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The Future of Money
Jamais Cascio   Oct 14, 2009   /message  

Jamais chatted with Stowe Boyd about money.

Some highlights:

  * Jamais starts by stating that “All money is a fantasy,” and then sets the stage for the problem for local, alternative money: you have to get a critical mass of people to agree in a new fantasy.

  * He points out that virtual currency doesn’t have to be geographically constrained, and so that groups with shared purposes could in fact have new currencies.

  * He hit on cell minutes being used as a virtual currency in Africa, and discusses how it counters potential governmental meddling, like intentional hyperinflation. His point is that these ‘practical’ currencies are in a sense apolitical. I draw the point that the unbanked are the source of many innovations in the world, right now.

  * Eve Online is one of the leading companies in the wounded economy of Iceland, and Jamais points out that their virtual currency has a fairly steady transfer to fiat currency, and it has become a large company in that very damaged market. But the Chinese government recently stepped in to block the conversion of virtual goods to real world goods. This is also where governments step in with gambling, for example: when you convert your chips into cash, they tell the government about your winnings. Jamais points out that this is really where governments start to care: when economies arise.

  * I think the question of anonymous money and the roll of cell phones in future money was the a big part of our conversation, and one that we could have spent hours more on.

A far-ranging and engaging discussion with one of the most thoughtful thinkers of our time.

Although very brief this video article had some interesting points to consider. I for one have always envisioned and embraced the utopian ideal of a future where monies are replaced with a more efficient electronic system where exchange rates and payment and vending processes become transparent. Even as far as to eliminate the need for monetary or credit systems altogether.

Envision a world based productive economy that returns payment to citizens in the form of supply and demand of needs : a socialist ideal, maybe? Yet this kind of long view and ideal we have already seen a thousand times on such futuristic shows as Star Trek, which have taken the avoidance of financial rewards and turned it into an art-form, (if only merely to avoid the complications in the storylines?) Here payment is in the form of personal development and human needs for recreation and stimulation? Food and clothing are no longer issues, feel hungry or thirsty : then go to the replicator and eat or drink etc. Got some free time, checkout the holodeck.

The narrow view would be some kind of points based payment system, that can be absorbed into the established monetary institutions and international exchange rate mechanisms. For example 1.0 points US equates to 1.35 points euros - Mr. Smith you have credit of 4,000 points left on your account, welcome to Paris, (France). Yet this is not really a radical change of philosophy regarding payments, merely a replacement for printing and minting money. Payment in casino chips, bucks or buttons, it's all the same thing.

What makes these interim innovations attractive and fun is the freedom and access to wants and needs and services they provide without the need for banks, as your article considers, such as the current systems of payment for small items or travel fares with cell phone airtime. The Oyster cards credit system for payment of fares which is extended to small purchases etc.

And I think you are correct to assume the masses would be the first to embrace such systems in favour of hard cash. I think even the banks would readily accept such new innovations, yet it may be governments themselves who would be slow to integrate for fear of loosing track of revenues and taxation, and more importantly loose political controls of international exchange rate and trade market negotiations.

Yet like all the other technological ideals, these things we can readily see forthcoming in our more affluent western and modern societies, yet where does this leave the nations and peoples that are not accessible to these technologies. The "un-banked" nations of peoples and societies who have no need of cell phone airtime or even holodecks?
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