The Story of Yahoo & Google teaches us that Money wants to be as Free as Information.

Abdul Semakula
7 min readApr 15, 2023

--

Ultimately, trust, not money is the currency of the commercial system. Yahoo knew this, so, in the early years of the internet, Yahoo Search controlled what people see via a centralised directory — meaning it controlled who and what people trusted.

On the other hand Google leveraged collective participation with an algorithm allowing a people-driven, bottom-up flow of the world’s information reorganised by how we use it and how real people think about it. How web visitors interacted with your link (web page) determined its usefulness — not Yahoo's centralised hierarchical top-down information plutocracy.

This decentralised information democracy effortlessly supplanted ‘invincible’ Yahoo. In the end, GenZs have never heard of Yahoo Search, instead, they call ‘searching for information’ Googling.

This and many such examples teach us that, there’s great leverage in designing systems for collective participation. And, that excluding people from decisions that affect them is not just opportunistic but inefficient for both the opportunist and the whole.

Money is locked up in a Yahoo-like Commercial System

Today Money can move as easily as information does. But the commercial or financial system is still centralised, top-down, inefficient, and unfit for the urgent demands of climate finance. Centralised finance means;

  • Fewer funds are pooled and destined to climate solutions — and decades late.

“… most capitalists don’t know how to share the economic pie.” Ray Dalio — Venture Capitalist — Bridgewater Associates.

Capitalism prides itself on efficiency. But we seem to apply efficiency only when the incentive is to accumulate money.

We aren’t applying efficiency to wealth distribution!

To be fair, innovations like CSR, ESG, impact investing, crowdfunding, and the like are evolutions towards more wealth distribution. However, these are innovations at the funding decision stage — and are also still centralized.

Real distribution efficiency, requires decentralised innovation at the both Funds Pooling and Funding Decision Stages.

Centralised Finance also means that businesses control how we trust them — through centralised ESG reporting which in many ways is hard to access, hard to interpret, and hard to react to, in which case PR campaigns are choreographed to shape public opinions and garner trust.

Systems Change means;

Engaging People to Change Goals of the System.

Although Google succeeded in casting its brainchild into the future as a superior alternative, algorithmic management based on sensational and emotional manipulation has not just distorted the world’s information ecosystem but is now the major driver of a new wave of consumerism that is in turn driving inequalities, waste, and emissions — “the global economy presently uses twice as many resources as would be required to deliver good lives for all” — Jason Hickel.

One thing is clear, it is not enough to design for collective participation if the goal remains unchanged. Algorithmic management still needs to be built on the blueprint of justice on which the world runs.

Yet Google and its peers surely have justice as a core value!

So, we can only deduce that our general view of justice is continuously narrowed and sharpened towards only material justice, and for only the human species — as opposed to wholistic justice for the living world.

Distributive Justice & Our Justice Dilemma

What drove Yahoo, drives Google, and drives every other entity in the commercial system — limitless wealth accumulation. The dilemma is that we are immersed in a global culture that glorifies limitless wealth accumulation but still expects and fights for distributive justice, access, and equity. Unsurprisingly, many don’t realise they are on both sides — that is how deep-rooted this dilemma is.

To diffuse this dilemma, we need to develop the capability of citizens to create a new culture, where we reward not limitless accumulation but distribution. Something like ‘accumulating wealth is okay, but it cannot be justice if it’s limitless accumulation’ — or if it’s beyond one’s needs, or at the expense of common interests.

You might be thinking, how is that even possible, what is the starting point? I can assure you that this is where we are headed as there are a number of signals that prophesize this distributive future. The brightest signal is the new movement of post-growth entrepreneurs that pledge to give profits above a flat growth curve to social/environmental issues.

Why is now the time to shift the system goal of Wealth Distribution?

  1. Limitless accumulation was based on a 13th commercial operating system — built on dominating nature, treating nature and society as externalities, slavery, and extractive colonialism.
  2. In that period justice was in its toddler ages — at least in most of the world — so we were pretty much playing with fire, experimenting, and learning — that is why those injustices prevailed as normal. Today, we know that one-sided relationships based on domination don’t actually last. Slavery failed, colonization failed, female inferiority, segregation, and all one-sided relationships founded on limitless growth always collapse — it’s a matter of time. Yet, these values of limitless growth underpin our current commercial system that treats nature and society as zero-value externalities.
  3. Growth has reached its limits — even in the corporate sense. Deloitte says profit over corporate size has been shrinking for the last 2 decades. This means corporations have accumulated more money than they know how to use to make more. That is why, as Douglas says, when Google reached its limit, it couldn’t grow by innovating but by becoming a holding company called Alphabet that buys and sells other tech companies.
  4. Taken this way, money becomes a pollutant in the commercial system. Pollutant meaning (as defined by Donella Meadows) “a resource that is accumulated at a faster rate than it can be absorbed” — in which case the resource moves from useful to harmful. Unused fats cause obesity which increases the risk of heart disease, high CO2 PPM has caused global warming, etc. Money as a pollutant kills innovation, increases inflation, creates a $4.5T climate and $2.5T SDG finance gaps p.a. that puts the commercial system into suicide mode, and escalates pretty much every negative thing in the world today. Again, money is very useful but it being concentrated more than it’s used, incites corruption, needless wars, violence, and environmental destruction.
  5. But the deeper question is, whose money is accumulated, billions beyond need, is it really for m/billionaires? To answer this you have to go back to our human nature and interrogate who actually creates value. Psychology has long proven the ego-centric bias in which humans tend to exaggerate their role in value/wealth creation and erroneously entitle themselves to more rewards than is actually attributable to their input.
    This is even worse if the other contributor to value is not seen as a person. Nature and society are treated as zero-value externalities — so nature/society’s contribution to value/wealth creation (which is needed to regenerate them) is also accumulated in private bank accounts.
    We’re better off adopting an eco-centric bias by treating Nature/Society the same way we treat and value co-founders. If anything Nature is the first co-founder, Society the second co-founder, and ‘the entrepreneur the third. More on this here.
  6. Distribution is in line with the natural flow. Redesigning commerce and money for distribution will increase the velocity of money. The faster money moves, the less you need to hold onto it and the more there’s for everyone, and the less we all need money. The less we need money, the less we extract earth/society for more money and the more regenerative the commercial system becomes.

How can we harness technology to build a distributive culture?

To paraphrase Bill McKibben, ‘The climate war was never about winning arguments, it was always about winning more money and people-power towards climate action.’

A breakthrough in wealth distribution efficiency is more regenerative and redirects markets to sustainability than excusing the status-quo with carbon capture technologies, and other such innovations. It

  1. Restores the natural cyclic & interdependent flow of resources or value
  2. reduces pressure on nature’s finite resources,
  3. increases the amount of funds going to neglected activities that regenerate nature, and
  4. reverses the mindset of self-interest at the expense of common interests that perpetuates the extractive and destructive wealth concentration cycle.

So, how might technology give people the power to participate in building a distributive culture with positive daily choices while ensuring that businesses that respect the health of nature and society are trusted by the masses to lead us into a regenerative and equitable future?

Like Google freed up the world’s information from Yahoo’s control, Commonflow’s mission is to free up the world’s money and power — by blending fintech, social-tech, and blockchain to give people the power to participate in building a better world with positive daily choices.

It will also free up the now captured people-power, ensuring that ‘who we trust’ is controlled not by the very entity in need of trust, but by people. This way businesses that truly respect the health of nature & society are trusted by the masses to lead us into a regenerative and equitable future.

Your Feedback is invaluable.

Of course, the idea of wealth accumulation is a sensitive topic given that ‘limitless’ accumulation and ‘limitless’ growth are things we’ve known all our life (education, work, lifestyle) but the climate emergency requires us to question and innovate the status quo, not just the usual suspects like fossil fuels, extensive meat farming, waste, and others, but mostly the underlying systemic narratives on which all those are based. Limitless wealth accumulation is the underlying driver of all those specific causes of climate change.

If the idea of limitless wealth accumulation is unaddressed, solutions like electric vehicles, vegan meat, circularity, and others, will only go so far in solving the climate emergency. I would love to hear your thoughts.

--

--

Abdul Semakula

Systems Innovator co-creating bottom-up a distributive & regenerative future at https://opencollective.com/nvc