Sparkle is a better money.

The concept for Sparkle!—redistributive currency—came to me as I watched The Miracle of Heliane, a political opera, being performed at Bard College on August 10, 2019. At the time, I did not know smart contract programming. For the next 30 days, I put everything else on hold and taught myself Solidity, the programming language used to write smart contracts for Ethereum. I was consumed by the desire to master as much of Solidity as possible in order to launch Sparkle on the eighth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, a social movement that I had co-created in 2011.

Here’s how Sparkle works: every time Sparkle is bought or transferred, 2% is taxed and redistributed to the entire economy.  This 2% tax is a transaction tax reminiscent of the Tobin Tax or Robin Hood Tax with one key distinction: the proceeds of the tax are redistributed proportionally to everyone in the economy. The system does not penalize being wealthy—after all, the wealthy will receive a greater share of the transaction tax—and still it rewards the poor.

Imagine if we all benefited from the luxury consumption of the elite.

Before the dawn of programmable money, this instant redistribution would have been impossible to implement. But with Ethereum it is not only possible—Sparkle achieves it.

I was inspired to learn Solidity, the programming language that would allow me to create Sparkle, even though I am not a programmer and smart contracts are notoriously difficult to comprehend, because of the encouragement of Rich McAteer, the creator of the HumanityDao. I had had the desire to study Solidity for over a year, with growing insistence in the last few months, and it Rich’s positivity convinced me to make the leap.

I had reached out to Rich to chat about the HumanityDao project along with an idea I had for an ActivistDao. During the course of our conversation, I mentioned that I was struggling with the desire to learn Solidity: I desperately wanted to learn it but I was concerned that it would exceed my capacity. Rich’s reply was so encouraging that I immediately got to work teaching myself how to program Sparkle!

• • •

How does an activist learn Solidity in thirty days with little prior programming experience?

I started by close reading the smart contracts behind BOMB, the first deflationary currency, and AMPL, an elastic supply commodity. I’d spoken to the creators of both of these tokens and I believed they were doing something profound: creating new economic logics. I saw the creation of new economic logics as inherently activist and essentially revolutionary. Learning to translate my philosophical understanding of BOMB and AMPL into Solidity was a wonderful experience.

From BOMB, I learned the basics of instantiating a new economic logic by modifying the ERC20 standard. From AMPL, I learned to dynamically adjust wallet balances by having a private balance and a public balance.

Originally, I had first intended to mint the total supply of Sparkle and then offer it through Uniswap, a decentralized exchange (DEX). However, after realizing that I wanted Sparkle to be as autonomous as possible, I researched bonding curves—an idea that David Gibbons introduced me to—before ultimately deciding on Sparkle’s fair pricing mechanism which is essentially a flat bonding curve.

Although the transaction tax concept is simple, I ran into difficulties implementing it because of Ethereum’s unique characteristics: namely, the way in which programs are run serially, not in parallel. I again turned to Rich for mentorship. Rich was instrumental in guiding the smart contract to completion and ultimately finding the solution to implementing the transaction tax. He also introduced me to truffle test that made it possible for me to see Sparkle from a new perspective.

Dan Finlay, the lead developer of Metamask, took a final look at the smart contract before I deployed it to the mainnet.

• • •

It is not enough to just create a smart contract—it is also necessary to distribute it. And the ethics of distribution have notoriously tripped up many cryptocurrency projects.

I designed Sparkle to be an activist cryptocurrency and that meant that it needed to actively address the fair distribution problem.

The solution that I ultimately came to is to embed anti-speculative logics into the smart contract by putting a price controls in place that stabilize the economy until it is large enough to function autonomously. Sparkle is its own market maker. This helps Sparkle operate independently of centralized exchanges—the contract itself is also hostile to centralized exchanges who pool user balances.

I decided to leave the sell function active indefinitely to cap potential loses. This allows for unlimited potential profits and a known maximum potential loss. 

If a person buys 1 ether of Sparkle from the smart contract then they’ll always be able to withdraw at least 0.9409 ether. I say at least because people who buy into Sparkle also automatically receive their share of the pool of Sparkle tax collected thus far. Potential loses therefore decrease as the health of the Sparkle economy increases.

In other words, everyone receives free Sparkle! (which is immediately redeemable for ether) and is also guaranteed that they will lose no more than 5.91% of their ether deposit. 

The healthier that the Sparkle economy is—the more it is being transferred, bought and sold—the more free money participants receive in proportion to their share of the total economy. 

When the rich spend, the poor receive their share.

From the beginning, a core design principle of Sparkle is that all temptations to corruption have been removed: the contract is autonomous and immutable. It does not have the ability to self-destruct, transfer its assets or change the rules of the economy.

Now that Sparkle has been deployed into the world, it will live forever on the Ethereum blockchain. Those who convert their money into Sparkle will see the positive benefits of holding a redistributive currency. And now I turn to implementing the five other activist smart contracts that I have envisaged.

May Sparkle change the world!

— Micah White, September 17, 2019

 
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Micah white, phd

Micah White is the lifelong activist who co-created Occupy Wall Street, a global social movement that spread to 82 countries, while an editor of Adbusters magazine. He is the author of The End of Protest which has been translated into German and Greek. His essays have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Guardian and beyond. He has been profiled by the New Yorker, Esquire and more. He is the co-founder of Activist Graduate School, an online school taught by, and for, experienced activists. Learn more at micahmwhite.com