Editor's note: This is the third article in which Karun Philip and Richard Kirby are creating a curriculum and a philosophy of financial practice, for the emerging field of Future Finance - a task for a community of financial futurists gathering at the World Future Society, WNRF and similar organizations. It is the first of a second pair of articles by the authors on profit maximization and future finance and future developments in the social invention of money and wealth. In this article pair the authors also describe the constitution of ideally effective, maximally profitable financial think tanks. Their aim is to inspire the development of innovative organizations suited to reduce world poverty by systematic, well-managed financial innovation. These four articles are offered as the catalyst for the creation of a community of financial leaders trained in futures thought and applying it to the worlds of money and finance.
Future money! Will it be better, bigger, and wiser? These are the questions which financial futurists ask. These are questions to be investigated in the coming financial think tanks suited to an ideal profitable society.
Future finance! Will it banish poverty? Does it set limits to world wealth, or does it repudiate or disprove such limits? This is the kind of question which financial futurists ask as they explore the possible, the probable and the preferable future possibilities of human financial industries, ideologies and communities.
Money is, was and will be a social invention; and it is continually being reinvented, refined, and improved. The means by which this growth in quality of the social invention, money, takes place is the field of finance: the movement of money in such a way as to cause it to grow in quality and quantity.
Money is a social invention, and finance is the industry - the collection of industries - which society invented to deal with the movement and improvement of money. In modern times, finance has become a federation of industries, a priesthood, a lifestyle, and a vast community.
The fields of professional financial activity can be looked at in two ways: one cynical, bitter, fearful, jealous and angry - leading to, or imagining it leads to, shrinking, hoarding, poverty, illness and death - existentially leading 'to hell'; and the other serene, hopeful, inspired, expansive, leading to larger prosperity, health and wellness, prolonged life for all - existentially leading 'to heaven.'
Money is a social invention: it is a store of wealth, a medium of exchange, a vehicle for causing imagination to become manifest in real products. It is the lubricant of trade, and makes trade possible and profitable.
There are those who think of the practice of finance for its own sake (apparently) as a form of evil, but although the love of money in the manner of Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge is clearly dysfunctional, it is not necessarily perverse to seek to improve the capitalistic system of economics. In any case, economics has been called - apart from 'the dismal science' - the means by which scarce goods are allocated to competing wants. For various reasons, some schools of economics are now endeavoring to deduce an economic political philosophy that celebrates natural and cosmic abundance rather than scarcity. Finance is the means by which the goods and services needed by any users of them are conveyed to their destinations. This includes money itself as a good, and finance as a service.
Future money will be better money. In fact it is always seeking to become the best money: that is, ideal money. The social inventions of money and finance are like heat-seeking missiles, always seeking to burst out of confinement and to hit their target.
The target for money and finance is.... infinite wealth. The word "infinite" here is not the same as infinity - it is impossible to have wealth that is numerically equal to infinity. But infinite - rather than infinity - simply refers to an indefinitely large quantity. It is also important to note that we are measuring here the total wealth of an entire global society, rather than seeking to create a single entity or group that will own an infinite amount of wealth. At the base of our new financial philosophy, the amount of wealth that can be created - while simultaneously maximizing the quality of money - is directly proportional to the amount of knowledge in the heads of individuals in the society. This is not to suggest that growth only involves new knowledge never known by anybody - even if commonly known knowledge of currently wealthy people can spread to the millions and billions of individuals on the planet, a proportionate increase in monetary wealth is possible.
There is a simple way of demonstrating the concept of a goal of infinite wealth. We need only take the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country such as the USA and ask this easy question: is there enough money in the kitty, in the national Treasury, to pay for all medical needs of all people? We know the answer is 'no.' People live longer. Expensive new drugs and surgeries and life-prolongation techniques and procedures would, it is said, bankrupt the country if offered indefinitely to all. But because people naturally want to live forever, it would take an infinite amount of national wealth to keep all citizens alive indefinitely. In any case, even without the idea of indefinitely prolonged longevity, there is no known upper limit to the concept of wellness or health - physical, mental, social, spiritual, political. There is no 'healthiest' human being, real or imaginary. There are ideals for wellness, happiness, strength, beauty and so on, which have an infinite horizon or ground. This is a highly compressed argument, but we hope our readers will take our general point without examining it too literally. The broader social truth here is that the demands of health alone are enough to keep finance constantly striving for new levels of monetary output and availability, efficiency of use, accuracy and velocity of movement, etc. RK puts it this way: "These considerations are almost axiomatic for a social philosophy of finance (that is, in certain respects, an economic theory) and (particularly where the infinite or transcendental appears in the conversation) a theology (that is, a religious or spiritual philosophy) of finance: a presently almost non-existent field. Yet these are realms of social and spiritual inquiry whose time has come." Dynamic community and innovative thought and social creativity are replacing their non-existence with vigorous life, a catalytic presence in the body politic of humanity. A New World of money is being born. In other words, a new global financial civilization is being born, as we argued in our previous two articles. We shall give the name "MetaMoney" to this new way of thinking about money, to signify its appearance in the light of deep philosophical reflection: just as mathematics led to Metamathematics. (See Tarski in further reading list.)
All over the world financial leaders are seeking best principles and best practices in the pursuit of excellence as they govern the financial fields under their aegis. From the SEC and its regulatory role to the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) magazine, financial leaders, scholars, practitioners and observers are pursuing excellence in their field - the management of money to profitable ends. Financial professionals are looking, hoping to capture the attention of their clients and customers, needing to satisfy their own Boards of Directors, their shareholders. Every financial organization in the free world is seeking to GROW - either in financial wealth or profit narrowly defined, or in some quality such as efficiency, quality, and dare we say - goodness. But the more general category by which organizations define their success is profit. Profitability is the necessity of any organization in the lands of capitalism whether it be social profit, military profit as in victory for an army, or the more specifically monetary profit of a merchant bank every organization needs to show its members, managers and perhaps its founders a return on their investment of time, talent and treasure in founding and running the organization. In the case of financial organizations such as banks and insurance firms the need to show a profit is particularly vital. Even regulatory agencies such as the SEC exist to improve those financial organizations that they monitor that is, to improve the profitability of those financial organizations.
Improvement of profitability! It is an idea that on the surface looks quite straightforward, but the idea, the phrase and the reality conceal hidden depths. For one thing, the concept of profit has changed under the weight of social pressure, particularly in this century. From the time of President Theodore Roosevelt fighting 'robber barons,' industrial magnates who were 'malefactors of great wealth,' a hundred years ago, to the present movement of social investment (see <www.goodmoney.com>), the concept of profit has evolved; 'pure capitalistic profit' has been slowly displaced by the broader concept of social profit. A second point: 'improvement of profitability' has not only a social but a mathematical dimension - actually a number of dimensions. For example, a successful CEO of a 'for-profit' corporation will in normal circumstances need to show the corporation stakeholders and stockholders that the corporation is improving its profitability in more or less simple numerical terms. A profit increase, at its simplest, means that at the present time the profit of the organization, in some sense, is larger than at some previous time, presumably the last time it was measured. "This year we showed a profit of two million, compared with one million last accounting year." A very desirable result on the surface: 100% increase. Of course, we do not know what the circumstances of the firm making this report were. Perhaps their profit could have been 5000% if they had not missed major marketing opportunities. But the idea of profit increase is easy to understand. Of course, the concept of profit in the commercial sense is not the same as revenue or turnover. It is a kind of differential - the difference between income and outgo, if the former is larger than the latter. Otherwise, obviously, a loss or break-even result is in evidence. Anyhow, our point is clear enough: numerical increase of profit is an obvious goal of the for-profit corporation. The inner impulse of growth, which operates in all realms of nature and society, drives corporations, their markets, their industries, their customers and even nations to grow in quality, excellence...and profit.
The next element in our unfolding analysis of profit definitions and objectives has to do with size. Number is correlated with size - not perfect equivalence, but there is a direct analogy and correlation. A 'large' number signifies a 'large' item or quantity: for example, fifty dots spread over an area in which occupies a square inch cover ten times as many as would five dots comparably distributed. These seem simple ideas, but we need to be sure we understand the numerical side of profit as fully as possible before jumping to the next level of thought.
In the world of commercial or corporate profit, size matters, because quite simply bigger is better. This is not an absolute truth, but on the whole corporations have a 'social contract' to maximization of their profits. There are certain limits - no corporation can coerce or defraud any individual in their pursuit of profit - but it is a useful working principle to suppose that any corporation seeks at any moment to maximize its profit.
At this point in our argument we begin to enter the realm of philosophy of mathematics, and to a certain degree mathematical philosophy (See Russell, Kline in reading list). For when we look more closely at the idea of a maximum it fragments into some interesting pieces or segments. For if we construe the idea of the 'maximum' as meaning 'most,' as 'minimum' simply means 'least,' we arrive at the interesting subject of the philosophy of the infinite (most), and the infinitesimal (least). The subject of the theory of the infinite can be approached from philosophy or from pure of applied mathematics: you can read about this subject in our recommended books, Russell, Kline in reading list. The analysis of infinite numbers, infinite sets, collections and the like was a mystery and a horror to the ancient mathematicians, but the modern mathematicians Georg Cantor, Peano, Russell and others demystified it and turned it into a powerful resource for culture. The story of the 'pursuit of the infinite' is an absorbing one, but here we only want to begin to identify it as a resource for financial leadership. Financial leadership could in fact be somewhat cryptically defined as the ways in which the users of financial systems are led to navigate by the pole star of the archetype, "Infinite Profit at Infinite Speed". And leaders in all fields can use the same principle, if suitably translated: e.g. "Total success, starting from now". However, let us not get off the topic of 'the infinite' too quickly. The subject is vast - because it is infinite (that is a philosopher's joke, but it is a truth, and an important one.) The concept of 'the infinite' helps us to see that there can be no largest number. That is an elementary part of the theory of 'the infinite.' Because there can be no largest number, so long as we have a numerical (e.g. a dollar) definition of profit, there can be no highest profit - and no maximum. This means that in the social invention called money there is no ceiling to wealth creation - at least as far as the mathematical part of money is concerned. The actual amount of money in circulation is NOT caused by the amount of, for example, fossil fuel, but by assumptions about human capacity, among other assumptions. The concept of 'infinite profit' stimulates the mind and opens up fresh avenues, not only of economic thought, but also of business leadership. The phrase 'infinite profit' does not, however, have an exact denotation. It cannot have one meaning. It is more like an arrow pointing to a transcendental ground. To be pursuing 'infinite profit' means, among other things, to be embracing a large idea of human potential. That is a simple derivation from the concept.
But truths are like genies - they are hard to put back into the bottle. They cannot be undiscovered, any more than humanity can go back to pre-atomic ignorance except by self-annihilation. The concept of 'infinite profit' changes all corporate thinking, for it shatters a limit of thought. It is no longer possible for an organization to ignore its 'infinite ground' and settle for less. All organizations have a capacity for the pursuit of 'infinite profit - even though they will define it differently.
All that we have written so far chimes in the evolution of the idea of the corporation - the theory of the firm. We have never heard of an organization that sought to limit its profitability in the broad sense. The study of the evolving goals of organizations shows that the extrapolation of the concept of increased profit leads quite naturally to its maximization in the idea of Infinite Profit.
At this point in our analysis of profit we can introduce the idea of speed. For various reasons we live in a society that prizes velocity. For this reason, the idea of profit arriving at infinite speed (that is, an indefinitely large degree of velocity) is one that has a place in the study of those archetypes that guide and inspire organizations in the private and public sector.
There are many organizations whose activities are such that it is easy to see where speed is a necessity of their delivery of their services. and where greater speed (higher velocity and/or acceleration) is a greater excellence. Think of firefighters, emergency medical technicians, military personnel, nurses. Velocity is a part of the modern world. It is a social truism that we want it now. The concept of 'now' is a kind of terminus of the idea of infinite speed. Suffice it to say that to "want it now" is to want speed of delivery to accelerate toward the infinite starting from now.
Here then our analyses give us a fresh, endlessly dynamic inspiration for the definition of 21st century corporate, organizational, cultural, financial goals: "Infinite Profit at Infinite Speed"
Such analyses are not abstract; they are the fruits of financial think-tank studies. They are simple, but revolutionary ideas that are also ideals; they imply and engender a curriculum and a philosophy of financial practice: they are beacons for the emerging field of Future Finance. To explicate them is a task for a community of financial futurists gathering at the World Future Society, WNRF and similar organizations.
The constitution of ideally effective, maximally profitable financial think tanks.
"Infinite profit at infinite speed" represents a definition of a transcendental ideal for finance. It is also a fresh one, a challenging one. It is in itself a call for financial innovation, economic innovation, emergentive thought, behavior, and organizational development within the financial industries and all the sectors of society that they serve. A transcendental ideal such as this is a 'Great Goal' for financial industries calling for a new finance. Such a 'Great Goal' needs a Great Group (see Warren Bennis in reading list) - the Community of Financial Futurists.
A Great Group of financial, monetary and economic innovators is an idea, and a dawning reality. It implies a place - whether in imaginary space, cyberspace, virtual space, miniature space, symbolic space, actual space - which is the expression of another great social archetype: the think-tank convened for a great social good.
To DESIGN - conceptually, physically, organizationally, and financially - the constitutional features of any one such financial think-tank is a task for the whole international community of financial futurists - those monetary practitioners and philosophers who really live with the new - who are comfortable with fresh ideas - whether they be innovative thinkers about future, better finance at the World Bank or in Silicon Valley or in a synagogue of Business School or High School. We stand at the dawn of the Think-Tanks of Tomorrow: futurist communities led by the financial futurists.
The think tanks themselves will include in their mission statement: To inspire the development of innovative organizations suited to reduce world poverty by systematic, well-managed financial innovation.
In our next article (RK/KP II) we will look at the constitutions, ambitions, values, procedures and projects of these financial think-tanks, and announce the planning stages for the first such think-tank and its international satellites or departments. For a New World of money deserves a New World of think-tank definition and building. An ideally profitable financial system needs an ideally profitable research community to bring it to birth and to maturity.
For further reading:
—Bennis, Warren, Organizing Genius.
—Kline, Morris, Mathematics in Western Culture. Oxford U.P., 1953.
—Jahoda, Marie Current conceptions of Positive Mental Health.
—Philip, Karun, Zen and the Art of Funk Capitalism - A General Theory of Fallibility. —Writer's Showcase, 2001. http://www.k-capital.com/
—Russell, Bertrand, Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy. London: Allen and Unwin, 1919.
—Steiner, George A. and Steiner, John F. Business, Government and Society. 8th edition, 2000. NY: McGraw-Hill.
—Tarski, Logic, Semantics, Metamathematics
Also see their previous articles on Birthing a New Financial Civilization at