How Facebook could change the world economy
Image design by @EricaGlasier.
August 1st, 2011
08:00 AM ET

How Facebook could change the world economy

Editor's Note: Venessa Miemis is a social technologies analyst, blogging at Emergent by DesignAlvis Brigis is a writer/producer/CEO currently working on stealth startup Swarmado. This project has been made possible by the generous corporate patronage of Innotribe and crowdfunded Kickstarter donations.

By Venessa Miemis and Alvis Brigis – Special to CNN

We live in stormy times. Accelerating changein technology and information is transforming our world, making it more difficult to predict and navigate. Opportunities and challenges alike are growing in scale and complexity, as reflected in massive fast-growing systems like Facebook.

It’s important to think about these things now and generate predictions and scenarios for possible futures, so that sensible actions can be taken today. In the case of Facebook, it’s worth considering the economic implications of a global network that could soon reach a billion people.

To address this and similar challenges, we’re developing Open Foresight - a social response to accelerating change. It’s a new process that crowdsources the future of given topics, as demonstrated by the Future of Facebook pilot project. It’s different because it structures data around established futures categories and methods, then synthesizes that information into easily digestible video format.

Using a STEEP Analysis to frame our questions, we probed the minds of experts for insights into how this company might leverage its thorough graph of social relationships, rich database of public sentiment, and Facebook Credits - its own virtual currency - to disrupt traditional economic infrastructures.

The most compelling ideas have been harvested to create the first Focus Video in a series of six. The goal of open foresight is to accelerate the rate of transmitting complex concepts in a manner that’s visually rich, engaging, and straightforward. If issues can be clarified, we can take the public dialogue to the next level of understanding.

What kinds of disruptions might Facebook cause in our global economic infrastructures? What are the opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to build the next big thing? With insights from Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, Bank 2.0 author Brett King, and Lucid Ventures founder Nova Spivack, clearer visions of the future can be formed.


Following in the tradition of crowdsourced knowledge initiatives like Wikipedia or the White House’s OpenGov, Open Foresight has the potential to spark a new generation of collaborative analysis, scenario development and roadmapping for topic areas ranging from small towns to large scale planetary issues.

Public participation is welcomed and essential as open foresight and the Future of Facebook video series unfold in the coming weeks and months. People of all ages, places and roles are encouraged to play and “pay it forward” by commenting, remixing, or starting entirely new offshoots of the project. All content has been licensed with a creative commons cc-by 3.0 share-alike license, making it free to rearrange, reuse and repurpose. Graphic and video participation are particularly encouraged!To find out more about the project and how to add your voice, check out
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Topics: Innovation • Internet • Technology

soundoff (14 Responses)
  1. hiro bachani

    This is an interesting possibility. We have to plan for the new era in cyber-commerce. Let us hope that innovative minds will come up with newer currencies to replace the present system of depending on unreliable paper money. Perhaps facebook credits could become a more viable currency for even every day use. Think ahead!

    July 30, 2011 at 10:33 am |
    • Alvis Brigis

      hiro, new currencies / transaction technologies are being developed at a fast clip, the big question how exactly they will be received and integrated by the controlling currency stakeholders. there are a lot of smart people in the world – but smart nations? perhaps not so many.

      August 2, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  2. Rick

    I think the exact opposite of this: "Accelerating change in technology and information is transforming our world, making it more difficult to predict and navigate."

    I think technology is making it easier to predict the future.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:05 am |
    • Alvis Brigis

      Rick, i agree with your final statement while also agreeing with the quote from the video. Acceleration is absolutely improving our prediction ability – but at the same time the variables in play are increasing, so humanity is kind of a dog chasing its own tail into the future, generating complex technology and knowledge structures along the way. Just as we learn to shoot skeet the clay pigeons become crafty aerial drones with built in defense systems.

      August 2, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Zoran Zambo

      I think that open foresight as a process is exactly one such technology.

      August 2, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
      • Alvis Brigis

        RIght on, that's the goal of the whole process, to through structure drive new effective social prediction behavior.

        August 2, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  3. Kevin

    This piece is off the mark. FB credits and the consumer choices they facilitate are tightly confined to a narrow band within the service sector, namely media. The vast majority of global trade is in the goods sector where things like bank accounts are necessary. Maybe GameStop will one day run FB credits at the point of sale. We can start talking about the USD again when the NYMEX is settling oil contracts in FB credits.

    August 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
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