Asher Idan, Manager of Future Studies of Social Media in The Department of Management in Tel Aviv University posted a status yesterday saying that “A new mean of payment has appeared, the “barter of trust” : today I am helping you, tomorrow you shall help me.”

He wrote it in Hebrew originally, I did an automatic translation and it came up with the translation of “barter of trust” – I really liked the term, so I googled it, expecting tens of thousands of results – but in fact there were just three: two forum entries and a gothic/fantasy short story on a creative writing site… None of it really “hitting home”. This is why I wrote this blogpost.

Don’t expect me to turn all academic on you, but here’s a definition of both words to get us started:

barter [ˈbɑːtə]

to trade (goods, services, etc.) in exchange for other goods, services, etc. […]

trust (trust)

Firm reliance on the integrity, ability, or character of a person or thing.
[…]

The “barter of trust” thus (as I understood it)  is truly a revolutionary way of “payment” – if that is even the right word.

A philosophy of “Today I am helping you, tomorrow you shall help me” may seem idealistic to some – others might even think of Don Corleone and his “family-business” of  “doing favors” – but this principle hints beyond those partial allusions which are merely shards of the whole discoball.

It is, in fact – the underlying principle of all human business and the basis of our economy.

Every entrepeneur knows that the fertile ground of his business is relationships. You make connections to people and get offers and new leads through connections. It’s not a secret. From the drug dealer to the prime minister everyone knows that.

But even as consumers we rely on the fact that the grocer will have what I need tomorrow, because I buy from him today.

This is where the trust comes in.

We use money in our world as a symbol of trust, it vouches for our “willingness to help”.

So, does that mean that the richest people on the planet are those with the biggest “willingness to help”? Obviously not. In fact, the opposite is often the case.

Sylvia Guinan, an edupreneur from Greece wrote a blog post yesterday saying that a “sharing philosophy […] to many would seem counter-intuitive in the business world”

And she is right. Going out into the world and saying: “I want to help people and I trust that they will help me back” is still a somewhat lunatic concept to the hard-cash-counting mindset. It’s not “economically viable” it seems. It won’t bring you investors. It’s almost impossible to plan expected returns, at least in traditional terms.

But what people forget, is that money (as a form of payment) is as arbitrary as the different currencies. In the same way Yen can be replaced by Dollars, can be replaced by Euros, can be replaced by Shekels – money can be replaced by a “barter of trust”

Forwards towards the Past?

The idea of replacing the money-system by a barter-system indeed at first seems like going back in time. After all – there’s a reason why we have money: You don’t want to carry around a truckload full of barter items, buying vegetables with chickens and purchasing fish with salad, always in need of complex value translation questions like: “How many tomatoes is a bread worth?”

A wallet is just so much more mobile and convenient, isn’t it?

So, no. We don’t want to go back to the past. But, obviously – time changes – and the money system is not doing so well at the moment, anyways. So, why not look at an alternative?

Mind over Matter

The “barter of trust” as I understood it means two things

  1. you help others with your skills and knowledge and act without expecting something back
  2. there is no tangible, material barter: just the trust – that if you extend yourself – you will not lack anything

The implications of this are actually huge.

It means withdrawing belief and reliance from artificial systems and putting your trust in people.

In favor of this tendency (which I see working in my own and other people’s lives) are two factors:

  1. Fixed employment situations are connected to state and global economy. A shaky economy means that those systems are beginning to be unreliable. So, even against their will – many people are thrown back to rely on themselves and their relationships to others.
  2. The explosion of Social Media and communication technology in general has made it infinitely easy to establish, maintain and follow up connections to other people. Whereas in “traditional business” you had one contact that brought you one or two big leads that you could build your reputation and live on, now we have virtually endless contact lists that generate an equally endless stream of possibilities.

It has yet to be seen what the future will bring. It’s almost impossible to forecast anything in these times of exciting changes. (The fact that the sci-fi author William Gibson who coined the word “cyberspace” wrote his latest three books in our present times is proof enough to me, that the future – even to the most brilliant minds – is dumbfoundingly unknown.)

If you just take one thing from reading this article, then maybe it is this:

There is no need to be worried. The unreliability of systems is getting more obvious every day. Don’t be afraid to go out and do what you love. Create, share, communicate, help out where you can and make others happy!

There’s nothing to lose.

If you think you’re wasting your time working in some kind of baloney business 8-10 hours every day, stop it.

Create and share value instead.

Put your trust in people, not in numbers written on paper. It might be the first step to live in a completely different way that will turn everything you know on its head.

Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com