Promonss (Process Monetary Supervisor System)


The fundamental problem for interstellar trade is setting up a common currency between the colonies. Basing it on fiat (currencies whose value are set by a central bank), just claiming it has a certain value, will not work (as demonstrated by past experiences, such as inflation and drastic economic swings due to government politics or lack of confidence in a currency). Basing it on some objective value (for example gold) is extremely hard since just about any valuable commodity in 2350 would have a price that could change fast: gold and rare metals can be mined in huge amounts in space using robots, energy can be produced using solar power and fusion, Helium 3 is fairly rare but Penglaiese fusion doesn’t need it (and will likely spread), human labour can be replaced with robots, human attention and interest may be limited but is hard to measure, and so on. To make matters even worse, it would have to work across interstellar distances and interface with very different economies.

The Process came up with the idea of a meta-currency, the Promon. While partially a fiat currency it is linked to the local economies by being bound to the major backers and investments of the Process. By linking its local value to solid investments it can become somewhat reliable, and by having an identical evaluation process on every Process node it would become interchangeable. It is kind of a bank changing "currency", but this bank also handles insurance, shipping and trade contacts in am unified interstellar system. A credit transfer can be done by inserting the local credit into the Process bank, where Promonss converts it into promons, transfers it and at the destination converts it to the local currency there; the Process investments acts as a security for the value of the promon. This is achieved using a distributed AI system. Each node has one AI instance, making the evaluations and managing the local currency exchange. These instances continually exchange "mind snapshots" sent by passing starships, keeping the instances updated of what happened, what decisions has been made, why, and what was learned. The result is intended to be a kind of meta-AI, a single very slow intelligence distributed across many fast instances. Needless to say, the system requires continual trade between the colonies so that the snapshots can spread.

The AI instances have to act in a way to ensure stability despite month-long time lags, uncertainties in economic development and possibly hostile trading. To achieve this, Promonss has been designed to be cautious, resilient, responsible and very far-seeing. It is not a sparkling personality and nearly lacks self-awareness, but has a great drive of maximising the stability of the promon. By making the currency in some sense self-protecting it is less likely to be manipulated (both by outsiders and the Process) and hence more trustworthy.

The Process hired CogniSoft of Nova to design Promonss, an unique design challenge. CogniSoft in turn has hired other Nova consultancy firms such as EconoTech, Neumann Systems and GST Services to develop the economic prediction and metalevel systems; the whole project has quickly grown to a major undertaking with cutting edge AI technology. In addition, CogniSoft designed the Promonss to be very robust: each node is really a network of copies of the Promonss ideally distributed across the colony, making it able to withstand the loss of individual computers or even the partial subversion of the node. After extensive testing where hackers (both economical and software) attacked a simulation of a Promonss network subjected to realistic modelling of possible interstellar trade the Process was finally satisfied to put the first two version 1.0 nodes online at Nova and Atlantis.