As an entrepreneur, recognizing the reality of karma in business was one of the more powerful (and recent) developments in my business awakening. Specifically, the experience of intentionally doing/giving things for the benefit of others – with no clear financial reward to myself or my company – and seeing tangible, net-positive results on the business writ large. Just a personal observation and opinion.
Thus, I was mischievously thrilled when I saw the phrase “Karmic Banking” ensconced in the diagram on the homepage of Ethereum. The diagram, which is still on the homepage (just without the labels), shows five piles of colored blocks, equidistant from each other, arranged in a circle. Over one of the circles floated the title, “Karmic Banking”. My first sighting of a phrase I thought I had invented! I tried to click on the picture, but wasn’t allowed.
More strangely, when I google “Ethereum Karmic Banking”, I am shown a long list of results without the word “karmic”. When I do a verbatim search for “Ethereum Karma”, the first relevant result is an article with “Martin Shkreli” in the tagline. Where did this mysterious phantom link disappear to?
Anyways, even if you are raising your eyebrow dubiously at my report that the word “Karma” was listed on the homepage of crypto currency (and platform) Ethereum, let us explore the idea of karma in currency. Only let us expand our definition of currency, from “a system of money in general use in a particular country”, to include its other definition, “the fact or quality of being generally accepted or in use”. By this measure, we can treat Instagram likes and digital ad impressions as a currency as well.
For most of us, the US Dollar is the first currency to come to mind; for others, it is Bitcoin, or Pesos, or Euros etc. As you conceptually expand your definition of what a currency is, ponder social media. Have you ever paid money for Instagram likes? It seems that a social media “Like” is (has become) form of currency, once-removed. Let us coin this phrase “currency once-removed” to imply that there exists an acknowledged fiat-currency value associated with a fixed number of [number or amount of unit(s) in question].
Now we have this idea of currencies once-removed. It is useful for behaviors that straddle the line between traditional, “for-profit” business; and leisure. How can it be that some people use Instagram exclusively as a source of (guilty) pleasure, while others use it exclusively for business purposes, i.e. for financial gain? Same way that anyone can do something they love, as an amateur, and not get paid; yet, the second they declare it their “profession”, it is expected that they are paid. Does this emit a whiff arbitrariness?
Anyways, the reason I’m talking about this is to explore the unintended economic consequences of societal fixtures and memes (such as the Instagram “like”) that have become currencies once-removed. On social media, people do things not for money, but for any number of emotional reasons: to show love; to demonstrate commitment; to share goals, preferences, and selfies. It sounds crazy, but people even pay to have more “likes” than the average person; it has become a social proof.
I use Instagram, and have always enjoyed it; my beef is not with Insty or social media in general. My whole point here is that we, as a society, can do better than Instagram “likes” in our day-to-day activities that are related to these “currencies once-removed”.
What if, using the Ethereum blockchain to create a decentralized business, operating on a “tamper-proof network”, that gave each user a ranking, for number of loans given and number of projects either invested or backed. To control for increasing wealth inequality, the figures are not denominated in dollars, but in deals completed.
Now fast forward five years into a future where such an application has become the new Instagram /Facebook. We dropped our yearn for “likes” just like we dropped our AIM Instant Messenger handles; one day we woke up, and it did not serve us. Instead, we compete for status based upon how much we have done for others, with the question of whether or not we did it for financial gain decidedly obscured (as with Instagram likes).
Now take it a step further, to the idea of a decentralized ledger that cannot be changed, and starts to essentially track the history of the app’s postings, via each user’s “Deal Flow” and “Give Flow”. Our own hobbies, desires, and interests we are proud to showcase, melds with our resume, our professional goals and financial aspirations.
What would you like to do?
And it is so.