Skip to content

💝 Giving

"The task before us is to align money with the true expression of our gifts." - Charles Eisenstein

Here's the secret to telling executable economic stories which can be used to program human incentives: don't guess what "the world" needs, ask what beautiful things you would do if there was money for it, and then write the code required to give that value.

The Gift

Gift exchange is an ancient practice. Many modern people have attempted to set up their own versions, with varying degrees of success - from Burning Man to various blockchain projects. Often, this kind of thinking is accused of being simplistic, but such criticism is really about the implementation, not the underlying idea.

As we've highlighted throughout this program, in order to understand gift-giving properly, you need to hold in mind its complementary opposite: manipulation. When I give you a gift, you can either interpret it as a gift, pure and simple; or as me trying to hold one over on you, create a social debt, outdo you with my show of generosity, etc. This is to say that the act of giving does not create the gift: it is only when it is received in good faith that a gift truly exists.

If you try and build a platform which just encourages people to give, you will inevitably fall prey to this kind of interpretive difficulty and the spectre of manipulation. See every charity ever for proof. Again, the structure of gifts goes deeper than simply giving.

The Web of Nakamoto Consensus

Think about it this way: Tim Berners-Lee made the internet freely accessible, because it would not have been the internet otherwise. He realised that, for it to become what he knew it could be, he had to give it away. Satoshi Nakamoto did the same thing. For Bitcoin to be what it is, the source code had to be given away, for free, to everyone.

💡 Such protocols don't encourage giving; the protocol is the gift.

Are you here to give a gift to the world, or to take what you believe yourself to be owed; be it acknowledgement, status, wealth, or power? What if Web 3 is not about status at all, but about service? Would you still be interested in pursuing this particular avenue?

Sacrifice Scarcity

The psychology of giving reveals fascinating aspects of human consciousness. This is because gifts go against the scarcity we must navigate in order to survive and, in denying that scarcity, gift-giving is and always has been a profoundly meaningful act.

The video below may come across as idealistic. However, we think it poses a genuinely fascinating question: can we co-create sacred economic environments?

The sacred is that which is bigger than 'me' and simultaneously something in which I can participate, of which I am intimately a part. The sacred simply gives meaning to our lives; nothing more, nothing less. This is why the most potent gifts - sacrifices - are always at the heart of sacred ritual and initiatory rite.

What does it mean to imagine smart contracts as ceremonial transactional space?

Art, pure science, education, healing and many other critical aspects of life are all things which do not fit well within our current economy. So, if we care about them, we need to develop institutions or practices which convert 'real' money into gift money.