Forget Bitcoin, Our Future is Moneyless – The Startup – Medium

Nimses turns your time into digital coins

Released in 2011, Justin Timberlake's film In Time was mediocre at best. Set in 2169, it painted a grim future, where the rich are virtually immortal, as time became money, literally. In the best tradition of science fiction, this film exaggerated an idea that will likely turn into mundane reality of tomorrow and made it seem suspenseful and apocalyptic.

Yet In Time's premise is both simple and radical: the future unit of exchange is not a dollar or Bitcoin. It is a minute of human life. Before we laugh off this idea, let us first acknowledge how ridiculous gold coins might have appeared to Stone Age tribe or our trust in pieces of paper, the banknotes, to a medieval merchant.

All prior currencies could be amassed, but human time — at least right now — is roughly bounded and equally distributed. Sure, some variation exists, but there is no order of magnitude disparity.

In the world of digital natives, social ranking is measured in terms of followers and 'likes'.

With the average life expectancy of 72 years, every person born today is endowed with roughly 38 million minutes, which we expend as we please living our daily lives. What we don't yet do is trade our time for goods and services — say, showing up at an ice-cream shop and offering 175 minutes for a sundae. That is to say, we couldn't do it until June 1st this year, when a new social network, called Nimses, was launched.

Online Time as Digital Cash

A number of vendors in Kyiv, Ukraine — Nimses' home base — will happily sell a cup of coffee or a slice of pizza for your Nims — the currency of the Social Network. "Each minute of the person's life turns into a single nim, a unique indestructible digital recording unit." Nimses website explains.

Before we dismiss it as a fad or a niche social network for outcasts, we must acknowledge the viral growth of this startup, which signed up nearly 4M users in the first two months of its existence. This happened even before it launched in the US and Western Europe.

To most of us, the notion of time as the unit of exchange, time as actual money, is either inconceivable, offensive, or both. But here too, before we cry wolf and demand that the network be shut down on the grounds of morality or breach of privacy, we must examine today's reality.

CPM isn't a commonly used term, but it would sound quite familiar to marketing professionals — it stands for "cost per thousand impressions." Every minute we spend on a social network, every minute we spend on the Internet generates impressions, which are then monetized by the Facebooks and Googles of this world. Virtual and physical worlds have already merged and become inseparable in the context of online advertising. A coffee shop or a florist around the corner is willing to spend hard-earned real-world cash for web impressions. Digital presence is now a basic expectation for businesses large and small.

Should its viral growth continue, this groundbreaking social network is set to disrupt Wall Street as much as Facebook and the Federal Reserve as much as Google.

Facebook generated $27.6B in 2016, and John Thornhill quite cleverly argued in his op-ed for Financial Times that the social media behemoth should pay everyone a basic income. He explained that "the most valuable asset that Facebook possesses is the data that its users, often unwittingly, hand over for free before they are in effect sold to advertisers. It seems only fair that Facebook makes a bigger social contribution for profiting from this massively valuable, collectively generated resource." Thornhill believes that other data-driven businesses, such as Google, Apple, and Amazon, could also contribute.

Plainpalais square in Geneva, Switzerland | Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images

As strange as the logic of Nimses may seem, we already convert time into dollars via intermediaries, and this startup is offering a sort of shortcut. The users get better control of their time — or is it their data? Is there even a difference? Perhaps what matters most is that vendors accept Nims as a legitimate payment.

Should its viral growth continue, this groundbreaking social network is set to disrupt Wall Street as much as Facebook and the Federal Reserve as much as Google. Whether or not this specific company is successful is besides the point. The introduction of this concept opens up the Pandora's box of post-monetary system of trade — a system of human relationships where currency is time.

Perhaps these dynamics offer us a preview into post-economic social organization. If humanity's future is indeed workless, and we move into the age of abundance, it is only fitting that we start pondering the question of what our future unit of exchange will be.

Evolutionary psychology postulates that we are hardwired to think about social status, to know where we stand vis-à-vis our peers. Financial success has been a useful measuring stick to appraise one's status ever since the invention of money. However:

Is it conceivable that the post-data world will run on time?

When you click 'like' on Instagram, when you pay for a cappuccino at Starbucks, or you retweet a link, how does that make you feel? The unit of exchange notwithstanding, we use resources at our disposal to endorse and recognize what we value in this world, be it physical or virtual content. In the world of digital natives, social ranking is measured in terms of followers and 'likes', and the money that comes with online celebrity status is often an afterthought.

"The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed", William Gibson famously said. And, perhaps, the early adopters of Nimses are experiencing it already, while the rest of us are obsessing with mortgage payments and savings for retirement. When the Rockefeller brothers were drilling for 'black gold', they hardly could have anticipated that data would be proclaimed the 'new oil' in the early XXI century. Is it conceivable that the post-data world will run on time?

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