Every little bit helps
September 15th, 2021

👋 Note: Originally published on Nov 7, 2015 (link). This was part 2 of 7 in a series of posts released under the pseudonym Creole.

You wake up to a slow pulse on your phone. Your PO account has received its monthly payment. You lazily wake the screen and thumb approval to the standard division:

- 45% (0.00005600 BTC) to mobile wallet [x1f8K…nb7]

- 50% (0.00006220 BTC) to savings [ICICI x1f9H…m4e]

- 4.8% (0.00000597 BTC) to MSF_KL [x14hY…8e9]

- 0.2% maintenance of PO Account [0]

That’s just your stake, of course. The rest goes to your mother in Munnar, and some cousins in Trivandrum. The money comes from a variety of sources, which you know because every few weeks you’re obligated by the wallet to flick through a screen containing details of each. You understand: when the State, ASEAN, or some rich billionaire’s kid gives you and a 100 million other people hard cash, they want you to know who to thank.

You thumb it open and pull out the history tab. The account received funds from about 32 sources this year. This is a Public Outcome account (PO), which means you needed to jump through a few hoops to set it up. A few identity challenges, made much easier by having a few existing bank accounts, social profiles, and other identity capital. Easier, always, as a family. But it’s worth it even when it’s hard, because earning the PO designation gives you the right to receive PO funds.

When it started, PO was all billionaires. You remember when the Gates died, and the estate announced that everyone on earth would get $10 USD in BTC. Had been set up before their death, secretly turning all that fiat into crypto. A bold gesture, though obviously could have been structured more progressively. But it certainly drove a point home. Since then all sorts of billionaire pools have sprung up — all weighted in different ways, by age, location, gender, ethnicity, orientation, cis/trans. You don’t have to figure that stuff out, though. Once you have your PO set up with all your identity primitives, it checks against what’s available, and gains access to whatever you (and your family, in this case) qualify for.

In the last 5 years, the slower-moving institutions of the world have started to use it. National and state governments, development orgs, econ unions, etc. You read once that this was the point of the Gates’ initiative, the real point beyond the lump sum — doing something big enough to drive people to actually set up their POs to make a real market out of it. Jumpstart the network effects, make it big enough for other institutions to start distributing much smaller amounts.

You don’t earn much from it, but you know there are many in places like Bihar who pay their rent or groceries with it (and, in the tabloids, those who somehow bought a drone, or some LSD, or something else the poor shouldn’t have). Fraud is still a problem. People trying to set up hundreds or thousands of fakes in order to collect cash for them. Your standard arms race. Algorithms monitor accounts to identify non-human spending patterns. Bots learn better patterns and find better sources of entropy to inject. Every few months there’s a new CAPTCHA — frown and take a photo of your face, use some local slang in a sentence, tell me which man is prettier and identify the metaphor in the paragraph we’ve printed on his chest. Your mother thinks she’s going to start failing them more often than not.

You roll out of bed to shower, and as you do, open Spotify and turn it onto your speaker set in your washroom. You’re not there to see it, but as The Weeknd’s Greatest plays, your personal balance drips down, a few bits at a time. [Mobile wallet [0.00000002 BTC] -> SPOTIFY OSLO]. At the same time, your wallet is going up, bit by bit. Revenue from content you published last week, a concert review posted to Zapchain, where every view is a small number of bits. It’s not worth much now, but you’re optimistic this group could do well. If they do ever blow up, reviews of early shows can be worth a fortune if they become authoritative or linked on Genius. And you could always up the price.

Which is funny, you think. Thousands of people paying tiny amounts of money to you from all over the world. Your mother used to tell you about your father, who worked in the Emirates, and once sent her money to pay for rent, to pay for you. He would go to a man behind a counter and give him money, and the man would take the money and use a social relationship with another man in Munnar, who would give an equivalent amount — less a significant fee — to your mother. You wonder if he would be amazed by the feats your wallet performs daily. Or just annoyed that it’s so easy for you.

Probably annoyed.

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