MIMO – A socio-economic model for the 21st century? By William Bowles & Michael Jensen

5 August, 2010

This was written back in 2001 but on reading it again, with some changes, I still think it has possibilities. Reprinting here was triggered by the FLATTR system (see also my piece, ‘How to build a real Web Economy – a socialist one’).

MIMO (More in More Out)

A socio-economic model for the 21st century

MIMO is a ‘work in progress’, that starts from the point where use value is transformed into cultural capital and, over time (as with the evolution of money from being a portable form of barter, to being a commodity) establishes a mechanism for measuring value generation that has meaning in the real world, insofar as it can compete on ‘equal terms’ with the world of traditional, commodity-based use values determined by (in part) production costs. A list of additional resources can be found at the end of this page.

In an age where machines are performing an increasing amount of real as well as virtual production, finance capital itself is under threat (without wage labour, capital ceases to exist).

  • Globalisation is accelerating this process by distributing production globally and hence costs.
  • But ownership of intellectual capital (which is central to any modern capitalist economy) is concentrated in the developed world.
  • As wealth creation, dominated by the developed world shifts to intellectual products (communications, currency speculation, financial services, entertainment, education, sport, in short, information-based production as a whole), the developing world and those without intellectual skills in a saleable form, are increasingly marginalised.
  • MIMO addresses these issues in part, by putting a value on human life itself as the source of ideas and experience, which can be traded because MIMO enables them to be valued statistically.
  • Since the 1960s, statistical information about groups of people originally collected for some other purpose (eg salary payments) have been transformed into new commodities (eg marketing information) and resold.
  • Yet the underlying source, millions of individuals, have not benefited from the sale of their privacy.
  • Hence privacy has a value.
  • MIMO assigns a value to privacy by calculating statistically, each individual’s contribution to the sum total of social knowledge collected.
  • Each time this information is massaged and sold, MIMO calculates the wealth accrued through the transaction and adds it to an individual’s MIMO account based upon their information contribution.
  • Wealth which is extracted simply from the (statistical) existence of an individual’s life can in some measure, be returned to the individual.
  • This wealth can also be traded in some way.
  • Eventually, we see wealth in this form, replacing money as a means of exchange.
  • The rationale behind this is that money as a commodity, depends on commodity production as the original basis of its value (no matter how far removed).
  • Information as a commodity however, cannot be consumed. It can be used over and over again, and either gain or lose value according to its use (or use value).
  • Some information by virtue of its ubiquity, is priceless yet essentially free to all who have a use for it.
  • Yet it still has value depending on the circumstances of its use.
  • For example, universal code such as TCP/IP, has different values in different contexts.
  • This underscores the logic of Cultural Capital as a dynamic and contextual value system, where information only acquires a value when used and the value once more, is determined by the exact nature and context of its use.
  • Unlike traditional commodity-based production values, cultural production is not dependent either on scarcity or abundance in order to determine value.
  • In this sense, it represents a paradigm shift in our understanding of the word value.
  • In this context then, value moves beyond the process of simple production.
  • Traditional use value is transformed into a new form of value, and thus produces Cultural Capital, disconnected from the initial, economic exchange.
  • But how do we measure this new form of value that we’ve called a MIMO?
  • We’ve suggested a software system that monitors transactions.
  • If each exchange is the result of a negotiated value, what are the range of values that we are likely to encounter?
  • We would need to know for example, how each value was arrived at between buyer and seller.

Two Kinds of Capital

Financial value is no longer a sufficient indicator of real value – there are too many unaccounted for characteristics – everything from environmental impact value to sentimental value – and crucially, we have no way of accounting for these ‘intangibles’ in the present economic system.

  • Moreover, as value is now increasingly held in intellectual processes which can be used over and over again and with use, either lose or gain in value, a method is needed that measures this new, variable value.
  • We are calling this variable (dynamic) value, Cultural Capital and its unit of value, a MIMO.

Cultural Capital

Cultural Capital also reflects the increasingly collectivised nature of all wealth production – that is, wealth that is the product of an entire array of globally inter-linked intellectual and physical production processes, which when taken in isolation, have no value that can be effectively measured in their relation to the whole.

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  • It is only when we measure intellectual wealth collectively that these values can be measured and importantly, shared by the individual producers.
  • But in order to measure Cultural Capital, we need a system that can accurately track and calculate the variability of this new kind of value.


MIMO assigns two values to every transaction. The first is financial and the second is cultural.

  • Financial value is closed and finite – as in the controlled money supply.
  • Cultural value is open and indeterminate – there are no controls on the supply of cultural value, purely what anyone wants to trade them at.
  • While initially based on time – the ‘hour’ standard – the most immutable of all resources, there could be many individual currencies of cultural value because they could more closely reflect the cultural unity of the particular group issuing them.
  • Any group could issue a cultural currency (or MIMO) and they can all be traded transparently against each other via the Internet.
  • These values can also be exchanged with financial values, again through negotiation.
  • The emergence of the Internet is crucial not only to the working of MIMO but also because it reflects the distributed as well as collective nature of wealth production in the Information Age.
  • The Net also gives us a practical context within which to measure individual contributions by giving us the tools with which to track production and consumption.

Anonymous Identity Service

To make MIMO work, we need a new system which we are calling AIS or the Anonymous Identity Service.

  • AIS routes transactions for its members in a way that preserves the information value for the marketers without compromising the privacy of the purchasers.
  • Unlike Barter systems which are effectively closed or private economies, MIMO is open and interacts with the real world of finance.
  • AIS is also a quasi ‘banking’ service in that it measures production and consumption and assigns values based on cultural ‘deposits’ and ‘withdrawals’ by its members. In other words, value is dynamically assigned through use.
  • AIS tracks and measures cultural capital deposits and withdrawals on a statistical basis (an equivilent to micro-payment systems).
  • This enables members to trade values either through MIMOs or through negotiated exchanges (eg $10 = M7).
  • Under the MIMO system, no single currency or exchange value can dominate (eg the $).
  • Effectively, value is determined through continuous negotiation based on real time exchanges which are valuated historically.
  • MIMO protects cultural capital’s value, essential in a world increasingly dominated by the developed nations and is a logical extension of individual intellectual property rights, which historically have been appropriated only by those with the financial means to exploit them.

MIMO in the Real World

MIMO consists of an array of processes:

  • A membership system which supplies each member with a unique identifier;
  • An array of XML-based tools which track and measure exchanges by members;
  • An encryption system to protect users privacy;
  • Links to existing financial systems eg credit cards and banks;
  • Sales/Exchanges;
  • Services offered.
  • MIMO is open to any individual or company;
  • Trading can be based on currency or MIMOs or a combination;
  • MIMOs can be swapped for currency and vice versa (negotiated between buyer and seller);
  • Statistical analysis of information created through use of MIMO can be sold and the proceeds distributed to members based on the ‘value’ of individual contributions (eg the more you contribute to MIMO, the more value you accrue).

We seek your input. Thoughts, criticisms, comments, ideas and extensions should be sent to either: William Bowles or Michael Jensen. References

© Copyright 2001, William Bowles & Michael Jensen. All rights reserved.


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