Silicon Valley standout J. Chris Anderson—mobile architect aficionado and co-founder of Couchbase (an open-source digital database)—has tech heads turning after recently unveiling his idea behind a new approach to virtual currency.
Dubbed Document Coin—this currency goes one step beyond Bitcoin, introducing a new facet of human interaction, heralding a, "what's-it-worth-to-you?" value system, coupling together personal reputation with the desire for a particular experience/product and transforming it into "monetary" value.
First things first.
The amount of available Bitcoins—a virtual currency that requires no third party (like PayPal or a pesky bank)—is ever-growing in the beautiful bowels of the Intrawebs and an individual can acquire them in one of two ways:
1. You can purchase said Bitcoin with real-life money (although the current cost per coin—hovering around $600—is prohibitive for most and people are buying mere fractions of one coin to get in on the digital currency game.)
2. You can download software that will "mine" for Bitcoins, solving intricate crytographic puzzles (an algorithm-generated set of data). Once the computer completes said puzzle and is able to show "proof-of-work" (not dissimilar from geometry class) an individual is rewarded with Bitcoins. These puzzles record payment or "transfers" from one user to another in a public ledger.
So how will Document Coin work exactly? Different values would be assigned to a wide variety of currencies, and situational use would also factor into worth. For example, a chef could craft a coin to be used at a fabulous new restaurant, or a writer's currency to be redeemed for a bestselling novel. Anderson's goal is to encourage a reanalysis of what money as a concept really is—and how best to bend that notion to accommodate today's societal reality.
Unlike Bitcoin, anyone would be able to mint his or her own coin at any time, creating a value that is entirely subjective to personal factors. Like Bitcoin, Document Coin currency will have two components: a set of encrypted data which only the owner has access to, and a set of public data about both the coin and its owner.
The coin "transfer" process would allow for possible duplication and attempted double-spending, but this would be noted in the public data set of the user, thus affecting the value of the user's minted currency as well as any coins s/he plans on spending in the future.
With a prototype in the works, Anderson acknowledges the limited scale of Document Coin—rather the true value lies in its revolutionary concept of subjective currency, which in the ever-burgeoning sharing community paradigm, could expand exponentially in the near future.
Reassessing the way we create and transfer currency is inevitable, and gleaning concepts from a variety of sources can only help to shape the digital economy into one that really works for the consumer.
While Anderson maintains that Document Coin is a pet project of his own and not a part of Couchbase's current foci . . . it's hard to ignore the gap that could be bridged between the two projects.