Facebook is testing a virtual currency, because it’s cool and they can do it. They are not alone, the gaming industry has been at it for a long time for people who want to be more “productive” in the game space.

There is no mention, however, whether a Facebook currency could be used as a medium of exchange in the event of hyperinflation and the crash of the US dollar.  I can find nobody, writing anywhere today, that is willing to cross this proverbial line in the editorial sandbox.

I personally witnessed a devaluation in Mexico. Like a tsunami, the “adjustment” happens relatively fast as values ’snap’ fluctuate relative to other currencies.  Then very interesting things start to happen in the community. People will literally empty WalMart because most goods will be cheaper today than tomorrow.

As with other hyperinflation events, black markets form around various items such as gasoline, cigarettes, or Levis as people require some medium of exchange in order to buy necessities such as groceries and cooking fuel.

A Facebook currency may just be what communities will use to get through the event.  However, a Facebook Currency would likely be temporary because it could not be used in Banks to capitalize assets – or, by government who can’t figure out how to tax it.

Now the question becomes, what type of social currency could be intermarry with dollars?

Here is a hint; the dollar is backed by debt which is a promise to be more productive in the future. Conveniently, “innovation” is also a promise to be more productive in the future. Two such currencies are of the same species and can intermarry yielding new economic life.

The degree to which any ‘virtual’ currency is interchangable with the dollar is the degree to which it represents human innovation. Chew on that, Facebook.


Bank-of-Wal-Mart-Note--40279The New Reverse Order

If someone can track your spending, they can predict your behavior.  It is also true that if someone can track your behavior, they predict your spending.   The next economic paradigm is simply a higher order of the same.

On the next higher order, if someone knows your “Knowledge Inventory” they can predict how you will manage changing conditions – that is, how you will innovate.  Likewise, tracking how people innovate exposes the development of new knowledge assets (the ‘gold-standard’ of conversational currency).

Everyday some new headline shows that we are getting closer and closer to that point – for better or worse – where humanity learns to manage an innovation economy.

Profound Issues Arise.

The following article about Wal-Mart adopting the debit card (Wal-Mart to Staff: Bye-Bye Paycheck, Hello Debit Card) as a means of issuing paychecks represents a quantum leap in the monetization of knowledge assets.  We expect many more will closely follow in one of the most important financial developments in financial history – virtual currency.  If food stamps can be delivered on a debit card, why not frequent flier miles, Disney Dollars, coupons, rebates, tulip bulbs, beanie babies, or a new global currency such as the Rallod?

A Vetting Zoo

The only questions that remain are related to Vetting.  By all accounts Social Media is developing into the mother of all vetting mechanisms.  Who controls the card? What system is it replacing? Who can pull money off?  Who charges fees to whom and why? Who gets the business intelligence?  What is the PR spin?  Can advertisers interact with the card to apply discounts and rewards?  What types incentives motivate what types of people and can it go on a debit card?

A Steep Departure

Each of these questions, and the companies they spawn, will live or die by Tweet and Blog – this is a steep departure from the past.  For example; 30 years ago, if every American were told that their social security number would be tied to a credits score that is tied to their driving record, employability, insurance premium, health care, mortgage rate, and, yup, their debit card – the cities would have burned in protest.

Nobody could have seen this future except those who designed it.  Today, the designers are you and I – see the future now, see the future here at Conversational Currency.


The idea of trust as social currency is appearing in more articles, conferences, and books.  This is all highly consistent with the TIP thesis on Innovation Economics which describes the necessity of a vetting mechanism among the knowledge inventory as a means for the emergence of a currency in a market – that is, a conversational currency.  People need to trust the currency if they are to trade the currency.

Shefaly Yogendra provides some excellent insights below.  Keep in mind that American Culture does not have a monopoly on the definition of trust.  It should not be an American expectation to define the conversational currency in our own image.  Indeed, convertability of such currency will be, and must be, global.

I kept the analysis sparse on this article because it is a valuable exercise to form one’s own perspective on trust prior to diving into someone Else’s opinion.  After all, it’s your currency – you own it.  Good luck.

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by Shefaly (please see her Bio here)

Trust is a non-negotiable essential in business. The post linked here refers to web-based business-to-consumer interactions. But as social currency, Trust is the most significant in interactions amongst organisations, customers, employees and regulatory bodies.

Definitions

Wikipedia defines social currency as “information shared which encourages further social encounters“. Social currency is different from social capital which refers to “connections within and between social networks and individuals“.

Social currency – some characteristics

a) No distinction between ‘physical’ and ‘virtual’ worlds

b) No distinction between ‘individuals’ and ‘corporate entities’

c) No distinction between validity of negative or positive normative labels

Determining the value of Trust as social currency

a) Verifiable Identity and antecedents

b) Consistency

c) Reliability

d) Peer recognition

e) Value of the network

f) Individuality and collaborative consciousness

The original article can be found here and it elaborates on each of the points above.

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The Ingenesist Project Community concerns itself with the value of social reach since this will most certainly impact he relevance of  those conversing as well as the relevance of the conversation to some business activity.  Obviously, innovation is about having the right team in the right place at the right time.

Furthermore, business activities such as marketing and advertising need to make their communications more relevant and less wasteful of their audience’s limited bandwidth – lest they risk being perceived as “anti-social”.

Stated somewhat more clinically; the most worthy knowledge surplus must be matched with the most worthy knowledge deficit in order to produce the most valuable outcome.

Brynn Evans offers the following observation:

The future of search  involves social networks, social graphs, or social filtering in some capacity.  Companies will live or die by whether they get the “social” part right: creating the right level of intimacy, trust, reliability, social connectedness, and accuracy in their results listings. Of course, this specifically means that their user experience must at least meet or, preferably, exceed that of Google’s.

To achieve this, we must first stop arguing over the different flavors of search.

Real-time search. Social search. Semantic search. These distinctions are essentially meaningless, especially when we can’t even agree on definitions and when each of their boundaries remain undefined. Instead, we should recognize that they’re all part and parcel of personalizing and contextualizing search for individual users. Let’s stop playing the “name game” and start thinking holistically about how each (and all!) affects and improves what we think of today as “search.”

Defies analysis, defies control:

Ms Evans’ excellent analysis continues to identify numerous problems with attempting to classify Social Relevance – each system is merely trumped by new issues related to semantics, context, and proximity.  It seems as if the more you try to “control” social media, the more it defies control.  The more you try to study it, the more it shows you a mirror of yourself.  Introspection is the irony of extroversion.

The great big Sucking Sound

While nobody, including Ms. Evans can tell you how to increase your social relevancy, we can probably all agree on what does not.   If your message sucks, your social relevancy will also suck.  If you are trying to sell a product that does not actually save people time and increase their net productivity, your product will fail and your social relevancy will suck.   If you are in any way trying to match unworthy knowledge surplus with unworthy knowledge deficit, your social relevancy will suck.

Give up Control in order to gain control:

Business intelligence is the science of knowing what sucks and what does not.  Let Social media carry your message wherever it wants to carry it. The sooner the market tells you what it wants, the sooner you can adapt your products and services to meet the needs.  Things happen fast in social media space and the corporation needs to be faster.  This may mean corporations need to give up control in order to gain control of both the threats and opportunities of the future.  After all, even by the playbook of Corporate America : survival of the fittest is the only relevant social rank.

(Ed: Brynn Evans is a PhD student in Cognitive Science at UC San Diego who uses digital anthropology to study and better understand social search)


Technological change must always precede economic growth.  We are going about the process of market capitalism as if economic growth can precede technological change.  Somewhere along the line we have gotten the cart in front of the mule.

It seems that this situation can be fairly easily corrected – after all, it’s the same cart and the same mule.  All we need to do is get the same driver to point the same carrot on the same stick in the opposite direction; and the system should turn itself around.  Impossible we ask? Well, maybe not….yet.

The same species…

Economic growth and technological change are the same species; each is represented by human productivity.  If I take a loan to buy a house, the debt is “counted” as economic growth backed by my future productivity.  If I go to work and invent a method that provides a better way for people to accomplish something, that same productivity increases with my innovation.  They should hedge each other much like insurance.  The problem arises when we forget to count the mule.

If A = C and B = C, then A = B

If any two currencies are backed by the same standard, they should be readily convertible.  If Euro’s and Dollars are both backed by Gold, they would be convertible between each other and the market can simply choose to trade one or the other.  Arbitrage opportunities would keep the system balance.

This is the same case with debt and innovation; two currencies represented by the same standard, i.e., productivity.

What if a new currency was introduced and pegged to human productivity?  That currency would also be proportional to the dollar. Arbitrage opportunities between debt and innovation currencies would seek a balance. The two scorecards would hedge each other as they should.

It is going to happen eventually, why wait?

While this may seem odd to talk about one State, two currencies, it is not so odd to talk about what happens if the dollar fails.  People will start trading a different currency.   The Plumber will trade ideas with the lawyer who will trade with the doctor, carpenter, teacher, grocer, laborer, etc.  A computer enabled society will build a knowledge inventory of who knows what.  Reputations will arise thus organizing knowledge in the form of a financial instrument.  This social medium will be the tool that organizes trading schemes and establishing supply and demand.  An Innovation Bank will keep track of who owes what to whom and distribute wealth in the form of tangential innovation.  Venture “capital” will be the cheapest money in town – it’s like money in the bank for an innovation economy. This is in fact, the nature of society and largely the function it has served for thousands of years.

Little carrot on a big stick

The difference between now and any other time in history is that society is computer enabled.  Human knowledge has been held hostage behind the construct of “intangible assets” on a corporate balance sheet for too long.  There is a great deal of energy building up and it can now find a productive outlet through social media.  The best government policy is to accommodate what people will do naturally.  It would be extremely inexpensive to empower society to form an innovation economy to hedge market capitalism. People need a currency that is first and foremost natural for them to trade.   Later, Wall Street can convert and gamble at their peril. But first, point the stick in a different direction and the system will correct itself.

[The Ingenesist Project (http://www.ingenesist.com) has specified three web application which if deployed to social media would allow social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital to become tangible inside social networks.]


The Game

The knowledge economy will be outsourced to low cost countries. There is little rational analysis that suggests otherwise.  Information, knowledge and innovation are profoundly connected – lose one and you lose the other two … and so goes our innovation potential. The very technology invented and developed by American knowledge workers is the exact same technology that now constrains them.  This is not the fault of corporation or of the financial system – they are behaving exactly as expected; a dog will hunt. This is the limitation of the knowledge economy itself – let me explain.

It is very easy and inexpensive for the rest of the world to just watch what the United States does, copy what works and reject what does not work, and then effectively compete.   The rest of the World now speaks English so they can now jump on the Internet and learn everything they need to know about us while we are largely unable to reciprocate.  In addition, money is global and does not need a visa to work in another country.  All of these things stack up against both the US knowledge and foreign knowledge workers.  If left alone, these conditions will not go away any time soon.

As a nation, America is either at the edge of something really good or something really bad.  We need to do something so radical, so audacious, and so creative, that the rest of the world will shake their heads in disbelief at how America always comes up with an unbelievable play just when the game looks like it is over.  It’s called The Great American Hail Mary Pass.

The Competition

First we must realize that America does not have anyone else to copy or compete with in order to climb to that next rung on the economic development ladder except ourselves.  Many Americans are in denial that we too must also develop just like we claim other countries must do.  In the past, we have relied on shocks to the global system in order to move forward; usually in the form of wars, but obviously, as a modern innovation strategy, warfare has severe limitations.  Maybe we just don’t know how to develop on our own.  Perhaps the current financial crisis may be the disruption that we need to see those next few critical steps that we need to take.

The Field

Here are some other historical facts to consider.  Like all previous development phases, the next economic paradigm will be derived from the earlier economy by integrating the tools of that earlier economy – in this case, the knowledge economy.  We have painfully learned that intellectual capital can be found and duplicated almost anywhere on Earth.  However, social capital and creative capital cannot be easily sourced elsewhere.  Both China and India have political or cultural constraints on social capital and creative capital – so they cannot compete with us here.   This is where the next Great American Hail Mary pass needs to go.

The Team

America has a distinct comparative advantage over most of the World in our cultural diversity, global language, and freedoms of assembly, expression, and association.  In addition, and likely as a result, America is inventing one of the most profound technological advancements in human history.  One which has the potential to secure American economic prosperity for many generations into the future.

The Play

Social Media has the potential – if we are clever – to allow human knowledge and interaction to become tangible outside the construct of a corporation.  The new economic paradigm will have factors of production of social capital, creative capital, and intellectual capital, instead of the classical land, labor, and monetary capital model.  That means that a team, community, or a social network can be capitalized directly much like a corporation, or any financial instrument in itself, as a means toward increasing human productivity.  Admittedly, and as space allows, this is a very vague definition of an innovation economy, but the implications are sweeping and vast.  A more detailed structure and description is specified at http://www.ingenesist.com.

The Ball

It is imperative that knowledge workers recognize this opportunity.  We must have a national conversation about the next great leap and not just dwell on the current quagmire or roll over while the dark ages set in.  It is essential that we recognize our responsibility to ourselves, our communities, and the planet to build a sustainable economy that reflects long term social priorities rather than short term profit taking – this is ultimately in the best interest of even the short term profit takers!  Finally, it is our responsibilities to continue developing this great Internet technology that the generation before us created for peaceful, open, and productive means; and obviously never intended to enable a race to the bottom.


Innovation clusters are all the rage in regional economic development circles.  Actually, they are “industrial clusters” because several companies in similar industries collocate in the same geographical area.  The industrial cluster then attracts supporting industry and often causes the migration of educated and motivated people to the prospect of jobs.  I suspect the ‘innovation’ moniker comes from the notion that newer industries locate near centers of venture capital, like planets forming from the dust of the cosmos.

There are, however, a few drawbacks to industry clusters; they are vulnerable to stagnation, silos, and external shocks.  As companies become organized and technologies mature, patents and trade secrets take hold.  As they ‘go public’, SEC regulation effectively places a gag order on everyone and sharing slows while stagnation sets in. Soon after, dozens of nimble companies consolidate into a single giant to achieve economies of scale.  Finally, silos form under the weight of multiple layers of management.  Then, something somewhere happens to shock the cluster; the end of the cold war leveled the So Cal aerospace cluster. 9/11 busted the Seattle Aerospace cluster.  The dot.com bomb stunted Seattle, Silicon Valley, and Route 128.  Hurricanes hit the petroleum cluster, stem cell and genetic engineering legislation stalled biotechnology, and corruption continues to shock financial institutions.   At the end of the cycle, companies divest, people defect and a new planet starts to form someplace else.

While occasional cleansing, in a Schumpeterian sense, is good for industries, the extreme volatility takes a horrendous toll on that invisible turbine of the economic engine – social fabric.  Families, friendships, professional networks are strained or collapse and those who dedicate their life to a career path – the pure innovator themselves – can be left marginalized by obsolescence.

The Calculus of Innovation Economics does not oppose industrial clusters; however, it does favor something called “technology clusters” in a business structure called the “tangential innovation” market.  For example; composite materials technology is very useful in many applications like aircraft, medical devices, transportation, recreation, and even musical instruments.   The airplane company has no intention of building cellos and the automobile company has no intention of building snow boards.  As non-competing industries, they can readily share technology and people.  The system is naturally diversified and inoculated against stagnation, shocks and silos; if one industry encounters hardship, people and capacity can shift easily to another industry preserving knowledge and expanding social networking benefit while the damaged industry heals or dies off.  Corporations may not like this idea, but social networks should.

The science of Innovation Economics goes a step further by modeling the business structure of tangential innovation markets as an integrated financial system.  Suppose and Originator Company has a promising new composite technology idea but is unable to meet the ROI requirements of their stockholders. Today, such innovation would be shelved.  In an innovation economy, tangential markets are factored into the business case.  The Percentile Search Engine can determine what other industries would be most worthy borrowers of your technology, if developed.  The Innovation Bank can estimate the return on investment that can be expected through the tangential market as if it were another customer.  The additional revenue projection would allow the originator to meet the ROI requirement prior to committing development funds.  Intellectual Property can be managed with contracts enforced through social network vetting.  The originator can hold an option to see further development conducted by tangential users effectively multiplying their R&D reach and further adding to the expected return.

Then something magical will happen. At some point, the value of the tangential innovation market would exceed the value of the origination market.  The originator will begin to specialize in pure innovation as a primary product and airplane applications as the secondary product.  As all industries in the technology cluster begin sharing technology among each other, R&D costs and risks are effectively spread across industries. As risk is diversified away, the cost of venture capital approaches single digit rates.

Then, another magical thing will happen. As the mixing of people and ideas accelerates, the definition of corporate boundaries will become more fluid.  Ownership will exist in the form of contracts among entrepreneurs now defined by social networks, options, and derivatives in a diverse innovation enterprise.

The knowledge inventory will house the assets rather than office cubicles.  The ‘secret sauce’ of knowledge asset allocation becomes more tangible, safer, flexible, and liquid than any patent could ever be.  Innovation will always be proportional to the rate of change of knowledge that the more diverse assets yields. The Percentile Search Engine will match surplus “secret sauce” to deficits of “secret sauce” much better than multiple layers of management in the past. The Innovation Bank will account for all transactions, obligations, and participation and distribute dividends (rather than hourly wages) to the owners of knowledge assets.  The system will regulate itself through social vetting rather than supporting a cumbersome HR department.

New ideas will get developed in the technology cluster where they would never have been able to meet ROI in the industrial cluster.  The innovation economy induces a multiplier effect on innovation by reducing risk, eliminating barriers to sharing ideas, and lowering the cost of capital.

While the boom bust cycle of Industrial Clusters has brought us a great distance in economic development, technology clusters in an Innovation Economy supported by social networks may turn out to be vastly more efficient at economic growth without the vulnerabilities of industry clusters.


We have set up a new game for entrepreneurs to play called Innovation Economics. We have defined a currency and an inventory where knowledge is visible outside the construct of the corporation – and resident in social networks. We have also described a way for entrepreneurs to visualize the knowledge asset and the supply and the demand for knowledge assets. We have given them a tool for matching assets for profit. We have described how social networks will keep the game fair. We have outlined the structure of new business plans; the brain storming session, product development cycle, the neural network, and the multiplier effect. Future businesses will be built upon combination of these four structures and whatever else entrepreneurs can dream up.

We have described all of the pieces needed to form a new economy. Now we need to connect with the financial markets so that knowledge is readily convertible to other currencies.

For review;

With the financial bank, the entrepreneur assumes that they have the knowledge to execute a business plan and then they look for the money. The risk is that the entrepreneur does not in fact have enough knowledge.

With the Innovation Bank, we assume that we have the money, and we go to the bank to search for the knowledge. The risk is not having enough money to purchase sufficient expertise.

With both banks acting together – the risks cancel each other out and the innovation economy tends toward a ‘risk free’ cycle; the more knowledge you can assemble, the more money you can borrow. The more money you can assemble, the more knowledge you can assemble.

Now we have a virtuous circle. The more knowledge you have, the more money you can borrow; and the more money you have, the more knowledge you can borrow.

There is no shortage of money circling the globe – only a shortage of risk free places to put the money. The innovation economy is an environment of very high return for a very low risk and will attract a great deal of money to fund innovation enterprise.

Earlier we demonstrated that money represents human productivity. It follows that the places that have the greatest potential for increasing human productivity can create the greatest amount of wealth. Therefore, poor areas and marginalized economies with under utilized knowledge inventories or the injection of specific knowledge inventories, become the highest ROI centers in a risk-free system; a condition the explicitly favors the wealth equalization rather than wealth disparity.


If we combine the parallel transaction with the series transaction we have what now looks like a neural network. In practice, we know that strong networks of people freely exchanging ideas make organizations better, smarter, and more efficient. Networks are where knowledge and wisdom is literally stored. A network is fault tolerant, if one person leaves, the network survives. For a relatively small input into a network, we can produce a large output of new knowledge – we have a learning organization.

However, in society, these interactions are largely accidental; people meet at Church, Starbucks, and Social Events or by word of Mouth. Other times, these interactions are concentrated inside a single community of very similar people such as a technical conference, group meeting, or lunch buddies and are often not well diversified.

Suppose the interactions among people were not random, instead, they could be designed by the entrepreneur to produce a unique outcome. The Innovation Bank will combine people of complementary knowledge assets in a calculated manner in order to arrive at specific business approaches and applications.

A special case of the above business method and resulting social network is called the Multiplier Effect. A financial bank enjoys a multiplier effect with the ability to lend the 10 times more money than they hold in reserve. Money changing hands has a multiplier effect on an economy. Again, financial analogies hold.

Suppose that a company owns composite material technology for use on aircraft. Since they specialize in airplanes, they have no intention of pursuing other applications such as recreational equipment, energy production, or health care products.

Suppose that the company could deposit this asset in a bank and collect interest. The Search Engine can scan the business landscape to find companies with a knowledge deficit in the area of your technology and make loans of your technology. As the originator, you have the option to see what those other companies invent and you hold the right to use their new ideas in your aircraft application.

With an innovation Bank, you can reduce your Research and Development costs and create additional revenue in a tangential innovation market. With reduced cost and risk of innovation, you are likely to specialize more and more in innovation as your enterprise. In the event of a cyclic downturn in the business of an originator, instead of “laying off” knowledge assets, people can work in tangential industries where they will continue developing – literally putting “Knowledge in the Bank” – to be called back when market conditions improve. A mobile knowledge asset increases in value becoming smarter and more productive over time.