[This post is the summarized version of a more extensive article originally published in The Tokenizer, and can be read here.]
Time is an asset like money, but unlike money cannot be created or manipulated
Its immutable characteristics make it the perfect ‘real-world asset’ to be represented as a token on-chain
Time is at the root of labor, and hence tokenizing time is a step toward making the labor market more liquid, efficient, and fair
Various projects have been undertaken to realize this goal, both at an individual and market level.
The idea is not obviously fundamentally flawed, but it is too soon to tell whether it will deliver on its full potential.
Time is an asset, arguably the ultimate asset. It cannot be created or restored once lost.
The economist George Gilder argues that it is at the basis of all value, since all value generation and value consumption is ultimately bounded by the constraints of time.
This is of particular interest to cryptocurrency enthusiasts, because the origin of cryptocurrency was the search for a truly ‘hard’ asset that no government could create or manipulate
Money as tokenized time
It’s a common expression that ‘Time is Money’. Gilder expresses this in blockchain terms as ‘money is tokenized time’. You can buy the time of others with it, or sell your own time in exchange for it - a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘a job’.
The immutable nature of the blockchain mirrors the irreversible nature of time. Hence representing tokenized time on chain has - in theory - the potential to be a suitable application of ‘real world asset tokenization’.
Unlike purely speculative tokens with no real-world counterpart, the number of hours per person per year is fixed, and there are natural limits to working capacity that effectively limit the saleable hours to 1000 +/-500 hours.
The fact that labor and time are intimately connected means that the benefits of blockchain can be applied to the world of labor. In short, it should make labor more liquid.
How this is helpful
The early promise of GameFi was that it would enable a more equitable distribution of revenues by eliminating bureaucracy and giving the creative developers a larger share.
Many projects succumbed to the ponzinomics of the broader cryptosphere, but the original promise could still be fulfilled.
Gaming is a time-intensive activity, and many dedicated gamers could use their time to expand or help maintain the increasingly intricate and evolving virtual worlds that modern games entail.
Time spent is an easily recordable metric, and proportionate to effort. Rewarding time with tokens (exchangeable for real-world currency or ownership of future revenue streams) via smart contracts could be a way to cut in the creatives while lowering overall costs and improving the overall gaming experience.
Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) were a more formal approach to the above, aiming to replace the traditional company with a lean, democratic, and borderless alternative.
With time as the hard basis of economic interaction, DAO treasuries could use the funds at their disposal to purchase the skills of members, once again naturally constraining the supply of tokens earnable, and preventing the excesses of the cryptographic money printer.
Entrepreneurs are often skills-rich but cash-poor. Trading skills via an agreed time-exchange rate (e.g. 2 hours of coding for 30 minutes of consulting) could be a more efficient way of ‘funding’ an early-stage business - since time is at the root of all capital.
Bartering was highly inefficient in an age in which everyone lived in villages. In a connected world in which labor is fully liquid, it could make more sense than using a means of exchange, particularly if the means of exchange in question is volatile or outlawed in one of the two individuals’ place of residence.
Once again, time is naturally constrained. This means that attempts at fraud (e.g. double-counting hours) would be easier to detect and harder to pull off.
Time tokenization is far from being a mainstream phenomenon.
But enough people have tried, and succeeded, to make it a worthwhile area of study.
There are two types: the person level (Individual IPOs) and the platform level (Time Marketplaces).
dAPP Boi (Matthew Vernon) is the first example of an Individual IPO. He originally issued 100 tokens, each worth 1hr of his time (UI/UX design work, prototyping, brand design), purchasable for $100 each.
The aim of the second kind of application - the Time Marketplace - is as the name suggests to create an alternative to traditional freelance platforms such as Upwork. As with all things blockchain, the purpose is to create a cheaper, fairer, and more efficient society.
Time New Bank (TNB) allows people to sell time-based tasks via auction, with the bids placed in the native token TNB. Ability to charge is related in part to length of tenure on the platform, thus rewarding good patterns of behavior.
The GrandTime project emphasizes gig-based work and microtasks. It aims to present employers with an alternative to conventional outsourced labor. Simultaneously, workers have opportunities to earn and learn about crypto.
It uses a proprietary web of blockchain-based applications to make this all possible, including DEX and marketplaces to buy and sell NFTs.
Whether or not this all ends in disaster is beside the point. The question is whether such schemes are fundamentally flawed, like so many hopeful predecessors in the crypto realm.
It is only a matter of time until we find out. And given the speed at which things move in the crypto realm, it shouldn’t be too long.
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