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Science Fiction has for some time been anticipating a future free of money; whereas the ideas have rarely been carefully investigated, the hope seems to be real. And the time now seems about right to attempt a first implementation. Could we all, as a group of variously savvy internautes, come up and implement a whuffie system (the word is used in honor of Cory Doctorow's book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom)?
Implementing a whuffie system will require:
- a decent economic study of how exactly this could work and
- an (of course, open source) software implementation.
Whuffie replaces money in some types of transactions between people, though is not similar to money (ie a means of exchange) inasmuch as it is not scarce. The basic features are:
- you do not lose your own whuffie when giving whuffie to someone else;
- you can give different amounts of whuffie to a person (small medium large);
- you can give whuffie once a day to a person or your gifts should have a diminishing marginal value;
- your whuffie gifts would have a value proportional to how much whuffie you have (ie if you have 100,000 whuffies than small, medium and large gifts to others would be worth, say, 1, 10 and 100);
- whuffie counts should deteriorate over time.
A first implementation of a whuffie system requires no more than a means of giving whuffie to one another and keeping track of people's (and institutions'?) whuffie counts.
- the first implementation should be a (myspace) widget probably based on a Yahoo or Google API. The widget is placed on a website to allow visitors to give the web-site owner whuffie. It had small, medium and big "thumbs up" buttons that increase the owner's whuffie according to how much whuffie the visitor has.
- a market place website (ie whuffiebay) needs to be created where people could find others who offer stuff (music tracks, ebooks, real books, actually anything up for sale on ebay) for whuffie instead of money;
- safely keeping track of the whuffie would be the most difficult part. Suggestions:
- some sort of P2P system that does not require a (hackable) central server to keep track of everyone's whuffies;
- perhaps a system where each person has a record of their friends' whuffies (so no one can hack their own whuffie count);
- some secure means of transferring whuffie.