Some Musings about Creating Your Own Currency – Interview with Chris Robison, Part 2

In a Discord chat I had with Chris, I try to figure out how to use meTokens, and what are the value dynamics around a personal token. I find that to get the most out of this token, nothing beats having a solid reputation and personal brand. In other words – it is one of many possible funding systems.

(I actually use a different chat handle IRL)

[10:57 PM] chiwbaka: I just added collateral to the tune of 0.1 ETH to my token, but it says the Total Supply is 1000 - same as before. Is this supposed to happen?
[11:00 PM] CBobRobison | meTokens: Yes. If you add collateral, you're only increasing the amount of ETH backing the already existing meTokens. If you want to increase the supply, then you'll need to buy/mint new meTokens
[11:25 PM] chiwbaka: I thought my collateral was supposed to be my time/services? @CBobRobison | meTokens

[11:36 PM] CBobRobison | meTokens: So your meTokens are valued by your time/services/labor. But they are collateralized by ETH. So if you do work for someone, you earn your meTokens from them so you can unlock the underlying collateral. And the value at which people are willing to buy and spend your meTokens (in exchange for your labor) is determined by the quality of your work.

As an owner of your meToken, you don't need to add any extra collateral. That's a very optimal function. As people buy your meToken, they'll mint new meTokens and collateralize them for you. Adding collateral is basically just a way to incentive people to spend your meToken with you by increasing the "spend value" of the meTokens of yours that they hold

Example: 10 people each hold $10 worth of your meTokens. You add $100 worth of collateral. Only you can unlock that collateral - no one else. So now each of their meTokens could be sold back to the market at $10 or less... Or they could now be spent with you for $20 each. It's sort of like an airdrop, except they can't exactly cash out the airdrop. They have to spend it
[11:53 PM] chiwbaka: let me sleep on that
[12:58 AM] chiwbaka: @CBobRobison | meTokens So it increases the value of the token - if 1 token = 1 hour, then after adding collateral, 1 token = 2 hours... something like that?

Does this apply only for current token holders, or all future ones who now buy in?
[1:32 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: @chiwbaka something like that. If you change $100 per hour for your time and the current value of your token is $100... Then if you add enough collateral so that the value of every one of your meTokens doubles, then yes... 1 token = 1 hr of time before; then it = 2 hr of time after.

But when it comes to meTokens, 1 meToken does not strictly equal one hour of time. Time tokens are something different. They're a type of service token. Similar to a pre-order. Like something you might order off a menu ("I'll take 2 hours of your time and 1 retweet")

But if you really want to invest in a person, you don't buy their time token (or other service token). What you want to invest in is something that represents, say, the total demand for a person's labor. This might look something like buying a token that you know the person will always accept as payment. Eg, you want to buy their personal payment token. That's what meToken is - a token you know a single person will always accept for payment.

This is where the collateral comes into play. If a token is collateralized and only one address can unlock the full collateral of that token, then you have confidence that buying that token is = buying into the bandwidth of a person's demand. Everyone who holds that token is either going to hire the owner OR they're speculating on the fact that other people will buy it to hire the owner.

This is what meTokens are. The market cap of each person's meToken market represents the total demand for a person's labor. So we refer to meTokens as 'Synthetic Labor' rather than time tokens or tweet tokens 

Hard to type out a thorough explanation in discord, but our game theory doc really explains it better
[1:33 AM] magnus: it's a bit too complex imo
[1:44 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: That fair. We do need a more conscious explanation. 

I am confident this design is the only way scale investable personal tokens in a trustless way. But it's not initially intuitive either and that's a problem.
[1:47 AM] chiwbaka: As far as white papers go I think the game theory paper is written quite accessibly - I just tried reading Michael Zargham's paper earlier and I have no energy left for whitepapers today.

I think what would really help is concrete examples - but if they did exist, that just means I'm late to the game and need to find a new field to get into. Lots of concrete fictional examples then, I suppose.

Referencing the Game Theory of meToken Bonding Curves.pdf

[1:50 AM] chiwbaka: according to your game theory paper @CBobRobison | meTokens meTokens can be used either as a service/time token or an investment, right?

[1:51 AM] chiwbaka: that's similar to Commons Stack where a Commons token can be used either as voting rights or an investment
[1:51 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: Oh, well thank you very much! Worked hard to make it as accessible as possible. Ha! Yeah, maybe time for a rest now, then :)

Agreed! Currently working to put together a couple different real life use cases with folks who currently want to remain a bit discrete
[1:52 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: Yeah, that's right. You can either spend the meToken for someone's time/labor or you can hold it as an investment.
[2:00 AM] chiwbaka: @CBobRobison | meTokens
> In this way, open industries or sectors, such as those involved with Ethereum and other blockchains, could fully or partially consolidate around productive individuals and market demands, rather than capital rich projects.

I really liked this line, but I'm not exactly sure what that future would look like. People transacting with each other with meTokens, totally ignoring fiat? How is that possible if the meTokens ultimately unlock another currency like DAI/ETH?

Here too, I would love to read about more concrete examples - a whole series of sci-fi blog posts could spring up around this line alone.
[2:26 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: @chiwbaka

It wouldn't necessarily be totally ignoring fiat... But it would moreso become a core investment vehicle for your fiat (or DAI or ETH)

So I feel like the contrast to draw here would be 2017 ICO projects vs what actually gets used today. I would claim only a small handful of ICO projects ever built anything that has material utility today - maybe Ethereum, MakerDAO (although theirs was not a full blown ICO), and Numerai (not interested in them, but find them fascinating). And if Filecoin launches, then I'd include them in there, too, probably...

But point is... The valuable stuff we actually use today came from individuals or very small groups without any real investable framework. Examples: burner wallet by Austin Griffith, uniswap by Hayden Adams, and Tornado Cash by their team. These are all open source, single pieces of infrastructure which, basically, once built, never needed to be recreated again.

So meTokens is - hopefully - a vehicle to sustain our most valuable builders. If you have a meToken for any of these type of people, then I feel like we'll get far more value our of our industry. The way our industry is structured now is that the big money rich ICO platforms are still the primary sponsors for conferences. They still demand the greatest amount of our attention. Etc etc. Yet they've produced very little. Seems silly that some of that money doesn't go to Austin, whose burner wallet is still used at almost every Ethereum event in the last year. The reason this hasn't happened, of course, is that there hasn't been a framework to invest in individuals
[2:26 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: So the sci-fi future that could be born out of meTokens (or something like it) is something like a 'hyper-remix culture.' We see one person build something valuable and then we become inspired to find someone with equally brilliant skills to build something on top of it. You or I might pay that person to remix the original build, then stake on them afterwards for a chance at a profit. If the remixed tool becomes as useful and popular as we predict, then more people might stake on the remixer. So we get a return on our investment for basically being a 'producer' of a remix for which we saw it's potential (and the potential of its remixer)

Example: we might stake on Austin to create a burner wallet with a built in Tornado Cash token anonymizer. We pay him to do it, then hold his token and watch other people begin staking on him to remix the next thing

To me... This scenario makes more sense than building these big siloed and tribalistic dappcoin projects. Instead, we can start small with the most atomic unit of productivity - an individual person. Invest in them, and become collective producers of things that are inerrantly more p2p
[2:51 AM] chiwbaka: So the idea is that instead of investing in projects, you invest in the people behind them. One side effect is that projects/products that work to provide value to humanity for free, like a commons (because computers work for free) do not have to contort themselves to extract revenue from their usage. Like OpenSSH, TCP/IP, *BSD etc. The trend to create rent-seeking services like SaaS could decrease as a result (I am SO for this)

Instead the person earns a living (money) from his reputation. As it goes up, the value of his meToken goes up. You can also spend the meToken to obtain services from him, which lowers the value as it is burnt.

Plus, as his reputation goes up and you hold his meTokens, your value goes up???? but wait, you can only spend it with him, or sell it back to the bonding curve. So yes, your value goes up too.

This makes sense - but if it does, then it should have been done before. The only reason this idea cropped up now is because we can now have market makers (bonding curves) for everyone...?

Is my understanding accurate? @CBobRobison | meTokens
[3:37 AM] chiwbaka: Focusing on the individual means the project can be disposable/one-shot, whereas previously, the project was the one that funded the individual.

If the project funds the individual then the project has pressure to become rent-seeking (service) or ask for donations if it cannot make money "the normal way". Furthermore, it must keep some value to itself and not give all of it to the individual.

However, the individual is now rent-seeking (but he always was, anyway), and since he cannot expect people to buy into his meToken constantly, to stay afloat he must self-promote as shamelessly as possible, to increase

1. buy-ins

2. value of his meToken

From this we can surmise that one cannot live solely off meTokens unless one has a top-profile reputation.

Suppose a famous developer decides to take a break from working for a few years. His meTokens value would drop as there is less utility and less expectation for the price to go up (assuming he is doing absolutely nothing at all). This would not happen IRL. This means there will be some detractors. Linking the utility to labour also means you cannot scale it, but the utility of the meToken is up to the individual's shrewdness...
[12:57 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: @chiwbaka

> Is my understanding accurate?

Honestly, yeah, I can say that's pretty much dead on to what I'm trying to aim or optimize for. If we can make that happen (or something similar), I'd be pretty darn stoked

but if it does, then it should have been done before. The only reason this idea cropped up now is because we can now have market makers (bonding curves) for everyone...?

It should have, right? The idea of personal tokens isn't anything new. TatianaCoin came out in 2013 iirc. And Adam B Levine (host of Let's Talk Bitcoin) wrote an unpublished paper in 2013, as well, describing collateralized personal token to create automated markets for individuals.... 

But for some reason it never took off. My impression as to why this happened - as I was around for all of this - was that Ethereum came out and consumed a majority of the mindshare that was beginning to form around the new idea of "crypto-economic design" - mind you at that time there was basically Bitcoin and its clones. Colorcoin, Mastercoin, and Counterparty were the only projects really trying to create new crypto-economics (it was a small community). 

So when Ethereum came out, all of that excitement for novel token/crypto design started flooding into the lowest handing fruit - they began building the most atomic primitives. One of the first ones we got was the ERC20 standard. And the first things people decided to do with that was create project tokens. The reason for this afaict is probably the same reason for the existence of cargo cults. All these new people entered the space, looked at BTC and ETH and thought we needed to recreate these phenomenons.
[12:58 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: Now a couple years later, we can see the shortcoming of this strategy. We got drunk of bull markets, but the hangover has worn off, so-to-speak. And we're all re-evaluating our previous assumptions. I think even if this idea of personal token/reputation tokens/whatever were to have been properly suggested in the last 3 or 4 years, people would have ignored it because I'm not sure it can compete with the kinds of gains we were experiencing in 2017.

Focusing on the individual means the project can be disposable/one-shot, whereas previously, the project was the one that funded the individual.

If the project funds the individual then the project has pressure to become rent-seeking (service) or ask for donations if it

Yes and no. There's also a "business model" that goes along with meTokens that suggests that it might incentivize angels/investors/the crowd to go out and seek "undiscovered talent" - people with a lot of potential. Maybe new college graduates, etc. I would argue that while talent at the "bottom of the curve" might not be able to live entirely off their meTokens (at least not at first), what meTokens can almost certainly do for them is close the gap between when a person's potential is first recognized to when it is actually realized (eg, when they can find themselves in a more self-actualized job/role/position). It's like a protocol for open talent-scouting
[12:58 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens:

Suppose a famous developer decides to take a break from working for a few years. His meTokens value would drop as there is less utility and less expectation for the price to go up (assuming he is doing absolutely nothing at all). This would not happen IRL. This means there will be some detractors. 

*well the speculative value would drop. But this is why there is a ceiling and a floor to the bonding curve. If everyone sells against the floor when a top-tier developer takes a break, then they end up leaving some of their collateral behind. That collateral is only accessible to the top-tier developer if they earn their meTokens. So if a bunch of people (say 80%) exit a person's meToken market when they decide to take a break, then all the true believers (remaining meToken holders) end up with an excessive amount of purchasing power if they want to hire that top-tier developer.

Linking the utility to labour also means you cannot scale it, but the utility of the meToken is up to the individual's shrewdness...

I mean... at the end of the day everyone dies, too. So even on that level labor cannot properly scale. But, the incentives are hopefully designed so that while a person is alive, their labor can be fairly valued by the market. If a person take a break, then they don't have much labor to sell. As a consequence, that labor shouldn't be valued very much. A person who is consistently productive, however, will be rewarded for it with a promising meToken valuation and a continuous pipeline of work from their meToken holders.
[1:33 AM] chiwbaka: @CBobRobison | meTokens This is a great conversation, I appreciate it. I woke up today to the realization that without the investment component, the token would not bring any more value to the table compared to just using money for the transaction.

So far this does seem like it would help the open source community. Also, I have a photographer friend and a dance teacher friend. What are some concrete examples of how they could use this?

(some dance teachers have these 10-lesson cards that you buy, and each lesson you go to, they stamp one off... suppose these lesson cards could fluctuate in value? hmmm does anybody really want that in something as trivial as a 10-lesson card?)
[1:57 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: @chiwbaka Right. meTokens are a deed to someone's future labor. If you want to hire someone now, just pay them in cash (if they have the availability in their schedule). But if you want to leverage your knowledge of them now to secure your position with them in the future, the deeds to their future labor (eg, their synthetic labor) is the way to go

Great question! I think a lot about this from the PoV of musicians (mostly bc I used to work in the music industry). Let's say you saw a band back in the day when they were in their garage. If you bought their meToken then, and then they blew up to play stadiums... Then you might still hold enough of their meTokens that you'd be able to hire the hottest band for your kid's birthday party (or your birthday party lol). All for the price of what you spent back in the day in their garage

So for your friends, I believe it depends how they choose to express their work. Does your dance instructor friend create YouTube videos to teach people dances? If so, then their meTokens might be used to request custom choreographies to particular genres or songs by subscribers. Does your photographer friend collaborate with Instagram influencers? Their ability to capture and elevate a person's personal brand might make their meToken valuable to influencers and fans. For example, a fan might want an influencer-quality photoshoot for their wedding. Stake on your friends early, get top-notch, influencer-quality work years later when the fan actually gets married.
[1:57 AM] CBobRobison | meTokens: The reason the FOSS developer example works so well (presumably) is because they are, as you mentioned, "working for the commons." So I think any way a person can contribute their work to the commons (even Instagram & YouTube content is basically free to the public), there's an opportunity for a meToken market to thrive

Otherwise, the alternative is to go work for an employer who has a complete monopoly on your labor where you contribute a minimal amount to the commons, but have a predictable rate of income. meToken are more like an option for how a person might get "employed by the commons".