Token Economics 3: Value

The implications of the changes expressed in the last video are many. But the first is that we are now no longer dependent upon centralized organizations to define value within society.

Because the maintenance of these databases, where value is recorded, has shifted to information networks, it is increasingly becoming possible for anyone or any group of people to set up one of these networks. It means that individuals and groups can define what they value, instead of that being defined for them. And who gets to define value within society is of critical importance.

Previously, only large centralized institutions got to define units of value. The largest of those institutions, the nation-state, got to define widely accepted currencies. But those tokens were always relative to a centralized entity. They only really defined what that centralized entity valued. A Starbucks gift card is a form of token, the RMB is a form of token, a share in Microsoft is a form of token, but all of those units of value are defined, created and managed by centralized entities according to their interest and needs.

What is changing now is that anyone, any group, can now define any form of value through the creation of a digital token on a blockchain.

That token doesn’t have to have value for some external centralized entity, it can simply represent the inherent value within a network of peers.

Tokens are generic units of value that can be used to quantify any form of valued resource. But more importantly, they can be used to define specific and distinct forms of value. This is why in a blockchain economy we have so many tokens: energy tokens, food tokens, transport tokens, social tokens and the list is ever expanding.

In such a way the token economy offers the potential to incorporate more and different kinds of value, thus giving value representation to what was previously excluded from being defined as economic activity.

The potential of this is that we may for the first time start to move towards an economic system based upon full cost accounting.

In recent years with the environmental sustainability crisis unfolding the idea of a full cost accounting economy has been presented as a solution. But to date the complexity of realizing that has been overwhelming and the tools for implementing it have remained limited.

Rapid advances in big data, complex analytics, and blockchain technology are starting to provide the technical infrastructure for an economy that may, in fact, incorporate all relevant event information and value sources, thus bring many areas of social and economic organization into token markets of change.

Tokenizing is the process of converting some asset into a token unit that is recorded on a blockchain. Anything of economic value can be tokenized and thus brought into the blockchain economy.

Today we are starting on a long journey of migrating our entire global economy to blockchain networks: real estate, commodities, supply chains, energy markets, accounting, mortgages, loans, insurance, special purpose vehicles and all kinds of derivatives are all going to migrate, one block at a time, into this new information-based economy.

As the venture capitalist Bradley Rotter Rivetz notes “everything that can be tokenized will be tokenized. The Empire State Building will someday be tokenized. I’ll buy 1% of the Empire State Building. I’ll get every day credited to my wallet 1% of the rents minus expenses. I can borrow against my Empire State Building holding. And if I want to sell the Empire State Building, I hit a button and I instantly have the money.”

With this new technology not only existing forms of valued assets will get tokenized but with advances in information technology we are quantifying and assigning value units to more and more aspects of our world and our social interactions. Token economics will be used to support these new forms of economies, whether we are talking about the emerging natural capital economy or social capital. It will be a number of years before we really have the underlining blockchain technology to do that on a large scale, but it is coming and the implications are enormous.

The point is blockchains aren’t simply extensions of existing financial and monetary systems but something truly different.

They allow us to define, quantify and exchange, new sets of values that emerge in a post-industrial economy. In so doing they allow us to expand market systems and economies as distributed management systems to coordinate more and more spheres of human activity in a decentralized fashion through peer-to-peer exchanges within digital token markets.