The rise of the Internet and various technologies that leverage the nonzero-sum nature of information resources has illuminated and certified a worldview that for a long time was seen merely as crackpot prophecy: the inevitable collapse of the monetary system. Money, and other zero-sum resource markets, depends upon the fundamental premise that taking from one gives to another and that giving to one takes from another. The explosion of the information economy resulting from the rise of the Internet has laid bare the fact that that premise is not universally true for all goods and services.
For some time, monetary systems were effective means of maintaining a rough meritocracy; provided that an extremely low bare-minimum threshold was met, it was possible to leverage one's abilities to rapidly rise in prosperity, ensuring the continual leadership of a productive elite and driving society in a proper direction. However, this system was ultimately doomed, as it produced a class of people who discovered a far more effective means of assuring their own prosperity: using the considerable resources at their disposal to prevent others from ascending to their status. This was made possible chiefly by two features of the monetary system: zero-sum and permanency.
The zero-sum feature of conventional monetary systems allows the wealthy to prevent further ascensions into their elite simply by aggregating and stagnating their own wealth. With an ever-shrinking resource set from which to draw money, the non-wealthy became unable to challenge this oppressive cartel and are instead subjected to lives of economically-enforced servitude.
The second primary avenue for oppression to enter into the monetary system is its feature of permanency, which presents no way for any but the present holder of money to effect a reduction in his holdings. The monopoly held over value makes it extremely difficult to unseat a person whose holdings are above a certain critical threshold, because past that point, he is not even dependent upon the system to increase his holding, because they are sufficient to support him indefinitely. Moreover, the systems possesses no incentive to refuse business arrangements with this person, because of his substantial ability to increase the money (the only metric of value) of any business partners he should have. The second consequence of permanency is that the money of individuals who legitimately rose to preeminence through application of skill will frequently transmit large portions of their holdings to familial relations who do not deserve such station in the meritocracy. For the reason outlined above, it is quite difficult to repair such an oversight, made more difficult by the fact that it is typically only discovered many years after the initial transfer.
Despite the severe damage that this system has wrought upon the peoples of this world, it is possible to recover from its effects. This recovery must, of course, be made within a new system of personal valuation, one that avoids the two critical flaws of monetary systems while still remaining functional and without committing any of the mistakes that occurred in the earlier value systems that money evolved to replace.
This reconstruction can be accomplished by adopting a system similar to a trust network for relating personal value. Provided that the system remains secure, the trust network should produce an extremely accurate measure of the meritocracy and offers a solution to the problems of zero-sum and permanency.
Unlike a conventional trust network, which includes some number of prima facie trusted entities, the network that replaces the monetary system must not have any structural inequalities. These centralized value sources could unbalance the network and would undermine the goal of truly egalitarian meritocracy. Instead, the network must initialize each member with an understood baseline rating of one. While it would be more aesthetically satisfying to work off of a starting point of zero, the mathematics of the trust network would break down at that starting value, and the system would never allow any of its members to rise (or indeed to fall) from zero, making it entirely useless.
The model would distribute value in the following manner: each entity can add another to its "valued" list, contributing a certain fraction of its trust score to the other. It is imperative to understand that these contributions are nonzero-sum. This change eliminates the disincentive to reward others that present in a zero-sum resource scenario such as the monetary system. The contributed score can be modeled by the following equation:
C = S (U+ + U-)
In this formula, C represents the contribution made, S represents the score of the contributor, U+ represents the number of users who are "valued", and U- represents the number of users who are "devalued". The "devalued" list functions similarly to the "valued" list, except that it applies a negative contribution to a user's score rather than a positive one. It is important to note that the default is no contribution, not "devalued".
In this system, it is therefore possible not only to broadcast a "value" message about a person, but also a "devalue" message. This feature allows for compensation against an injustice perpetrated by an individual, preventing the meritocracy from being easily skewed. In order to prevent abuse of the system, any person with a negative value score will find himself unable to communicate either a positive or a negative score contribution. Though it is not mathematically the logical resolution of the equation, this constraint prevents an unpleasant inversion that could easily allow a person with a negative score to function in a manner quite similar to someone with a positive score.
At this juncture, we must break off from a purely theoretical discussion of the design of such a valuation system and address the more practical realities of its execution. Most importantly, the notion of "purchase" must be reconstituted. In the nonzero-sum reality of this new system, the idea of surrendering some portion of one's own value in order to acquire some possession is nonsensical. A new approach, one that takes into account the fundamental structure of this new system of valuation, must be introduced to replace the old one. Rather than understanding an item as a having a particular "price" associated with it, we must transition into the subtly different metric of a "value threshold". Simply speaking, this is the minimum value score of a "buyer" of said item (or service). Any person who wishes to have the item and is above the threshold can have it, provided the item in question is actually available.
In order for this system to be workable, there must necessarily be an objective quasi-monopolistic entity to keep a record of the scores and continuously update them. It could be possible to create this network in an ad-hoc fashion, but such a system would mandate an enormous infrastructure and be vulnerable to various client-side exploits. An implementation of this system is perhaps best left to another essay and possibly even another essayist.