Imagine a world where every time you expend your time and effort, the interaction is complete at the time of the interaction. In other words, your contribution isn’t conditional upon receiving value at some time in the future. You simply contribute because you make a sovereign choice to.
Think this sounds too pie-in-the-sky to be realistic for a global economy? Believe it or not this basic social contract is already working to enable large-scale group projects. When an expert on a giving topic chooses to spend her time writing or editing an article for Wikipedia, she doesn’t expect monetary compensation. The interaction is complete as soon as the article is. When a musician chooses a Creative Commons license for his work, he doesn’t expect royalties. Again, the interaction is complete as soon as he chooses the license. In both these cases, the contribution is based on intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivation.
These social patterns have been very successful in the domain of information, where your gift can be replicated at virtually no cost. So, what kinds of communication tools would be able to support this kind of giving in other sectors of the economy? Instead of choosing where to gift your energy based on a future obligation, you might base your choice on information about what has happened in the past. You are always free to decide where to give your time and energy, so what information would you want to help you make those decisions?
I can’t tell you how to direct your gifts, but I can tell you some things I might consider.
- Values: How does this gift I am about to make support the values I care about. Does this recipient spend their time to better the world (according to my values), or to degrade it
- Karma: If I choose to give here, does that energy dissipate or does it make a cyclical pattern? How does this gift get returned to me? In material form? In the form of a safer or friendlier neighborhood? In the form of a cleaner environment?
- Efficacy: How much is my gift appreciated? I don’t want to give my gift if the recipient doesn’t appreciate my time and effort in a way that is consistent with the energy I put in.
- Satisfaction: How do I feel when I make this gift? Have I felt good in the past giving to this person? Or did I feel exploited? Have I learned something in the process?