Hello World

Hi!  Thank you for coming to visit.

Over coming months I hope to create an ontology of money able to achieve wide spread acceptance.

It will build upon a very crude attempt I made three years ago, very kindly linked to (https://financialcryptography.com/mt/archives/001047.html) by Ian Grigg in his superb blog "Financial Cryptography".  I put it together as an in-at-the-deep-end leap into Protégé (http://protege.stanford.edu/).

That version doesn't have much more value than to act as an intro for interested parties, as in, "There, that's what I'm talking about."

So ... that diagram lets you see what I am talking about, but probably leaves you wondering what the point is, so here's a bit of a Q & A session:

Q: Monetary Ontology. Fine  ...  and Walkabout?

A: A diagram is nearly useless.  Much more is required.  I want something people can use.  For that to happen, an ontology needs to be tested and proven correct.  That involves transforming the ontology into a database structure definition (schema), preparing a database with that schema, loading up it with real world data and then testing that a reasoning engine will always answer queries with realistic results.  This is all new territory for me, so like a pubescent aborigine, I now set out Walkabout to make the vision a reality.  I have the songlines in my head.  I invite you to watch my progress.

Q: What's the point?

A:There are as many definitions of money as there are economists.  Economics poses as a science, but if there exists so much ambiguity about what money is then how scientific, really, is the rest of economics?  Economists have the fine luxury of having authority without responsibility!  ... and what an unholy mess they have made!  This initiative grows out of the conviction that money based on solid foundations is not at all hard to understand; a mumbo-jumbo priesthood is only required when a fraud is tarted up as arcane mystery.

The point is to make it clear what money is, and make it possible to prove the definition by testing it.  The language with which one defines a ontology is extremely limited, only certain kinds of things can be said.  I have dropped out of many discussions about money because the language used was so loose and contradictory that agreement on anything was impossible.  The benefit of a constrained and rigorous language intended to facilitate describing the real world ought to make agreement on many things quite possible.

Q: What's the route?

A: Well from past experience in other areas I think it is wise to work from the back-end to the front-end.  That is to say make sure I know how to :
  1. prepare a simple database schema
  2. load some data into the database
  3. connect to the database from an application
  4. see that query results can be validated through a reasoner and properly reflect the real world
  5. augment the simple database schema by transforming an augmented diagram
  6. repeat 2, 3 & 4

So my first task is step #1.  

Having spent a few hours poking around, it seems that Jena is a suitable candidate for a back-end.

I downloaded the latest version from sourceforge ( http://jena.sourceforge.net/downloads.html ) and found the first tutorial here at %install_path%/doc/tutorial/RDF_API/index.html.

So that's for tomorrow....


  1. It sounds like a good idea to try to clean up the mess of obfuscation by the finance industry about money. I would suggest that the mess is caused not (only) by the economists, as they try to consider a broader view of the economy than just the set of technological tools that we call money. On the other hand, economists do make the mistake of supposing that all goods and services are commodities the totality of whose values can be mapped universally into "scarcity value" through supply and demand in commodity markets. Also, they make the mistake of supposing that capital property as wealth and commodities for sale as value are equivalent, in that a surplus of commodites (profit) may be converted into capital (investment). On the other hand, we humans decide upon our everyday actions based upon a much broader system of values and principles, and we do not restrict ourselves to considering only our fear of scarcity. An ontology for describing money as the technological toolset that it is, a toolset for observing economic actions by real people in the real world, is a fine project. However, I am concerned that such tools will end up being used to constrain how such actions may be described, so that nothing more may be said of them beyond describing their scarcity-value in a commodity market. Such tools are used by financial magicians to cast a magical spell on people, such that they feel that they must redirect their actions to ignore all the other values in the human and ecological systems of values and principles by which they live, and must take into consideration only the values and principles that may be expressed using these tools.

  2. About 20 years ago I was friends with an Anthropologist in the University of Ottawa. She had found herself in a shocking quandary about her entire career.

    In preparation for her doctoral thesis she had lived for several years among the Dene indians in the far north of Canada, as much as one can do, living as they do.

    Once her thesis was approved, and she could stick Phd after her name, she shipped several dozen copies of it to her best friends there.

    After nearly a decade she finally arranged to return ... to a ghastly realization.

    Many of the elders she had known had passed on. The younger ones were deeply uncomfortable with substituting for them in their communities where externally imposed change was rendering their lives and their culture ever more confusing. In order to achieve some sort of stability, they had taken to using her thesis as a cookbook for the "correct" way to perform their traditional ceremonies. Wierdly echoing quantum physics, observation had crystallized their behaviour!

    If I understand you correctly, you are concerned that this initiative might impose the same nightmarish perversity onto the world's understanding of money. In particular, you express concern about the reigning "scarcity-value" model of money.

    I would not want this to happen either!

    When I talk about the ontology being "testable", I mean that someone who develops a Time Banking system, for example, can confidently say, "Yup! That works for my purposes!" I think orthodox economists will be the last to take an interest in this, and creators of leading edge complementary currency projects will be the earliest.

    For that reason, I don't think you need to worry.

  3. I think humanity is part way through a historic phase shift as regards money. Like you, I agree that what poses as a science is basically voodoo. I would encourage you to seek broad definitions for your ontology, lest you define an ontology of a historical relic.

    In my work, I just use a URI as a currency, and an evaluation as a set of {currency, value} pairs. That's general enough for most currencies (or resource measurements). The key difference is that, unlike with money, interactions are evaluated (~paid for) separately by both parties. So money becomes a special case with the constraint that (my gain+your loss=0). That innocent, even tautological restriction on what is possible lies close to the heart of things, and I think it could easily be wrenched out of the common understanding of money - by a formal system sufficiently nuanced to allow both parties to a transaction to express their evaluation _independently_.

  4. Geoff's concern (comment #1) is quite close to yours, "On the other hand, we humans decide upon our everyday actions based upon a much broader system of values and principles, and we do not restrict ourselves to considering only our fear of scarcity."

    Thanks for raising this again, because I see that my answer to Geoff was rather vague.

    I'll be really explicit now -- my purpose is NOT to write an ontology! My purpose is to set up an ontology development and test system, with my ideas for an ontology of money as the starting point. I hope that it'll be possible to form a virtual workshop with people like you, Geoff and others contributing on an equal footing with me, to make it as broadly "true" as possible.

    My role would be to take proposed changes, apply them to the model, setup and then run the reasoner on them. Entities that every one agreed upon would then be instantiated into a demo site that could actually see real live use.