Saturday, 31 August 2013

Adventures in Alternative Currency

I published an epic 4200 word article on alternative currency in Aeon magazine. Take a read if you're having a lazy weekend afternoon and wish to casually reflect on the nature of economic reality. I believe that coming to basic grips with money itself is a good foundation for making further explorations into the financial system, and economic systems more generally. As I say in the article:
"The financial system exists, above all, to mediate flows of money, not to question what money is. Investment banks create financial instruments that steer money from one place to another, with built-in sub-conduits to siphon it back... To draw an analogy with computer coding, we might say that financial instruments are analogous to ‘high-level’ programming languages such as Java or Ruby: they let you string commands together in order to perform certain actions. You want to get resources from A to B over time? Well, we can program a financial instrument to do that for you... By contrast, money itself is more like a low-level programming language, very hard to see or to understand but closer to gritty reality. It’s like your computer’s machine code, interfacing with the hardware: even the experts take it for granted.
The piece has been pretty well received. I'll leave you with some Twitter recommendations, to convince you to read it. The first comes from Izabella Kaminska of FT Alphaville

Friday, 2 August 2013

LSFA crowdfunding update: Meet the Hedge Fund Gamblers & The Three Hackers

A few months ago I ran a campaign to seedfund a London School of Financial Activism on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. That was a great success (here's a post I wrote about some crowdfunding tips I learned from the campaign). Then my book got released, which has since swallowed up much of my time, but now I've hired some interns (that I'm paying in alternative currencies like bitcoin, barter and Brixton Pounds), so I've now got more space to refocus back on developing the School.

I've met some awesome people over the last few months, exchanging ideas over Skype with campaigners, entrepreneurs and academics in Oz, Hong Kong, China, USA, Germany, South Africa and various other places, all informing my designs for finance campaigning courses.

In the mean time though, I wanted to share some photos of the crowdfunding rewards that came with the Indiegogo campaign, and one short video which shows one of the reward's magical secret. (More photos can be found on The Heretic's Guide Facebook Album)

The Guerilla Brokers, Junior Traders and Hardass Cityboys

First on the list were 18 sets of Chartered Financial Activist stickers that I sent out to the Guerilla Brokers who contributed under £10. If you see these plastered on the toilet wall of your local City pub, you know where they came from.

Then I sent 100 signed paperback copies of my book for those who opted to be Junior Traders, and 25 hardbacks for the Hardass Cityboys series (each representing one of the wards of the City of London). These books ended up all over the world, admittedly costing me a small fortune in postage fees (note to self for next crowdfunding campaign - it matters where you're posting to). Here's a photo of a mate in South Africa with his copy (Thanks Tim!)

The Hedge Fund Gamblers

Now onto the higher end rewards. Five generous individuals opted to be Hedge Fund Gamblers and as part of their package they received custom poker cards from Steve Shedden of Ivory Graphics. These cards are fit for James Bond, with non-stick coating to ensure super-fast shuffling. I've agreed to go play poker with two of the recipients of this reward, so I imagine I'm going to lose more cash on this than I made from the crowdfunding.

The Three Hackers


The top rewards were 'The Three Hackers' , three hardcopies with bespoke handmade covers that went to my three top contributors. Locating the right people to design the limited edition covers took some time, but in the end I ended up with fantastic designs from:
  1. The Dutch artist Dadara, who is featured in the book for his fantastic Art as Money designs. He very kindly lent me two of his black and white money drawings
  2. The brilliant South African political cartoonist Stidy, who also happens to be my uncle. He drew a classic scene out of Moby Dick, set against the backdrop of the City of London
  3. My amazingly talented friend Jessi Baker (designer, coder, augmented reality guru, onsultant to peeps like Will.I.Am), and the textile alchemist Lauren Bowker, who designed a cover which literally changes colour as a person holds it (see video below for demonstration)



AND NOW, the Hairdryer in Action
Ok, to fully appreciate Jessi and Lauren's cover you've got to watch the end of this video. Enjoy!