Self-belief Economics is a project looking at fictional economic science, speculative market-based education system and British lecturers’ pension scheme.

« Self-belief economics considers each individual as regulator of its own biological, psychological, function-based, value-based markets, obeying to the same free market forces but interiorised. The process of inner self-regulation reveals itself as an emancipatory process that enables oneself to value its own capabilities isolated from external forces and constraining social dynamics. Following this logic, every movement, gesture, thought, behaviour, vital functions can be valued on the inner market through competition and offer and demand, but also on the common markets of modern society from job market (wage, work value per hour, etc.) to education, political support, data production or blood donation. We believe Self-Belief Economics is the missing part of the current economic model by enabling a micro and intra scale on market’s macro dynamics. »

This project was part of a workshop runned by Dash McDonald, Nicholas Mortimer and Pekko Koskinen. The resulting project was conceived by Erin Liu, Nick Banning and Gauthier Roussilhe.

Self-belief Economics started as a fictional publication theorising a new field of economic science. This field speculates that the capitalist market forces can be applied to the body (considered as a closed/inner market), maintaining competition between body parts and performed actions. From this process of self-competition results an emancipatory positioning, that is, allowing an individual to enter the global market with a precise knowledge of its own value.

The writing of this booklet led to the development of fictional economic concepts such as intrastructures, systems required for the survival of the individual and maintaining value within the body, and the minimum distributed value (MDV), the minimum bet performed by every organic system to perform an action.

« Intrastructures have a minimum value, therefore, they can’t go under this defined value that represents the minimum survival of the self. Furthermore, intrastructures are not entering the market as competing assets because they’re actually the backbone of it, they’re not assets themselves. Their minimum value is actually a minimum ditributed value. For example, the brain is not seen as an asset but is required for you to perform a specific action with your right hand, therefore, a small amount of its minimum value is shared in the value of the specific action, the value of the right hand and in the value of the psychological input and output. This minimum distributed value (MDV) is then different for each and every action, behaviour, gesture performed by the self because it’ll not activate the intrastructures in the same way every time. The MDV is not a fixed value but it’s a constant in the value assessment calculation of an action. The MDV is the initial stake that launches the process of the self-market and the constitution of the initial capital, generally associated with the birth of the self. » (Self-belief Economics, p.7-8)

Economical gym class

Following these principles we launched an economical gym class to train individuals to assess the value of their different body parts and different sets of action. One of our classes was focused on upper-chest economics in which participants had to attach a helium balloon to the arm from which they wanted to increase the value and a water-filled balloon for the arm from which they wanted to decrease the value. The class lasted half an hour and helped the participants understand the basics of self-belief economics through a series of gym exercices focused on the consciousness of embodied values.

Market-based education system

Following our conceptualisation of the Self-belief economics we started to envision an education system where the value of each student, lecturer and dean can be assesed to define the value of the education delivered and therefore the value of the diploma.

In this system the diploma is viewed as a stock and the tuition as an investment. The graduation day acts as a timestamp in which the final valuation of the diploma is assessed based on the daily market performances. Graduated students can sell their diploma to aspiring students generating a profit or a loss depending of the graduation day’s valuation.

Warden of things

In addition to the diploma valuation system we developed another system to radically transform the warden’s mission within its university. Inspired by the concept of sacred kingship emphasied by James Frazer in the Golden Bough we developed the concept of sacred wardenship. It means to associate university value to warden’s health, therefore monitoring warden’s biometrics seems crucial for student investors.

We created a series of devices connected to the warden: a smart thermostat linked to warden’s body heat, smart bulbs linked to warden’s sleep cycles and smart blinders activated by warden’s presence. The university becomes an embodiement of the warden itself.

Lecturers strike and British pension scheme

While working on this project British lecturers started a strike because their pensions system was subject to change due to an important deficit forecasted by the private company (USS) running their pension scheme. This change consisted of switching from a defined-benefit scheme (you know how much you pay, you know how much you’ll get back one retired) to a defined-contribution scheme (you know how much you pay, the money you’ll get back will depend of the performance of the financial markets).

We decided to shift our project to look at this ongoing event in our university. We started to research every information we can get in order to understand the general system of lecturers pension and how the forecasted deficit is calculated. We produced a series of system maps to sort up all the different actors and networks. We understood that the forecasted deficit calculation is based on assumptions on forecasted inflation rate, forecasted life expentancy of the lecturers and the forecasted performance of their financial assets over 5, 10 and 20 years. The performance of these assets and of the inflation rate are also deeply linked to UK government strategy of quantitative easing as explained on the maps.

A quote from the private company report is quite striking: «The future is ultimately unknowable, so we must make a range of informed, sensible assumptions based on detailed analysis and modelling to arrive at our conclusions on future economic and social trends largely outside our control.»

Gamification of the deficit calculation

We designed a TV-game show inspired by the famous TV show « The Price Is Right ». Rather than guessing the price of actual objects, our game, named The Price Will Be Right », asked the participants to guess the future price of common objects from the university, from a chair to the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment). Depending of their guesses we would be able to modify the calculation of the deficit. The winner would receive a future diploma linked to a future value. We runned the game twice with Goldsmiths students and lecturers.


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