It requires a social contract, which every citizen can sign; it also needs democratic voting about environmentally sustainable action; and last but not least it depends on peer-reviewing (like AirnBnB) to get awarded.
Timebank.cc predecessor: Truck system of payment by order, National Equitable Labour Exchange, July 22nd 1833 (WikiMedia).
Just like the Eco Coin, Timebank.cc is also a circular value system which depends on trust as a basic principle. Timebank wants to remind citizens that money is a human-made tool. According to them it not only represents value, but determines the value system of the society as well. Therefore they exchange services based on the duration of the labour involved, with the currency 'hour' representing one hour of labour.
Timebank.cc is in line with one of the starting points of Design+Desires. Namely, that the diversity of people in the city needs to be celebrated, because this diversity plays a great role in new innovations. Different cultures have their own values and a timebank can reflect those various values.
The money of the future in the city is about community interaction. Or, as one person from the audience put it: ‘all these inspiring and fascinating initiatives - like Bitcoin, Eco Coin, Timebank.cc, the MAEX-index and UBER - using the peer-review mechanism combined and registered with the underlying Blockchain technology and carried out through existing networks like Facebook and LinkedIn- could and would challenge the existing economy in a more sustainable and social responsible way. It is not a question if this will happen, but it can and will happen when entrepreneurial millennials find each other and join forces!’ In short, she proposes to use Blockchain technology to link a variety of circular alternative value systems to each other. This means that cities will eventually find more ways to open up and enhance their social structures, in order for people to come together and make community agreements based on values that are important to them.