Towards a universal trade protocol

In this great talk by Bernard Lietaer, he talks about why the presence of complementary currencies actually INCREASE the stability of a nation’s official currency: Bernard Lietaer – Why we Need a Monetary Ecosystem, INRIA 2014

I’m 100% in agreement that we need complementary currencies to increase the sustainability of our trade networks, both alternative forms (like the e-dollar) of the main competitive debt-based national currencies, but also, and especially, other types of currencies based on different rules (such as to facilitate cooperation over competition, or to incentivize local trade over global trade, etc).

You might enjoy a very short paper that summarizes these ideas that I wrote for an economics class in 2008: Complementary Currencies Increase Economic Sustainability (PDF)

One recurring question I have is: to what degree would having a universal protocol for trading different currencies facilitate there being more of them commonly and easily used and exchanged?

One reason I’m enamoured with Ripple’s and Stellar’s designs is that they facilitate trade between currencies (which can be virtual currencies or proxies for other things). One potential problem is that they enforce the use of their own monopoly currency in order to transact these other currencies. This is why I’m curious as to the potential of a plain ‘bare bones’ trade protocol based on the federated consensus protocol (FCP) that is free from any direct linkage with an underlying transaction currency. This might be useful for facilitating trading information flow between disparate actors completely free of any single central currency or network. The primary driving question for this is whether it would be intrinsically useful and valuable enough in its own right to motivate use and validation without the incentive of the built-in transaction fees that are provided by XRP/STR currencies. This is similar to how the internet itself operates. ISPs and internet backbones are incentivized to provide data flow based on out-of-band financial agreements. The beauty of ripple/stellar/ethereum is that they build the validation incentive right into the system. But they are precomposed of several layers of protocols into one system. My question is what value is there in refactoring the trade protocol layer into its own standalone protocol.

Ethereum takes the transaction currency (the Ether) a huge leap further by enabling logic to be validated with it. In some ways this is orthogonal to the idea above of the benefit of a bare-bones implementation of an FCP-based trading protocol. Ethereum has its own consensus protocol and makes it possible to define a Ripple-like trading network directly on the Ethereum block chain. The potential problem is that it again creates a dependence on the Ethereum central (monopoly?) currency in order to transact.

My curiosity remains as to whether there’s some benefit to there being a pure definition of an FCP-based trading protocol, one that’s completely free of any one underlying monopoly currency system. In some ways it would be a pure protocol in the sense that it would exist primarily as a white paper or protocol description document. It would exist materially first as a reference implementation that runs based purely on intrinsic motivation, and later by various implementations on top of any or all specific information exchange systems, block-chain or otherwise. Perhaps it would just be what Ripple and Stellar already are, but without the XRP/STR layers.

The potential benefit from having this sort of generic FCP trading protocol is akin to having a universal DSL (domain specific language) for currency trading. My sense is that this would foster greater ability for intrinsically motivated parties to get up and running with trading a new currency. Cyclos provides a great product for getting up and running quickly with a new currency, but it does so solely through creating a new walled and isolated garden. A universal protocol for trading currencies would facilitate more communication between different and disparate currency systems.

A self-hosting self-emergent system

The goal: an app hosting system that is emergent from that which is hosted.
The beginning: a component consisting of one UI button that when clicked begins a component creation/extension process that can both construct its own self and any larger system composed of self-emergent pieces. This larger system includes within it this same ability to modify and extend itself.

Primary aspects are the approach to self building and the final user view. WordPress is increasingly adding features that Drupal pioneered in terms of abstracting the notion of what is a “post”, or a “node” in Drupal, to make it easier to add custom content types. You can create a new content type, add predefined or custom fields to it, to create something specific like “Product” or “Article” and to differentiate it from a blog post or web page using different fields. These are CMSy things. In attempting to actually use these systems on both Drupal and WordPress, I’ve found that there is a conceptual difference between the backend user interface for generating these custom content types, and the front end display. Usually, the backend system works well for creating the data schema and editing the data, but there are large obstacles for creating and using the display part work without a lot of custom front end work. The biggest trouble with both the backend and the frontend is that they have strong opinions about how the data is stored in the DB and significant platform requirements for how the data is displayed within the context of the pre-existing WordPress and Drupal way of doing things. Both pretty much require using custom templates and display themes to really make use of the custom types, and even then, the designer needs to know the platform specific ways of doing things. This then spreads the custom types logic out between very different layers: DB storage for data schema, DB storage for data, business logic in a code module, display logic in templates (stored either in a DB or in code), display style in a theme.

One challenge I keep running into is how to abstract this CMS idea of custom content types on the backend side even more, and yet at the same time how to make all the pieces work together even better out of the box on the frontend display and usability side. The Ceptr and Om.Next approaches seem to be heading in similar directions of encapsulating all the parts of a given unit of system into one package that is constructed with specific rules to make it interoperable with other packages. The notion here is more one of self-contained packages that adhere to global protocols of package interoperability. I can imagine abstracting WordPress and Drupal modules further to arrive at a similar place. I can imagine a WordPress Ceptr module that acts as a container for running this new kind of module. This container module could itself be, or include, a module generator for creating new modules, and even for modifying itself, since it’s generated from its own self-emergent creation methods.

Show Yourself

Do you see your self as a spirit warrior? I see being a spirit warrior, one who practices spiritual warfare, to be as much about burning away external energy vampires and cleansing internal parasites as it is about allowing some aspects of one’s self to die so that some aspects may live. I have been deepening in this perspective especially in the past month starting with intimate contact with a woman who sees her self as a Spirit Warrior, and then subsequently being amplified through listening to the lyrics over and over of Ayla Nereo’s song, Show Yourself, while remixing it. I interpret the words of the song to be spoken toward a masculine self identity that objectifies the feminine: “I do not show my skin for you, I show my self to know my self, and for the earth from which I came. I pray for you to do the same.” The chorus, “I release you,” seems relevant here. By releasing the negative masculine’s self identity from her scope of influence, she releases her self from its binding. Another line was particularly powerful for me, as I came into this remix process soon after being ill and feeling like I was allowing a less healthy aspect of my self to die, so that a more healthy aspect might live: “You can call her back to you, you can die, die, die, die, bye, bye, die, die, die.” I interpret this line to be telling the masculine self identity that in order to call back the powerful feminine who rejected him, he must allow the “negative,” objectifying aspect of his self identity to die.

This is my first remix, and was a last minute effort. I spent about 30 hours total on it across two days. I knew I would regret it if I passed up the opportunity to participate in Ayla’s remix contest, even though I have no expectation of having my track chosen. It was such a pleasure to listen so closely to the nuances of feeling in Ayla’s beautiful voice over and over, always fresh and inspiring. Thank you Ayla for putting your stems out to be remixed!

Vocals: Ayla Nereo
Guitars, Bass, Violin, Drum Design: Thomas Spellman

Time is a fire we burn in

Time is a fire we burn in, we breath it in, soak in it, push it out, work it with our hands, fingers, minds. It flows in streams between our temples, out through our pores, connecting all atoms in a dance of transmission, progression in sequence. Time is a pattern of vibration linking one state of being with another, and another, and another, ever forward, onward, even while shining in reverse. Light connects the forward and the backward in the sequence, lighting up the way, and showing where we’ve been. It’s a neutral party to the endless stepping forward of time, even an enabler, a translator from one state to another, brought on by the flow of heat from hot towards cool, steady state, thermal transfer. This is life, caught in an eddy between the lines in the motion of currents of hot magma, the molten rock of existence.

Geometric Algebra with Clojure – Part 1

I’ve been exploring Geometric Algebra (GA) and Clojure for a while, and I’m finding some potential to combine my learning of both. Here are my first steps on a Mac:

  1. Download and install GaiGen2.5 ( which is a GA code generator for a variety of languages, including java.
  2. Generate some sample algebra specs, generate the code from the sample Conformal 3d Java spec file, compile, and package into a jar.  I get a warning, “Warning: No operator bindings are possible for output language Java.”  I wonder if Gaigen would benefit from being rewritten in Clojure, to gain from its metaprogramming capabilities …
    cd ~/Develop/GA/gaigen25/
    g25_test_generator -sa .
    cd TestG25
    g25 c3ga_java/c3ga_java.xml
    javac c3ga_pkg/*.java
    jar cvf c3ga.jar c3ga_pkg
  3. Create a new clojure project, add the GA jar as a resource to the project.clj, and start a repl:
    cd ..
    lein new gaclj
    cd gaclj
    mkdir lib
    cp ../TestG25/c3ga.jar lib
    nano project.clj
    (defproject gaclj "0.1.0-SNAPSHOT"
      :description "First try at doing geometric algebra in clojure"
      :url ""
      :license {:name "Eclipse Public License"
                :url ""}
      :resource-paths ["lib/c3ga.jar"]
      :dependencies [[org.clojure/clojure "1.4.0"]])
    lein repl
    user=> (def mv (
    user=> (.set mv 25.0)
    user=> mv
    #<mv 25.00>
    user=> (.toString mv)
    user=> (def e1 (c3ga_pkg.c3ga/vectorE1))
    user=> e1
    #<vectorE3GA 1.00*e1>
    user=> (def e2 (c3ga_pkg.c3ga/vectorE2))
    user=> e2
    #<vectorE3GA 1.00*e2>
    user=> (def e3 (c3ga_pkg.c3ga/vectorE3))
    user=> (c3ga_pkg.c3ga/add e1 e2)
    #<vectorE3GA 1.00*e1 + 1.00*e2>
    user=> (def e12 (c3ga_pkg.c3ga/add e1 e2))
    user=> e12
    #<vectorE3GA 1.00*e1 + 1.00*e2>
    user=> (.toString e12)
    "1.00*e1 + 1.00*e2"

This looks promising. Some next steps will be to get the objects drawn on a canvas of some kind, and then to get some live updating going on, ideally in a LightTable and Bret Victor style. I’ve also been exploring TEALsim, used by MIT for their EM simulations. So another goal is to get the GA working with an EM simulator…

Spring Desires Eternal

I want to see you again.

What should I do about this?  What is this power you have to stir up this little vortex  of longing within me?  I am usually fairly content being alone, all one.  But today, there’s this extra pull, a void of sorts, saying, “Where is she?  Where is she?”  This voice is always here, but yesterday, it was ignorable, and I could go about my business, business as usual.  But today, this desire has sprung up, a fresh a seedling, sprouting its arms above the earth, out of the dirt along the path I walk daily.  Such a beauty, reaching for the sun with its outstretched green hands, and rooting its grey way into the soil.  This desire for life comes suddenly and redefines my experience of this present moment.  This desire for existence, for being.  This is my raison d’être, my reason for being, free.  This IS my being, this fire, this eternal flame.

I perceive this flame is strong in you, fueled by a constant pull of opposites, light of the south, dark of the north, and harmonized by the divine unity present in all of Reality.  This is the “chaos maker” that you try to control, to balance.  Not too much, but please not too little.  It feels so good to  let it spin, to unleash it upon the earth, upon the hearts of men, upon the eyes of all beings, even the stones beneath your feet, and the moon above your head.  This cosmic dipole embedded within your being, is your being, and must be felt to be believed, and then comes a knowing, deeper than any programmed belief can ever hope to achieve.  Feeling this being brings a knowledge of the deepest dark where only the slightest bit of light can reach, and only enough to know, “yes, this is it; this is the reason for being.  This IS being.”

When we gazed into each other’s eyes, what did you see?  After a little eternity, you suddenly looked into the fire, to your left.  Was that in response to a perception of me, a memory, or both, or some other reason to flee?  A penny for your thoughts.  What is the me of which you see?  Did you see through the clouds into the eternity?  Did you find that place where the who, the what, the why, the how, and the when all harmonize into one grand symphony? … and continuously sing, “aaahhh, yes! I am me!  I am free!  I am whom I wish to be!  I am here now!  I am!  I am!  I am!  Aaaaahhhhh, yaaaaaaaaa!”

I hope so.

So anyway, this is all my way of saying thank you for stirring me up!  If I had your number I would call you and say, “please please me and come out and play with me today.  It’s a beautiful day to play!”

Our smart phones are crippled by service provider prisons

I just watched a good talk by Alec Muffet about how our smart phones are amazing computers, but that we are being kept prisoners inside walled gardens by our mobile providers and prevented from having full internet connectivity.

You and Your Phone are Huge Threats to the Net #security #privacy #tor #dns 
“This is the talk I presented at Reading Geek Night 27 on Jan 10th; the theme was the power of mobile computing and of real networking, and of how NAT, IPv4, DNS, and the typical provision of network a…”

I keep thinking since I heard Eben Moglen talk about the #FreedomBox at an Internet Society conference in NY, that we need a #FreedomPhone movement.  A first step might be to support a mobile phone manufacturer that attempts to build a more open-friendly phone like the GeeksPhone

Another step would be to increase demand for the WiMAX (4G wireless broadband) open protocols in the phone (LTE is also 4G but is created by existing wireless providers) and start putting up these towers in communities, possibly with the option of acting as a roaming tower for existing phone providers that use WiMAX (Sprint here in the States). This could be done as a for-profit venture, getting smaller communities on 4G while at the same time enabling local community information freedom.  One selling point would be that a local community could communicate wirelessly with its self for free, or outside for a small nominal VOIP level rate like $0.01/minute.

The technology is converging on VOIP everywhere, which is just voice sent over internet data packets. I think existing voice providers is transforming to walled garden internet service providers (AOL style), which is also why they’re selling these amazing handheld computers that can’t act as standalone internet peers.  “Freedom” 4G (WiMAX / LTE) towers that would allow being a peer on the internet, and pressure put on the existing providers by the users would be steps in the right direction.

I think for pressure to be brought by users, there would need to be a compelling use case, “meme,” or app that would make users want it enough to bug their providers for it, or more likely, to ditch their “providers” for the Freedom alternative.  I’m not sure what this game changing meme might be for others, but for me it would be a personal social networking node (Diaspora) running on the phone, with private and secure P2P text, voice, and video,  including a legacy “phone number” for connecting to land lines, mobile phone prisoners, etc.  This phone would then sync to my FreedomBox at my home for keeping my data secure in case my phone is stolen or lost.  I could also use the home box for converting the VOIP to a legacy land line “phone call,” or a VOIP provider (like could be used for $0.01/minute.   In all these situations, the wireless and land services are just barebones internet providers, utilities essentially, whether by a corporation or a local community.

US Notes and Reforming the Money System

This post is a response to a friend who suggested that JFK fought the Fed by printing US Notes:

My understanding is that US Notes were in circulation from 1862 until they were retired in 1971. There was a printing in 1963, but also in 1953 and 1928, in order to maintain the quantity already in circulation. There’s no evidence I’ve found that JFK directly attempted to increase the amount in circulation. (

As I understand it, and I have looked at the balance sheet of the Fed to verify it (, any interest that the Fed gets from the bonds backing the FRNs above its operating costs is returned to the Treasury. The main source of the compounding US Government debt is not from the Fed printing the notes, or even holding the bonds backing them. Rather it’s that the US Government is printing interest-bearing bonds to cover its operating costs and selling them on the open market to foreign and global banks, foreign central banks, used for reserves, etc. The responsibility lies with the US Government; it’s not a Fed problem. There is however the complicating factor that the Fed sets the interest rates.

In my opinion, just getting rid of the Fed doesn’t address the core problem, which is that the US Gov is using bonds to pay for its budget, and requiring interest bearing notes as banking reserves. The most intelligent reform I’ve seen is which suggests and offers a bill that uses a basket of interest-free US Notes and some gold/silver as the backbone of the economy. It would also change lending laws to remove compound interest from loans, only allowing fees to cover the actual costs of lending. This would basically change the banking and finance system into a highly regulated public utility, which I think it should be.  This is “our” money system after all.


In a conversation with a friend this morning, the topic of watching TV shows came up.  My friend felt a but bad about watching shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and Lost, feeling like it was wasting time that could be used for walking in the woods, or reading a book.  My response was that I think these TV shows serve the purpose of including us in the daily dramas of a community.  We desire to watch these shows when we’re desiring more of a sense of beng a part of a community, which includes all these little sub stories and character dramas that we get from TV shows.

This is similar to my view of films, which are our modern equivalent of the tribal oral story teller.  We evolved over countless ages with myths, legends, and stories, all told orally.  Today, we are missing that, and in its place, we have film.  Film offers us our creation myths, our social teachings, a sense of who we are within our society, role models, a guiding principles.

an exploration of the Universe from the perspective of Thomas Spellman