Making the Most of Collaborative Technologies

Money is information, so new money systems are emerging to catch up with the new ways people are exchanging value and the new networks where they're doing it. Our mission is to use new communications tools to help develop current Industrial Age cultural practices (factory-style jobs, schools, governments, publications, currencies) into more responsive, conscious, efficient, sustainable policies--for example, vibrant market ecologies: "The expanded access to information provided through the web", Brian Zisk, CEO of Transaction Networks, predicts, "is making markets more efficient, so more (and more satisfying) transactions will take place."

`Money is information about the way we exchange energy'
-- Bernard Lietaer,
whose ideas are being amplified on the Transaction Net site

There's never been a better time for working together. New tools let people all over the world share and remember their experiences--building a better 'library' of human knowledge for all of us to use. When people share information--for example, when we publish our online reviews of new electronic payment systems or weekly listings of Bay Area events--they help create valuable community capital--a lasting resource for everyone to appreciate.

When our money (information) system is able to reflect an unlimited number of transactions at one time without losing value (meaning), more people will be able to find an appealing niche and share their gifts with their communities--making all of us better off. Everyone will be able to document or verify a transaction, and thus negotiate satisfactory terms of payment and select a currency accordingly.

It's not happening yet, however. While interactive information technologies--like the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, for example--have blazed a trail for humanity, other human enterprises have advanced more slowly, and a few seem at times like stubborn relics from an age when assembly-line mass production was the height of achievement. Many communities are suffering from unemployment, social isolation, and the degradation of living creatures and their natural habitat. These communities have plenty of human resources--talented people with the energy to make a difference--but because they have to rely on loan-based currency from the federal government when they use those resources, each exchange spirals them further into debt.

Just imagine if each transaction in these struggling communities conserved local resources instead of leaking interest--people in a community would be encouraged not to hoard currency (hoarding chills employment and corrodes the social bonds that develop in gift- or wealth-based economies) for the sake of the interest, but instead to trade their time, expertise, and extra property freely with other people.

Yes, it's perfectly legal, and has proven effective too: Citizens in several communities have built on this idea, and (sometimes with the help of new interactive technologies) have supplemented national currency with their own interest-free non-inflationary currencies. They've succeeded to a great extent in replacing unemployment with "remunerated leisure" and in building social ties among community members.

Just as our currency should accommodate an unlimited number of transactions at once, our policymaking tools should be able to handle an unlimited number of good ideas at once--and they should also help policymakers efficiently evaluate and execute those ideas.

Imagine your elected officials immersing themselves in a public online forum where they can report on their activities and respond immediately to suggestions and criticisms from their constituents. Here in San Francisco, Mayor Willie Brown entered just such a forum in October of 1996, and in the course of just one hour was met with abundant praise, questions, criticism, and policy suggestions. There's no reason all officials couldn't draw on this kind of resource every day.

We're inspired by these successes, and offer our space as another community-building "medium of exchange". We hope it generates some ripples of value throughout the entire community.

More responsive social and economic models are arising on the web: With the interactive information technologies available today, we can transform the worlds of work, money, and governance so that all productive, capital-building activities are measured and duly compensated, and all policymakers have the freshest, fastest wellspring of ideas to draw from.

Emily Hoyer, an editor at Transaction Networks, looks forward to the day when humanity catches up with its own inventions: "Once we're all fluent in our new technologies, we'll be better able to express our most elegant wishes, and all of us will harvest the results."


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