LETSystems and Open Money

Published on 12/02/2008 - Experiences

Co-Learning, P2P economy, Games, P2P, Collective learning, Community currencies

Contributors: Michael Linton, Open Money

Michael Linton
Platoniq interviews Michael Linton (1)

1. LETSplayIn our experience with the Bank of Common Knowledge, collective games make for perfect setups to teach a particular idea. And although LETSplay is pretty different from today's computer-based games, it uses the game format as a vehicle to spread certain ideas and raise awareness about the user/player's own economic reality. Can you talk about your intentions with that particular strategy and your own perception of that format as a medium?

Early in our development and propagation of LETSystems, and ever since with community currencies (cc) and Open Money, we have found that people are very careful in the beginning, like youngsters opening up their first bank accounts. It usually takes months, sometimes years, before a new LETS account will record the first transaction, and generally only for a small amount. However, a simulation game frees players to make imaginary trades with each other and their learning can be several orders faster and much more varied. It's an enjoyable group process where players learn from each other.

LETSplay isn't a competition with winners and losers. It's a co-operative learning experience that is ultimately highly rewarding. The players' choices aren't demanding or varied - the main outcomes emerge much the same no matter how they play as individuals.

You play LETSplay much as you perhaps first played the violin - more to get familiar with the instrument than to make beautiful music. It's about going through the motions to see what they are. Like taking a test flight with a pilot before going solo, it's simply intelligent research.

LETSplay provides the base for players to consider the questions, indeed to realise what questions matter, and also how much of what they might have thought critical doesn't matter.

The game, especially the online version, is also a way to propagate the open money meme (idea virus). For any meme to be passable the transmission should be small, quick and simple. LETSplay is easy and even quite enjoyable; it needs little explanation by the transmitter, little understanding by the receiver.  A typical invitation might include some or all of these parts:

Disclaimer - I really don't want to try to explain open money proposition - I found the LETSplay simulation useful description - a full online game might take an hour in total, spread over a few hours, days or weeks as you like benefit - you'll at least know whether you're going to look any further into open money assurance - I recommend you give it a try support - call me (or them) with any questions or thoughts.

This meme isn't any form of explanation of open money - which is where communication almost invariably fails. It's just an invitation, carried by the credibility of the recommender. The communication is of intent, not content.
Neither is LETSplay itself an explanation of open money, or an attempt to accurately represent the use of cc (community currencies). The game just demonstrates how two sorts of money -one limited supply and one open- support different behaviours and outcomes.  The game is only a start to a person's understanding, but it's a start in the right direction, infinitely better than any start in the wrong, no matter how engaging or persuasive.

And if 1 player in 10 sees value in passing the invitation to 10 or more others, and so on, and so on recursively, then growth is potentially endogenous. Similarly if 1 in 100 invites 100. We are developing ethical incentives -NOT multi level marketing- to improve these numbers.

The imminent release of the open money software (see below) will add relevance to the LETSplay game, and vice versa.

2. What other "alternative" communication mediums have you used or considered using for LETS and other projects?

Web has been our main channel for many years, but we also intend to use any others -print like lulu, flash like youtube, network like facebook, explanation like common craft, for example. Also blogging, podcasting, indymedia, film. All such channels are resource dependent, and need ongoing maintainance and development and we can't at this time do justice to any medium. Viral marketing remains a core policy and virtual world games such as 2nd Life are immediate prospects.

3. If you had to think of an offline version of LETSplay, how would you conceive it?

LETSplay was originally designed for offline application. In 1986, Vancouver hosted EXPO '86. For several months many thousands of people spent days wandering in a huge fairground and waiting in line-ups at the popular pavilions. Our plan was to sell a daily broadsheet of current EXPO information with the LETSplay game on the reverse and perhaps have hundreds if not thousands of players every day.  However, we couldn't raise the financing.

Other formats we drafted at that time included a newspaper insert, a radio broadcast game with phone-in play, and a version suitable for an office workspace.

4. The game requires a minimum number of users/players to work and be more entertaining, which is in itself a good reflection of the CC idea and other economy models. How large is the LETSplay user community, and what is its approximate growth rate?

As of 2007, nil and nil.  In a few weeks, an open money software release will be supported by a parallel reintroduction of the LETSplay game, and growth rates will be (potentially) exponential.

A group game, on-line or face-to-face, is possible with 6 players, but begins to work properly with 10-12 or more playing at more or less the same rate. An individual can join a game but will be necessarily playing at the rate of the majority of players.

5. Apart from LETSplay, you have worked for almost 2 decades on the CC concept in different environments and contexts (the Japan experience, the smart cards in Canada, Cybercredits, and probably others we don't know about). Which of these proved to be more effective when trying to communicate and spread CC? Why?

Actually, none have (yet) achieved much that merits comparison -as the progress from 1983 to this date clearly shows. The score remains: dominant paradigm 100% - open money 0%. No significant armour has yet been pierced, all break-throughs have been brief and self-healing.

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Open Money Podcast

Michael Linton, creador del mítico banco de tiempo LETSystems en los años 80, dedica uno de sus podcasts a contestar en directo a las preguntas de Platoniq sobre la realidad de los sistemas de monedas alternativas en la actualidad.