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.