How to pay people Nothing, while actually paying them everything.

What is a company?  A company is a conglomeration of people that, in the eyes of the law, is a person.  In business, it's an entity who is designed to create profits for the people who own it and are its constituents.  I've never really thought much about what a company is because they are such essential parts of our world now.  You can't really move an inch without running into some aspect of the world that exists because of a company.

Recently, a new little online news network has started to structure and run itself in an outlandish new way.

The first problem of any company is how to get it started.  Currently, often this happens with investment of money by the founders, venture capitalists and investors.  People who generally know what they are getting themselves into and have lots of money to get things started.  Those people will end up owning big chunks of the company and be the ones who profit from it's continued success.

This new endeavour pretty much turns everything on it's head in some really interesting ways. First, we will start with the ingredients of this news network.

Podcasts - which include advertising segments
Articles - which include website banner ads and comments
A forum where people come to discuss stuff.

Now the problem that is faced by the people running this site is that they need to produce podcast and articles that will draw enough people so that advertisers will be willing to pay for ads which will pay for the website and all the content producers.

The problem is that this is a cycle and it needs to be kickstarted by funding to get the whole thing started.  Before, the whole thing seems to have been running off the shear force of will of the network creator.  But he is creating a new way forward, which sounds ridiculous, but might actually work.

He is making "fake" money.

The plan goes like this.  Every week, anyone is free to submit content, like articles and podcast, to the website.  It is checked by editors and posted on the site if it passes a certain level of quality. Depending on a variety of factors, such as the amount of content submitted, and the portion of readership, the content authors get paid a certain amount of "fake" money at the end of the week.

Next, the audience comes to the site, reads all the articles and listens to the podcasts.  Because the "fake" money was just made up by the sites creator, he gives some of this money to the audience based on how much they read, listen and comment on the site.  Every week, everybody who has been participating on the site gets some "fake" money, just for being an audience member.

And now comes the trickiest part.  For advertisers to buy ad space during the podcasts, or for banner ads on the articles, they need to pay using the "fake" money. Unless they themselves are contributors to the site, they will need to go to an open market and buy some "fake" money using real money. And it is in that instant, where "fake" money is traded for real money, the "fake" money suddenly gets real value.  All the effort that was put in for nothing actually was contributing in a small  invisible way that grew into real value.

This cycle of "fake" money being paid to the participants will continue to repeat.  If the site is successful, more people will submit content, more people will read and comment, and there will be more competition to buy ad space on the network.  If the news network continues to grow, the value of the "fake" money will grow more and become more real. 

In the end, the "fake" money will actually represent all the effort and value that all the members contributed.  The members, without really realizing it formed a company in which they all were given stock based on their participation.  The company that they formed, has value, and for that they are rewarded.

Now this all sound ridiculous, because there are so many problems with making "fake" money. The site's creator could just print as much as he wants, and everybody could counterfeit it, and how would all these people send money around on the internet without running into all sorts of crazy laws and fees....

...of yeah Bitcoin.

Except Bitcoin is real money, it's not fake value and you can't give it away for free.  So some nice people have invite a new way to make "fake" money that rides on top of Bitcoin.  You can't counterfeit it, it's fairly cheap to send around the world and it works great on the internet. The most advanced version of "fake" money seems to be a technology called Counterparty.

And the whole system of giving away "fake" money has been happening for a few months and it seems to be working.  The news network is called Lets Talk Bitcoin and they have their own "fake" money called LTBCoin.  It's still early days but it is a really exciting development because with this new structure, if this whole thing were to become successful, it wouldn't be some investors standing on the sidelines who stand to make all the profit, but all the people who are actually participating and contributing in the conversation.

The idea of creating something from nothing is pretty amazing, but it actually might work.


What to do when there are no more jobs

This video outlines the current path towards automation that civilization is currently marching towards.

The world economy is headed in the direction of more and more stuff being created automatically, more efficiently by less and less people. There is likely no way to stop it.  It's an inevitable evolutionary fate, built into the idea of genetics and memetics.

This automated future pretty well answers the question of where all of the stuff we need and want will come from.  It also answers the question of who will do all the work.  Automatic robots. Automation of some kind will likely be able to most of the types of work that anybody would ever need to be done. Unfortunately this completely upsets the fundamental sustenance that has kept most of humanity fed, clothed and housed for a few hundred years.

If everything can be automated, how the heck are we going to make any money to buy anything? I'm certain there are people who are currently unemployed, or underemployed who will simply have no prospect of a "job" in the future.  Whether that is due to globalization of the economy, or from automation, it doesn't really matter, there are simply going to be people for whom the economy in it's current state does not have any jobs.

Capitalism is capitalism, accountants and CEOs are extremely good at doing the math, finding all the corners to cut and making a profit with the least number of workers as is possible.  There is zero incentive for them to make any jobs, and all profits in the world to get rid of them.

So what are we going to do?

One answer that I've heard about is the idea of a basic income.  The state collects taxes, redistributes a certain amount to everybody so that everybody at least gets a basic life for free.  Our civilization is advanced enough to consider that idea very reasonable.  It's a very fair idea, and I bet some places will adopt it as it is a very straightforward solution to an unprecedented problem.

What I have been considering recently are other directions and paths forward when jobs become a thing that people can't do anymore.

Everybody could be a capitalist

So no jobs for people to do is a problem, but actually it's not the root cause of a problem.  The root cause may be an imbalance in capitalism.

More precisely, a very small portion of the population own the companies that make the profits. Some fraction of people actually own stock, and only a tiny segment of those people actually own amounts of stock that could keep them fed and clothed from the dividends.

That centralized ownership of companies is exactly where I think the problem lies. If the ownership of all the hugely profitable companies was actually somewhat distributed amongst the population, I can see a future where it isn't necessary to work, and it also isn't necessary to live off a basic income from the government.

As an illustrative example, take a taxi driver who owns his car.  Currently he can make the profit from driving people around everyday for a certain price.  Suppose one day a company releases a self driving car kit.  The taxi driver saves some money, buys it, sets it up in his car, presses the "taxi mode" button and sends the car off to do his old job.  The car goes off, does the same work as the driver, and the driver still gets paid.

The driver is now free to do whatever he wants to do with his free time, and still is making the money he was before.  He now has to manage his self-driving car, make sure that it is running in peak form, pay insurance,clean the car and kept up-to-date self-driving technology, but that is a feasible business.

The issue would arise in that a giant competitor might move into the market and squash the one-man, self-driving taxi shop.  That is pretty much how capitalism works.  In that case, it would make the most sense for the taxi driver to sell his self-driving car to a bigger company,and use that money to buy stock in the self-driving car company that provides the best return on investment.

And when I think about that idea right at this moment, it sort of sounds untenable.  Firstly people generally don't have money lying around to buy stock. Secondly, right now I can't make more money with my investments then I can with my work and time.  Thirdly, a huge portion of the population don't even have banking services, let alone an investment account.

This may all be true at the moment, but as the value of human work is decreased to a greater and greater extent, there will be a moment when being an owner of stock at a small scale will provide considerable more value than being a human worker for that company.  Furthermore, the prices of goods and services will decrease as human labour is taken out of business, meaning that we will require a smaller income to survive just as well as before, and maybe, just maybe we could survive off the work of robots that we own a part of.

An old problem

I think the biggest problem that I see with this plan is that currently stock market ownership is very much distributed in the same way as power was in earlier civilization, with nearly all the power allocated to a very small proportion.  Just like the kings and princes of the past, or CEOs and Bankers will be hard pressed to relinquish their share.

... but in a system of cryptographic money and business ownership there is actually a glimmer of feasibility.

What I'm calling a To-Do Itinerary

The Difficulties of Starting A Creativity Engine

When you have a job that commute to, or classes that you are taking, with a boss, teachers, deadlines and people around it's pretty easy to stay on task and be very productive.

However one my aspiration of being an artist is to make art and grow my own projects into self-sustaining endeavors. I'm not sure if this is completely misguided, but I have in my head the idea that productive artists create something of a creativity engine that is a combination of producing work, learning new techniques, improving skills,  experiencing art and life, building a reputation, and being critiqued.  All of those pieces create a loop that progressively improves and revs up and result in more work, possibilities and success.

But that creative career engine needs to get running, and I just keep cranking it, trying to get it going, but it is taking a long time to rev up.  In art school it felt quite easy to get it moving, the goals were very clear, the timing was strict and I always knew what to do.  But then school finishes and the structure has evaporated and new priorities like making a living are hanging overhead and clouding what used to be a very clear path forward.

When I lack an external productivity structure that I'm accustomed to from school and standard jobs, it's hard to get the creativity engine running.

For the past few years I have been working on the creative engine, trying to improve my habits and abilities. When I have time for my personal creative work, it is very easy for that time to rapidly get whittled away to almost nothing simply due to other aspects of my life and work taking priority.  It's been an ongoing process of self discovery, analysis, trial and error to find some sort of structure that will help get the engine going and keep it going in the long term.

In the past I've tried a bunch of things.  They all taught me lessons but weren't a full solution.

For a while I tried a web service call Rescue-Time that tracked all of my computer and device usage and let me know what I was spending my time doing.  It didn't get me to do things, but it sure to teach me how quickly time gets eaten up by other things.

I tried apps that helped motivate me to do things every single day.  That lasted for about 60 days. This system helps bootstrap change, but it isn't sustainable and flexible enough to adapt to life and goals very well.  It did get me to floss every single day at least.  I might use this method again but with a set amount of time, like for the next 30 days I will do "such and such" every day.  When there is no endpoint, there is only the looming fact that you will likely fail to attain an impossible and misguided goal.

But all of this productivity experimentation has lead to a new system that has worked quite well for the last month. I'm sure that this new technique isn't going to be the ultimate solution, but it is likely close to the right solution for myself.

I'm going to dub this technique the To-Do Itinerary, because order, timing, planning and archiving are important aspects of it.

Guide to the To-Do Itinerary

1. Make a list of things to do.  Don't put full projects on this list, only put manageable portions of projects on it, maybe 60 minutes maxium.

2. Estimate the time of those tasks in minutes.  If your pretty sure you won't be able to finish in one work period, just put down the amount of time you want to work on it.

3. Create an order for the task. This order should be based on priority but I also like to sprinkle the easy and fun things between the harder things.  I like to start with some "warm-up" tasks that are simple, mindless or fun.

4. Start the task at the top of the list, start a timer with the estimated amount of time.

5. If the timer goes off before i'm done, you have some options

a. add more time to the timer and keep working.
b. finish the task for now, but re-add in a new task to your to-do list with a new time estimate.

6. When finished the task, record the time taken to the to-do list and check it off.

7. Take a few minutes between tasks to take care of yourself and reduce possible distractions during your next task.

8. Move on down the list and repeat.

Here is a screenshot of a recent To-Do list.

Everyday I copy the last day's list and make it into the new list.  I delete the things that I finished and re-evalute the things that didn't get done.  I make sure to date each list as I bet some day I will want to analyse them.

I also have a long-term to do list.  I put bigger full projects and objectives on it, though I also like to break some of those bigger projects into more manageable tasks.  I use this longer term to-do list to feed into the daily lists.

I have found two main tools that make my system work nicely on an Android phone:

Google Keep for the to-do lists.  It has some really nice to-do list features and it is available on my computer and phone. It allows for easy ordering of task. It also easily archives all of my old to do list so I can refer back to them.

I've very recently start using a service call WorkFlowy. It allows you to make an infinitely deep hierarchical list.  It's free up to 250 items per month, and 24 per year for infinite usage.  I've only been using it a day, but it is now going to be my go-to planning, todo, and all around information/ idea/ brainstorming tool.  It does everything google keep did, but has some features that make it much more powerful.  I'm pretty well enthralled by it.  The user interface isn't exactly as clean, but it is such a powerful structure that I can't help but use it.  Here is a screenshot of the desktop app (it work in mobile and online too).

Beautiful Timer android app.  This is the only timer that I've found that also starts a stopwatch when you start a timer. It also allows you to easily add more time to a timer that is already running, while keeping a tally of all the time that has past since the timer has begun.

**Update 2**
I've created a google spreadsheet called the ETC Time Totaler (estimated time to completion).  I take my workflowy to-do list, complete with numbers that represent the time I expect each task to take, and copy that into the left hand column of the spreadsheet.  It automatically extracts just the numbers from the text, sums them together, and estimates the end time of all those tasks if you were to start working on them at the present moment.  Still only used it a few days, but it is an interesting addition to my arsenal.

What's the Point?

There are a bunch of goals that this To-Do Itinerary is supposed to help produce.

It is meant to help get you working and keep you on task by creating limits to things that were previously unlimited.

It is meant to help you learn to plan better by learning to predict how longs things will take.  By archiving your old notes your can start to look back through your history and improve your planning abilities. It gives you a sense of progress by reminding you of all the things you checked off each day.

It is meant to let you offload the mental workload of task management by delegating it to the list and the timer. All you have to do is work, not think about what you should be working on.

A Few Personal Discoveries

In the month that I've been doing this, I've discovered that in general, I can get about 4 and a half hours of really productive work done in a workday.  I shall see if that number can, or should be increased.  Self-control is a limited resource, and knowing your limits is important to not burning out.  If you think you can really sit down and do a creative project for 8 hours, you might find that that it is not a sustainable.

In understanding that self-control and willpower is a resource, you need to learn how to maximize it. Giving myself the weekends off and making sure that my sleep and stress are taken care are some of the ways that I've found to drastically increase my ability to stay on track.  Attaining a goal won't just happen, you have to make a plan for it to happen.

I will be sure to write another post in the future outlining the results of this system.  Hopefully it won't need a full overhaul.


P.S. Sometimes I don't think that I'm that analytic of a person, and then I go and read things I've written on my blog and I surprise myself with how robotic I must appear to other people sometimes.   I'm pretty it is more a result of how I attempt to organize my thoughts to convey them to other people, that makes me seem robotic. The ideas in my head always feel very organic.

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bitcoin (Or at least decided to not leave the cult)

On November 17th I wrote up a big post about bitcoin.  The price then was around $500 per bitcoin.  It was a little bit crazy then.  Between then and now has been quite a roller coaster.  Up to like $1200, down below $500, now sitting precariously around $600 something on most exchanges.

Between then and now there has been crazy good news and scary news. We are on the precipice of some potentially bad news. And all this news does on the internet is create opinions. There is only so much "action" that can be taken when it comes to bitcoins, so all of the energy that people invest into it just turns into opinions.  They are trying to make rational decisions, and rationalize decisions they made in the past, or might make in the future.  So people everywhere are writing what they think down and it is being spewed constantly everywhere on the internet.  Even right now, at this moment, I am doing the exact same thing. This has caused the internet to be absolutely overflowing with opinions about bitcoins.

And I know all the best places to look for it.  On reddit , and twitter and some different forums it's easy to find. I've figured out how to do searches that try to avoid the opinions that are obviously going to be positive.  Of course the people who own bitcoins, or bitcoin companies are going to be positive, so I don't need to know what they think.

So what I end up finding are all sorts of people who think that the whole bitcoin thing is a bad idea. They know a few of the negative things that are true about bitcoin, or they spout off something completely negative, but baseless about bitcoin.  More recently, I've been finding more and more opinions about bitcoin that aren't just about the technology itself, but more about the community of people who own bitcoins.  Usually it comes down to the idea that we are all delusion cult members who have gotten ourselves into a pyramid scheme and are annoyingly trying to get everybody else to buy into a useless and baseless fad. Some people go so far as to think that the deflationary ideas of bitcoin are so contrary to the fantastic inflation system that keeps the world running that it will lead to economic collapse.  The far off idea of bitcoins ruining the economy sure is more of a threat then the banks and big businesses that have already done so.

I try to be objective about things, to look at both sides of arguments and see all aspects of a topic.  I usually avoid any ideas of faith, of just accepting something as fact even though the evidence isn't there.

But this is a really difficult topic because I'm pretty sure that the only way to mentally hold through these rough patches of bitcoins existence, to stick with what my gut was telling me before, is to actually give up on my usual methodology of looking for evidence.

Regular old searching on the internet just isn't going to cut it.  There is so much noise, and so much opinion that it is indecipherable.   And I guess the price of bitcoins reflects that, the roller coaster charts represent the whole world trying to figure out what is going to happen, and if this whole bitcoin thing is the future.

Some people say yes, some people say no, the short-term charts are crazy looking.  The media gets excited.  Bitcoin is declared "dead", the bubble definitely burst this time.  Random people say that it is terrible and to get out right now.  And then other random people think it's literally the best thing since the internet, will fix all the worlds problems and will make them fantastically rich.

And I guess I feel fairly conflicted because I'm siding with the people on the get rich, drink the koolaid, this is going to work, "to the moon", best thing since the internet side.  Or at least I'm siding with them in that I am going to hold on to my bitcoins.

I'm not going to suggest to anyone that they should invest in bitcoins.  I don't even really want to bring it up with other people, because then I am grouping myself in with all the other crazy believers.  But I am going to stick with it.

I reread my paper about memes and there is so much in that paper that is deeply aligned with the growth of Bitcoin, that I have to go with my long term gut/nerdy brain/love of scifi feelings and stick with it.

And I'm pretty sure that isn't a stupid thing to do.

Pretty sure...