What is the minimum viable product for an economy?

For a community to have a proper market economy, participants need to have open access to critical mechansims for interaction. Put bluntly, peers need to be able to propose work, commit funds, assess results, and settle payment.

Under an honest review, it is clear the crypto-economy does not yet have the tools for it's own sovereignty—thus it remains unable to properly interact in the world of atoms, and to have real impact on human action.

Introducing %fund

%fund is a sovereign webapp built on an integrated blockchain escrow ecosystem for human created, understood, and assessed "wise contracts"1.

By providing self-sovereign tools to the project funders who financially back a project, the project workers who scope and execute the work itself, and the trusted oracles who judge work quality and payment delivery terms, %fund enables peers to collaborate on projects that settle on-chain, but which operate in the reality of dynamic human interaction.

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Project funders are able to pledge support and settle outstanding pledges for proposals for human action that they wish to see in the world, as well as receive refunds for fulfilled pledges associated with work that was not completed according to the project terms.

Project workers are able to draft and present proposals to the world with human readable milestone descriptions and funding targets, raising funding for projects of arbitrary scope and budget amounts without needing to create custom smart contracts.

Trusted oracles are able to be compensated for providing a fair and reputable assessment service to both project proposers and funding contributors—serving as a trusted arbiter of the more subjective contract terms best interpreted by a human—and determine if funds in escrow are paid out to proposers or refunded to contributors.

All parties involved have persistent, pseudonymous identities linked to a sovereign personal server on a peer-to-peer network (Urbit) that has a growing ecosystem of applications across which their social and professional reputation carries.

The %fund beta includes:

  • A censorship-resistant frontend, publicly served to the clearweb
  • The ability to take funding contributions from any Ethereum user
  • Free onboarding of entry-level users via existing Urbit hosting providers
  • Escrow contracts supporting USD-denominated crowdfunding campaigns
  • User-adjustable trusted oracle fee rate to allow for rate negotiation
  • Ability for authenticated urbit IDs to pledge future financial support to campaigns
  • Free application download for project monitoring and fulfillment of past pledges
  • An ethos of builders, by builders, for builders

    Blockchains present a new landscape for economic activity, grounded not in centralized power but in decentralized, rules-based consensus. Instead of nation-state controlled economies, we have a burgeoning new opportunity for network-state economies, where voluntary participation and peer-to-peer interaction accelerate innovation and human flourishing.

    Yet something's missing. While blockchain-based financial assets give us mechanisms for funding commitments and settlement in the "world of bits", smart contracts and on-chain interactions are insufficient for building anything other than a financialized circular economy. A digital casino. A zero sum game.

    If these new network states want a profitable economic system, they need a way to produce exports. A way to interact and provide value to the world outside—the world in which humans operate. Currently, crypto's "export industry" looks like a hellscape of centralized exchanges that make it possible to trade tokens for fiat currency.

    Of course, the formation of centralized exchanges as an initial export pathway is understandable. They were the clearest mechanism for available technology—financial trading desks—to improve the user experience for getting market participants into the world of bits.

    But they create huge limitations on the realm of possible applications. Centralized exchanges are easily targeted and corrupted institutions—whether by deliberately hostile surveillance and control organizations or apathetic profit-motivated data brokers—but that is just the most apparent shortcoming.

    The much more pernicious shortcoming that arises from forcing the crypto world's exports through centralized exchanges is a bandwidth limitation. There is only so much money—information about the price of goods and services—which can flow through these institutions before they are captured, manipulated, and turned out. It is only the specific details of the captors that are unknown. A question of when, rather than a question of if.

    And as our own centralized institutions fail in myriad ways, "trust" gets a bad rap in an industry that is built around 'trustless' and 'decentralized' financial settlement. But trust is humanity's killer app. Trusted relationships across time and space have made humans the global apex predator.

    Trust fills the gaps as we discover the programmatic solutions, or in dynamically changing environments. It is why and how institutions form, and why they are captured and corrupted. To counter the detrimental nature of this capture, we place trust in new individuals who then form new institutions that inch ever closer to deserving our trust. And thus the cycle continues.

    Bitcoin disintermediated untrustworthy legacy currencies and banking systems when it made financial settlement of peer-to-peer global markets immediately accessible to anyone with a basic computer. Ethereum made this capability programmatic.

    But if network states are to push us forward to better methods of human organization, money isn't the only tool to consider. The mechanisms for communication, for building, and for network coordination must also be disintermediated.

    We aim to create tools for peer-to-peer economic relationships. Economic relationships unmediated not only by payment processors or central banks, but unmediated even by the tool makers. Why? Because you can't trust a peer if they can't trust their tools.

    In giving individuals the sovereign tools to have trusted peer-to-peer interactions we will enable their relationships to bridge between the world of atoms and the world of bits and, hopefully, build the foundations to form trustworthy institutions necessary to bridge between nation states and network states.