There was an interesting post that was floating around the internet-o-sphere recently in which a nurse was recalling the top themes of a person’s last dying wish. As you would imagine there were few instances of people grasping their credit cards and PayPal passwords wishing for more money. Which brings us to the whole future of money and currency discussion.
If currency is a universal representation of value which mediates our interactions then it poses a very interesting question … what do we really value? When you ask the average person what they value in life currency (or money), in it of itself, is never really mentioned. It is seen as a means to an end, a gateway to what they truly value. In more recent times people have began to place value on products / services / companies that are rooted in authenticity and responsibility which, on the surface, is fantastic. Tom’s Shoes is a perfect example of this. However noble this new consumerism may sound this was less true in recent years. Currency, in its purest ownership form, carried a value that went beyond its denomination. When accumulated it actually began to deliver its own existential experience, a paradox of its own definition. And while there is a lot to be happy about in terms of people migrating away from the existential ca$h-money value set there are still a large number of “people” (setup Mitt Romney joke here) that still value currency a lot more than they even do other people. Those “people” are companies (fulfill on Mitt Romney joke setup).
This dichotomy of the value of currency is extremely interesting when we project this into the future. There is clearly a stand off between people and “people” these days and while the more public subversion of “people” has come in the form of an occupation the FAR more subversive activity is happening in the online world. The active deflation of industries like music, publishing and film has shown what happens when old world value is digitized. Subverting the single most important value of “people,” which is currency, is the truest test of what lies ahead. And if propositions like SOPA, PIPA and ACTA are any indication of the conversation to come a resolution of the value of currency will surely be a tricky one.
Which brings us to an even more interesting conversation in terms of representation. If currency is simply a representation of value and that value system is influx given the hyper abstraction its initial representation (financial instruments) then how is this resolved? Is it a regression into a more primitive form of barter but only in the form of material and data exchanges? Or do we evolve our value system into more psychologically valuable ones. Will we stop abusing currencies when they are abstractions of people’s direct well being? Well if we use your $800 Smartphone as a benchmark then we have a long way to go.
The future of our civilization relies on the resolution of precisely these kinds of problems. Representation of value whether they be through currency, corporate employment, politics or consumerism need to be universally resolved for their to be any dramatic change in terms of responsibility. The optimist within believes that now is a time of grand re-evaluation of what we value in society, especially in the dialogue that currently exists between generations. I just hope that we collectively have enough guts to force the conversation not to just resolve a single part of the system but to re-generate one that is much more equitable, just and responsible so we can save our souls.
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