GALIA BENARTZI | THE EVOLUTION OF MONEY | 2018


Hi everyone, I’m Galia Benartzi, founder of the Bancor Protocol. I just wanna start by saying
that I speak frequently in front of tech audiences,
and innovation audiences and financial audiences,
and never have I been more humbled and grateful
than to speak in front of those who fight for freedom, so thank you. So, the future of money and
user-generated currencies. I really wanna use our time
up here to zoom out a bit and talk about money itself, what it is, why we need it, why we have it where maybe it went wrong and how we might be able to fix it. And I start with this slide, “Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.” This photo was taken in downtown Palo Alto, where I grew up, in the heart of the Silicon Valley and blessed with every human right, truly, that one can imagine. And in Silicon Valley,
the mandate and the ethos is that we can design and
invent our way out of problems and that we can manifest the
future through technology. Another book that I love
to share as a backdrop here is Sapiens by Yuval Harari. And in the beginning of this book, he distinguishes how humans are different than other animals on a level of consciousness. And the way that we’re different, he explains, is stories. We tell each other stories, we tell ourselves stories and these stories govern our organizational ability and truly, this arc of humanity over time. So, as a quick example, if you were to put 100,000 apes in Times Square you would very quickly see violence and chaos, more than likely. However, if you put 100,000
humans in Times Square we generally figure it out, and that is because of the stories that we’ve told ourselves over generations, stories like how to behave in Times Square stories like walk on green, stop on red, traffic lights are here to protect you, and there are billions of other stories truly, that we tell ourselves. And the reason I bring this up is that money is one of these stories. Money is a story that we’ve told ourselves about how we can collaborate as a society. So, in the beginning of time, we didn’t have money, money wasn’t here before we were. We brought it into
fruition, we invented it. There are many reasons for this, and some of the most obvious are that in small groups, we had the trust the innate trust and the belief in the other people we were working with to not need to keep track of who was giving what and who had what. We simply did what we did. We woke up, and we grew the food, and we fed the people, and we got the water and we clothed the children,
and we did the things that we call living,
and we did them without any need for accounting
of who was doing what, or kind of a non-quantitative accounting. As our collaboration grew
into larger and larger groups not just in our family, but in our tribe, not just in our tribe, but with other tribes and fast forward to today, not just in our city or our neighborhood but in our country and
in all of the countries we developed this shared
accounting system this tool for human
collaboration at scale. And this accounting system,
in its most pure form in its ideal form, maybe,
is meant to tell us whether any individual, ourselves included, is in balance with the system. Supposedly, if we have a lot of money what that indicates to
others and to the system is that we have given a lot to society, we have given a lot to other people. We have sold goods and services, we have helped, we have contributed we have invented, we have
provided some kind of value that allowed this money to flow our way and our big stack of money
is meant to show people how much we’ve given, and then to afford us to receive in return not necessarily from the person that gave to us, but from someone else in the system. It’s a systemic flow
accounting technology. So, let’s talk a little bit about money, what we actually use for this accounting system what money has been, and what it is today. So, what we call money 1.0, money came from the Earth. Right, we all remember this time. Money was gold, money was silver money was salt, money was oil, money was sticks or seashells physical objects from the Earth that we could all point to and say, “You know, that’s our accounting system.” If you have a lot of it, you’ve given, and if you have not a lot of it, you haven’t given and we strive to stay in balance
with the system, ideally. Money 2.0, and this is the era that we’re in today, and perhaps change is upon us. In money 2.0, money comes
from the government. Right, so the government of every nation has been given the
responsibility and the privilege to decide what is money,
how much of it there is, and most importantly, who gets it when it’s fresh off the printing press or fresh off the digital press. Where does it go and how is
it distributed in society? And now we enter what I believe is the most exciting era of money and this is the era where money comes from the people. And when I say people, I mean the people who invented Bitcoin, the
people who invented Ethereum me an my team, who invented
a currency called Bancor and thousands and thousands and thousands of other teams out there that are inventing currency after currency. Many of them you have heard of, many more of them you haven’t heard of and these are what we call
cryptocurrencies today. And so, when money comes from the people, we have a completely different paradigm, right? Because any one of these people can make a completely different decision about how they’re creating the money, and most importantly, who gets it. What is the distribution
mechanism for these monies what is the monetary policy for
any one of these currencies? So, you might ask yourself at this moment, and this is what me and my team did six years ago at the beginning of a very long startup struggle was, why can’t anyone just make a money? We have the internet, we have smartphones, we have marketplaces. What is actually preventing us, aside from laws on the books what is actually preventing humans from making money? The jig is up, money is
what you believe it to be. If I make a money and you
accept it, it’s money. So why isn’t everyone doing this? And what we discovered is that what makes a money actually money what gives it its value to
begin with is its liquidity. A liquid currency is a valuable currency and illiquid currency
is play money, right? And liquidity is the ability to have someone else accept your money at some given time for the
good or service that you want including some other money that you might wanna trade your money for and this liquidity is the
life blood of a currency. And until today, we have only known these currencies to be liquid, generally. There are a few outliers to this map, and of course, today, Bitcoin, and Ethereum and some of the other
currencies join this map. But you can count these
currencies on a few hands. These are a few hundreds of currencies that are liquid because the government’s distribution of them has ensured to other people in other countries that they can use this money for some kind of goods and services, and of course, the exchange rates fluctuate and tell us how reliable is that promise of any given money. So, I’ll walk you through
a very brief experiment that my team and I did, called Community Currency, in Tel Aviv in Israel. We minted a digital currency called Hearts. In Hebrew, the word is Lev, and this marketplace was called the Heart Market, Lev Market. This currency was created for mothers, and it was issued to mothers and over 20000 mothers joined
the currency collective and essentially could earn these Hearts for doing things that were valuable to this community of mothers. Those were things like
volunteering in the schools volunteering in the afterschool programs, tutoring the children picking up someone
else’s child from school and bringing them home, babysitting, baking a cake for a birthday party really anything that you can imagine that was valuable to these families They received the Hearts for joining, they received the Hearts for bringing other women into the network and they received the
hearts for contributing in what we might call sweat
equity to the community and then they could spend these Hearts with other mothers in the community and what we discovered was astounding. In under a year, 20,000 mothers performed over $24 million worth of transactions of commerce between them just in Hearts. Not a shekel, not a
dollar ever changed hands. And what we asked ourselves was, “Why weren’t they doing this to begin with? We didn’t really invent anything here. All the mothers were there before. All the goods and services
were there before.” And of course, Israel has a national currency, the shekel, just like most countries have a national currency and it’s not even a very
volatile or vulnerable one. And so why wasn’t this commerce happening before the Hearts entered the scene? And the answer was, these mothers didn’t have any shekels in their pockets. Specifically, these mothers were from low income or at-risk communities and all of the shekels that they had access to were allocated to rent, to food, to school, to gas to bills, and health insurance, and all of the other payments and there were no shekels left over at the end of the day to buy a birthday cake for a birthday party, or to buy new toys, or new clothes or things we might call
discretionary spending. And so, what we realized
in this experiment was that when we injected a
community with more money and of course, that exercise involves trust and execution, and user
experience, and all of the things but when we injected a high quality currency tool into a community, commerce happened. People gave to each other, people bought from each other people collaborated around local needs and goods, and services in the community, and there was incredible abundance achieved in a short time. I take you now to this book, Rethinking Money by Bernard Lietaer who became the president
of the Bancor Foundation. He’s well known as being one
of the co-creators of the Euro. And in fact, he’s one of the co-creators of the Euro Project. He came from the Central Bank of Belgium, who abandoned the Euro Project as it was being, let’s call it redesigned by the politicians for other needs. And what Bernard has to say is that somewhere between one currency per nation and one currency per person is the right number of currencies for us to have true abundance among people. It’s certainly more than one per nation, it’s likely less than one per person, and it’s somewhere in the middle. And the paradigm that he describes
with community currencies and why we might want to have more than one currency per nation really is the spectrum between efficiency and resilience. Both good things, both bad things. And I leave you also with this thought that nothing is binary, right? Everything is a conversation. Even freedom can lead to democracies that lead to elections that lead to leaders that we may not consider good or bad, right? And so, on the spectrum of
efficiency and resiliency basically he says one world currency would be the most efficient, the most efficient thing we can imagine. No exchange rates, everybody understands the money, we print it in one place, we give it to everyone it’s highly efficient,
just like a bulldozer that can log the entire rainforest in five minutes is highly, highly efficient. However, is efficiency the
thing that we’re striving for? Is it the thing that we’re
striving for above all? And this is the question today that we find ourselves in capitalist societies as well. On the other side of the spectrum of efficiency, we have resilience. That rainforest is not very resilient to a very efficient bulldozer. Communities are not very resilient to very efficient monetary systems that suck jobs away to lower income or more efficient labor economies, right? And so, these are economic questions that are more about ethics
than they are about math because the technology
itself, money included is morally agnostic, and the
designers of the technology the people, are the ones to endow it with the morals that we choose. And so, Bernard notices that the UN Sustainable Development Goals that we talk about a lot here amount to about $4 trillion. It would cost about $4 trillion, according to the UN, to solve almost all of our existential problems. You guys are familiar with this list. Human trafficking, water, safety, all of the basic human rights and basic human needs, $4 trillion. Who’s gonna pay? And we look around and I think all of us experience that deflationary feeling that no one is going to agree ever to contribute these $4 trillion
to solve these problems. And so, what Bernard has to say is why don’t we mint a new $4 trillion? Why are we still relying
on the old dollars the old Euros, the old Yens, the old money to solve our problems, when
clearly it has been shown that the system itself gravitates towards the type of outcomes that we see today. So, this graph is meant to describe a phenomenon on the internet that we call the long tail. Has anyone heard of this term before? So, the long tail is
the phenomenon that says when you lower technical
barriers to entry you have two to three orders
of magnitude, of volume in folks who might try to use
a tool and approach a tool than you would otherwise. And so, the thesis here is that, if you lower technical barriers to entry if you allow people to
create their own currencies and we’re talking currencies
you can’t even imagine yet currencies that link their money supply to the temperature of the Earth currencies that reward the teachers in a community before the bankers. Any monetary policy that you can imagine can today be coded into cryptocurrencies and manifest into society. And so, this long tail
is what value looks like when not only governments
or maybe large corporations can issue currency tools, but truly anyone can try anyone can approach the platforms, anyone can mint a money and we’ll see two to
three orders of magnitude of the value between
people than we do today. Thank you.

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