Featured at Intrinsic Macro thanks to Anthony Vincent Morley

The Value Theory of Digital Assets, Commons, and Investment

O.G. Rose
7 min readMar 23

An Eight Part Series

Photo by Lisheng Chang

The internet currently faces a significant problem: the quality of the high majority of the information is difficult to determine. This, in turn, makes it very difficult to use the internet to establish a new community and or “commons.” As will be explored, the technology of NFTs could help with this problem. “How do we establish a Global Commons?”

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The following is a seven part essays which was featured at Intrinsic Macro, which was a tremendous honor. In addition to economic expertise, Anthony Vincent Morley is a tremendous Leibniz scholar, and I highly suggest picking up a copy of his book today:

See also Anthony’s fantastic Leibniz lecture series!

What makes shared value possible? What is the universal valuation standard?

NFTs right now are indeed mostly speculative, but they don’t have to be, I don’t think, anymore than the stock market must be speculative. An incredible amount of equity trading is, I think, speculative in nature, but equities used in favor of investment are critical and necessary for global markets. A world without stock markets would lack liquidity, which would be disastrous. However, where there are stock markets, there can be bubbles and radical exploitation. Is a middle ground possible? Yes, and generally there is a difference between fundamental investing and speculation. But in markets it is often very hard to fend against irrational speculation. We naturally like to get rich quick…

The likelihood that information is high-quality increases in proportion to the involvement of risk, and it is generally on high-quality information that we will feel confident to take a risk on a good bet. Where this schema is not involved, a Global Commons will prove difficult if not impossible to establish. Indeed, the internet has solved the problem of lacking information, which has plagued economies for decades (where data is incomplete, efficient markets prove difficult), but now we have the problem of “too much information,” which has ironically proven to create a new way that “information is lacking” by making all information cheap and indistinguishable. We have moved from lacking information to being unable to recognize quality information — a severe and difficult problem.

The more we are habituated to look to the news, distant authorities, and the like for information about our “common lives,” the more “the commons” will play a reduced role. Thinkers like Robert Putnam and Charles Murray discuss how local communities and social capital are in decline, and perhaps this is partly because of how “global focused” we are today, pressured by Globalization and the internet to pay attention to the “big picture” (at the expense of the “little picture,” per se). There are goods that come from this — we’re not so “closed minded” and susceptible to “the banality of evil,” for one, as described in “Belonging Again” by O.G. Rose — but a problem is that we are less equipped to establish and participate in a new “commons.” Problematically, as we take on a “global perspective,” the “commons” may wane and weaken, and we could easily lose it without realizing it is gone. When we then turn to look for “the commons” (for whatever reason), we will not find it, and this may function as evidence to us that we were right to focus on “the global.” After all, the “commons” isn’t there.

When people say they care about something but don’t focus on it, it’s hard for us to trust that they mean what they say (even if they genuinely believe they mean it). Where “focus” is lacking, so we assume “concern” is also absent. But focus is hard to maintain, and we may (tell ourselves we) care about something but still not always focus on it, which though an understandable occurrence (given that we’re finite), could send negative signals to our community. How do we maintain a constant and reliable signal to others that we care about something? How do we make them believe we are “focusing” on this or that even if it is not always at the forefront of our minds? Well, investment.

As has already been discussed, a tremendous problem we face today is that as the amount of information has increased our confidence in the quality of it has decreased. Please note that I didn’t say here that “the quality of the information itself has decreased,” for we can’t really know if that’s true without ourselves being the origin of all that information (to allude to points from “Ludwig and the Authority Circle” and the always lurking “Incompleteness Theorem” by Kurt Gödel). My point is that our ability to “feel like” the information is “reliable” and “high-quality” is indeed less, which means C.S. Pierce’s “fixed belief” is harder to gain. In such an environment, “givens” weaken and totalitarianism grows in appeal (as discussed throughout “Belonging Again” by O.G. Rose).

But is this how investment really works. A risk of investment is that we can feel less free, because once people invest in us, we can feel a responsibility to them, and they may even expect us to shape our work and projects around their preferences. Charity, on the other hand, doesn’t tend to make such demands, suggesting there are tradeoffs: perhaps we could say that charity provides more freedom but is less reliable, while investment can threaten freedom but is more stable. For this reason, it matters a great deal who is investing in us and what they stand to gain, and why it’s important that those investors are part of the same “community” as those invested in. If investors and creators share a “common life,” and indeed benefit when one another do well and suffer when one another performs poorly (“Non-Zero Sumness”), then there is incentive for the investor to not exercise power in such a way that hurts or hinders creators.

Pluralism is a world in which it’s hard to know what’s going on. Though in the 1850s it was easy to “thoughtlessly” accept Christianity as true, today all religions are encountering one another (“personally,” not just abstractly), making them realize that their belief in a certain religion is in fact a belief, which is to say believers must think about this fact, and consequentially feel less secure in their views. This is existentially difficult to handle, and it contributes to making the establishment of a new commons all the more difficult. Where societal “givens” have been so destroyed (as discussed in “Belonging Again”), what can be the foundation for communal trust? Law can “force us to act like we trust one another,” but this is not the same, and the situation can feel oppressive and entail existential consequences which destabilize “the commons.” How do we establish trust without sharing metaphysical “first premises” though? A sense of “intrinsic value” seems critical for “commons,” but is that possible between different metaphysics and worldviews? If not, is trust doomed?




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O.G. Rose

Iowa. Broken Pencil. Allegory. Write Launch. Ponder. Pidgeonholes. W&M. Poydras. Toho. ellipsis. O:JA&L. West Trade. UNO. Pushcart. https://linktr.ee/ogrose