[ExI] Money Games

Emlyn emlynoregan at gmail.com
Mon Dec 15 04:18:37 UTC 2008

2008/12/15 Damien Broderick <thespike at satx.rr.com>:
> At 11:14 AM 12/15/2008 +0800, Stephan wrote:
>> from a perspective of Gold (aka real money)
> Omg. Money is not a *thing*, it's a signifier, an operator; reifying it is a
> step backward into immobility and superstition. Half a millennium ago Spain
> screwed up its own economy and a lot of others by dumping a shitload of the
> stolen shiny stuff into the market. Gold has the minimal advantage these
> days that it's hard to find heaps more on Earth, so a gold-based money
> supply can't be pumped up in the bogus fashion displayed nicely in the
> cartoon (but those at the helm can always just change the attributed value).
> Since real wealth *is* increasing (O blessed extropy!), there does need to
> be a way to pump in more of the standard signifiers. But some rationality
> applied to the process would be desirable.
> Damien Broderick

Or better yet, recognise the concept as useful but fundamentally
flawed, and think about ways to restrict it to where it does more good
than harm.

If I work for a small company to build some proprietary software, I
get paid well. No benefit of my labour might be realised at all, or
else it might be realised in terms of small gain for a small group of
people (owners of the software, and users of the software). Both
groups are strictly limited in size. The length of time over which
that gain will be realised is also going to be short. The only gain
that can be had from my software regards the features. Any excellence
in the underlying structures will reach very few people (only other
developers working on the same codebase), because it is secret.

If I instead participate in open source, I don't get paid (being paid
would be the exception). I have to come up to speed and up to a
quality level where my work is acceptable to the project. My work, if
it sees the light of day, can benefit many more people, and can
potentially be useful forever. Moreover, excellence in creation of
that work can benefit many people, forever, because anyone can see the

If you use some kind of formula like

value=(utility for average user) x number of users x useful lifespan

then the open source contribution is clearly of more value than the
closed source work. OTOH, if you say value is what someone will pay
for a thing, then the closed source work is more valuable. This second
definition is what money encourages, a very circular little world.

I think it boils down to this: Money works for things where relative
wealth changes will take place. I will pay you to code to bring me
advantage over my neighbours. I might pay you to decrease my
neighbours' wealth relative to me, or even to decrease all our wealth,
but mine less so. But I wont pay you to raise everyone's absolute
wealth by a miniscule fraction. Which is what the open source
contribution does.

I think that value isn't actually relative where it matters; it's
absolute. It matters that I have a roof over my head, not that my roof
is bigger than my neighbours. I don't care if I have better health
care than other people, but I do care that if I get sick, I can be
helped. I need enough to eat, not more than everyone else.

If you focus on absolute wealth, you can notice than an absolute
increase of everyone's wealth is an increase of your wealth, even if
other people get more than you do in a relative sense.


http://emlynoregan.com - my home
http://emlyntech.wordpress.com - coding related
http://point7.wordpress.com - downshifting and ranting

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