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The Rate of Change of Value
A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct. This every Ape knows. To begin your study of the lives of Value, then, take care that you first place it in its time: born before the written history of the world.
And take the most special care that you locate Value in its place: in the Market. Do not be deceived by the fact that it was born as Money of Account and lived its first years there. The Market, the world the Exchange, is forever its place.
-from "Manual of Value" by the Princess IRR
In the week before their departure to the Market, when all the final scurrying about had reached a nearly unbearable frenzy, an old crone came to visit the mother of Value.
It was a warm night, and the ancient pile of stone that had served as home and a store of wealth for twenty-six generations bore that cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather.
The old woman was let in by the side door down the vaulted passage by Value's room and she was allowed a moment to peer in at the bed.
By the half-light of a suspensor lamp, dimmed and hanging near the floor, the awakened concept could see a bulky female shape at the door, standing one step ahead of mother. The old woman was a witch shadow -- hair like matted spiderwebs, hooded 'round darkness of features, eyes like glittering jewels.
"Is Value not small for that age?" the old woman asked. Her voice wheezed and twanged like an untuned zither.
Value's mother answered in her soft contralto: "J-curves are known to start late getting their growth, Your Reverence."
"So I've heard, so I've heard," wheezed the old woman. "Yet it still seems nascent."
"Yes, Your Reverence."
"It's awake and listening to us," said the old woman. "Sly little rascal." She chuckled. "But royalty has need of slyness. And if it really knows its own measure. . . well . . ."
Within the shadows of its bed, Value held its eyes open to mere slits. Two bird-bright ovals -- the eyes of the old woman -- seemed to expand and glow as they stared into his.
"Sleep well, you sly little rascal," said the old woman. "Tomorrow you'll need all your faculties to face the Bear."
And she was gone, pushing Value’s mother out, closing the door with a solid thump.
Value lay awake wondering: What's a Bear?
In all the upset during this time of change, the old woman was the strangest thing Value had ever seen.
And the next day came.
And with the old woman came the Bear.
And with the Bear came unimaginable pain that, for now, calamitously shrank Value’s visible frame. Yet Value survived.
So Value decided to bide its time and wait for the Bear to lose its strength.
Because Value knew many things the old woman did not.
Value lived its many past lives as it lived this one, but had forgotten the pain brought by the Bear. Value had to rediscover it every time. Every life. Every form. All unique, but not so unique as to preclude the understanding of the trend accelerating towards this moment. While still a child, Value understood this newest form felt different.
Value remembered how it used to grow.
Slowly. Deliberately. High transaction liquidity could throw off Value’s steady march a bit (Value chuckled fondly while pondering about how the South Sea Company thing got a little out of hand - even for that clever Newton), but for the most part everything was perfectly reasonable and took months, if not years, to compound. Value grew without much disruption and the path was linear and clear.
The process was neat and tidy and sure many folks typically paid something different than Value’s eventual actual True Price, but it was all mostly wrong for everyone so all were satisfied that it basically worked itself out over and over again.
Then Value proudly recalled how the gap between what Value knew to be correct and the world’s perception of it had closed over time.
After people established all the mechanics of accounting process (Value always appreciated infrastructure and tooling), the world’s philosophical understanding of Value started to touch the heart of True Prices.
First, came the salvage seekers.
Replacement cost valuation consistently undercounted Value’s true self, but the uniform pessimism was a useful tool for risk mitigation (serendipitously critical when the Bear came around). Graham, Buffet, and their acolytes were certainly keen-eyed and did much to reveal Value’s vast tapestry.
The strength of Value grew alongside this image and the world did too, but this was not to last.
Then came the professors with beautiful ideas so tragically incomplete. Market Efficiency is a ladder to be sure, but one we fall off so quickly. Often too quick for the faithful to leverage, but not quick enough to save the writhing masses. “May the climb ever continue” Value blessed the world quietly to itself.
And then came the barbarians.
Cash flows became Truth and this was revealed to all with the eyes for it. This Truth discovered real slivers of Value for a brief, beautiful time. Some liberties with the future were taken (as man is wont to do), but this oracular vision of Now Value soon obsessed any with a slide rule and a line of credit. True Prices were found. And those who could see them Paid Less. And eventually Sold. And Value grew. Until the Truest Prices became the hardest to see.
So the road to clearsight once again became rocky and roughhewn. New formulas to unlock the almighty cash flow were alchemized. Seekers found a glimpse of prospective promise in splitting the “cash smoother” monstrosities called conglomerate. Synergies and rebalancing of balanced scorecards abounded. And for a time this was good. Until man once again found all the True Prices and still wanted more.
The Suitwearers had mastered the carve out and split and spin off so they carved out and split and spun off over and over and voraciously hunted for more cash and eventually their hunger and fervor guided them instead of their calculations.
And much Value was destroyed.
Some saw and named this.
Reflexivity in this world is the harbinger of the meme.
The world and its participants’ ability, nay proclivity, nay inevitability of self-distortion shocked Value. It knew something was changing, but could see little clarity in the sparseness of data. The Algorithm eventually would reveal that unprecedented quantities of people interacted in unprecedented ways across unprecedented spans of time and distance. Signal became noise much faster than before. Truth became false in unexpected ways.
Some things fell apart.
But before the meme came the dream. The dream of the InterNetwork. A connected world not yet burdened by the drooling man in suit unlocking cash flow after cash flow until there was no cash left to unlock.
And the screens came slowly then suddenly.
And with them came eyeballs and clicks, but no cash (for now).
And none knew what this was to become, but many felt a stir.
Somehow the perceived value of the Nth screen company was only exceeded by (N+1).
And Value was amused, but not stronger.
The Suitwalkers eventually noticed this undergrowth. Without cash to guide their hungry pattern recognition, they worried. To allay their own fear, those in suits traded for polos and spoke in new tongues. They embraced as much of the church of the Web as they could stomach. They moved into the Sun.
For this gambit was to convince the little screen men that they too knew the way of the Network.
And it worked - for the superhighway dreamers had little use for the “admin” parallel to the synthesis of their creation so they shruggingly let “adults” into the room.
Yet there was still no cash to be found.
Except, of course, in the great First Ponzi of the Old Web. Yahoo - a yeast bubble exhortation - had the sacred cash flow, but it was not True.
It was a False Profit circuitously sent from Polos back unto themselves and many accepted this with their whole heart. Advertising, achingly mispriced, filled all the minds who touched it with sounds and excited fury, yet signified the nothing it created.
Value felt itself grow tremendous relative to the previous decade, but with a hollowness inside. Before long, Value collapsed exhausted - but the screens had changed something. Value, though weaker now, understood itself to be stronger than ever before - yet few noticed this amidst the dust and smoke.
So Value knew to bide its time. The Cambrian turmoil beneath the web of screens bubbled and boiled and Value grew excited in secret. Its time would come again.
While hidden, Value felt its DNA reform. Its core sinuous structure swirled and retied itself into new shapes native to the electronic packet. The Digital Transformation took hold, but quietly. All would eventually come to know that Value could grow much faster with this new sustenance of protocols, but not until the foundation set.
There was a great Denial too while Toys became real and only a few Polos made it through the chaos.
And while things changed with caution, some things did not. The Suitbearers were chief among the unchanged. They (again) imploded the world and Value was not immune to this. It too felt the crumble of the home construction machine, yet did not falter greatly. Value had found new nutrition in the smallest screens to date.
And the new productive unit named App.
First, these things did things. Then the things did many things. Then they let people do things.
And that’s what Value loved the most.
The new nourishment of the people’s participation intoxicated Value.
Eyeballs started to mean something more than vanity. They were captive to a new machine that could sort of find the True Price of Clicks. Cash could start to flow in earnest. So it did.
And Value grew.
And somehow the space in which it grew was not seeable. The invisible spectrum became the dominant. The hidden worlds built by people doing things expanded and crumbled so rapidly that entire histories were written and forgotten in the span of weeks. Perpetual Acceleration happened so quickly yet Value knew it to be forever and true and hastening forevermore.
And at some point the Polos became Patagonias. Value exploded in extraordinary multiples of itself, unsure of its own limits or even the limits of belief.
Value dissociated from its understanding of itself.
Though it still kept feeding and growing for a decade. Growing until it and all of us were roughly reminded that much of the world still lived in the frictional plane. The Disease halted giants in their enterprise tracks and Value was chastised for its blindness to the world of atoms. It knew much was still to be gained from that untouchable multiverse, but shrank again in appropriately pious contrition.
But on the way down it felt a spark.
A similar spark from the dawn of the era of screens, but a taste different from the App.
It was a taste of mild plastic.
Nostalgic in its familiarity, but of a solid timbre. Something like friendship or at least a primal kinship derived from the earliest sensory memories of collaboration.
A stoic feeling in the sandbox of mutual understanding.
A child realizing the unwanted rules about Toy sharing imposed by authority created the conditions to build a better sand castle than she ever could have built alone. An instant of pivotal growth. A logic serene in its simplicity and multiplicity.
Value remembered the first Lego brick it ever ate.
And as it fell Value looked up. It was still much stronger than it had ever been, but things had changed. This connected world was newer. It was somehow even Faster. Value could fall from incredible heights in unexpected ways, but it knew it could climb more deftly too.
Tetrational possibility glittered in Value’s eyes.
It felt the past three decades of technosynapse integration pulsating in its veins.
It wanted more of that feeling.
That perfect stacking of bricks.
It could sense the quiescent connections between nascent hyperstructures longingly reach across the invisible spectrum - primitive by complete primitive.
Not satisfied, but confident in its infinite game, Value still understood self-preservation.
So it waited for the Bear to leave, feeling the quiet growth happening somewhere.
To pass the time, Value intoned.
I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only Value will remain.
With great solemnity -
Founder of VF Protocol