Notes of Note from John F. Ince

A few years ago, while attending the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, the so called “Slow Money” conference was also taking place across the city – so I did a quick shuttle between the two. A few weeks before I’d simultaneously attended a software developer conference, a green conference and a social capital conference. All of these conferences existed as islands unto themselves. At each event, the speakers trumpeted their own visionary solutions, their revolutionary business models and disruptive approaches. But most were unaware that speakers at the other conferences were talking about the same ideas, just using different buzzwords. My takeaway – truly breakthrough ideas are only possible, if somehow we all find a way to integrate our ideas with complementary ideas that are growing up on other islands of thought.

Today we’re all operating with blinders on to some extent. We all function in our own little echo chambers of thought operating with data intensive filters…. amassing more and more information about what really doesn’t matter very much … except to the people in our own little echo chamber of ideas.

Often speakers talk about changing this system or that system. But what about rethinking “the system” that underpins all the other systems? What about integrating agendas of these echo chambers? Until we view the data from a distance and see the bigger picture … a picture not clouded with static of useless statistics… a picture not distracted by data flowing from myriad sources – until we see this bigger picture we’re still all systematically moving towards a reckoning of the system itself.

For starters, consider this from the ecological perspective. All other systems depend upon our natural systems for resources and sink functions. More and more of the data coming from the Web is about the consumption patterns of “users” … but we all know that the consumption patterns of human beings are unsustainable. <blockquote>The late great environmentalist David Brower, summed it up best 25 years ago when he said, “In the last 25 years, humans have consumed more of the earth’s resources than all humans consumed in all history.”</blockquote> He said this 25 years ago. If it was true then … and it was … then what does it say about the assumptions that so many entrepreneurs put into their growth projections to please their investors today.

<blockquote>On a planet of an finite limits with growing populations all over the world … why are we still trying to sell the American dream of “buy, buy buy more stuff” to people all over the world. </blockquote>

Why do so many business models of tech entrepreneurs rely on “advertising” to make the numbers work when buying more more more … stuff, is the last thing on earth we should be doing.

The earth has finite limits … the fossil fuels of our economy are finite and diminishing. The sink functions of the earth buckling under the pressure of a throwaway society. And while the tech world has come up with all kinds of innovative solutions for niche problems – many important and highly inventive in their own way … they’re ignoring the incentive structure in our financial and advertising systems that program us to consume more more more.

So while tech entrepreneurs pitch their business plans for solving micro problems in niche markets, we’re looking right past core problems that threaten the ecology and the stability of the larger systems upon which we all depend. Yes, this ultimately threatens the lifestyles that all of us have come to know and love. You can fill in the blank … here … educational decline … financial instability … economic inequality … unsustainable lifestyles … stagnant economy … screen addiction … stressed out youth … overworked parents … they’re all parts of the larger system that is reaching a buckling point.

What ever we call it … we all know that the system is rapidly approaching a breaking point. We’re all smart enough to know that the “system” increasingly is defined by the code that we program into our strategic plans … which together comprise the code of the global operating system … the code of high finance … the code of consumer purchasing patterns … the code of millions of subsystems that together are pushing us towards an inevitable reckoning.

So my question is this: can we connect the dots between what’s happening in our eentrepreneurial conferences … in the tech accelerators … in the B-schools … on on streets where half of the people are focused on their screens … on the trading floors of the big brokerage houses … in the boardrooms of companies … in the minds of the CEOs.

<blockquote>In sum … why aren’t we rewriting the code of the global operating system to solve the real problems that threaten all of us instead of numbing ourselves with commercial messages that improve nothing but the bottom lines of the balance sheets?</blockquote>

The accumulated intelligence in the tech world is fully sufficient to accept and meet a new challenge. The only question is: who is willing to step up and tackle it? Twenty-five years ago, the nexus of economic power was concentrated on Wall Street. But in the last 3 decades another nexus of power has come into being that could today challenge the economic, social power concentrated on Wall Street: the power of technology and the companies that have been building revolutions all across the business horizon.

This is fundamental shift of economic power from the financial firms of Wall Street to the tech world. Twenty-five years ago, “old money,” represented by the major Wall Street banks, was the foundation of our banking system. Today, “new money” represented by technology firms like Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay, Cisco, and Facebook have created pools of capital, most of it sitting in marketable securities, that collectively amounts to over a quarter of a trillion dollars. Taken collectively technology companies now have a more substantial and secure financial base than Wall Street banks and none of none of that money is leveraged.

What are tech firms going to do with all the cash they have?

What would happen if the tech world came together to integrate:
•  new money’s financial power,
• the coding capability and technological prowess of the need breed of entrepreneurs,
• popular concern with unsustainable living patterns?

The net result would be potent. It could start with something akin the Bitcoin “blockchain” idea and move towards a network of digital complementary currencies, integrating new financial incentives that are in vogue at impact investing, slow money and social capital circles and layer it upon some of the “bioneering” solutions that are freqently discussed at green conferences. These ideas could form the basis of a new “code” of “Common Cents” that starts to attach a tangible value to the choices we make, the ecological footprints and all the countless incremental decisions we make that jeopardize our common future.

The beginning stages of this are already unfolding with the development of numerous social currencies, social networks, emerging mobile payment solutions and numerous other breakthrough ideas in social capital, social enterprise, social finance and fintech. This new system can be much more efficient, much more equitable and much more empowering than our existing old system if we embed it with design features that consciously integrate values of sustainability, equity and empowerment.

Indeed we are looking right at the real possibility of creating more stable, more secure and more sustainable system. It could be a system that values our common interests on a par with the current dynamic of self interest.

But first our challenge is a simple one – to step out of our own little echo chamber of ideas – and work together from a broader perspective – a perspective in which we see that our common interests as paramount. Ultimately this will give us ample reason to work together to fashion the outlines of a new operating system for the global economy. It’s a solution … a disruptive solution … a revolutionary solution that is there for the taking … if we can just see it before our very eyes.

The face of philanthropy is changing and one of the great drivers is the push towards collaboration growing out of Internet based connectivity and “knowledge sharing” events like the Global Philanthropy Forum. Looking for the next breakthrough idea in the world of philanthropy? Want to connect with and fashion a partnership with the Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Omidyar Network,, the World Bank or others? The Global Philanthropy Forum is a good place to start.

GPF has long been one of the world’s premier gatherings of philanthropists and nonprofit practitioners, but it’s also become breeding a ground for collaborative models addressing some of the world’s most intractable problems. GPF has matured into an all encompassing entity with affiliates to help to foster a culture of philanthropy all over the world. In 2011, The African Philanthropy Forum (APF) was created to extend knowledge sharing to African philanthropists and in 2012 the Brazilian Philanthropy Forum was launched to further expand the network of philanthropists and social investors. The ultimate vision is to create a global network of match-making services that advance new models of collaboration and knowledge sharing. Here’s a quick look at some of the items on the agenda of philanthropic change:

<strong>• Revitalizing Education</strong> – For example, this year at the Global Philanthropy Forum in Redwood City, the MacArthur Foundation, MasterCard Foundation, Human Dignity Foundation, Intel Foundation, and an anonymous donor, announced a collaboration with 23 investments totaling $15,788,327 in grants and a commitment and an additional $13 million commitment for next year to help revitalize secondary education for marginalized children between the ages of 12 and 19 in East Africa, Nigeria, and India.

<strong>• Connected Learning</strong> – In making the announcement, MacArthur President Robert Galucci said that this team has been working together for three years to forge what he calls “a new model of connected learning.” The concept involves games and other learning tools that permit students to proceed along the learning path at their own pace … rather than be rushed according to daily lesson plans that they tend to resist. Galucci is convinced it will work. “You can be pretty sure we wouldn’t be putting $17 million into this if we weren’t pretty confident that we’ve discovered a breakthrough in learning.”

<strong>• Millennium Goals</strong> – The Hilton Foundation has teamed up with United Nations Development Program to fashion a coordinated response to the millennial goals challenge. This is weighty stuff. A lot has changed in the development landscape since 2001 when the Millennium Development Goals were first introduced. Sustainable development has shifted with new linkages among social, environmental and economic goals. UNDP, the Foundation Center and the Hilton Foundation all recognize this and have put out a model to include all stakeholders in a broad partnership. Their focus is on complementary approaches filling the gaps and capitalizing on the new opportunities for collaboration that are emerging with technological capabilities within the philanthropic community.

<strong>• New Linkages</strong> – The link between new collaborative models and technology was perhaps best illustrated with the introduction of a new tool for understanding the interconnectedness of the world. Replacing the old two dimensional maps, a new the three-dimensional globe is integrated with software program that shows in real time population growth, weather patterns and even earthquake probabilities and tsunami warnings. Press another key on the computer and you see the melting polar icecaps and the effects of global warming.

These innovations were but the the tip of the iceberg … so to speak. Indeed the face of philanthropy and development is changing. Consider these milestones and ask if they would have been possible a few years ago:

<strong>• Fifty Years Isn’t Enough</strong> – Before Jim Yong Kim became president of the World Bank President in July 2012, he could be seen protesting outside the bank headquarters as part of the “Fifty years is Enough” campaign. Their goal was to end the World Bank. Today, Kim is working from inside instead of outside and he has established two ambitious goals:
1. ending extreme poverty by 2030
2.  boosting shared prosperity for the bottom 40 percent of the population in developing countries.

<strong>• Collaborative Leadership</strong> – has become one of the buzzwords du jour, in philanthropic circles. What exactly does it mean? Recognizing that divided societies, and polarized constituencies are rendering deliberative processes ineffective, collaborative leadership is being aggressively promoted using new tools of technology. Trust in these mechanisms for self-governance are replacing old models of establishing trust based on huge monolithic third party models. The shifts can be seen in everything from the sharing economy to the revolutionary new crypto-currency, Bitcoin. New models are emerging for identifying, cultivating and supporting leaders of all ages, from all backgrounds, in all geographies.

<strong>• The New Face of Philanthropy </strong>- Darren Walker, President of the Ford foundation, who spoke at the conference, is a personal testament to the changing face of philanthropy. Walker lifted himself up from poverty, entirely through assisted educational programs and scholarships and today heads up one of the most forward thinking foundations in the new face of philanthropy.

<strong>• Taking the World Stage</strong> – Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Steve Jobs, took the stage in Redwood City, to interview social entrepreneur Wendy Kopp, CEO and Co-founder of Teach for America. Now Jobs and Kopp are moving onto the global stage, creating new models of learning in countries all around the world, with Teach for All.

<strong>• What’s Next? </strong>So with all this happening, what’s going to be the next big thing in philanthropy? If I had to put my money down on one breakthrough, I’d bet on social finance … because in the end philanthropy is all about money flows. The big inhibitor to sustained impact in the social economy has been the limitation that comes from the lack of financial leverage. But, new financial instruments like social stock … impact investing bonds, hold out the promise of leveraging the limited assets of foundations. This is the holy grail of the philanthropic world – tapping into the trillions of dollars that now slosh around speculative markets looking for market plus rates of return.

When the philanthropic sector finds a way to offer investors something above a 100% loss of capital … ie giving …. then we’re really going to see the transformation that people have been talking about for years …. Stay tuned … philanthropy is shedding its old skin and is rapidly moving into the 21st century.

Thanks to intriguing stories of quickly-made fortunes, online drug sales and financial scandals, everyone has heard of Bitcoin. Strangely, nobody knows who created it.

It all began with a paper written by “Satoshi Nakamoto” and quietly published via a cryptography mailing list in 2008. The author laid out a plan for an “electronic payment system based on cryptographic proof instead of trust”. It was methodical, neat and sagely predicted future problems. It was also well-written in perfect English. Clearly this was no sketch on a napkin: it took intelligence, experience and time.

But Satoshi Nakamoto was a pseudonym – a male Japanese name that loosely translates as “wise”. No such person exists. The paper may have one author or many, but whoever it was has diligently kept it secret for years. And they left precious little in the way of clues.

There was an email address in the paper: In the early days someone would reply and answer technical questions. It also pointed to a website,, but the domain had been purchased through an anonymous service.

In some correspondence he had used the phrase “bloody hard”, steering us away from an American towards a Briton. Clever analysis of when he made appearances online suggested that he was usually asleep from 5am to 11am GMT, contradictorily suggesting an American – or a nocturnal programmer. At other times he claimed to be 37 and confirmed that he was Japanese, but this was met with scepticism because of his use of slang. Oddly, he once left a link to a Times article in the blockchain, possibly to add weight to its dating.

via Who is the reclusive billionaire creator of Bitcoin? – Telegraph.

Like other Bitcoin evangelists, Ken Shishido is ready to write off the money he lost in the bankruptcy of Tokyo-based virtual currency exchange Mt. Gox as the price of revolutionising global finance.

“In the early days of the automobile, there were traffic accidents because you didn’t have traffic lights or pedestrian crossings,” he said hours after Mt. Gox said on Friday it had lost up to half a billion dollars of investor funds, including some of his own. “But we didn’t ban automobiles.”

Shishido, who lives in Tokyo, was one of about 10,000 investors in Japan who became creditors in Mt. Gox’s bankruptcy when the company capped a tumultuous period of weeks by filing for bankruptcy on Friday.

(Also see: Mt. Gox Bitcoin exchange files for bankruptcy, hit with lawsuit)

He lost about a tenth of his investment in Bitcoin in Mt. Gox, he said, and expected none of that money to come back.

Early enthusiasts for the five-year-old crypto-currency were drawn to its revolutionary ideals of transparency and a lack of central or official control. There was also a heady mix of geek chic – the currency is “mined” through a process involving complex computer math – and laissez-faire Austrian economics.

Mt. Gox’s loss is eye-popping but so too is the number of creditors – 127,000 – in what had been the world’s biggest exchange. That means the average trader lost the equivalent of $3,500 in the bankruptcy at current Bitcoin prices, assuming no money is recovered in the court-supervised restructuring in Tokyo set to play out over the following months.

Value spikes, crashes, takes off again

Bitcoin’s value spiked in April 2013 as the crisis-racked Cyprus government clamped down on withdrawals and seized deposits, rattling faith in “fiat” currencies.

The crypto-currency soon crashed back. Late last year, as the number of exchanges and the virtual money’s name recognition grew, it took off again.

Bitcoin gained wider acceptance – and took off again in price – late last year. It attracted high-profile proponents, like the investor twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss of Facebook fame, and speculators.

(Also see: Mt. Gox: A quick rise and even faster fall)

Investors interviewed after the exchange collapsed faulted the Tokyo exchange and Mt. Gox’s French CEO Mark Karpeles, but they remained committed to the Bitcoin idea.

Roger Ver, a big investor in Mt. Gox, said he did not know if he would ever get any of his lost Bitcoin back.

“But the important thing to realize is that Mt. Gox is just one company using Bitcoin. The Bitcoin technology itself is still absolutely amazing,” he said.

“Even if one email service provider is having a problem that doesn’t mean people are going to stop using email. It’s the same with Bitcoin.”

via Bitcoin true believers unfazed by losses in Mt. Gox collapse | NDTV Gadgets.

The Entrepreneur and the Investor continue their repartee with the Investor skeptically probing the mechanics of the new Moneeey system and the Entrepreneur confidently explaining why and how the new Moneeey Revolution will transform the way money is created, used and shared.

The story of the German Finance Ministry stating essentially Bitcoin is “legal tender” has been making the rounds all over the virtual currency and technology world. The German government recognizes the digital currency as a “unit of account” that can be used in Germany. This makes them a kind of “private money”, which can be used in multilateral clearing circles.The German Ministry of Finance has issued an official statement recognizing Bitcoin as “Rechnungseinheiten,” a legal designation that translates to “units of account”. This type of money is also referred to as “artificial currency” or “side payments.”“We should have competition in the production of money. I have long been a proponent of Friedrich August von Hayek scheme to denationalize money. Bitcoins are a first step in this direction,” said Frank Schaeffler, a member of the German parliament’s Finance Committee, who has pushed for legal classification of bitcoins.This is a very, very big deal. Not just because some bureaucrat seemingly “legitimizes” the crypto-currency, it is also the first commonsense approach from a major economy to-date. While the U.S. government specifically the New York Department Of Financial Services and the US Senate are putting in place appropriate regulatory safeguards for virtual currencies, Germany is merely accepting the obvious.The USA is not the only country to scrutinize Bitcoin operation; Thailand has also decided that Bitcoin is not a type of currency. Senior members of the Foreign Exchange Administration and Policy Department of Thailand advised that due to lack of existing applicable laws, capital controls and the fact that Bitcoin straddles multiple financial facets, Thai officials believe that Bitcoin transactions must therefore be illegal in Thailand.A positive step?Germany has gone ahead and given legal status to the Bitcoin, as it could become an alternative to the euro if the single currency ever ceased to exist. Schaeffler said “If the euro does go belly up the German authorities could potentially still collect tax if everyone started using the bitcoin” – that’s a good example of German forward-thinking!

via Germany Acceptance of Bitcoin Sets Standard for Other Countries | SiliconANGLE.

The term “fiat currencies” is strange and mostly not understood in this modern “progressive” era, where everything is transformed by political “Progressives” into fiat rather than natural forms, which continue to exist as long as so-called “Progressives” have the power to impose them.  So instead of Natural Law, we have fiat law, which is whatever those who currently have the political power say it is.  And instead of Natural Rights, the world today mostly recognizes only fiat rights, which are only the rights those in power say we have.  America was rooted in Natural Rights and Natural Law, which so-called Progressives have been rebelling against for more than 100 years, certain they had better ideas more suited to the modern world.And so today we have fiat money instead of natural money.  Fiat money is money with a government declared value, rather than a natural, inherent value.  That is how the government takes some paper, slaps some ink on it, and supposedly it has the value the government and the ink says it has. Bitcoins Are Digital Collectibles, Not Real MoneyLouis WoodhillContributorIts Not That Bitcoin Can Be Regulated As Money: Its That Now Bitcoin Will Be Regulated As MoneyTim WorstallContributor Dont Be Silly, The Entitlement State Wont Allow BitcoinHarry BinswangerContributor Bitcoin Is a Junk Currency, But It Lays the Foundation For Better MoneyNathan LewisContributorBut that fiat money also lasts only as long as the ruling class has the power to impose it on us.  That means the political power and the market power to do that.  At some point, the market power, which is more real and natural, can overcome the political power.  And that is the point we are reaching, when the innovation becomes more real and natural.

via The Federal Governments Reaction To Bitcoin Is An Acknowledgement Of The Dollars Vulnerability – Forbes.

This video concisely explains why we need to redesign our monetary system.

A social enterprise that taps into the hidden world of online sales referrals allows us to give to charity without opening our wallets  Through TheGivingMachine, charities that might otherwise directly ask for money are asking people for a small change in their online behaviour. Photograph: Alamy

Would you donate more to charity if it wasn’t coming out of your pocket? Thanks to the combination of several technologies and services, this is now possible through the social enterprise TheGivingMachine.

Every year, online shops pay hundreds of millions of pounds to other websites for sales referrals. This is a hidden pool of money to which we have all added by clicking on a link, buying a product and as a result unknowingly created a sales commission for someone else. TheGivingMachine taps into this established technique called affiliate marketing and enables you to generate a sales commission from buying what you were already going to buy from hundreds of the best known online shops. 75% of these commissions are then converted into free donations to the charities and schools you choose, with the remainder providing the income needed to operate the website and distribute the many donation payments every month.

via TheGivingMachine: how technology is making donating free | Social Enterprise Network | Guardian Professional.

“So, is Bitcoin actually money?”It’s a fair question and, with the intense scrutiny directed at the “crypto-currency” of late, an increasingly common one. But the real question is not whether Bitcoin functions as money today, nor whether Bitcoins themselves are a good speculative investment. The real question – and the only important question when considering whether Bitcoin could be a viable alternative currency – is, “can Bitcoin ever function well enough as money to matter?”And that answer, I fear, is no.Whether something is “money” has nothing to do with the source of production, whether it’s issued by a government or a private company or spontaneously generated by a community, whether it’s minted or mined or printed or issued electronically.Money is … well, money … to the degree to which it enables transactions, to the degree that you can use it to purchase things. No matter how efficient or liquid a market is, unless it can be used to purchase things, it’s not money; it’s a commodity.By that measure, Bitcoin is unquestionably money.It just happens to be terrible at it.Wheres the marketplace?Even the most vocal supporter of the system acknowledges that the number of merchants accepting Bitcoins is miniscule and the number of large merchants embracing it is almost nil.But is that unfair, or at least premature?Perhaps it’s just a question of time, business development, marketing … of scale. One hears the term “critical mass” a great deal when this question is posed, the implication being that the ecosystem just needs enough merchants to buy in for Bitcoin to become useful as money and to become self-sustaining.But it is not quite so simple.

via Bitcoin Is Money … It’s Just Terrible At It | The Exchange – Yahoo! Finance.