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13 June 2010

Suggestions for modeling non-monetary coordination in the Angel Economy

This was intented as a comment to Non-monetary coordination at Angel Economics, but it got too long to fit the 4KB size limit for comments.

I would like to add some modeling ideas for incorporation into the economic modeling paradigm offered as 'angel economics.' Basically, I am applying the ideas I have set forth as pubwan to the ideas described there.

First to address your information agencies. I see no need for institutional control of information. Your information storage and distribution can be the existing Internet, which hopefully can be made more resilient and independent of commercial activity. It would be good for the community of angels to hedge its bet by developing a parallel or alternative internet from the ground up, perhaps akin to Fidonet back during the era of bulletin boards. Given an internet, the information agency is essentially an open content database in which to store your input-output matrices.

The use of matrices to model production processes is reminiscent of Leontief's input-output model of the economy. You also seem to be advocating using matrices to model the information in a process sheet, focusing on one stage of production and cataloging inputs, outputs, equipment, perishable supplies. The method I propose also uses graphs to model processes. Consider each process as a graph node. Let's also consider people and things as graph nodes. Now draw a line from the process to each of the people and things involved in the process. The people involved can be marked as being members of a particular occupation or profession—more on this later. The things involved in a process include inputs, outputs, machines and fixtures, perishable tooling, etc. Each item should be cataloged using 'is a' and 'has parts' relations to help identify equivalent pieces as equivalent in spite of variations in nomenclature, spelling, etc. As the master graph gets filled in by more people marking up more processes, situations will self-identify where a particular type of object that is one process' output is another's input.

One way to start this project would be to spread the word about your idea of angel economics. Attract as many people (or angels) as you can. The first thing to ask of your participants can be to use matrices and graph nodes to model their own jobs. Hopefully their jobs aren't so monotonous that the whole workday isn't built around a single process operation. In any case any person's current actual job in meatspace should be able to be modeled by listing materials used in each on-the-job activity, as well as internal and external 'customers' dealt with, etc. Additional information to obtain from each participant would include jobs or trades they would be interested in learning, as well as any for which they are expert enough to teach. This lends itself to creating a many-to-many relation mapping participants with occupations, in which each instance of person-in-an-occupation can be preliminarily tagged as 'apperntice,', 'journeycritter,' or 'master.' Sure this brings rank, and potentially rankism, into the equation. Consider it the kind of 'authority' that implies expertise and nothing else. In the angelic social structure we are modeling of course, apprenticeship is more purely for the purpose of instruction, and undertaken without the usual emphasis on bondage, servitude, entry barriers and trade secrets. On-the-job training, of course can be seen as another process to be modeled.

The addition of nodes representing production processes will continually enlarge the database. It is expected that linkages between processes will be discovered in the process. Hopefully this will present a serious challenge to the idea of supply chain as proprietary information.

The next thing to ask of the participant-angels is to similarly model their leisure activities, or their consumption of goods and services. In terms of market-based theory of economics, this entails mapping out one's own 'utility function.'

Getting back to the idea of an information agency: The agency is the database. One activity in the maintenance of the database is closure-seeking. By this I mean the use of systematic methods to identify holes in the information. An obvious place to start is with objects identified as outputs but not as inputs, and vice versa. Wikipedia's most wanted articles feature is an example of a closure-seeking mechanism. Another closure-seeking mechanism for angel economics might consist of identifying products, processes and product destinations that are outside the system, so to speak. These could be thought of as imports and exports from the perspective of the angel economy. While I don't think autarky of production is a sane objective for any economy, I think autarky of knowledge would serve the cause of resilience.

Does all this mathematical modeling effectively replace price signaling? I'm guessing not; at least not in the early stages. Instead of redesigning economics on a blank slate, I would propose taking existing price signals as givens, for example for the purpose of deciding which market baskets are feasible for the purpose of utility mapping. Perhaps this scaffolding can be removed at some point; perhaps not.

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