Money is Dead

posted by alex

Last night Eric and I took our first little field trip out to Silicon Valley. We hopped on the Caltrain with our destination set for Palo Alto and the, in geek eyes, almost mythical PARC (previously Xerox PARC) to check out the BayCHI monthly program meeting.

The first presenter was Christopher Allen who spoke about unstructured trust and the Dunbar number. As I see it, unstructured trust is the type of trust that occurs within smaller social groups where the relationships aren’t formalised. This works since in smaller groups people are able to keep track of the group as a whole thus not needing a formal organisational structure. When the group scales and the number of participants exceed the amount of people that one can keep track of the need for a structure becomes apparent (e.g. in a company you might have a formal organisational hierarchy). When we formalise and make explicit the nature of our relationships the trust also changes. I believe that in a smaller group setting, intimacy makes it possible to direct larger attention to each individual within the group and therefore enabling trust to be “direct” between you and another member. In a larger system that doesn’t afford the same amount of attention for each individual, you instead place trust in the system making interpersonal trust indirect, and in a sense mediated by the structure itself.

The second presenter was Michael Goldhaber who I believe was actually the guy who coined and started the whole movement of the attention economy. The talk contained an interesting comparison between feudal, market-money-industrial and attention economy as systems. Something that made me think was his point that today when most people talk about the attention economy, they are simply mapping attention as a resource onto the existing capitalist system, i.e. they are putting a price tag on attention. However, as Goldhaber states, the prerequisite for the attention economy is the abundance (post-scarcity) of material goods; therefore making the monetary system unnecessary altogether. In a future attention economy, attention is not worth money, attention is currency and money is simply dead.