[Dave Birch] Fascinating evening debating the future of money with the members of the Real Time Club. I had a great time, was kept on my toes and forced to think hard and fast by Malcolm Cooper and the assembled throng. I certainly learned that in future I have to think things through a little better, but it is enjoyable being challenged in this kind of informed forum.

My general point was that in the great scheme of things, we are due a change. Once the industrial revolution got under way, the old monetary order of bimetallism was swept away and was replaced by fiat currency, paper and bank credit. As this happened, the unit of account, means of exchange and store of value began to separate. Now that the post-industrial revolution is underway, we will surely see a transition of a similar nature.

Malcolm suggested, taking an even longer sweep of history, that it may actually be currency that is the aberration and that in the future we may return to a form of barter, albeit a turbocharged, computer-mediated barter. This is a subject I’ve touched on before.

What might the far future really look like? It’s hard to say, except that it won’t be like the past. There won’t, probably, be widespread barter for example despite the ability of networks to reduce the associated transaction costs.

[From Digital Money: A single currency? Illogical, Captain!]

Nevertheless, his point that we mustn’t assume that the current monetary arrangement is a law of nature and will continue indefinitely was well-made and thought-provoking.

For some added punch, I added classical beef to my comments. Malcolm used the example of Carthage in his opening remarks, so when it was my turn to respond, I ended with a sweeping gesture and the exclamation “and Carthage must be destroyed”, a learned allusion to the motto of the noted Roman orator Cato the Elder. Unfortunately, being the product of a bog standard comprehensive I did this in English and was therefore immediately upstaged by Michael Mainelli who was able to deliver it in the original Latin “Carthago delenda est”. That’ll teach me!

Incidentally, this was easily the most artistic digital money debate I have attended for some time, with absolutely first class piano accompaniment to drinks from David King and a poem composed on the night and read out by Andy Low of FBN. I thought it was rather good, so here is reproduced the first official Digital Money Blog poem:

The lake of commerce gives life its pace
For on its smooth and shiny face
Ripples form, surge forth and race.

What do I want, what can I get?
They cross, connect and intersect
The lives of people who’ve never met.

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

1 comment

  1. I too am interested in how money/currency in its different forms is likely to change behaviour and commerce. My own thoughts on the future in this space however is that whilst what form money/currency takes is an interesting debate we may be better served if we spent more time discussing how we go about allocating resources to fix perceived problems. It’s possible that digital currencies will emerge as a heal thyself solution to this allocation problem but for what it’s worth I think this debate should be framed as “does the digital currency treatment adequately treat the root cause or just some of the symptoms that we exposed to within an inefficient allocation of resources problem?

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