Sunsets spent with Tom Waits are priceless. Can you monetize those (yet)?

Sunsets spent with Tom Waits are priceless. Can you monetize those (yet)?

It’s October, I’m lounging in a sunken jacuzzi bathtub in a multi-story Berkeley Hills home that boasts sweeping views of the SF skyline and both bridges, when I realize, “I don’t own any of this.” The song Old Shoes by Tom Waits fills the room through my phone’s Spotify app without commercial interruption, thanks to the ability to afford Spotify Premium.

The reality is, this home belongs to my friend who’s arguably “trapped” at work on their own birthday. They encouraged me to luxuriate in their bougie digs as a thank-you for having schlepped their birthday gifts from their sister across the bay to their home. Favors for favors. Taskrabbit friend moment.

“I don’t own any of this.” So, then, how the hell am I here? Access. I realized I have access.

When money isn’t something you hold in abundance, you damn sure make use of being kind, funny, smart, or helpful AF to add legroom when often ‘sitting bitch’ in life. As these more human traits tend to naturally emerge in the absence of money, why not base our system of currency upon an individual’s contribution to the creation of positive human experiences to begin with? (If you think we already do this, I have two words for you: gun sales) Seems to me then that to continue to use a purely fiscally based system of survival is, at times, c?

Alternative currency is a topic that’s gained much attention as it has apprehension. It’s new and not yet a perfect system. Yet we continue to entrust that which ensures our survival in the hands of (even the shadiest of) governments and for-profit banks, instead of the hands of the community members (both locally and globally) that generate the resources ensuring said survival. “Is there a reason for governments to be in charge of money?” asks Paul Kemp-Robertson in a 2013 TED Talk, where the Cofounder of Contagious Communications outlined 10 kinds of alternative currency in use today (which includes hyper-locally created currencies).

What if instead of paying rent in total dollar amounts, a repository is created to report, collect, display, and transfer reputation credits as a form of payment — where the value of said credits are calculated by an altruistically based system of exchange? Currently, entire countries agree to and abide by varying physical forms, rates of exchange, and methods of gain and transference for their nation’s currency. Why not allow local communities the option to begin to supplement their traditionally earned incomes using alternative systems of payment based upon what is collectively agreed to as having value? Why must what is perceived as “valuable” continue to be tied to what is purely monetizable? That which is intrinsically valuable to humanity — love, for example — has yet to find a viable, lucrative method of exchange. This must be rectified. It’s up to us to create this solution. (Bank of America sure as shit isn’t going to do it.)

If you’re curious about what elements drive and help determine intrinsic human value, please refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs

What if instead of giving (from a finite amount of) money we lent access?

In an altruistically based system of exchange, we offer to create positive human experiences through shared access — contacts, resources, assets, services, acts of kindness, time, talent, etc. — then use the credits earned from this system of exchange as a form of currency. This leads to a reputation-based credit system, that each designated city agrees provides direct value to the local community. Finally, you can pay (part of) your rent in hugs (kind of). A company by the name of Simbi formed not long ago and introduced ‘simbi credits’ which could be used in exchange for services within the Simbi network. The currency works only within Simbi and Simbi-ans are unable to “cash out” simbi credits for dollars a la poker chips, which keeps credits and services within the ecosystem. Simbi is serious about it’s mission and advises potential denizens of its network to “keep your money, it’s no good here.” If this same concept were replicated city-by-city, based on services needed within the community, dream of the possibilities…

no pay for exposure

Okay, so you (still) can’t pay rent in hugs. But….what if you COULD?

Imagine you’re a Recruiter (or a damn fine proofreader) that can rework a resume like magic. What if instead of working a 40 hour work week, you worked 20 hours and opted to have the remainder of the outstanding rent dollars ensured when you assist the local career center in helping job candidates improve their resumes and interview skills, or taught an hourly college application prep class 1 day a week at a local high school. Think of the immediate benefits your community would eventually see from compensating altruistic efforts, at scale?

“So goodbye, so long, the road calls me dear…” the lyrics to Old Shoes makes me bleary eyed with the reminder that this beautiful moment I’ve been granted access to is a temporary one. Mentally, I begin to ready myself for departure. I can’t help but wonder how much abundance I might have, for myself and for others, if my own standard of living was determined by my efforts that stem from my desire for a better world. This goes for all the talented but broke Artists I know, and the super kind photog friend I have who probably makes less than some cartels.

It’s been proven that the more money we posses, the less empathy we feel for others. Money messes with our thinking and warps our soul. (All together now: then why the fuck are we still using money?)

Can we promise to think about how we want to live and together, build a bridge to get there? The richest relationships are symbiotic in nature, inclusive, protect the innocent, are forged in mutual and non-coercive consent, and collectively contribute to an infinitely greater good that far exceeds decimal points.

For now, for this future, I’m rich with infinite hope.


Lend access to others now through Project Homeless Connect, HandUp (HandUp gift cards are an ingenious alternative to cash), and Glide.

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Sabrina Bruning

Sabrina Bruning