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Cryptocurrency Bitcoin Humans Need to Create Interspecies Money to Save the Planet


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Cryptocurrency Bitcoin Humans Need to Create Interspecies Money to Save the Planet

The greatest failure of the digital age is how far removed it is from nature. The microchip has no circadian rhythm, nor has the computer breath. The network is incorporeal. This may represent an existential risk for life on Earth. I believe we have to make a decision: Succumb to pushing more of our brain…

Cryptocurrency  Bitcoin Humans Need to Create Interspecies Money to Save the Planet

Cryptocurrency Bitcoin

The greatest failure of the digital age is how far removed it is from nature. The microchip has no circadian rhythm, nor has the computer breath. The network is incorporeal. This may represent an existential risk for life on Earth. I believe we have to make a decision: Succumb to pushing more of our brain time and economy into unnatural online constructs, or build the digital anew in a way that is rooted in nature.

Nature is excessive, baroque. Its song is not ours alone. We share this planet with 8 million nonhuman species, yet scarcely think of how they move through the world. There is no way for wild animals, trees, or other species to make themselves known to us online, or to express their preferences to us. The only value most of them have is the sum value of their processed body parts. Those that are not eaten are forgotten, or perhaps never remembered: Only 2 million of them are recorded by science.

This decade will be the most destructive for nonhuman life in recorded history. It could also be the most regenerative. Nonhuman life forms may soon gain some agency in the world. I propose the invention of an Interspecies Money. I’m not talking about Dogecoin, the meme of a Shiba Inu dog that’s become a $64 billion cryptocurrency (as of today). I’m talking about a digital currency that could allow several hundred billion dollars to be held by other beings simply on account of being themselves and no other and being alive in the world. It is possible they will be able to spend and invest this digital currency to improve their lives. Because the services they ask for—recognition, security, room to grow, nutrition, even veterinary care—will often be provided by poor communities in the tropics, human lives will also be improved.

Money needs to cross the species divide. Whoa, I know. King Julien with a credit card. Flower grenades into the meaning of life. Bear with me. If money, as some economic theorists suggest, is a form of memory, it is obvious that nonhuman species are unseen by the market economy because no money has ever been assigned by them. In order to preserve the survival of some species it is necessary in some situations, usually when they are in direct competition with humans, to give them economic advantage. An orchid, a baobab tree, a dugong, an orangutan, even at some future point the trace lines of a mycelial network—all of these should hold money.

We have the technology to start building Interspecies Money now. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that the living system (Gaia or otherwise) is in fact producing the tools needed to protect complex life at precisely the moment it is most needed: fintech solutions in mobile money, digital wallets, and cryptocurrencies, which have shown it is possible to address micropayments accurately and cheaply; cloud computing firms, which have demonstrated large amounts of data can be stored and processed, even in countries that favor data sovereignty; hardware, which has become smarter and cheaper. Single board computers (Raspberry Pis), camera traps, microphones, and other cheap sensors, energy solutions in solar arrays and batteries, internet connectivity, flying and ground robots, low orbit satellite systems, and the pervasiveness of smartphones make it plausible to build a verification system in the wild that is trusted by the markets.

The first requirement of Interspecies Money is to provide a digital identity of an individual animal, or a herd, or a type (depending on size, population dynamics, and other characteristics of the organisms). This can be done through many methods. Birds may be identified by sound, insects by genetics, trees by probability. For most wild animals it will be done by sight. Some may be observed constantly, others only glimpsed. For instance, the digital identity of rare Hirola antelopes in Kenya and Somalia, of which there are only 500 in existence, will be minted from images gathered on mobile phones, camera traps, and drones by community rangers. The identity serves as a digital twin, which in legal and practical terms holds the money and releases it based on the services the life form requires.

Interspecies Money is Schrödingerian: A nonhuman life form will exist in an economic sense only when it is reliably observed. A giraffe may release a few dollars to a community conservancy for each unique observation (with its markings serving as a unique identifier). A village may earn several hundred dollars for recording a new orangutan over a period of time (with the ape given a facial recognition identity). Prospectors may earn tens of thousands of dollars for the discovery of a new species (through the use of DNA barcoding).

Interspecies Money will be linked to the density, diversity, and health of nonhuman species in a given area. This topical quality will allow it to draw down capital globally and assign it locally.

Interspecies Money’s biggest contribution is likely to be the data it produces. In order to verify identity it will have to pay to acquire high-resolution data sets of nonhuman life in the scrublands around villages, at the edges of the rainforest and in the clearings, along the rivers and around waterholes. It will have to label and make sense of this data. It will have to stop cheats and hackers. In this way, it will become the financing mechanism of an entirely new order of knowledge.

Exactly how Interspecies Money will evolve in its application of artificial intelligence, hardware, monetary policy, zoology, and above all in communities and ethics is uncertain, but the first steps are clear.

Interspecies Money is needed now to help bend the evolutionary arc of artificial intelligence towards the natural world. The existential risk is in having AI systems develop only in a virtual world while we are destroying the very fabric of life on which we depend.

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