In The Future Everyone Has an ICO

An overly provocative headline, playing off of Andy Warhol’s “everyone will be famous for 15 minutes,” but it does get to the heart of a potential future product I can imagine today. Let’s have fun with this.

If you aren’t versed in Blockchain technology, or how Ethereum has powered ICO’s (initial coin offering’s) then some of this will seem super alien. I’m just having fun here, so I’m skipping the prologue — let’s jump right into Episode IV, the personal ICO.

Let’s imagine a product five years from now that’s directed toward the consumer.

You sign up for the service and you get to “mint” your own coin. You are a “Minter.”

I would make ‘Digi-Coins” or if I’ve finally matured enough, maybe I’d make them “Cohn-Coins.” Point is, they are mine. Only I can make create them. “Coins” might be the wrong word. Tokens might be more fitting, but I will use these interchangeable.

I would get a few tokens for free from this service. Maybe a few more if I took specific actions to identify myself or friends that are also on the service. But there would be a very small cap on the number of coins I could mint. Scarcity here is key.

I can imagine the total number of coins one can mint being set around 150, based on Dunbar’s number (the total number of social connections a human is presumed to be able to maintain at any one time). After I get some of my initial free coins, I would have to pay $1 per coin to mint the remaining.

So now I’ve got somewhere between X-150 “Digi-Coins” and I have potentially even “invested” $100 towards having the maximum number of them. That means I value every coin to be around $1 each. Every coin is on my own blockchain. That means I can verify my ownership these and I can transfer the unique ownership of these tokens to anyone I want. Ownership can be verified at any time.

I have a “Wallet” (this service would come up with a different name) where I store my coins and perhaps the coins from other people that I have acquired. Theoretically speaking, I would never be able to own more than 150 of any one person’s coin (because that’s the total that could ever be minted).

These coins represent promises in my mind. The “Mint” company would message this properly. You can see the Kickstarter-esque video now. Happy diverse millennials trading their tokens in exchange for good deeds to each other. I found your cat, here’s a token.

Imagine the following kinds of scenarios.

  1. Two friend’s who are 13 trade their tokens as a sign of friendship with each other.
  2. Years later, the two are still friends and lord their coins over each other in a friendly way.
  3. Maybe the friends have parted ways, but have fond memories and keep the coins.
  4. Or, as a good faith gesture, knowing these coins are limited, hand them back to the old friend as the two have moved to different colleges and social circles.
  5. Maybe along the way, these coins were treated flippantly and have been passed around to a friend of a friend. Friend A gave it to friend B, who gave it to Friend C for a different token.
  6. Through the blockchain I can confirm the authenticity of the token in Friend C’s possession. I can offer that “friend of a friend” a favor for the token back, or maybe even money — this time, perhaps $30 (or however much I value it). This is perhaps the phrase “social capital” taken to its extreme. Maybe that’s the name of the company!!!

There are lots of possibilities. Just like Bitcoin is both an asset and a form of currency, these tokens are both a promise or sign of friendship as much as they are a store of sentimental value (or social capital).

When you first “mint” your coins you can set your initial price both in a fixed dollar amount but also as a kind of favor. These coins are worth “a ride to the airport or equivalent.” If a friend drops everything to drive you to the hospital, give them a token. Hell, if it really is a life-saver, give them two!

There is some natural recoil to the idea of favors being given dollar value. Again, taking the phrase “social capital” too far is what comes to mind. But in this product, the dollar values are all relative. It’s all about who values what from whom. As a coin gets traded to a friend of a friend, the dollar value drops in relation to me.

A “favor” to a close friend is less valuable than to a friend three-times removed. At a certain point it makes sense to set up individual markets for each token where based on proximity dollars becomes more sensible to trade a coin than personal favors. A real jerk might hoard a token and ask for $1,000 to get a coin back, but you can set your “bid” for it down to $1 and see where the two of you meet. Maybe those bids are public, which would hurt that person’s ability to “trade” the coin further. It might also encourage a user to be careful with how they give/trade their initial coins.

Imagine the economics around celebrity coins. I can see the celebrity charity auctions now!

How these coins are different from current Cryptos.

  1. These coins are indivisible.
  2. These coins are HARD capped at very small numbers.
  3. Valuations could very drastically from minter-to-minter and even within that minter’s portfolio of 150 coins, a coin to an immediate friend might be drastically more valuable than a coin five-times removed from.
  4. There is a game/fun element to this. It’s not exactly Crypto-kitties, but it’s in the same space. These don’t have to be taken too seriously. At the same time, it can be meaningful. It can be used within a small community of people who know each other to trade real value, outside of the monetary system — value that really doesn’t extend beyond them.

Let me know what you think.