[Dave Birch] if you have a few minutes to spare, you might enjoy this YouTube video of Douglas Rushkoff talking in New York in November 2009. He says that the "operating system for money is obsolete" and gives a rabble-rousing (I mean this in the best possible way) call for monetary revolution to which I am not at all unsympathetic. He says that money is broken and that we need a more local, more distributed future. I won't spoil it for you, nor will I mention that I regard some of the monetary history as a little vague. Douglas' theory that current monetary arrangements date from the renaissance when local currencies were eradicated in favour of the "King's currency" by which the rulers obtained indirect tax revenues through seigniorage might be disputed by monetary historians — King Alfred had a working system of mints up and running in the ninth century, and our very own Guildford had a mint by 975). In fact, when Alfred re-founded London in 886, it was the home of one of about 30 mints in England and by the time of Ethlered II (978-1016) there were more than 70 mints in towns across England, all minting silver pennies, the only English coin of the time. But that's nit-picking. The spirit of Mr. Rushkoff's complaint is surely correct. Just as the transition to an agricultural society saw the invention of coins for circulation instead of bullion and the transition to an industrial age saw the invention of central banking and credit money, so the transition to an information age will surely result in the invention of some new and novel monetary arrangement, whether Edward de Bono's "IBM Dollar" (in David Boyle's splendid "The Money Changers") or anything else.

I've been reading "trendspotter" Marian Salzman again, and she says that hyperlocalisation is a marketing buzzword for 2010 as people organise themselves into communities — I don't think she means only in the geographic sense: my son's guild in World of Warcraft is as real to him as a community as the soccer team he plays in — and I wonder if this is at least a pointer towards the shape of the next monetary system?

Well, I had the good fortune to have been invited by Tudor House to take part in a seminar on local currencies with Forum friend Bernard Lietaer (he spoke at the 5th Forum, back in 2002, and we gave out copies of his book The Future of Money) and a number of other leading thinkers in the space. And what a super day out it was, but one question that I asked a couple of times in a couple of different ways never got fully answered. It's this: when people talk about local currencies, what do they mean by local? Does it make any sense to have currencies that belong to part of a city? Or a city? Or a city and its hinterland. I'm rather a fan of the late Jane Jacobs "Cities and the rise of nations" so I think the latter, which is why the anglo-saxon kingdom of Wessex (which is, essentially, London and its hinterland) makes sense as a currency zone. However well-meaning, I cannot see that a town or city by itself can obtain a critical mass. There might be an exception to made if the currency has a parasitic vitality.

My suggestion is that we combine the ID concept with the concept of a local currency. You could title this either a “merchant credit system” or a local, virtual, Alternative Currency for Oakland Residents and Neighbors (ACORN).

[From ACORNs « Oakland City ID Card]

Maybe. But what I thought was not covered at the seminar in enough detail was the idea of virtual alternative currency in response to the key trend of localisation mentioned above. As broadband penetration increases and people spend steadily more time in virtual communities, these would naturally become the basis for the means of exchange. Thus, the reaction against globalisation may result not in hyperlocalisation but in hyper-reality localisation (for which we would, of course, need hypermoney not virtual money).

Not an electronic version of cash as it is, but an electronic version of cash as it should be.

[From Digital Money: Nymity vs. anonymity]

This is not idle speculation. In countries with high broadband penetration (South Korea is the canonical example) people spend considerable amounts of time in virtual communities and commerce is shifting into these spaces. Money is sure to follow, but the nature of the medium allows for variation and experiment that are not possible in the physical world. There are sure to be unexpected consequences.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]

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