Sparked by MoneyAsNetworkProtocol (Blog) Graham says :

Some random questions without any kind of research but that kind of interests me and if I had the time then I'd look into it more but hey:

  • Does a "free market" [1] benefit from having a single currency throughout, or is the mixing pot of alternative currencies simply part of the ideology? Is a multitude of currencies itself, in effect, a kind of "market", the evolution of which mirrors the currents found in the marketplace? i.e. Does a marketplace need equality at some level, or are its theories sound at all levels of the layered hierarchy?
  • Does this have any bearing or effect once you translate the idea of currencies into "platforms"? For instance, is it more advantageous to work towards a single and universal, monopolistic platform (whether it be Windows, *nix, etc) and then concentrate on what can be done with that "standard" once everyone is on a "compatible" foundation? Or should we consider the advancement of underlying factors a necessity in progress and "choice", without which the overlying model would be flawed and/or unsustainable? Perhaps it's not even a "progress" thing, but more an "equality" thing - how best to give people a fair chance to compete?

[1] At current, I'm working out how best to define a "free market", so the question is subject to flux... ;)


Interesting points. A couple of thoughts.

On conformity vs. diversity

All platforms are biased abstractions over the underlying substrait. They make some things easier but some things more difficult than working at that lower level. If you have a plurality of platforms, you have a greater chance of finding one that allows you to do what you need.

But platforms are also communication networks. The more widely adopted they are, the more people they allow to communicate. And NetworksCreateValue.

So, it's a TradeOff. Wide acceptance vs. narrower selection of constraints, which means fewer things are easy. And we seem to value this trade-off differently in different places.

Prefer wide acceptance Prefer plurality
Internet protocol, operating systems Computer hardware, applications

What about money? Well, people like BernardLietaer favour plurality, what he calls ComplementaryCurrencies. That's because he identifies some very strong problems with the national currencies we use. And claims to have empirical evidence that supplimenting them with secondary currencies can solve certain kinds of social problems. They can stimulate creation of extra work, and can build and cement community.

On freedom

If I understand your first question, it's about freedom. Which is the greatest freedom? The freedom given by wide-access or the freedom given to choose a plurality of platforms. It's actually another MetaLevelFreedomProblem.

I don't have an answer to this. Or even know whether there is one. But I'm going to think about it further.

It seems to me that there is no scale in the picture. This is like a fractal. I mean at each scale there is a whole that is parted into interacting and competing smaller peaces.

I believe this is quite a general notion.


Everything's relative, but by looking at theories, we can make some attempt to apply generalised rules to what we have right in front of us. For instance, in terms of economies and markets, we have at least three obvious layers so far - currency used, economic ideology applied, and then what can be done once these are in place. Each has similar abstractions, by which I mean they suffer/benefit from universality/fragmentation, but are roughly pretty defined in terms of these layers.

I'm not sure the first question was about freedom as much as it was about efficiency - can more be achieved if you are building on top of a layer in which everyone has some equalising factor (by, for example, eliminating the possibility of one faction using its difference to increase its influence once it has achieved a minor foothold), or is a more entropic approach better for leading to more sustained (due to its balanced nature) foundation?

It's similar to the "open competition" vs "government regulation" debate in a way - choice versus equality, freedom vs guidance? Another example would be the ongoing battle for culture, say in France, where we have a clash between a universal language (American English) and pride of cultures - the first naturally bring people together and makes it easier to swap information, but in the process, we lose much of what that language lacks.

If you take a coding approach to it, then it seems more important to strike a balance - internally, systems can do whatever they want, but in order to interact with other systems, a standard communications protocol may need to be agreed upon (e.g. XML). This gives you a relatively happy middle position between the two extremes. You just have to decide which protocol to use... ;)

Zbigniew, Graham : I'm very open to the possibility that free-markets are the most efficient, and must be opposed for moral reasons. I discussed something like this on LeftAndRightAndScale. (Which also talks about scale. And see also OnGranularity)

Graham's example of french culture is makes me think there also needs to be link to SlowNetworks here.


See also :