6 karmaJoined Jan 2022


Promote ways that suppress status seeking

Great Power Relations, Economic Growth

Status seeking is associated with massive economic inefficiencies (waste production, economic inequality,..). The zero sum game nature of status seeking also puts a toll on individual well being and consequently on suboptimal ways the societies function.

In the political domain, status seeking can lead to wars (as the recent developments illustrate).

The EA community should invest into institutions/research/solutions leading to diverting from status seeking.

The NEO currency is fully convertible and is called Chron. Where do Chrons come from:

  1. you do some work,
  2. get some proof you did the work  (link to a github commit page, photo, video recording,...),
  3. create a report in and attach the proofs,
  4. will send request to two algo-determined users to verify your report,
  5. if your report gets approved, you get 10 Chrons for every hour of your work

Every work report belongs to a project you create. When you are buying somebody's product, you go to that product's project in and reward it. You can do it with your Chrons, or with national currency.

You are actively trying to get buyers to pay as much of their money as possible for the stuff you make. When they pay, they do so to the System, which converts the payment to a numeric reward (I call it the Merit reward). The money is destroyed in the process and the seller of the product receives Merits. Individual's Merit score is a reflection of their abilities, or their popularity. It can not be transferred, you can not buy anything for it and everybody can see how an individual's Merits were earned.

You would know that you would earn more for building a car vs chair the same way as in capitalism - by selling them. Market determines the price - no change here from capitalism.

Re. 1 - most people in NEO would choose the task that pays the most - just like in capitalism. The payment in NEO has purely signaling (non-monetary) form, but that does not matter. Also in capitalism only the magnitude of the payment ultimately matters (the signal), not the exchange value it represents (that gets ultimately converted to status - a form of the signal)

The more creative people would also do what they do in capitalism - choose the thing they like to do.  Elon Musk types would build Teslas and flamethrowers, other would found My Lackey, or Some will succeed, some will fail. We love them all in NEO.

Re. 2. - as I wrote previously, motivation is plentiful in NEO - and of the right kind. The "most people" category I mention in point #1 above are motivated extrinsically, but there is a scale from Extrinsic to Intrinsic and "most people" would be much closer to "I" in NEO than if they worked in capitalism and consequently would be more performant (and happier).

Your objection seem to focus on the most important difference between NEO and capitalism - the autonomy to choose whatever one wants to do. If I understand, you imply that more autonomy leads to slacking. The need for autonomy is however critical condition for the emergence of intrinsic motivation and a large body of literature (keywords: self determination theory) shows superiority of intrinsic over the extrinsic motivation in various domains (creativity, persistence,..) The literature also shows that intrinsically motivated employees produce more valuable economic contributions. Many things in psychology are disputed, but the existence of the two types of motivation and superiority of the intrinsic one is not.

I could list a number of examples that confirm the notion that people in general want to be useful to others, but I think I could not do a better job than the scientists studying motivation. Maybe one example for all. Just look at volunteers, like the FOSS programmers, Wikipedia editors or Openstreetmap mappers. No economic carrots or sticks that would force them supply labor and yet, their output is so valuable that it is being massively appropriated by the commercial sector.

Yes, I will, regardless of your less than firm commitment to helping out in case I am right.

Let's make clear, that we are comparing capitalism as we know it (say the Western type) and a hypothetical situation, when everybody works in NEO.

I don't think that is the case and have listed some arguments supporting that view. What makes you think that NEO workers will produce less valuable output?

In NEO (that's how the system is actually called for better or worse), all value-creation mechanisms that we know from the market economy are present, so I am sorry, but I do not think we have identified the DC :-)  Try to be more specific - what aspect do you think is different?

Maybe this will help to clarify things - the crucial (hmm, do we have a suspect?) difference from a "normal" market economy, is separation of  the for-the-value-creation less important aspect of work reward (the exchange value) from the salient one - the psychological signal.

About the gaming thing. That is not what NEO success or failure  actually hinges on. It might be nice if it happens, but if NEO wins, it will be because it is more economically efficient than the alternatives. Apparently the 800 lb gorilla is the capitalist system, which is of course enormously successful. What does NEO bring to the ring? Separation of concerns - economic from the psychological. Capitalism rewards workers with both at the same time (money) and I see that as a source of inefficiency, because  people - especially the most creative ones - are gunning for the psychological reward. In money they inadvertently get also exchange value reward, proportional to the signaling one and that causes economic inequality - a source of inefficiency. NEO also rewards the exceptional value creators more than others - with stronger signal - but it leads to inequality that is beneficial (same function as in capitalism). The economic value in NEO is constantly redistributed virtually equally among the workers, eliminating (extreme) inequality.

  1. Yes, UBI costs a ton of money. The system is not UBI, but  like UBI is (also) a redistribution mechanism; one that I believe achieves the goal more efficiently. The efficiency gains come from the economic value generated in the system by people working. That over time lowers the funding requirements for achieving the same outcomes as UBI would (ceteris paribus).
  2. The System might have higher friction than UBI, but it also might not, as there are other features, that will make seemingly sticky points negligible. For example, people might perceive participation in the system as playing a game (there are indicators that this might be the case). Being autonomous is a hugely attractive feature too (see below)
  3. This is probably what you are missing - in the system, people can freely choose any type of activity they want to do. In the jobs guarantee scheme, I can't choose for example to do mapping for the Openstreetmap project, or program a computer game, if the government does not offer such "jobs". ...and to use one of the examples Scott brings up, raising a child can be reported as work and be  paid.
  4. The psychological aspect can't be put aside. The system has been originally modeled on the behavior of volunteers, who ignore the economic aspect of their work and  chase instead satisfaction of their psychological needs. The needs satisfaction is facilitated by various signals (in the volunteering domain these include the number of users, likes, badges,...). Seeking to maximize the signal makes the by-the-hour paid workers to sell their products, as that's what they receive - a signal - when somebody buys their product. It should be noted, that also many successful entrepreneurs consider money an indicator of their skills and often get rid of much of economic value they earn in the form of donations. Trading money for "signals" is quite common.

Thank you for getting back to me. Yes, I think it might be a good idea to introduce the System in a separate post and I will do it eventually. For now, if your contacts are interested, they can review the links I gave. Below are my responses to your questions.

  1. The System gives the high-value producers what they are after - a psychological signal of competence and relatedness (status is a pathological form of this signal). The actors working in the System basically trade the exchange value of material profit they would gain for their work in a classic market economy, for a non-monetary signaling reward. That value is the funding source for the system. Please note that charity runs on the same mechanism - the donors trade money for a psychological signal they need more than the money. The system was originally developed (and is a.t.m. used) to capture the volunteer-generated value, which is estimated to be more than a trillion USD/year. The money available for charitable causes probably exceeds this value. These two sources can bootstrap the System. Over time, the System will fund itself by its own economic activity - a radically different proposition from UBI.
  2. The System also solves one of the biggest problems in charity - optimal allocation of funds to places where they are needed the most. This is achieved by several mechanisms. One is  the motivation pull of non-monetary - signaling reward I mention above. This is the generator of resources that - given the floating exchange rate between the System and the national currencies, ensures that the least well off exchange their System money for a national currency first.
  3. My proposal is not for the "basic jobs"-type work. You can do anything you want in the System ... even disabled people can write poetry or collect napkins and get paid for it. An instinctive reaction one might have is - but people will do useless/unproductive things... well, UBI goes even further - it does not care what a person will do with the money. Besides, playing is a sign of intrinsic motivation which has all kinds of benefits, including producing innovation. Also, if offered a choice a normal person will choose to do something others will appreciate/use than digg a hole in the forest just to get paid.
  4. Yes, it is money, but different :-). Unlike (for example) fiat money, the System currency creation is directly tied to actually performed work. The money is "minted" whenever new work is reported in the system. The money supply in the System is held optimal by a mechanism that destroys money  when somebody makes a purchase. In effect, there is a silent contract that the System pays you before the market value of your product is known, but it then owns the product. Instead of profit, the product creator receives something similar to reputation points, which take care of psychological signaling that in fact is what motivates people to supply labor.
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