Read it on GitHub: https://github.com/moral-upgrade-license/mul
The Last Flinch of a Dying Demon
There is an artificially induced financial stability in the world, which obscures the actual value of our work. If we are part of a guild — e.g. programmers, we expect our salary to be in a certain range, regardless of what we do. And these salary ranges have more to do with a market average, than with what is fair within the company. There is no direct or transparent connection to how much the end client is paying for the product that we are building and how much of that payment should directly go to us.
We are paid by job title instead of our own work’s worth because we have traded transparency and direct worth on comfort and an expectation of worth. Therefore, presently, the economy is not made to flow naturally — it is a series of controlled dams.
This obfuscation of value benefits some of us: employers can pay an employee less than his actual worth in the company because the average salary is low for one’s title. Employees can demand higher pay and comfort even when their work is subpar or is not crucial to the end product and end-user.
The mechanism through which communism died by its own hand was sheltering people from the market. Nobody knew the real value of their work. This lead to a nepotism and mediocrity hell, in which avoiding work & petty office theft was normalized. Those who did their job responsibly or who cared about their education were laughed upon. Most of the average person’s efforts were directed at maintaining a constructed image of themselves, as a good patriotic worker, who loved the Communist party, because your neighbors were all watching and possibly reporting you to the Department of State Security Police (Securitate). This personality dissociation evolves in either a chronic denial of a hierarchy of moral values or in a chronic delusion that you must never be wrong and therefore you refuse to acknowledge when you are wrong even when presented with undeniable facts right before your eyes.
I was born in the midst of the gunshots of the Romanian revolution. It took me years to understand the repercussions of the communist mentality in society and in myself. It has not disappeared even after 30 years. The artificial sense of comfort, the inertia, and opposition to change, hatred towards logic, putting more worth in how your apartment looks than in expanding your mental, moral and empirical horizons. But you can find these behaviors in most countries, in various degrees — the communist demon is still here. Romania was just a fresh case. And the only solution that forced Romania to change was capitalism.
Romanians viewed America as the promised land. In communism, children and teenagers were running from home at night to gather and listen to American music, view American films, dreaming the freedom dream in secrecy (an offense punishable through imprisonment). Some dissidents flew to America or other European democratic countries to escape the communist regime. But they soon learned that a soft dream of freedom is not what creates true freedom. Freedom is created through the forge of self-discipline for reaching the highest personal goal that you have. Through a sense that if you do not give your best, you are not respecting yourself and you are restricting your own future’s outcome.
The American dream is not a house with a white picket fence. It is the dream of a society where it doesn’t matter to whom you were born to and under what conditions — you can align your highest personal goal with the highest collective goal and nothing can stop you except yourself and the limitations that you impose on yourself.
True Capitalism — Meritocracy in Depth
But the capitalism of today is not pure. It is plagued with local minima that capture and maintain wealth. These local minima eventually develop communist-like mini-societies around that wealth, as a maintenance mechanism: the more people you corrupt, the harder it is to see and break the corruption and let the capital flow in the way a free fluid intends: it takes the form of the market.
Today, some of these local minima are initially market-driven, but others are artificially created through closed-door deals/forced regulation (crony capitalism). They are a “rent seeker’s throne”. A power seat from where the rent seeker holds the reigns of power and uses them to strengthen their position without additional effort or added value.
But now, we are talking about a new type of capitalism. A “more” moral capitalism: the capitalism of known and transparent work worth.
The consumer/buyer pays the producer of effort and IP (employee) directly, after a predefined and pre-agreed algorithm. The management and administrative employer is also paid directly, after a predefined algorithm. All payments are transparent.
A buyer who is unsatisfied with a part of the product, but very satisfied with another, can choose to direct the majority of his payment to that part that satisfied him. Not to a person, but to the department or group of people who successfully shipped that part. And from that point, based on the predefined algorithm, to each person who contributed directly to making the exact item that the buyer is satisfied with.
As a producer of effort and IP, you will remain in direct contact with the market and how the market values your work. It is not the employer who controls your work’s worth, but the buyer. The buyer is the one directly affected by your work. The employer can merely make the best guess as to what your value is, based on other’s people’s estimations of you — unless the employer works with you directly, which is not scalable.
The predefined algorithms are what an employee and employer will negotiate and agree on. It is not a fixed salary. It is a percentage from the product value, that can fluctuate based on its parameters: buyer satisfaction and work quality, the value of employee_effort / total_product_effort ratio.
The Youtube Case
The clearest example of how this system can be implemented is Youtube. Youtube can know exactly how many viewers a portion of a video video1 had. If that portion contains the IP of another creator video2:
- part of the views on that common portion from video1 should also go to video2
- if video1 is monetized, then part of the proceedings (directly proportional to the views on the clip) should go to video2
Now, if you are a popular channel, you can use other people’s work, IP, faces, put a small spin on it (if any), and get paid a lot of money. While the original creators get nothing.
The most interesting example I know of collective creation, where everyone was paid for their effort is https://hitrecord.org. I used to watch their creations (without paying) and I remember how Gordon was filming each envelope with money, going to each creator that produces something for the short film and showing receipts. He acted like he implemented the intent of the Moral Upgrade License.
Open Source, not Free Source
This system can be built now, with the tools that we already have. And it can start with open-source software. Continuing the freedom-in-software revolution.
We were under the tyranny of closed and expensive source, limiting progress and paving the way towards the possibility of mass manipulation through closed-source algorithms.
The open-source movement was started as a middle ground: free as in the freedom to see and inspect the source. Freedom of knowledge.
But now we are under the tyranny of free as in free beer. The MIT license has veered the moral compass in the other extreme. While MIT and other for-profit institutions that open source code under this license are very well funded and use this mechanism to wash some of their sins, MIT licenses have spread like wildfire even among unfunded or underfunded projects. This creates an ecosystem, where unpaid work is used by projects who are funded and do not contribute back. The worst of all is: everyone thinks this is ok. This is normalized immorality.
Some years ago, we worked on a project, where we made money by creating UML diagrams and plans for a project. We were using https://github.com/skanaar/nomnoml, an SVG-based UML library. When we paid the creator of the library 10% of what we were paid, he told us that it was the first donation ever received on that project and he was pleasantly surprised.
Donations for Open Source
GitHub now has a donation system for open source creators. And other systems exist, on the same pattern. This lack of clarity over what is deserved and what is given through another type of reasoning (a moral sense of altruism) will be the downfall of the open-source movement due to unsustainability.
GPL ver3 was a good start. It forced you to open source code that you have modified or improved upon. But programmers (creators of effort and IP) have no idea what their work’s value really is: how much capital and resources their work saved throughout the world? Stars, ratings, likes are estimations of the importance of a project, but bad estimators of how society really benefits from a project.
But GPL ver3 leaves the door open for individuals or projects to take advantage of hard-working people with a good heart and disconsider their work. Sounds familiar.
Forward Payment and Backward Payment
I will take a phenomenon that is a condensation of the above aspects, in such an extreme, that it makes things clearer.
How many ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings)(*) have given back to the projects that they have used to promote and build their products?
How many ICOs have at least acknowledged in public that they owe some of the ICO money to the software that enabled them to receive the money in the first place? Or to the marketing mechanism that enabled them to be forward paid in such historical proportions?
How many ICO investors have held the companies responsible for not paying the projects that they use?
During an ICO, if you know you depend on another system, you are bound to pay a portion to that dependency at the time the money is coming in. You should not pay them backward while you are paid forward.
ICO investors have a moral duty: they should make sure they know the whole dependency chain. And that the ICO has a mechanism to pay its dependencies at ICO time.
Most ICOs took out money in bulk from a transparent, traceable system, to use in the old, untraceable (for the public/investors) system. How many paid their developers in digital money? How many developers requested to be paid in digital money?
How many projects have been funded on the work of others without making a valuable improvement and without paying it backward?
One deserves to be paid for marketing work — taking effort and IP from someone who cannot reach bigger audiences and successfully reach those audiences. But one does not deserve the full profit, that he otherwise would not have in the first place.
What about IP copiers? Individuals or entities who have the resources to bring ideas to life, who steal IP from entities who do not.
I have heard many times the phrase “An idea is not worth anything if not implemented”, which is highly misleading. Ideas are the root of everything that exists. A simple and correct mental construction of a problem generates the idea of a solution and reaching that simple and correct mental construction is a decades-long effort of experience and self-discipline.
Yes, ideas are useful for society when they are implemented. But who would you rather trust to produce a good implementation, close to the initial intent and who would you rather fund? The idea creator or someone who is corrupt enough to not give credit (and resources) where credit is due?
The moment you accrue capital, you must give back, directly proportional to the project/library’s value inside your project/company. If it is pennies, those pennies must be given.
Another social parallel: when Lidl (supermarket chain) came to Romania they did one thing extremely right and hit the hearts of Romanians: the cashiers gave back your full change, (and insisted that you take) every penny, even those that most of us would throw away as worthless. This was a stark difference compared to the unclear tipping system that Romania had, where the cashiers would not even offer the change back and people were too used to not complaining, that they did not ask for it, but internally they were frustrated by feeling that they unwillingly became actors in a corrupt system.
At a global level, every penny counts.
How About Free Beer?
The torch of free beers needs to be passed on. In other words, free software should remain free for entities who also give their software for free.
Children and adults need tools to play with, to build with until they form a vision. The altruism torch also needs to be passed on and the idea that there are values that go beyond capital, money, and comfort — such as working together for a better world, building brick by brick, with individual effort and passion.
The Moral Upgrade License 2020
A project upholds this new license if:
- it is open source
- it can only be used by projects who also respect this license
- it is financially supported only with publically known payments, traceable without doubt
- its financial outputs are traceable, so any individual can verify that the project upholds the license
- a project can define many types of payment: financial (e.g. money, digital currencies), social (e.g. retweets, shares), time (e.g. volunteer developers) and the calculated percentage of owed resources will be applied to them.
Computable Moral Upgrade License
In the next articles, in this series, you will see software solutions to this problem.
In the meanwhile…
What I Can Do
- open an Ethereum account for your project, for ALL financial inputs and outputs of that project (if you have a better solution than Ethereum, with smart contract support and better decentralization, open an issue:)
- watch the GitHub repository https://github.com/moral-upgrade-license/mul for changes
- if you have commercial law knowledge, open an issue on GitHub, so you can help compose the license
- open an issue on GitHub if you have any improvements to these ideas and plans
- if you are a programmer, look at the source code that will appear in the repo.
(*) Disclaimer: I was part of an ICO, as a naive mercenary programmer, but I was paid no more than the market price (which is a good, comfortable salary). I asked to be paid in ETH — I was not, for legal reasons (as I was told at that time). I did not stay for the shares.