Four New Breakthroughs In Road To Reputation Economy

four breakthroughs reputation economy

Every once in awhile I like to take a look at the development of the new technologies that will lead to the post-scarcity reputation economy I have discussed here at AdvancedApe.com many times in the past. Four recent stories caught my eye and so I will share them here with you.

The first two involve light, which is essentially energy, and which makes up everything in the experienced universe.

The basic unit of light is a photon. The interactions between photons create a singularly unique signature. This signature can then be used as an encryption code. This is called quantum encryption, and it will someday replace passwords made of alphanumeric symbols.

A team of European scientists have recently made discoveries that may soon make quantum encryption a reality.

A reputation economy will require information sharing that absolutely depends on authenticity and security, and since it would be impossible to replicate a quantum entanglement’s signature, it will be impossible to hack a system which uses them.


Meanwhile in Ireland, another set of researchers recently discovered a new kind of light. This new form of light does not obey the rules given to the classic forms, which will help scientists to understand all of the ways that light behaves. And what can be understood can often be manipulated.

Manipulating light in order to create matter would free us from dependency on earths naturally occurring resources, as well as the disastrous consequences that relationship with the planet can entail. Once we can remove dependence on limited resources, we will gain unimaginable freedoms through self-sufficiency. No more wars fought for control of resources and land will be necessary when you can just replicate what ever you need right in your own home.


At the end of that last bit you may have rolled your eyes and thought, oh here he goes with that Star Trek replicator nonsense again. Well, it appears that I am not the only on, as NASA has issued a challenge calling for youth to engineer 3D-printed meals for future astronauts. They are calling the contest the Future Engineers Star Trek Replicator Challenge.

Before you protest that a 3D printer is not the same as a replicator, consider that replicators will have to utilize 3D printing technology in order to rearrange basic matter created from light into complex matter like food, pants or bike parts. You can’t make a moon pie directly from moonbeams, but with 3D printing mediating the process, it will someday be possible. And having the clout of NASA behind the technology makes it seem far more feasible to the skeptical.


Between now and the post-scarcity reputation economy, there is going to be an awkward transition period. As more jobs are automated and processes streamlined, an economic system based mostly around labor is just not going to function any more. Voices from all ends of the political spectrum and many great philosophers and scientists have been calling for a Universal Basic Income for awhile now. That is, everyone makes a living wage without having to work.

The greatest opponents of this idea are those distrust the state to redistribute wealth without creating greater problems than the ones that the proposal would claim to solve. But what if a UBI were funded and coordinated by private interests? One experiment is attempting to find that out.

It may seem impossible to imagine this working, but in some ways it already does. Consider a bowling ball or a roller rink. Those facilities provide the basic equipment necessary for their use. Sure, they could make more money selling balls and skates, but that would limit the use of their facilities to those willing to make such an investment. By providing the basics, the alley or rink stands to attract more customers, and thus do better business.

Now consider that if jobs are going the way of the cassette tape, value will no longer be produced through labor. In fact, it never really was. Value is produced through market interactions. So if labor is no longer creating value, it will need to be replaced by consumption. Buying will be the new earning. A basic living will be provided, and the profiteers of industrialism will still get to keep their mansions, yachts and child sex slaves.

And if you want nicer bowling balls or skates, you can work to create new products of your own to add to your spending power. And much of that will likely be done digitally, in the form of software, 3D printer plans, replicator recipes, information sharing, entertainment and other non-tangible goods.


The future is creeping up on us faster than we can imagine. Technological development is so rapid we cannot even imagine the possibilities that await us. It is truly a terrifying and exciting time to be alive.

Check out my writings on Anarcho-Futurism at UnicornWorld.org, which is the political end of the post-scarcity reputation economy spectrum.

Packaged Death: The Perils of Mindless Consumerism

packaging

I spend quite a bit of time writing about the problems of philosophical materialism, that is, the idea that the universe is essentially nothing but matter from which consciousness just emerged out of dumb luck. While some people dismiss these concerns, not because they support philosophical materialism but because they think it is a non-issue, ideologies tend to bleed into cultural landscapes in ways that create issues we can all understand to some degree. The idea that existence is nothing more than a collection of interacting objects, a swirling cosmic mass of thing debris, empowers an ideology that only material goods can make our lives meaningful. This cultural obsession of mindless mass consumption is itself often called materialism, and it is a threat to human values and environment alike.

This kind of materialism has littered our psychic lexicon with status symbols, unhealthy attachments to objects and greed. It reduces day to day living into a maze of desperate economic activity. It enslaves us to a lifetime of meaningless employment we then justify by a misplaced pride in the size of our cage and how much booty we have dragged back to it. It has led to an economy of planned obsolescence and symbol over substance, while it instigates the vestigial evolutionary instinct that MORE IS BETTER!

One of the ways that ‘more is better’ plays out is not even in the actual consumer goods we purchase, but in the needlessly bold packaging of them that we justify with misguided notions of quality, safety and convenience. Manufacturers use excessive packaging for many reasons. They use them to protect their goods from the environment and as a simple precaution against damage during transport. Yet even these reasons cannot explain the hyperbole with which we package our goods, and the bigger culprit here is marketing. Consumer goods marketers look at flashy packaging as adding appeal and value to their products. A gaudy toy with no real play value can be wrapped in a plastic shell that gives it the appearance of being the most fun thing a child will ever own. After all, it must be great, or why would they put so much effort into packaging it?

Although safety and product protection are legitimate concerns, the ways in which they are addressed is often predicated on faulty thinking. Where hard plastic shells are made to protect goods from shipping turbulence and deter theft, the same things can be accomplished with reusable packaging supplies and clever retail displays. Safety is generally the reasoning given for the excessive packaging of food items. But locally sourced foods and careful storage and handling can do more for safety than any amount of packaging can, the number of regulations requiring certain types and amounts of packaging leads to mountains of unnecessary waste. And industrial farming practices mean our foods must travel long distances over long amounts of time. The amount of packaging in a fast food meal, from farm to table, far exceeds the mass of the meal itself.

And yet it is not just regulatory systems and industry that is to blame. The consumer, for their part, continues the legacy of waste in their own insistence that everything is packaged for their maximum convenience.

If you have ever worked in retail you know exactly what I am talking about. In my own retail experience I have seen people justify their own mindless excess on countless occasions. I have sold items the size of a cigarette box that the customer insisted they needed the large plastic bag with handles on it because that would make it easier to carry. How hard was it to carry without that? Is this a real concern that justifies another link in a chain of endless waste? I have heard customers explain that they needed a bag for a single durable item for the most mindless and bizarre reasons imaginable. I have sold people backpacks or other bags that they then wanted me to put inside of another disposable bag. I have received requests for point of sale packaging from folks who were buying a small item with the word ‘pocket’ right in its name. There is no end to the frivolous justifications for waste I have encountered in my lengthy retail experience.

Yet there is one packaging request I find more aggravating than all of the rest, and that is gift wrapping. It is not even that gift wrapping creates large amounts of waste relative to other over-packaging concerns, but more that it bespeaks the compulsive mindless culture of excess in all of its most ignorant and unexamined ways. From what I can tell there are two reasons to have a gift wrapped that make even an inkling of sense, and they are:

  • To store a gift in plain sight over an extended period of time, like a present that sits under the Christmas tree tantalizingly for weeks before it can be opened, adding value to the gift via an element of restrained curiosity fulfillment.
  • For the person giving the gift to say to the person receiving it, “Hey, I spent a long time choosing just the right gift for you, and then more time meticulously wrapping it and decorating it to show you how much you mean to me.”

When you rush into a store and buy a gift at the last minute and then make the sucker behind the counter spend excess time on your purchase by wrapping it for you, what that gift now says is, “Here, I fulfilled the symbolic gestures I am culturally bound to abide, now can I be done here?” That kind of compulsive consumerist gifting is less a way of honoring people than it is crossing them off your list so you can get back to consuming for yourself. It is lazy, thoughtless and carries a hint of insult and mockery with it.

I am not sure if the climate has been altered by human activities or not. While I suspect that it is possible, I also know that environmental alarmism has been used as a tool by the most environment-damaging industrialists as a way of selling legislative gambits that actually benefit the worst exploiters of our planet without causing any meaningful paradigm shift that realistically addresses the potential issues. What I do know for certain is that you don’t shit where you eat. There is an entire continent of human-created waste afloat in the Pacific ocean. The entire face of the planet is covered in the debris-wake of human consumerism. Even the most remote areas of the world contain evidence of humanities excessive consumption cycles. And at the same time, we have tore up the face of the planet to gather the resources lying beneath in ways that are both unsustainable and potentially disastrous at this rate. This old world may be pretty tough, but it may not be tough enough to weather our arrogant abuse of it indefinitely. Everything has its limits.

Packaging reduction alone will not save us from the potential consequences of reckless unexamined materialism, but it is a good place to start. It represents some of the most mindless and excessive exploitation of earths resources, and an awareness of the issues and concerns involved of that could beneficially bleed into our materialism problem in general. And while I also believe that post-scarcity technologies could free us from this destructive path, and that our world is more than just an object and could potentially be restored through humanities conscious willpower, we are not there yet. To get to our next stage of evolution we might have to recognize and correct our current follies. Being mindful of the bigger picture and how everything in the world is connected to everything else in some complex way is definitely part of that evolutionary process. A great place to begin changing our perspective and habits could be as simple as considering the folly of mindless consumerism at the most basic level by unpacking our pointless predilection for excessive packaging.

The Cult of Niceness

cult of niceness

The Cult of Niceness is an umbrella term that I use to describe many different behaviors and ideas. I first noticed the problem when I was only a child. Observing adults I was able to notice that they sometimes put on an appearance of niceness in order to cloak some other agenda. I began to understand that ‘nice’ was sometimes just a deceptive ruse used to manipulate others in some way. Usually just to create an image of themselves for others who did not know them well enough to see through it. Other times it was in order to coerce people into thinking, saying or doing what they wanted thought, said or done.  I quickly noted that often the attempt to appear nice was actually just a form of passive aggressiveness that somehow worked, no matter how obvious the charade seemed to me. And I quickly refused to play into that disingenuine mindgame myself.

As a result people often think I am either an asshole, socially unrefined or both. Genuine authentic honesty is a virtue we all pay lip service to, but most people are repulsed when they actually encounter it. The very same qualities that would cause people to label me also made me immune to their classifications. Integrity and consistency generally only feel good to the person attaining them, and painful to those whose cognitive dissonance they incite. People will then push you to admit to some kind of self-loathing in order to gratify themselves, and if you do not concede they will tell you that you think you are better than them and everyone else. I have never been concerned with popularity contests or other competitions. I am not trying to be better than anyone else. I am trying to be the best possible me. Along the way I am trying to assist others in being the best possible selves they can be. I have a sneaking suspicion that the more we all improve ourselves, the more peaceful, harmonious and joyful the world we share will be. So I refuse to apologize for being who I am, even if you don’t like it, or if it makes you like yourself less.

The Cult of Niceness (CON) is predicated on peoples insecurities. It is self-doubt and existential malaise regurgitated in statements synonymous with suburban mommy talk. It is the special snowflake speech mounted on the hood of day-to-day life like cattle horns on an oil magnates Cadillac.  It is an attempt to be rewarded, validated and gratified for doing absolutely nothing deserving of those responses. The most insidious part being that not only is the behavior fake and deceptive, it also takes advantage of other peoples falsehoods and self-deception. People who like themselves do not feel the need to bully others into artificial niceties through such manufactured discrepancies. While everybody knows that the person the bully always loathes most is their self. And make no doubt, insisting that others perform the same CON roles that you are trapped in is just a form of social bullying.

Social media has, like it has with everything else, magnified this human weakness to stupendous proportions. The CON is what drives most online interactions. One of the most common behaviors that makes this apparent is the act of sharing self-deprecating thoughts in order to get rewarded, validated and gratified for an apparent act of humbleness that is actually just manipulative neediness. People will describe their weaknesses, failures or other unfavorable quirks in the hope that it will get them attention. They will self-loathe in order to fish out compliments. They will don a mask of vulnerability and timid dislike for themselves just so that others will respond to them in ways that help them identify themselves as superior to others. The CON has created an ideology that suggests that superiority comes in the form of humble self-deprecation. But oddly enough, only people who really do dislike themselves can be fooled into thinking that appearing to dislike themselves makes them better than everyone else.

Numerous messages online tell us that all we need is love and that if only we were all nice the world would be a perfect place. These oversimplistic reductionisms are dangerously ignorant. Not only because they deny the value humanity receives from a complex range of behaviors, but because they also suggest that niceness is a quality only measured in appearances. People do cruel things all of the time in order to achieve the most positive possible outcomes. If you have never hurt someones feelings with your honesty in order to save them an even greater pain, then you probably have never really loved somebody all that much. Friends and family members rely on one another to deliver harsh truths that would save them from entering treachery hiding in their own blind spots.

Given that our world has become riddled with so much conceptual ignorance, we have created great areas of blindness that threaten humanity at large. Pointing out the misconceptions and false premises that these blind spots are predicated on is itself a great kindness to our entire species. But when you fail to stroke peoples delusions or confirm their biases or point out all of this behavior their reaction is usually just to label you an asshole or as socially unrefined. By protecting themselves from the abrasive cognitive dissonance you would cause them in the name of niceness, people are poking holes in their own raft and calling it a waterpark. When people have more desire not to feel like they were wrong than they do to actually try and be right, it becomes impossible to reach them. The truth often does hurt, and those who put niceness before growing pains are wearing their ignorance with an idiots welcoming grin.

I am not just complaining about the CON because I find it distasteful. I am giving a dire warning about it because it is very important for a few different reasons. The first reason is that it is an affront to reason itself. The CON is one of the things which is contributing to the dumbing-down of humanity and ushering in the Idiocracy. The second reason is that we are entering an era of humanity that will center around the reputation of individuals. If the Reputation Economy of tomorrow is built upon the falsehoods and appearances of the CON, then we will be living in an Idiocracy in which everyone appears just as robotic, plasticine and saccharine sweet as The Stepford Wives. It will be a Nerf Hell or a Smile-Or-Die Dystopia. So my warning about this problem is not the revenge or ‘diss-track’ some people will think of it as, as they act out all of the ignorance I just warned against here. It is the solemn cautioning of a Trojan Horse at our gates. If we invite the CON into our lives because it sure does look pretty great on the outside, we are gonna be in for a big surprise when it starts unpacking its dangerous contents. Consider this a warning.

Just because I am suggesting that you do not take part in compulsive and coercive niceness does not mean that I endorse its opposite, compulsive and coercive assholery. Sometimes being an asshole, or doing things you know will get you labeled as one, is the course of action that will lead to the best outcomes for all. But doing it compulsively and as an act of senseless aggression is really just the same problem. The world has no shortage of people who are assholes just for sport. The internet is full of these people. This is not the opposite of the CON, it is just the other side of the same bad coin. Trying to exploit peoples weakness by provoking an emotional response just to reward, gratify or validate ones self is a giant pitfall we must avoid if we don’t wish to lead others over the edge of sanity like intellectual lemmings.

The CON is a dangerous social precedent to set. It is a falsehood of appearances with all of the philosophical complexity of a big purple dinosaur singing songs to children. It is important not to tread on the feelings of others for no good reason, but sometimes there are good reasons, and other times you cannot help how other will emotionally respond. Yet we cannot protect our Feelz to such a degree that it allows us to remain in ignorance to the extent that our species devolves intellectually in the process. Try to be nice when it is appropriate, but you are under no obligation to smile and nod bobble-headedly in the affirmative when the CON asks you to try their kool aid.

What Does the ‘Like’ Button Really Do/Mean?

like button

One of the most tragic paradigms of the human intellect is that of literalism. When we fail to address or understand things beyond their face value, beyond the most obvious observations and descriptions, we not only fail to fully understand something, but gain a false and delusional understanding of it in the process. When so many of our starting premises for our opinions, ideas and beliefs are constructed from these literalist misreadings of reality, it begins to have a massive effect, one that remains invisible behind the wall of literalism we have constructed through consensus.

The most unfortunate sort of literalism is that which we apply to ourselves. When our self-concept and self-awareness becomes constructed around delusions spun out of a refusal to investigate our deeper motivations, intent and inconsistencies, it becomes possible for us to become our own worst enemies. We can be unwitting co-conspirators of everything that we despise in the world when we fail to read more deeply into our own thinking and behaviors. And we can also be manipulated by those with a better sense of the power of obfuscation through literalism. And as distasteful and painful as it may be to hear, most of us are guilty of taking things too literally or shallowly much of the time.

I could spend days discussing the ways in which literalism becomes a tool of self-delusion, but for the purposes of this article, I wish to discuss the function and meaning of positive social media rewards and how our failure to exercise self-awareness may be having disastrous consequences on our social and intellectual environments. So before I discuss how this literalism becomes problematic, let us look specifically at Facebook and the ‘like’ button and try to understand the full range of motivations we exercise when clicking it.

I do not specifically or literally like this, but I am clicking like (etc.) because…

  • I approve of your interest/fascination with the topic.
  • I want to appear friendly.
  • I want you to feel safe in this conversation so you continue to play along.
  • I have not liked anything of yours for awhile, so I will like this to remind you that I like you.
  • I want to remind you that I exist.
  • I really dislike ‘the opposite’ of this.
  • I feel sorry for this person and want to show support, regardless of the content of the thing I liked.
  • This confirms my biases.
  • This validates me.
  • I want you to like me.
  • I will ironically like your insult in an attempt to dis-empower it.
  • I like everything I see on this topic, regardless of actual content.
  • I appreciate that this probably annoys certain types of people.
  • I want to smash my genitals with this person’s genitals.
  • To appease The Algorithms.

Some of these reasons are purely manipulation. Some are genuine attempts at kindness. Others are measured activity for specific effect. We use likes to rig the system, whether it is the rigid social media system itself or the only loosely definable system of human relationships and social interaction. But this much is clear, ‘like’ does not always mean you actually ‘like’ something. And if we are being honest we would see that most of our ‘likes’ are either not steeped in an actual appreciation, or off of one so weak that we are watering down the nature of appreciation itself.

Human values are largely constructed from consensus. What we view as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is, at the very, least strongly influenced by what we believe others also view as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Values do not necessarily gain their worth through majority rule, but they are often formed by it. And this process is largely non-conscious. We do not walk around aware of the fact that we are absorbing other peoples values, or that we are creating them. It just happens little by little over time. There are rarely any apparent indicators of this process in the real world. Most of the reward/punishment stimulation happens in the sub-context of our interactions. But in social media, this is quite different. We are aware of our ability to reward certain thoughts and behaviors using ‘likes’ or ‘upvotes’ or any of the similar social media tools. But that awareness of the tool is becoming increasingly ignorant of the cost, long term effects and larger understanding of it. We are creating new sets of human values without really understanding that we are doing it or how it is being done. And although this is true of humans throughout history, we are now doing is at an exponentially rapid rate. We are reconstructing reality and our values at unprecedented speeds.

One can drive a car a few miles per hour and not pay much attention to what is going on around them, and there will probably not be very great consequences if something goes wrong. But when you speed up and continue to speed up more and more without raising your awareness to match, you are almost certainly heading straight for a disaster. This is true of both automobiles and social paradigms. The like button may still look and feel like a slow car, but that is because it sped up slowly without us realizing it, as often happens when we experience things incrementally relative to our position to them. That car is now hauling ass and our ignorance and/or denial is going to lead to a disaster if we don’t increase our awareness of the car, the road and ourselves.

Back to social media. The like button and its counterparts are tools that the programmers use to determine what content we will see in our feeds through calculated algorithms. This keeps their content in the range that their advertisers want. When we ‘like’ something we are setting an agenda. And when we set that agenda we are creating mainstream paradigms and manufacturing normality. And thus we are creating values. This makes social media a powerful tool for ideological revolutions. We can create new norms and overthrow old dogmas by manufacturing consent for new ideas using social media tools. Yet this requires a highly organized and self-aware set of behaviors to be coordinated by large numbers of individuals. And while that is happening, far more often social media is being used with far less understanding and consciously calculated attempt to create better values.

This is where those ‘fake’ ‘likes’ become a problem. They are working to create values without awareness that they are doing so, or even necessarily what values they are creating, and what the effects and consequences of them will be. When our reasoning for using the like tool is done without regard to the effect that doing so has, we are transforming our value systems rapidly and blindly.

This happens in a lot of various ways, but let us illustrate it with some examples.

There is a man. He is a very handsome man. Very handsome. Even a profile picture of this man can douse panties faster than a fire hose. However, this man is also very stupid and somewhat immoral. He ends up posting idiotic political ideas a lot. Most of his followers do not agree with his stupid beliefs, opinions and ideas. But damn if they wouldn’t give up a year of their life just to have a steamy encounter with the man. So in the chance that there is any hope he will notice them, they like his posts, even when they mostly disagree with them. Over time, people see all of these likes and wonder if this guys isn’t on to something. Women view him as valuable to other women, which raises his attractiveness and the ‘likes’ it brings. Men view his worldview as appealing to women, and so begin to adopt it. Over time, the handsome man has gained a following of people who would have never approved of or shared his values on their own. But the subcontext provided by his attractiveness manufactured consensus over time.

Another…

There is a woman. She is a stupid and petty woman. People show up in her post threads just to watch the train wreck. The thing is, if she suspects you disagree with her, she will either ignore you or block you. So in an attempt to stay on that horse, people like her comments and give brief nods of consent. Over time the woman becomes more certain and enamored of her idiotic beliefs. Her confidence becomes a fuel which propels her into an even greater spotlight. And the more spotlight she gets, the more it appears that she deserves it. And the more it appears that she deserves it, the more skepticism breaks down and her audience grows. As it does, her idiotic and often hateful ideas grow with her. And thus ‘likes’ that were given ironically become a force which actually empower the target of scorn.

Another…

Many people have come to be critical of the government. Therefore when we see a post that is critical of government, we like it to insure that government-critical messages are seen throughout social media. The problem is, these critical messages often contain an error in their reasoning or an untenable solution to the problem. So when we like this message based on the criticism factor alone, in order to make it more visible, we are also making the erroneous logic and poor solutions more visible. Since we cannot choose how others will receive these packages of ideas, the greater effect might be something we would not have chosen to contribute towards. Where we liked the criticism of government because we wish to see an end to that institution, others may see a message that says that since government is flawed, we need more government to fix the flawed parts. So our like actually contributes to intellectual and social momentum that goes against our values.

There are likely millions of ways in which our ‘likes’ may have such similar unintended effects. And these effects, though perhaps not intentional, are shaping the world we live in. While using social media reward tools is a conscious action, the outcomes it produces are something far harder to determine. So we should exercise a high degree of awareness about our use of this tool. We should reserve our ‘likes’ for things that we not only truly and actually appreciate, but only for those that we find great meaning in. We have cheapened likes through overuse and as a result it is cheapening our values. We may give these likes with the very best of intentions, but that is merely the content of ‘liking’. Far more influential on the world we live in than content, is context. And the context of the like mechanism is incredibly complex. When something is incredibly complex, it is wise not to use it unless you are certain it is absolutely appropriate.

This is not just nitpicking. Our world is rapidly transforming. The central tenet and ends of this transformation is reputation. Reputation is being constructed from platforms like social media and tools like the like button. If we are not very careful and consciously alert of the world we are shaping with these tools, then we are going to end up a sloppy, gaudy mishmash of accidental values that result in a technological dystopia. We are in a transition period in which the rapid construction of a new era for humanity is being formed through interactions that are happening without a very great degree of awareness. If we do not begin to exercise some self-restraint and control and start to consider our actions in a much larger context, then we are in that proverbial car I mentioned earlier, using our heads to press the acceleration pedal down instead of to look out the windshield and see where we are heading and what else is out there.

I plan to begin using the ‘like’ button much less. Almost not at all. It is unfortunate that some people will find me to be cold and anti-social for doing so. I will almost certainly be measured by the stinginess of my like button usage. My failure to provide reward stimulus in social media forums will probably get me ignored or distrusted and despised. I will likely appear to be a total dick for not playing along with the game of coercive and compulsive liking. Yet I assure you that I do so not because I do not value the contributions and thoughts of others, but because I value them too much to water them down with automata and overly obvious behaviors.

Here is how I will now be using the like button, and suggest others who share my concerns do the same. Only like original content that I completely agree with and support. If I have no connection to the person who created the content, chances are that I will not like it unless the topic/subject and the ideas about them are something I am actually truly and fully amazed by. I will never like a meme, for it comes with its own complex set of problems. I will not like comments, unless they contain content that is absolutely flooring. Liking something just because I agree is intellectually dishonest, condescending and pretentious. I will no longer like anything for a reason other than that I actually specifically and literally like the actual content concerned as well as the context which it belongs in and contributes towards. And while I am certain that this is not going to make me very popular in social media, as least I can be comfortable knowing that I am not contributing to the Idiocracy by misusing and underestimating a very powerful tool that is shaping our future whether we believe and understand that or not.

It is not the things that we intend to do that become ruinous to our species and world- it is the things we do not intend to do, understand that we did, or that produce outcomes contrary to our intent because we didn’t think it far enough through. Humans can no longer just do what feels good and hope for the best. Our civilization is far too complex and becoming increasingly so. We stand now on the precipice of enlightenment or oblivion, and only constant attention to the world around us and making the right choices based on a high degree of understanding will save us from the latter.

Ronda Rousey, Charlie Sheen & Donald Trump Walk Into the Star Wars Bar

rousey sheen trump star wars

Ronda says to the bartender, “Shot of bourbon with a beer back, please.”

Charlie then orders, “Double shot of bourbon, no chaser. I prefer to go bareback.”

Not be outdone, Trump asks the bartender for a triple shot with a vodka chaser, explaining, “Any more than three shots and I usually end up on the floor casting vomit spells the rest of the night, but what the hell, right?”

The bartender pours the drinks and while handing Trump his vodka chaser wryly comments, “May the fourth bewitch you.”


 

Although my opening pun seems to explain the title of this article, it was not the inspiration for it. The title came from pulling a few keyword subjects out of Google’s biggest searches of 2015. It is an obviously blatant attempt to opportunize on the internet’s most popular themes. And while I will certainly take any traffic that comes this blogs way, I really am trying to make a larger point here. Much of what you see on the internet has its genesis in similar logic. Capitalizing on popularity without much regard to the quality or originality of content. That is what makes ad revenue and that is what gets the greatest response at websites and in social media.

Author Bret Easton Ellis, perhaps best known as author of the cult classic novel American Psycho, recently wrote a piece sharing some of the same concerns I have been having about internet culture. In ‘Living In the Cult of Likability‘ he discusses how technical aspects of social media lend themselves to an ever-narrowing channel of groupthink, compulsive approval and unearned validation. He further goes on to discuss what this means in a Reputation Economy. While I think he is mistaken in suggesting that we already have a RepEcon, he is absolutely right about what this behavior would mean to such a paradigm. A saccharine, plasticine dystopia. In the words of Quasi’s Sam Coomes…

“A cardboard world of painted skies, ’cause we all must agree to believe in the lies.”

Where Ellis misunderstands a reputation economy is that he sees the early evolutionary markers of the thing as the thing itself. A RepEcon is not really possible alongside scarcity and currency-based economics. It cannot be achieved until certain technological and sociopolitical advances come about. Yet despite the fact that we do not have a RepEcon, we do have a lot of the early indicators of one. As I have discussed in the past, online rating and review systems as well as the way that social networks are structured and how monetary rewards for online content operate are all glances into the future in their infancy. In them we can see how a RepEcon might operate, and based on that, Bret is absolutely correct to be concerned and a bit horrified.

Should a future in which reputation is the economic status of the individual ever happen, and that reputation is determined on the metrics, culture and validation symbols that are intrinsic to the burgeoning progenitors we have now, it will be a neon Idiocracy.  The internet has become a bastion of pandering, marketing and manipulation. At the same time it has also increasingly become a source of identity, status and passive consensus. The combination of these things is that the most popular content is often the most calculated and manipulative garbage which then becomes culturally canonized by our most basic desire to gain acceptance. It is creating a feedback loop in which what we want and what we are given are increasingly narrowing in scope into the most basic things we can agree upon. We are told what to like, which then sends back a signal about what we like, which then is used to create more of what we were told to like to begin with. And every time these symbols travel around that feedback loop these lose more of their signal and become ever-degrading symbols devoid of any substance except that which can be exploited by opportunists as another way to manipulate us.

The sad part is that in social media, we do most of this to ourselves. The vapid patterns of behavior in Facebook and elsewhere are self-replicating patterns of self-validation and consensus gathering. From posturing the perfect life to expressing ourselves ever more simplistically through the appealing reductivism of memes, we are creating a lowest common denominator of the individual by which we are identified by ourselves and others, especially the predatory opportunists. These forms continue to reduce human experience and distill it into a picture of normality which we are then invited and inspired to achieve. The current forms of online reputation gathering and display work not to create value from the reputation of the individual, but from their acceptance of and aspiration to a false construct of normality.

And there are far more insidious ways that technology is catering to us against our best interest. One researcher believes it will be possible to derive our emotional states from how we are using our mouse. He plans to use this technology as a tool for web designers and marketers to cater to the responses of their users to certain types of content and formatting. Using the information, site administrators, content creators and advertisers can then produce online materials geared for the lowest common denominator. Big Data is watching our every move and figuring out how to best profit from it. It is spawning more and more technologies to measure our responses so they can be used to manipulate us into behaviors that profit those funding Big Data. It does so at the expense of the individual and at the complexity which drives human progress towards greater harmony by creating an illusion of harmony that is nothing more than an intellectual trap.

Where my original vision of the RepEcon was starry-eyed and wistful, I have come to see some of the catastrophic pitfalls should that reputation economy be based on the values perpetuated by the current forms of social media, internet culture and these technologies intrinsic technical structures. A healthy reputation economy requires healthy sets of human values that strive towards higher complexity, not more meaningless consensus constructed from the manipulative paradigms of the industrialist era. If our values do not improve and come to recognize the beauty and strength of outsiders, eccentrics and other staples of a healthy intellectual community, then the RepEcon will evolve humanity into a pitiful Idiocracy of desperate infantile behaviors seeking validation by denying their own individuality.

I have a few more upcoming articles about the RepEcon planned for the near future, just as soon as I get done spending the loads of cash that flow in from this blog. Don’t be afraid to click those share buttons just below. 😉

New Bitcoin User Rating System Is Another Step Towards Reputation Economy

Ex-CFO On Food Stamps Illustrates the Power of Reputation 

Sigh...Did you know that Starbucks doesn't even accept food stamps?
Sigh…Did you know that Starbucks doesn’t even accept food stamps?

In 2012 Adam Smith, 37, posted the video below of a confrontation he instigated with an employee at a Chic-Fil-A drive-thru. From his self-righteous mobile soapbox he berated the woman about the companies controversial stance on homosexuality, as if the befuddled woman had anything to do with it. Adam goes on to suggest that the employee is complicit by association, assuming that she decided to work at Chic-Fil-A in order to spread their philosophy, rather than because yuppie douchebags like him thrive on the upward redistribution of wealth created by the service industry, which forces a sector of the population to have to endure a lifetime of meaningless labor in which they are repeatedly forced to deal with entitled assholes like him. The video immediately went viral and ruined Adam’s career. See, there is hope for humanity!

Adam is now on food stamps and is widely held as unemployable. Mr. Smith destroyed his own reputation and the consequences were instant and will be long-lasting. In a reputation economy, such grossly narcissistic actions will not be coefficient with economic well being and survival.

Amazon Suing Review Sellers to Keep Reviews Reliable

Reputation Economy False Reviews Review sellers are those who work with online merchants to give their products positive ratings, even though they have not actually purchased the product, and if they had, would still be reviewing it with the bias of profit motive. This undermines the entire system of customer ratings and reviews and creates inaccurate information about products which undermines free market practices that help bring us better goods at better prices and which reflect our values, ethics and morals.

Reputation Economy ReviewsThe reputation economy will be built around reviews and ratings. If Amazon is able to win these lawsuits, it will set a legal precedence which will safeguard review systems from corruption. Eventually these laws will become cultural habits that will prevent us from damaging our reputation by tinkering with the systems that measure it. Of course, that is not always going to work. It will also be necessary to employ technologies that secure rating and reviews from tampering. Like, you know, encryption…

How Bitrated Puts the Trust Back In Bitcoin

Reputation Economy BitratedA new company has emerged that wants to use the same kind of encryption systems used in manufacturing cyber-currency to create a reputation aggregate for encryption currency users. Shit just got seriously meta. The company, Bitrated, noted that there existed a basic lack of trust in Bitcoin and other crypto-currency users. The anonymity of these systems provides few means of dealing with those who decide to abuse it, or are using it in unethical ways. Recognizing this problem, Bitrated has created a user rating system which will allow a community of users to trade with greater confidence and some vestige of transparency.

I have argued for awhile that crypto currency itself is just a means to an end. A step of a trend or process which will make currency obsolete. As currency, it invites a lot of great minds who are interested in technology and profits. Yet what is learned about encryption will likely be used in myriads of other ways, in much the same way that NASA invents things astronauts will never use, or pornography drove the technology of the internet. The value of crypto currencies is not the currency part, but the encryption part. The reputation economy will rely on technologies that can provide accurate information about the reputation of an individual or enterprise. Encryption will help insure that fake reviews do not cloud our information, so that when some sociopathic suit trash starts crawling up your ass, your review of him will be sure to totally and reliably fuck him economically.

Star Trek and the Reputation Economy

tumblr_m3zvcx7mTU1rvhf45o1_1280

I am both a huge fan of the Star Trek Franchise (especially TNG) and a huge critic of the widespread interpretation of the show as some sort of perfect and attainable utopia. Widespread militarization, existential malaise and a number of other issues actually depict a sort of perverse, juvenile sketch of utopia. Yet there is no doubt that it has been highly influential in how we think about the future as well as an inspiration in the development of technologies.

images-1The most common reason given for the perfection of the fictional Star Trek universe is that it has evolved past money. It is often suggested that money was the greatest cause of past evils and ridding our species of its use allowed us to make leaps and bounds forward.  This is a rather unsophisticated simplification of human economies that does not apply to current humans who do not possess the technologies that make Star Trek possible. However, we are beginning to see some of the technologies in the show become real possibilities. Take the medical device, the Tricorder, which inches closer every year thanks to the sort of competition that people in the ST universe are too evolved for.

imagesYet the real reason that the ST universe can afford the luxury of abandoning currency lies mostly in the very specific technology of the replicator, which can provide humans with basic needs with matter created from unlimited energy. Well, it seems that we may be close to taking some of the first steps towards replicators as scientists claim they will soon be able to create matter from light. Now all we need is the free unlimited energy to power it and Voilà! Utopia.

As other technologies already available begin to make large scale production and centralized political and economic systems obsolete, we are already beginning to see the rise of new economic paradigms. It has suddenly become likely that the luxuries afforded to the ST universe will be available to us in the near future. As that luxury increases we will move away from Industrialism and most of its economic paradigms, as well as its social and political ones. Soon it may be possible to leave the slavery of wage employment and produce things of value to ourselves and others, not for mere survival, but for living.

Click the photo to read more about the reputation economy on Advanced Ape
Click the photo to read more about the reputation economy on Advanced Ape

The Facebook Effect

How is social media already preparing us for a reputation economy? According to Facebook creator, Mark Zuckerberg, it is doing so by virtually simulating a gift economy.

By doing this in an environment where the consequences for failing in this type of economic exchange are nil, we are learning the basic ideas we would need to construct a reputation economy which uses a mixture of social networking and reviews in order to generate reputation scores, or some other similar idea. With encryption and free market variety, these economic and social paradigms are becoming a real possibility in our lifetimes.

I just hope that Zuckerberg is not in charge. The things he has done with Facebook indicate that he is not fully seeing beyond the unsustainable endless growth paradigm of the dying industrial age.

The Reputation Economy Under Construction

As I have previously outlined and further discussed, the coming of the Information Age will be the dawn of new economic systems that hinge on reputation. More and more of this development continues to peek back at us from the future in new commentaries and developments. Here are some recent additions to that list.

 

While this article does not directly discuss a reputation economy, it does discuss many industrial, political and social trends leading to the obsolescence of the old systems. More than just that, it discusses how young people are influenced by these developments and how it has shaped their realities and goals and hints at how that might play out.
The Third Industrial Revolution

 

This article further discusses how the role of technology is changing not just the economic, social and political fabric; but the very fabric of human consciousness.
How the Web Became Our External Brain & What It Means For Our Kids

This final link is a talk from a Google executive about link building. It is mostly boring technical stuff that only webmasters would understand. In short, in order to get your webpage to have have good search results in Googles search engine, it was once a simple task of getting your websites address linked in as many places as you could on the internet. Years after this ignited a spam war in every comments section on the internet, Google has begun changing the terms by which a website will receive search result listings within the first few pages of a search. Rather than the brute force of numbers, Google is working towards a system which only gives high rankings and displays to reputable links. Which is to say, links which are shared as content by webmasters on their page, rather than those just haphazardly strewn across webspace. The implication here is that in an Information Age, when we trade primarily in information using these technologies, your reputation will depend on horizontal networks created through voluntary partnerships which rely on quality and reliability. This is just one more way in which the economic systems of humans are moving from currencies towards reputations. The plot continues to thicken!
Googles Matt Cutts: Link Building Is Sweat Plus Creativity

New Digital Currency Whose Value Is Based On Your Reputation

The link- New Digital Currency Whose Value Is Based On Your Reputation

The rant- I do not have a lot to rant about here. This is a marriage of crypto currency and the reputation economy which I envisioned when I came up with the idea for Face Value.

 

It seems the future is heading my way. This is the third link in a week which has hinted at one of my writings being predictive. Am I psychic or just lucky?

The Burgerican Dream

the burgerican dream

Once upon a time the world came to an end. It just stopped doing what it was doing and through a series of FUBAR’s and SNAFU’s the number of TechnoApes dwindled down to nearly nothing. Nobody knew exactly what happened, but Alien Space Bats were strongly suspected. The few people who remained after humanities exodus from Earth gathered in small groups. These groups were characterized by a common interest shared by the members. In a small cattle farm in the midwest a few dozen such individuals collected around a mutual love of hamburgers. They called themselves Burgerica.

The Burgericans rebuilt their entire society around the production and consumption of hamburgers; as well as french fries and salads. Their social, political and economic systems were all maximized for burger production and consumption. Labor was divided so that there were those who farmed the raw materials and those who processed them into consumable forms. The two groups traded their products for the others and lived in harmony. But as time went on, the processes necessary to lead to hamburgers became more efficient, and the community grew.

Soon there was not enough work for all of the Burgericans, so they expanded their economy by having a new segment of the population which cooked and served the burgers to the other tradesmen and women. This worked for awhile, but soon people began to notice that some people made better burgers than others, and some suppliers and farmers had better practices than others in terms of efficiency and food safety. So a new segment was created of those who regulated the production, service and quality of burgers. But the community continued to grow and processes became more efficient and once again there were not enough jobs.

Since everybody was generally busy all day long farming and processing and serving and regulating, there was not enough burger consumption to keep up with supply. In order to decrease the supply and increase consumption there was a new segment created. This segment consisted mostly of people who were unhelpful or disinterested in burgers. They were given useless and mostly meaningless busywork and in exchange were allowed to consume hamburgers and french fries and salads.

Farming and processing are pretty hard work and for most people, serving burgers was pretty undignified. So people began flocking into the regulatory jobs as well as toward the busywork and consumption. Soon the number of people grew even more and the strain on the resources necessary to create hamburgers for everyone began to show.

When the farmers and processors and servers began to complain about their burden and warn the others about the imbalance of their system they were scorned. Burgers are everybody’s right, the others would say. We should all have equal access to burgers, they said.

The farmers and processors and servers tried to warn them that they were not saying they didn’t want to provide burgers, only that they could not provide burgers to everyone with a resource crisis looming. It was simply unsustainable. Besides, they added, most of you aren’t really doing anything but making our jobs more difficult or running stray errands that don’t produce the burgers that we all value and rely upon.

Yet the regulators and busyworkers would not hear of it. In fact, they began to insist that they had even more rights and access to the dwindling wealth produced by the hamburger economy, not just for themselves but for their families as well. So the farmers and processors and servers gave in, because there was nothing they could do. They were outnumbered and their way of life relied on keeping a steady supply of tasty burgers and fries and salads, so they pushed themselves and their resources to the very edge.

Finally it became apparent to the farmers they could not provide enough meat. The processors and servers felt the shortage and begin to feel the strain of a demand that could not be met. When the regulators and busyworking consumers caught wind of this they went nuts. They demanded and demanded that there were more and more burgers but their demands were pointless. It was not possible. Soon they began to fight one another for hamburgers and then they fought the servers and then they all fought the processors and then the processors joined them to go give the farmers hell, but they were all gone.

The farmers saw what was coming. They took their families and some meager possessions and equipment and went off to settle new lands. They left behind all that they had built in Burgerica and went off on their own. Amongst them they decided never to specialize again. Every farmer would produce, process, serve and regulate the things that they found valuable. Where there was mutually shared interest in one another’s products, they would trade. But they shunned a system of centralized authority and economic processes and instead traded and self organized through voluntary consent which relied upon every individuals talents, values and reputation.

And they lived happily ever after. Except for when they didn’t, because that is how life goes, but that was okay because their wisdom taught them that fighting it just made it worse.

Face Value: Reputation Economy

reputation economy face value

Before I can tell you what Face Value is it will be necessary to explain the reasons why I began to envision it in the first place. I began my political philosophy very young as an anarchist and as I went through the growing pains of critical thinking I drifted into the stateless left until I could find no way in which those ideas did not necessitate a state of sorts. So eventually I began to adopt the ideas of an free market voluntaryist, individualist anarchist and/or libertarian. In the recent past I have disregarded the leftist idea that money is a social curse and stuck close to Austrian economics and free market ideology. Recently this began to bother me. No matter how I tried to reconcile the rest of the ideas about liberty with the idea of money, I could not make them stick. The problem itself is not political one, I realized, but a human one. Money itself rewards immorality. It is easily hoarded by those most willing to step on their fellow humans for it. And at the same time I can not believe that humans are themselves evil. Of course a small percent of them have psychotic or sociopathic tendencies, but overall humans were better than money disparity could account for. So I looked at money itself as the cause of the strife and suffering that it brings humanity. If the fatal flaw in money was that its acquisition creates immoral behavior then indeed the old saying was true. Money is the root of all evil.

Now, lets take a look at a snippet of the history and mechanics of money. During the dawn of the Agricultural Age humans began to specialize. In doing so it often became necessary to trade indirectly for a few reasons. First, commodities like carrots grown by a farmer would not be available to trade in the middle of winter. It would be convenient to tally the farmers contribution to his community in his time of abundance so that he could still purchase goods in the off season. Secondly, direct trade would mean that trade was only possible when both parties wanted each others goods or services. In order that everyone could trade their own production for that which they chose, the market created money as a sort of placeholder for production.

At first it was simple enough to trade with abstract items chosen by the society to represent wealth. As communities began to trade with one another it was necessary for a currency itself to carry the value which it was intended to represent. Therefore money soon became commodities itself, like gold or silver. Things whose scarcity gave them a sort of universal value. While this guaranteed that the money was of permanent value, it also opened up a new game. If commodities like gold could be used to exchange for the production of others, then one could expend effort simply in collecting the exchange commodity without the need of producing things of practical human value, which is far more work. So slowly a few clever humans began collecting money itself and with it they bought power and influence and eventually they created the state to protect their money and to gain more power. Eventually the state just issued abstract currencies which represented the sum of its own vast wealth. And so the production of the average man became just a way of growing the markets to collect more wealth for the state and the elites who control it while the average man was left to fight over the meaningless and intrinsically valueless pieces of paper the state issues us to create the illusion we are not just doing their bidding while we spend their pretend money in their company stores.

Yet if this seemed dishonest, the next step in money was even more delusional. Realizing the limits of commodities to back up money among growing populations, yet under its spell, the elite began to issue their own currency apart from the state. This new currency was based purely upon speculation. The bankers provided the speculation and in return charged interest on the usage of their currency. When populations soared and more money was needed they simply devalued the currency already in circulation to lend its value to newly minted currency and charged interest. The more the bankers speculated on the amount of trade and the necessary amount and value of currency, the more interest they collected. But they had speculated nothing, because if you haven’t guessed, this game is rigged. So now the elite not only had most of the worlds wealth in assets, they had also figured out how to steal back even the fake money they issued us. Yet we are forced to toil harder all the time just get some more of that bogus money to pass back to them in order that we might have food, shelter and fuel enough to survive. Even amongst the riches of our world. Think of a slave master who would issue his slaves money, let them compete over the easiest jobs and leave them no choice but to make all purchases from the masters very own store. This is where we are at.

And what of all these jobs? Today the politicians cry is jobs. The people beg for more jobs. Yet these jobs are often meaningless and unfulfilling. They are busywork. An economic shuffle to keep us in our place. To keep us from creating our own lives and our own purpose so that they would not interfere with theirs. And jobs themselves are becoming obsolete. Even today most work is unnecessary, and quickly becoming more so in due to technological innovations which lead to automation and at home production. Jobs are finite because there are far more humans alive today than there are necessary things to be done. The elite have created an endless menu of meaningless labor that destroys the very soul of the individual forced into the elites economic system through means of aggression.

As human civilization evolves again, as it has in ages past, we are coming upon a time in which information itself will be the most valuable commodity. Information itself is infinite, so it leaves the ability for every individual to create information and thus value infinitely. But value itself is still vague. If value is not represented by resources, commodities or labor, then what? To answer that question I must ask another. What gave resources, commodities or labor any value to begin with? The answer is simple. Consent. Consent that is not manufactured by an outside agenda is created through interactions between individuals in the form of morals, ethics and social values. In the final perspective it is human morality, ethics and morals which creates all economic value. How strange then that money led us astray from its very foundation.

So what then if moral and ethical behavior was in fact currency itself? How then could a few psychopaths and sociopaths prey upon the majority of us if their immoral and unethical behavior intrinsically prevented them from gaining any economic value with the rest of us? Why then would anyone ever collude with their evil for personal benefit if there were no benefits but were strong economic repercussions for inhumane activity? If good deeds created economic prosperity not only would it require moral and ethical behavior, but it would cripple the avarice and hubris created in others by the trap of money.

Now before I tell you what Face Value is, let me be very clear about what it is not. It is not the means to the end itself. It is not a final solution. It is not a new master.

Face Value is simply a means towards a society without money and the state. A beginning of the journey into the future of humanity. A tool using the best current technologies to open us up to the idea of doing future human economic interactions via morality and ethics by playacting them first in a purely social environment. Face Value is a new social networking site turned upside down. Instead of you telling everyone about yourself, everyone else uses it to tell everyone else about you. In this way, much like the rating systems at Amazon, Angie’s List and Rate Your Professor, every user would build up a rating based on a number of criteria and on their interactions with others online and in real life. This is essentially putting both individuals and human morals, ethics and values on the free market to determine the kinds of traits and activities human consensus finds worthy of rewarding us for.

Now before you begin to point out all of the awful ways this will inevitably be used at first, let me remind you that the plan is a long term one. Along the way we will work out the bugs and hopefully others will create similar systems to compete with Face Value and push the forward more quickly with more great human minds working on the problem. But to ease your mind just a bit let me explain some of the measures we have already thought of. First of all, you could not ever delete another persons rating or review. Should you choose to dispute it then it would go into a disputed section and the two parties would be forced to seek out a third party mediator which they both agreed upon and whose ruling they agreed to follow, who would then make a ruling on the case and the disputed rating or review would then either be deleted by the posting party or it would go on permanent display on your Face Value profile.

Everything in your profile will include specifics so that you may be judged not on merely an average of responses but also on the content and context of them. And even though Face Value would rely most heavily on ratings and reviews you could still list personal achievements, ideas or attitudes for others to help determine your character. In time, we hope, this would weed out not only immoral and unethical behavior; but it would also decide which morals and ethics are important.

We do not think that bigotry, hatred or greed could survive very well in such conditions. We do not think that the authoritarian state could survive very long if those interested in administering such a thing were prevented the ability to act improperly. Why would power or protection or war be needed when every individual and action was being judged and those who acted inhumanely were sanctioned for it? We do not believe that the vulgarity of excess created by human markets in which wealth and power for the few was the main agenda could survive for long. These processes destroy our world, our humanity and civilization itself. And if they are not curtailed, they will eventually destroy our species and much more. The destructive force of money combined with the exponential growth of human populations is a recipe for disaster. In order to survive this transition from the Industrial to the Information Age we must rethink economies that enslave and pillage. We must begin to drift away from a medium of exchange predicated upon a currency which invites our destruction and towards one based upon the value of each individual based upon their deeds and contribution to their community. Not on whats in our accounts or in our pockets but by the Face Value of the very lives that we lead.