- 1. State of society and it’s problems
- 2. The essence of visible money
- 3. Effects of visible money introduction
- 4. Negative aspects of visible money
- 5. Implementation details
Visible money is built on the idea that when money becomes visible, people will change their behavior. But what exactly does it mean for money to become “visible”? It means that anyone in society will be able to see the financial and asset flows of anyone else. This can be achieved through a freely accessible information system, which will include most of the financial and property transactions in society at large.
This change will send shockwaves through today’s society and set most of us aback – most of us do not wish to have our private financial lives inspected, for example, by prying neighbors, even if it means that we would be able to exercise the same right on them.
However, the rejection of the entire concept on the basis of such animosities, whose origin is based on the current understanding of values, would be a big mistake. Just like modern man cannot imagine living in the Middle Ages without all the comforts and perks of modern age, it will be unimaginable for the people from the second half of the 21st century to live without all the comforts of visible money. After a certain period of time, people will no longer perceive the transparency of each transaction as something negative. When it becomes clear and evident that everything can be traced and things like corruption are readily detectable, such behavior will gradually wane. Transparency and the loss of financial privacy will be a small price to pay for the positives this change ultimately brings. However, it is likely that it will not happen overnight. The loss of privacy will span over a longer period of time during which the opinion of society on financial privacy will be mitigated.
What will change thanks to visible money?
First of all, it will bring a lot more knowledge. About everything. About ourselves, our neighbors, about how the world actually goes by, who has ties to whom and how, and why people behave the way they do. Almost every interpersonal relationship can be traced through finance.
The problems of today’s society, such as hoaxes, would become a thing of the past. A particular suspicion is either confirmed in the financial flows, or it becomes history. Suddenly, it will be clear who the real Internet trolls are – paid by this or that politician – and who presents facts objectively because, for example, they live close to where a particular event occurred.
Your neighbor’s teenager cannot grow into an Islamic fundamentalist because you will notice his changing behavior and his flows will indicate his proclivity, which you will alert to.
For example, a semi-secret biological startup in China will never be able to develop a new variant of the Covid virus because people can see that it is buying specialized biological equipment, which is not in line with what the lab is supposedly engaged in. People with a similar background will also point it out.
The visibility of money would also create the conditions to ensure that each person has a perfect overview of where their money spent in the economy actually goes. That means where the money actually ends and who its final beneficiary is – is the yogurt manufacturer really completely organic, or did the purchase support the local economy to a greater or lesser extent? Apart from buying yogurt, people would have enough information to allow them to “vote” with their purchases and affect a particular future outcome. And I don’t mean to say that people should study the transfer of value with each yogurt they buy… But, given the existence of an information base where such information can be found, there would be companies evaluating such data. The companies offering real solutions to environmental problems would flourish and people on Earth would become much more respectful of each other and of the nature. As Rutger Bregman claims in his treatise titled “Humanity”, people are inherently good – and all they need is more information about the impacts of their decisions. And this is exactly what visible money brings.
The visibility of money would also create the conditions to rightfully award those who make the greatest contribution to society. The direct correlation between the contribution of individuals to society and their social status would thus be reinforced and strengthened. Gradually, society would accept the sentiment that those who work really hard and are a real asset should also be faring correspondingly well. An atmosphere where no one doubts the earned status of others is an ideal environment for peace, stability and the full bloom of society.
Visible money would also be a blessing for the developing countries aspiring to become standard Western-type democracies. When the regime collapses in North Korea or somewhere in Central Africa, should these countries embark on a distressful decades-long journey of the countries such as Slovakia after the fall of communism? Or gradually build civil society with unreliable tools, fight corruption and stumble on the various pitfalls of such processes? The solution is so simple. All it takes is to introduce the system of visible money and make sure the control mechanisms are effectively applied from day one. A bribed dictator wouldn’t survive a single day in the system of visible money.
The visibility of money would create the conditions for society to function efficiently. Suddenly, you would see that your neighbor – a rival butcher – buys meat of the same quality cheaper from this or that supplier in the neighboring village. Nothing would prevent you from not taking the same course of action. Sure, some steps in the above process might be unpleasant or unwanted – for example to your neighbor. But visible money equally equips everyone with the necessary tools to see what can be done better and more efficiently to defeat the competitors. Or it may result in a realization that one should pursue something else. The economy as a whole would flourish in these conditions.
I saved the best for last. The visibility of money would be the ultimate source of real truth to which anyone could turn at any time. In my view, that’s a priceless advantage. And sure, people may be distracting you with red herrings, but if their lines are inconsistent with their cash flows, you’ll know they’re lying.
1. The current state of society and its problems
Thanks to technological skills, mankind finally got to a level where the lives of people could be liberated from the need to deal with material goods. An ordinary person from our neck of the woods usually imagines a utopia, which was once promised by the communists: in principle, it cannot work because in theory communism did not respect – and did not reflect on – the importance of private ownership in the economy, and it overestimated the possibility of central planning. On the contrary, the problem of liberal capitalism, which is based on individualism and driven by the economic engine operating on the basis of maximizing the profits of individuals or companies, reveals the systemic failures that require us to place a greater emphasis on the global needs of humanity – such as the restrictions on the joint plundering of natural resources, global warming etc. Liberal capitalism, which is based on hidden money, is also permeated by the proverbial dark “halo” of money. Those who do not have it – or think they do not have it – see money as the holy grail of all their efforts. The fetish of money has penetrated liberal capitalism at all levels. The suffering that follows from this rat race for the highest balance on a bank account is most evident in those who are the weakest in society in terms of their abilities. Liberal capitalism does not take into account single mothers with two children who do not have the necessary resources to pay the rent. If money were visible, all such cases of failure would be much more visible and solvable in a targeted way.
Another critical aspect of life in the early 21st century is the unreasonable technological progress in an incontrollable technological development, and for relatively little money. More specifically – the unprecedented opportunity to exterminate mankind, e. g. by a virus which, if designed to cause the greatest harm, could have a catastrophic impact on the entire population. Capitalism does not address the possibility of such an artificially induced cataclysm – on the contrary, it supports reaching the apex of technological development in all biotech companies and without any controls.
Corruption is another fundamental problem destroying entire countries particularly in the less developed world. After the introduction of visible money, it would become virtually impossible.
2. The essence of visible money
Visible money is an attempt to introduce a new way of organizing human relations on Earth. A form of organization where people coexist thanks to the technological advances, without scarcity, and in mutual harmony and trust.
Confidence and trust in such a society is built with each economic transaction. The financial flows are completely transparent. Technologically, this feat can be implemented by introducing a transparent database of financial flows, which is available to anyone and at any time. In other words, the money becomes fully visible. If interested, anyone can see the money and property of anyone else. Any such review of another person’s finances is also entered into the system. It can be seen who perused what data. Cash and other forms of money will gradually cease to exist in such a society.
For such a database to be trustworthy and impossible to hamper, it must exist in several instances at once. Turning off one such server does not affect the functioning of the system at all because its jobs are distributed among the other servers that have not been turned off. The fact that the data in this database have not been hampered with or reverse engineered can be proved or disproved at any time by storing the individual transactions in the system in blocks, as is the case in a cryptocurrency. The individual blocks of transactions will be included in a chain whose concatenation and unhamperable feedback will be ensured by the blockchain technology, which has been verified by Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
3. Effects of the introduction of visible money
At first glance, the idea of visible money is met with distrust by some. Why should my neighbor see and know how much I earn, how I spend my money, how is my company doing and where it is profitable? I personally believe it is right for all financial flows to be visible. It solves some of the major problems of liberal capitalism:
- Pointless focus on maximizing the profits of individuals even if the actions go contrary to the common good of humanity as a whole
- Rampant development, e.g. in biotechnology
- Although it may look quite the opposite at first glance, it also solves the problems associated with negative human qualities such as envy, laziness, pride and greed, and the excessive fetishism of money
- It will add a new drive to economic progress – thanks to the visibility of money, people will easily identify the weak spots in the production of values – and these will be quickly filled. Economic growth will increase in the order of tens of percent
- The chronic problems associated with the redistribution of values will be eliminated – corruption will once and for all disappear into oblivion. Visible money will allow taxation tailored to the current situation in the economy. Of course, all of the above while maintaining the comfort of a predictable tax environment for the entrepreneurs
- The quality of resources necessary for an effective redistribution of values will improve radically – the change of macroeconomics from a pseudo-science it is today into a science leaning on every single cent
- Determination of the ultimate, transparent and always available source of truth in society
3.1 Change in the basic theme that has been driving human actions
By making money visible, conditions will be suddenly created to evaluate whether the production of a particular asset is organic, sustainably effective and what actual value it generates. People will be provided with detailed information about the production process of all things produced in the zone of visible money. With their money, they will only choose those procedures that are in accordance with their beliefs – e.g. a preference for long-term sustainability, ecology of production, or perhaps the fair division of profits and contributions to charity. The maximization of profit will only be a secondary criterion for the people in the procurement of goods. When it comes to the worst scenarios, e.g. those associated with global warming, conditions will be made to make the necessary interventions at the level of each purchase of goods or services, and the production of particular goods will be significantly limited because of their significant ecological footprint. The society using the system of visible money will be significantly more flexible in the struggle for its long-term survival and it will be more capable compared to the current status quo.
3.2 Introduction of room for the potential controls into the activities of each individual and company
In the current monetary system, it is a matter of when and not whether someone will develop (or not) a virus that can be fatal for most of the population. If sometime in the future there is a need for a strict oversight over the activities of the companies that use some specific components e.g. in the biotech industry, this need can be addressed globally and uniformly because of visible money. If visible money is in place on the entire planet, such a review will be possible in 100% of the cases.
3.3 Resolving the problems associated with negative human qualities
When I defended the concept of visible money in an online forum the other day, my opponent claimed that people cannot live in any form of utopia because only ants and bees can coexist in such situations and the negative human qualities such as envy, pride, laziness and greed, make it impossible. I think that after the introduction of visible money, a certain kind of restart of interpersonal relationships ensues. If the fact that the ones who strive to bring the most value to humanity are also the most economically rewarded becomes the new normal in society, it will affect even the smallest levels of relations where all these qualities are manifested. If it is clearly visible how people earned their money – and that it was earned honestly by improving the society, it will be as a healing balm on the wounds in today’s society caused by injustice, which is attributable to the invisibility of money. Visible money will mean a virtual end of politicking, abuse of power for economic purposes, all types of economic discrimination, and an end to envy because it will be clear that people toiled for the money they own. In a truly enlightened society, no one desires anything at the expense of another. That magical and mysterious aura around money will disappeared because its mystery will disappear, and people will understand that abundance of money is not a panacea for all problems. Having a lot of money is not nearly as good as it is bad not to have any money at all.
3.4 A new drive in economic progress – filling the newly visible gaps in the creation of value
The structural changes that occur after visible cash flows are introduced to businesses will be a fundamental change causing the economy to grow by tens of percent compared to a society without visible money. If someone excels in producing a particular good or service, his actions can be seen by the competitors. The competitors find out how to produce things that they previously could not produce themselves, and adapt their production to these newly revealed facts. And, on the contrary, somebody else copies the things that enrich the production of third parties. Although it may seem undesirable at first glance to reveal the business flows of companies, if it is done across the board, it means that everything will be at least ten percent more efficient. Everything will be cheaper and produced with fewer demands on the environment. The concealment of know-how – if it does not implement industrial patents that continue to play an important role – is actually an iron ball chained to the foot of the economy, which must be eliminated.
3.5 Elimination of opportunities for corruption
Corruption is a problem, which is most articulated in the countries where democratic traditions and institutions are not sufficiently deeply rooted. Corruption also has an overreaching effect in the global security situation. A special role in the global situation is played by Russia. The system of governance in Russia is pretending to be a democracy. But the country with the second largest nuclear arsenal is riddled with corruption from the bottom up. President Putin behaves like a boundless dictator and his actions must have made him a lot of internal enemies. The entire Russia thus reminds us of an unpredictable powder keg, and the detonator is in the hands of young children. Visible money can be seen as a reliable and instant social system, which can be installed in any country and its positive qualities will be manifested immediately. No more fumbling and suffering from the elementary errors of liberal democracy. All it takes is to introduce visible money – the country can immediately enjoy the benefits of social organization that is transparent, anyone can verify anything, and everything is governed by the principle of fairness and visibility. What would the inhabitants of today’s Venezuela and some African countries give for ensuring that the economy is running on a stable currency and corruption is immediately visible? It’s about time to invent such social structures that do not suffer from the elementary errors, absence of democratic values, are understood by everyone – and if something undesirable is happening, it is immediately visible. Visible money would also tackle corruption shifted in time. An example of such corruption is currently unraveling in Slovakia. Former Prime Minister uses the assets of the oligarchs with affiliation to his party, which simply cannot be justified by his official income. The oligarchs are repaying him long after having used his power to win new mammoth orders for their companies. If something like this occurred in a country that uses visible money, it could be resolved with special legislation. If, for example, a former politician enjoys an above-average salary or other benefits in the company of an oligarch who previously benefited from state orders, the oligarch will be prompted to show – through the financial flows – that the employee indeed brings a demonstrably greater economic benefit to the company than the costs associated with his remuneration. The system of visible money could also include a ranking system for people and businesses that do business with the state.
3.6 Qualitative changes in the management of state finances
The macroeconomics of the state would change from the black box nobody understands into an exact science supported by every single cent that passes through the economy. The current economic governance of the European Union seems to be steered by the trial-and-error principle and not by scientific approaches. The eventual misuse of the tools for monetary policy may lead to huge losses throughout the euro monetary area – e.g. to hyperinflation. This type of management of the economic policy is essentially amateurish: it benefits those who stand at the imaginary printer of money, and is paid for by all the holders of euro through inflation. The game called “quantitative easing” is unfair – it does not subsidize those who are most in need, it is dangerous and it threatens the creation of value. A database of visible money would be a breakthrough in the management of public finances similar to what a telescope is in astronomy. The social tools of the near future, such as universal basic income, could be implemented in a much more targeted, equitable and comfortable way than some blanket and poorly customized measures.
3.7 Determination of the source of truth in society
Modern society has come to the point where one message about an event may easily contain two opposing views explaining it. Both explanations look legit, and the average person has no chance to properly identify the true one. If the society used visible money, the truth would come to light very quickly. After just a short glimpse at the flows, it would be very clear who roots for whom. Visible money has an ambition to become a transparent, easily explainable, and always readily and easily accessible resource.
4. Negative aspects of visible money
When I introduced this idea to a few people, I was often confronted by the notion that visible money would promote bad human qualities – such as denunciation (reporting). I think it is not realistic to introduce the system all at once – in a jiffy. It is realistically possible that its sudden introduction would cause incontrollable anger and unrest. Rather, it is likely that the system be introduced gradually. After it is developed, the first enthusiasts and pioneers will begin to enter into it. It will be those who have nothing to hide today. Gradually, as the number of people in the system grows to the point where life with visible money becomes the new normal in a positively assessed social life, people will support the idea of enlightened society where no one desires anything at the expense of anyone else. The new normal in society is that the things that do harm to society are simply not done, and the scrutiny of someone else’s money will only be made in exceptional cases where it is clear that something undesirable has occurred.
A frequent argument against the introduction of the system is that with the full transparency and opening up of the data in the system, the political opposition would provide completely all information about itself to the government, which could in turn misuse it. However, it should be noted that the current status quo is much closer to said scenario compared to the introduction of Visible Money. There is no way of knowing whether anyone in the government is spying on you. Visible money, however, would include a system option to audit a particular person. One could set what level of transparency he/she wishes to apply on his/her data – he/she could say, for example, that auditing is only possible once he/she personally approves such an action. In addition, every data query would be recorded in the system, and the user of Visible Money would always know who saw his/her data. The misuse of the Visible Money system by the organization running it would be systemically secured against – for example, software tools for browsing the data in the database would be gradually modified for the needs of Visible Money so that the data could not be retrieved from the database without the information on data queries being recorded in the respective part of the system where the user could see it. The organization running the Visible Money system would be supranational – and its main value would be the reputation it has with the users. Such a global organization would not succumb to collaborating with particular governments and put itself at risk of losing its reputation. The trust of the entire planet would be its greatest capital.
The change that comes with visible money will make life much more transparent. Clandestine love affairs, hidden alimonies or money paid to mistresses… everything will be much more detectable. In retrospect, life will become all too boring. There will be no hidden surprises.
However, that’s exactly what the world needs today. The life of the average Joe often resembles the Wild West where no one knows what the future holds.
Life on the primary physical level should be transparent, predictable and hence boring. At this level, it matters the most – it is life itself. When someone kills you in a computer game, you may be angry for a while. But nothing prevents you from restarting the game from the last saved state. In real life, this cannot be done. Therefore, it is necessary to ensure that life is predictable at the primary level. Even at a price of being boring. The excitement can be found at the other levels of life that await us thanks to technology. Improved virtual reality and the interface between the brain and the computer is the tech of the 22nd century.
If Buddhists are right and life is based on the principle of reincarnation, there is one fundamental error with it, which, however, can be remedied in the near future. The loss of continuity of consciousness. What’s the point of karma if one receives no feedback – I hurt this or that person in a past life, and now karma’s striking back. But if a person doesn’t know what happened in the past lives, the whole concept is nonsense.
I think we are not far from understanding the biological processes in humans to the extent that eternal life in a young body – with a few adjustments – will be entirely possible. The physiological level of life will become much more valued, and the idea of losing a life, for example when someone robs a bank and takes you hostage, will be unacceptable. Life will be so good and eternal that its value will be too high for such a mishap to even occur.
5. Implementation details
The early implementation of infrastructure for VisibleMoney would probably be realized on a single server. However, from the very get-go, the implementation must be able to accommodate a higher number of equal servers with the purpose to eliminate the dependency on a single infrastructure item and distribute traffic to more server nodes. The records in the database must not be modifiable in any way other than the standard processes – e.g. each transaction must be signed with a private key by the authorized person with the necessary operation credentials. Each transaction may be signed by multiple persons. The database will only store the public keys, which correspond to the personal private keys stored outside the system – e.g. in a smartphone/desktop signing application developed for this purpose. For backup purposes, the private keys can be exported through a 12-word phrase as is currently the case with the cryptocurrency wallets. The public keys stored in VMDB can be used to check whether the transaction was authorized by a person with sufficient credentials. The fact that the records in the database have not been hampered (e.g. by administrative access to the database) can be ensured by implementing the blockchain technology. The blockchain technology has been proven effective in real-world conditions, e.g. in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
The following figure illustrates the structure of a single VisibleMoney server.
Detailed description of diagram could be found here.
The large rectangle represents the VMIS – VisibleMoney Infrastrucure Server – i.e. the content of a single VisibleMoney Server. It consists of the following components:
- VMDB – OLTP database supporting both banking functionality, database of assets, evidence of persons, functionality supporting transparency actions in system (views on other people data) and other DBs
- VMBCDB – relational database containing blockchain
- VMTPDB – relational database containing transactions in pool
- VMAS – application server operating over VMDB and transaction pool. VMAS is providing both functionality of view data in VMDB and changing it – through adding new transactions to pool
- VMTF – process of funnel between transaction pool and VMDB and VMBCDB. Process packages transaction from pool into blocks of blockchain and realizes operations in VMDB corresponding to transactions
The clients communicating with the VMIS and Blockchain Browser Server (BCBS) are outside the infrastructure server. The purpose of this server is to publish the block content immediately after creating a new block in the blockchain, and by doing so, to permanently set the last block in stone. VMIS doesn’t have right to rewrite this information; it can only add the last block of information to the blockchain.
BCBS is accessed by the Blockchain verification clients (BCVC). Their purpose is to verify that blockchain hasn’t changed since the last check (except for the new blocks) and, if they have the password that was used to encrypt a particular transaction, they can decrypt the content of this specific transaction and verify whether the transaction content corresponds to reality.