An intoxicated Invasion Day conversation about ValueFlows and Holochain

For me today, ValueFlows feels like a simple concept. But I still remember my early days coming to terms with it, sitting in a co-working space in Athens with a bunch of Spanish speakers and trying not to be down on myself for understanding & contributing so little. Underneath the simplicity runs a great deal of complexity, and I've not always been the best at cutting through that to explain how it's all relevant to people. The same goes for Holochain's architectural decisions & theoretical underpinnings.

But last night was one of the better explanations I've channeled, so... I present it here for the opportunity to remix it with your own. How do you explain the importance of these systems? What real, tangible outcomes are you looking for in the world?


"I have to record this conversation by the way, sorry— this part of the conversation. Because I want to bring it back to what we were talking about before.

"Yeah, man... yeah! Ok, so... let us know what you're doing.

"It ties in to what the Holochain people talk about as "grammatic capacities", which is kinda like, the top tier of the "wealth of living systems" model that they have that describes all these progressions of ways that you can just... like, try to get a handle on what is valuable? Kinda thing, and like—

Wealth of Living Systems

"Well, how to ascertain what is valuable."

"Yeah! And it's such a nuanced and subjective and personal—

"Depending on the local situation—

"—and environmental, and ethical and sustainably-focused thing—

"People care about different things."

"Umm... yeah. So, the fact that you're choosing not to spray, and you have bees; means you have honey, means you have a production process on your land that outputs a resource and does it in a clean way that doesn't fuck with the natural balance of the ecosystem, right? And this project that I was working on a little bit in my spare time a couple of years ago, that I'm taking time off work to re-engage with now, is umm... like, it's the culmination of an effort that's been going on since '79, was the first paper that this guy, this professor in the 'states wrote about it. And what it is really is, it's... it's like a protocol? You know? In terms of a communication protocol which works the same between you and I right now in the language we're using as it does between machines on the internet and the languages that they use in the digital.

And so what you're doing... all programming really is is building on the ruins of old civilisations and the learnings of your peers; but you have knowledge constructs instead of buildings, like we would have with cities, and those don't degrade over time.

...lost my train of thought a little bit there, umm...

So! You need to be able to come to a collective understanding of like, what a protocol is that you can apply to describe the kinds of things that we're talking about in ways that other machines elsewhere in other communities can understand. And the 'grammatic capacity' they have for that is this 'REA' data model that I was talking about earlier with resources and events and agents and this really simple, kinda robotic way of looking at the world, but... it's a way that you can all kinda come to an agreement and have a common understanding that this makes sense; if you just fucking spend like, what, like 40 years now talking about it."

"When you were talking about this earlier I was like, oh ok yeah, that sounds interesting, but that sounds like a whack way of doing things. But what you're saying is that it's actually the way we're doing things now. That's the way they measure things—

"Yeah, some things. And like, there's... you know, we have product certifications, and labels like 'organic' that are regulated, and bodies like, umm... Well, you know, organic is—

"And so this is something you're stemming in to with organics and, umm... spray-free and...

"Yeah! But he's going further; saying that—

"He's talking about the managing of organics—

"Yeah, but...

"Am I wrong?

"No, no. But I'm talking about this in relation to—

"To everything. To life in general."

"Yeah, yeah. Like... how do you measure the material world?"

"Yeah, but also... if you want to do something, ok, then I can come to you, but nobody else will even know about it except the other guy sitting in that chair. You two can have this whole conversation, this whole interaction between the two of you guys, and nobody else knows about it. Whether it be a conversation or a purchase or something else, nobody else is aware of it."

"Yeah, yeah."

"And that's what it's about- it's about information that's in a select group of people. If that select people have the same vision, the same power—

"As long as they're happy with the transaction, that's all that matters—

"Mhm, mhm, and what does 'happy' mean.—

"Happy is subjective, yeah..."

"—what does happy really mean when you can finally see everything?"


"And you can finally infer everything—

"And measure

"And measure, and go, like, 'this is organic in a way that means something to me.' You know? This is an animal in my steak that was, like, on a farm in a pasture, it wasn't an animal that was in a cage. Which is ambiguous in the label 'organic' that we get from a regulated body now that we don't really understand. And we don't have the time to understand. But if all of that bullshit is expressed here in a simple format, suddenly we can understand it. And you need a system that allows you to present that information and exchange it and trade on it and deal with it, and umm... and have value tied up in that system but it's value that's based on what's real. It's not value based on... y'know, these abstract numbers that are the price signals that are, y'know, driving the economy at the moment."

"This is what life can be like in the future."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah."

"Versus what it is now."


"And it all just becomes... like, once you have all that data out there, right, and it's all recorded in just these simple events that are like interactions that alter the resources that you all have and that are in your area and are tied to ecosystems—

"Every interaction you have against every resource—"

"Yeah, yeah. So because you don't spray—

"—those interactions get pulled into networks—

"And these are sovereign networks that we all individually have our own... umm... conscious window into. That's the 'agent-centric' part of Holochain—

"And input into, as well."

"—and input into. So we can all look at it, and like in a LETS system we get to see all that information and in every transaction decide in a way that provides real agency as to whether, like, we want to value this thing more or less depending on what all of our values are that we can wrap up and project forward into that, kinda... web of information that's all described and agreed upon because of this simple grammatic capacity that's just a protocol that we as a species or collective or, y'know, the three of us talking here now; all agree makes sense.

And people try to do this now in all these kinda like, disconnected cumbersome ways. Like, I've been looking for a Google map that pinpoints all the local producers around here."

"Yeah, ok."

"So that I know where I can get like, cheap ethical local honey and pineapples and bananas and y'know, all those things."

"Well, there we go. I don't know, you're looking to Google but maybe it takes some human input. Cos you know, the networks to get those people...

"Yeah, that's what I've been working on for the last—

"The human input?"

"No no no. The—

"No, he's got the actual markets."

"The producers? True! Awesome.

"That's what I wanna do. Yes, that's me."

"That's what I mean by Google map- a map that someone's created. Presuming most people use Google, sorry. You should... there's a website but they're rebranding to Producer's Market

"Oh man, and the thing is... the thing is, umm...


"I'm a lot more capable on the people / person stuff. When it comes to the cyber stuff, I'd be so fucking useless, hey. But yes—

"That's why you wrap it all up together!"

"Yeah, that's it hey..."

"Find all the people with all the different skills...

"You've got to form the network—

"Yeah man. Yeah, I got you."

"We need each other."

"I need you guys too, man."

"There's no point burying your head in the sand about it, hey."


"Well, fuck! That was only 8 minutes. That felt like a long conversation. That was fucking awesome!"