Assigning value is fundamental human instinct. Fantasy Sports leagues allow anyone to bet on the exact monetary value of every participant in a market within a tight set of rules. As each player wins and loses games, over and underperforms, bettors update their value with new data. With the emergence of eSports Leagues, we have seen a market for young gamers emerge. Much like the sports market, there are some elite players that are dramatically better than most people.
Promising soccer, golf and tennis players enter the world market for their skills at 9 years old. We often see local crowdfunding campaigns to help them afford dedicated schools that will improve their skills. Their community know that they are the most promising players in the area. Supporters hope that big sports teams or sponsors will eventually agree and sign their local talent up for a specific amount of FIAT. These early backers are then cut off from their predictions. Could young, promising players raise money based on issuing credits? Could you allow scouts to be rewarded for finding promising players by buying up these credits?
Software developers apply to Y Combinator with the hopes of becoming the next Airbnb, Stripe or Dropbox. Sam Altman and Co. admit that they are really just looking for smart, determined founders. The ideas will mutate but they are betting that market demand for the efforts of motivated, young software developers will continue to rise. YC then lock this value into a mentorship/corporate structure. YC gives €120,000 to each startup for 7% of the company. They typically look for startups with 2-3 founders, so if each company has approximately 2.5 founders (guess), that values the average YC participant at about €685,000. They may have to wait many years to redeem any of this equity value.
Bitcoin Core developers are just one side of a network that includes users and miners. But if there is no major difference in market value from one user or miner versus the other, as they perform the same function, then the value of the network is a combination of the incentive structure, development team & network uptime. The longer BTC exists without being hacked, or another flaw being exposed, the more valuable it becomes. In probability terms the Lindy effect is a useful heuristic.
Will the importance of the developers in Bitcoin diminish over time as the protocol ossifies, like the internet protocols? Or will it continue to be an important factor like Linux or Mozilla? If Vitalik left Ethereum, what would it do to the price of ether? It seems strange today to value individual developers like athletes. We can’t just use metrics like Github contributions or association with promising startups as exact value signals. But markets like to uncover information. Would you invest in the future contributions of Peter Wuille or Vitalik if you could? Cristiano Ronaldo’s legs are worth £90m. What is Adam Back’s brain worth?
In new markets like cryptocurrency, the value of key participants is not yet clear because the rules and scope of the market are not clear. The token launch gold rush has been an attempt to capture the value of decentralized markets and strong teams. In uncertain, emerging markets, the quality of the team is the primary valuation metric, as the idea often mutates and changes. Ethereum was to be a world computer but so far its primary use case is token launches. Tokens represent a liquid, decentralized, if currently over-hyped version of a new Venture Capital market.
Today you apply for a job and the wage gives you a very rough idea of what your value to that job market is. Third parties set this, but they get it mostly right if there is plenty of competition in their market. Payscale.com helps give you an idea of what this is in advance. In the future, someone might launch 1 million John credits. This market could allow people to bet on or against my progress in uncovering and contributing useful market information. I wouldn’t need to share anything. John traders could profit from being right or wrong about what some or all my time is worth. Alternatively, I might decide to float a Personal Index Token, with associated consequences to my behaviour like sharing in the proceeds and being penalized for not doing so. There might emerge a standard for personal tokens. An individual version of ERC-20’s. Markets for promising participants would become liquid and widespread. An improved version of Upwork and other online marketplaces.
Your CV could become be a cryptographically provable calculation of your market cap or an estimation of your eventual net worth. If you did nothing in your career but join YCombinator at 18 you might jump from $0 to $680,000. If you left your co-founders and the YC mentorship structure to continue the company alone, this value would probably drop. If you worked at Google, Stripe, or came in the top % of people in a cryptography exam, maybe a value could be attached to this. We currently use mental shortcuts to put some value on these credentials. Most employers scan CV’s for keywords. Maybe more specific values will be attributed to them. Reid Hoffman advocates that you approach your career as a Startup. Personal Index Tokens would be an attempt to value you the Startup of You. Maybe you keep it privately, to be shared with trusted parties, or until you're ready to raise money for something.
If this comes to pass it is hard to think of the second order effects. Imagine seeing your floating value drop live after being fired, or your company becoming insolvent. Imagine a bad actor shorting your stock for some reason. Maybe you might dump your own tokens while claiming to be progressing in some capacity. Each company might have an exact ‘employee market cap’. Plenty of fodder for a dystopian future. Black Mirror have already produced a version of this idea based on social popularity.
It may seem like there wouldn’t be enough resources to value every working person but much of the credentialing could be estimated and automated. As you add more metrics, you get clearer values or value ‘ranges’. In theory, an anonymous developer, who can consistently, cryptographically identify their achievements (hacks, patches, blogging etc.) could have a floating value based on their contributions. You could have a private and/or public PIT.
While we are all well accustomed to reading the Forbes 500 and other ‘Rich lists’ the average person would be initially uncomfortable with a ‘live value’. But it might also have positive effects. It might focus people on ethics and the long term value of their career versus short term wins like scammy articles, business practices and political moves. Market based meritocracy seems to be coming.
This thought experiment brings up more questions than answers. It also may be not be welcome by most people. But if the history of technology tells us anything, it’s that eventually, technology for the wealthy often trickles down to everyone. Your market value is emerging, it’s just not liquid yet.