I recently had the privilege of meeting some of the team behind the Economic Space Agency (ECSA – whose members refer to themselves as “Econonauts”!)

Along with myself, Vienna Looi and Jorge Lopez Aceves had each been invited to participate in a workshop focused on designing Positive Platforms for a Workable Future at the Institue for the Future in Palo Alto.  Since each of our communities (Metacurrency and ECSA) are trying to build low level platforms(Ceptr and Agoric respectively) that enable new forms of coordination, and recognizing that both of our projects were grounded in some similar insights with regard to the organizing patterns that thrive in nature, we decided to co-host a session as an excuse to compare and contrast our projects and just get to know one another a bit.

We broadcast the session on facebook live.

Here is the video and below are notes so that you can jump to interesting / relevant parts.



Jorge Lopez Aceves
Matthew Schutte
Alex Voto
Vienna Looi
Avi Asherov
Rachael D. Lamkin



00:17 Intro to Agoric

A Distributed Smart Contracts Platform for Decentralized Governance

Goes beyond a single blockchain and embraces a concept of autonomous agent networks.


Embraces Distributed Secure Resilient Computing (via Capabilities Based Security) + Blockchain Technology.


Questions the premise that there has to be one blockchain that is the central point of coordination and storage — instead creates a network of different agents, agencies and contracts.


This allows for public and private blockchains.

When something is seen by multiple parties = contract

When not seen by others = agent


There is a membrane that allows for privacy.

This enables a network of agents and is particularly good for creating decentralized markets.


02:30  |  Why aren’t we seeing decentralized exchanges on existing blockchain networks:


  • Not fast enough (they don’t scale)
  • These use cases require the keeping of secrets



We’ve utilized these principles to create resilient and secure contracts and applications that can be both private and public:



  • Non-forgeable
  • Non-repudiable
  • Authenticated



03:30  |  What is this good for? Really granular.  

Authenticated + Non-repudiable, this creates a “right.”


Let’s question the concept itself of exclusive use/control (ownership).

This is great for not only financial contracts, but also useful for governance in general:

Voting systems, decision making models etc.


05:45  |  Why Object Capabilities?

Maps well to object oriented programming: encapsulation and modularity.

We expect that this will open the floodgates for distributed application development.


We think it will make it easier for a bigger community to create applications etc


08:00  |  Intro to Capabilities Based Security


10:15  |  Privacy / Security / Agency

By improving control over how vulnerable an individual wants to make themselves to another actor (or system) we enable them to actually coordinate / communicate more richly.


11:35  |  Design Principles

Nature makes use of membranes and boundaries (enables specialization, improved resilience, etc)

Nature solves for resilience

The patterns that you see in nature optimize for adaptive capacity.


12:40  |  Contract Enforcement in Agoric

Utility is what you need.  What makes it a contract is that agents interact with it in an authenticated and non-repudiable way.  A tool for accountability.


There are mutually distrusting agents all over the place.  Historically, we have used trusted third parties to create a space that enables each of us to trust the third party rather than having to trust the individual counterparty in the interaction.   This facilitates interaction by reducing vulnerability of the participants.  


Verifiability and Trust are actually opposites of one another.


15:30  |  An Agoric Interaction

Two agents can interact with each other in fully reliable (and verifiable) ways by participating in a third party context (a smart contract) and constraining themselves to the conditions of that third party.  Any exchange of rights can happen as part of this sort of fully verifiable transaction.  Once a transaction is committed and replicated and both parties say “I arrived to this state” (which can be hashed), the two parties can exchange and sign.  Now both have a proof and a receipt that both parties saw the same transition of state in that shared Virtual Machine and this is non-repudiable.  They can demonstrate to others later on that the exchange occurred (in part because they the signature of the counterparty as evidence).

Instead of needing a trusted third party like an escrow, you have a contract == this is a synthesized trusted third party.


18:30  |  Verified is the opposite of trusted – trust has been shifted

When things prove trustworthy on an ongoing basis, we assume them away.


19:20  |  Truth costs too much

Trust is a heuristic.

Some of these new tools (cryptography etc) can shift the balance of power by changing the transaction cost of cheating, checking on a history, etc.


20:10  |  Reputation Bankruptcy


21:00  |  What Identity Really Is

Identity is a process.  

The root of identity is correlation.  

Identity is in the eye of the beholder.

Reputation, Vulnerability, and the enabling of Trust.


24:15  |  Similar Forms and Different Language

Contracts (agoric) & Protocols (metacurrency)


Tools for Influence: Violence + Discretion


The generation of shared meaning


28:00  |  A contract is something set (and has capacity to be fixed and reliable)

A protocol allows for emergence


29:40  |  We want to discover the underlying principles of these systems

Interaction = communication

Communication alters the participants

With communication, what we are “conscious of” expands.


31:40  |  What about “unconscious” interaction?

33:30  |  What is the purpose of all this?

Our institutions enabled us to scale.  We’ve scaled beyond the size and complexity that these institutions are capable of handling.


We need better communication tools.  Nature gives us some useful design principles for creating communication systems.


40:00  |  Grand Vision: distributing regulatory burden by reducing the transaction cost of acquiring and synthesizing information.


42:45  |  Single Currency Models vs. Multiple Currency Models


43:30  |  Capitalism is not self-regulating

Our previous attempt to solve governance is via violence backed regulation (minimum wage laws, worker health and safety laws etc).  New model is targeted at enabling communities that can generate and access feedback and thus self-steer.


51:30  |  Recommendation: Paul Krafel, Seeing Nature (book), the upward spiral (video)


54:00  |  Overlaps and Opportunities between Agoric and Metacurrency


57:30  |  History of the Metacurrency Project


59:00  |  Carrier, Agent, Signal, Protocol


61:25  |  Sovereign Accountable Commons


64:15  |  Can Someone Opt out of Money as a Protocol?

There is a cost.  But you as an agent determine whether the cost is worth the benefit.


67:00  |  Hayak, coercion and choice


70:00  |  Where does this go?  Digital Divorce? Digital Pariahs? Digital Refugees?


73:30  |  Ceptr, unenclosability


77:00  |  Filters and Filter Bubbles – the question


78:30  |  Scale is the problem + Scale becomes part of the solution (gives options)


79:45  |  Fundamental Tool: Enables Us to make ourselves vulnerable with greater control



After recording, a participant recommended a documentary:

Slavoj Zizek, Pervert’s Guide to Ideology