The books by Daniel Suarez, Daemon and Freedom, portray a possible extension of the world of today. Some elements contemplated in the books are obviously already in place such as worldwide gaming communities like World of Warcraft (11 million subscribers as of December 2008) and other MMORPGs. Botnetting of government and corporate computers is another existing feature of the contemporary world. High-magnitude financial crises (e.g., 2008) and dissatisfaction with the way they are handled is another obvious parallel, with grassroots responses such as the Move your Money movement to use local banks that did not receive bailout funds.
At a broader level, one of the most interesting ways that fundamental economic transformation could happen is the way that humans worldwide are starting to behave like a vast complex adaptive system (CAS).
1) Location-based services check-ins
Mobile-device users are checking in at the different physical locations they visit using FourSquare, Loopt, and other location-based services (LBS). People are shifting their physical-world behavior to unlock certain badges and points. In addition to earning badges and mayorships for the number of check-ins to a particular location, opt-in communities could develop using LBS platforms to award the type of check-ins, giving points and badges for behavior valued by the community. FourSquare's API is available and new applications are already being created. A simple example of rewarded behavior would be receiving double points for gym visits, escalating levels over time as visits accumulate. Another example for certain user communities might be earning double points for check-ins at local coffee shops vs. Starbucks. Starbucks actually comprises over 30% of all check-ins for LBS service Loopt.
Not just the geographical location, but also the type of activities could be rewarded. For example, there could be creativity, collaboration, learning, and teaching badges from check-ins at places like the TechShop, BioCurious, Hacker Dojo, or the Hub (social venturing collaboration). There could be time and location tagging for event attendance interpolation. Not every user would want this detail or would make their activity public, but this functionality could be useful for life-logging too. There could be sensors on public transit registering user behavior or some other way to ‘check in’ to transportation-based behavior.
There could be both incentives for positive behavior and disincentives for negative behavior. For example, users could receive points for not doing behaviors like checking in at fast-food restaurants, not going to gas stations (congratulations, you only went to a gas-station once this month!). A trustable automated check-in system could provide behavior validation, although there are obvious hacks such as not bringing the mobile device when going to fast-food locations. Finally, the spirit of incentivized check-ins should be opt-in, fun, and empowering, not didactic.
2) Real-time economy feeds
A second interesting complex adaptive system element that is arising is a real-time economy feed in the form of Blippy. Parts of the feed are publicly open and other parts just to the user community. The feed provides immediacy, transparency, and detail regarding economic activity, like real-time game-like granularity. Features could be added for zooming into views of more or less detail (e.g., real-time to-date, Amazon’s sales are down this month vs. last month). The user community can comment and interact around specific purchases.
In addition to the democratic openness of a real-time economy feed, this platform could be used the same was as LBS check-ins to reward certain behaviors. Blippy users could earn points for certain types of purchases, like carbon-neutral products certified by GoodGuide, Green Home, or ClimateCooler. Lower energy usage could be rewarded. With detailed purchase granularity, behavioral goals could be facilitated (e.g., Congratulations, you did not buy cigarettes this month! Congratulations, you bought less ice cream this month!)
3) DIYBio email list
A third fascinating development of humans as a complex adaptive system for change is the DIYbio movement. DIYbio is a worldwide self-sustaining collaborative community arising to build a new or complementary scientific order in biology. The story is told through these snippets of recent postings…
- DIYbio meeting Wednesday Jan 13th at 7PM: So all the DIYbio groups have hacked 300X microscopes out of $7 webcams.
- Plant stilbenes, SIRT1 activators; request for assistance: Hi, I am looking for tropical crop plants that produce phytoalexins called stilbenes; phenolic chemicals, that among other things, include molecules that activate the SIRT1 deacetylase. For the moment I am restricting my search to plants of the Fabaceae subfam. Faboideae (pea group). Currently, I am looking at the literature on Cajanus cajan (pigeonpea) & Arachis hypogaea (peanut, groundnut). I am also looking at literature on non-resveratrol stilbene activators of SIRT 1. I have linked two relevant papers for context.
- DIY movement in Shenzhen, China: I'm looking for a previous post about a DIY movement in Shenzhen, China, somebody posted it before but I can't find it now? It wasn't bio focused, more about electronics.