Did you ever tell yourself, while going grocery shopping and using a piece of plastic called “credit card”, reading virtual numbers on your online bank statement or hearing about the “bazillions” exchanged every day on the financial markets : this is completely unreal? Or : this has no reality? Or: what does this really lean on?
Over the past 2 years I’ve come to ask the question to some people : “why not a world without money?”
And it actually struck me to see how it was impossible for most people to envision a world without money or any other form of currency or specific tool that would be a standard to measure the value of things.
But I do believe that in a near future, money will disappear. Not only it will but I think it should. It will raise lots of changes and disruptions that is for sure, so instead of waiting for it to happen and think about the solutions by then, why not starting to understand how the world will walk through this event.
In order for the current monetary system to work, it has to be based on an even more important value: trust. One needed to trust the other person that the coin given was indeed the value it was supposed to have.
"So more than on a material value, money was founded upon the importance of trust and the reliability of individuals.
So more than on a material value, money was founded upon the importance of trust and the reliability of individuals.
This is somehow even more important now that money started to rely no longer on the proportion of precious metal in each coin but on the facial value written on a mere piece of paper. When scriptural money appeared, it was all about trust : the piece of paper I give to you is of a value that I do own as a result of my work and physical possessions. And if you use it you’ll be able to obtain goods of the same value as it is written on the note.
That is why when forgery happen it can mess up with the economy as the value put on the bills does not represent anything, it’s barely paper, it’s not backed by any economic value.
Along History, there are thousands of examples of people trying to play with one’s ability to trust in order to gain some personal interest in the situations. The kings of France had been famous in the Middle Age to scratch the surface of the coins in order to reduce the real amount of precious metal and build new coins with the same facial value instead of creating new money.
And today, money is just about lines of numbers on softwares or databases and is based on what the banks and governments tell us it is. That’s why some people, and among them the mysterious “Takashi Nakamoto”, tried to think about a way to create a money that could be again based on trust : the nowadays well known “cryptocurrencies”.
The name doesn’t seem upbeat but it’s basically : a computer code, distributed among users and encrypted that is bound to be unbreakable and thus the most reliable source of exchanges between people.
"So the strong trust that lots of people put in those new currencies are mostly based on hope more than reality."
But we know now that even cryptocurrencies are not 100% hacking-proof. So the strong trust that lots of people put in those new currencies are mostly based on hope more than reality.
Plus the value of these new currencies are highly volatile (the last year Bitcoin rollercoaster is a clear evidence of it) and they also take a huge amount of energy to be created which, in times of climate change, doesn’t sound right!
For what those first paragraphs are worth, this basic presentation of the monetary system is what is used by many economics to make us understand that money is at the basics of our economies, old enough to justify themselves only by still existing and that the system cannot rely on anything else.
Final comment before moving on, let us not forget that nowadays, currencies are no longer backed by any “material” value such as it used to be with gold. Thus currencies are basically an artificial representation of the economy of a country, knowing that some countries are famous for playing with their currencies to boost their economy. So when you go through the History of money and currencies, the big question here is : Does money represent a real value or is it now just a strong fiction in which everyone believes and still have faith in? And if so, is trust and the ability to believe in this fiction the real currency? And if so, are we just blind fools believing in something that drives our lives and that has not much more real existence than ghosts and horoscopes?
And then, the years 2008 and 2009 happened. Those years were those where the all financial system broke down. Not only trillions of US dollars were lost but it took down the all banking system.
If you read articles about this crisis, most of them are focusing on the technical elements of the situation. And lots of economics will tell you that the global economy has more or less recovered from the crisis. They are probably right, who am I to understand the technicalities?
But one ting that most people forget is that the crisis of 2008/2009 was not a “financial” crisis, it was a “trust” crisis, an event that shook hardly the deep foundation of the system we live in today. And we haven’t recovered yet. Why? Because those who betrayed our trust never got punished for it.
"Only in Iceland did bankers got punished and sent to jail to pay their debt to the society."
Only in Iceland did bankers got punished and sent to jail to pay their debt to the society.
The crisis at that time was mostly due to the fact that some people, bankers mostly, decided to bet on the inability of household to pay their mortgages. It was at some point more gambling than proper finance management. And it was not only one or 2 rogue guys in their office somewhere on Wall Street. It. Was. Everywhere. At every level of the system, it became a race to make as much money as possible without any ethical limit. The Enron case is an other good illustration of this.
There was only one goal in this situation : not the will to help households access easily to mortgages when they were in a bad situations and want to finance their kids’ studies, not the will to develop the global economy, not the will to create a strong market that will help create jobs, or to help young entrepreneurs… No, no and no again. There was only one goal : the self-interest of those people who gambled to grow their personal wealth at the cost of people’s life. This is not even a caricature as most of them knew exactly that what they were doing was bad, sometimes illegal, at least unethical. But they did it and they never stopped.
And when the crisis ended they all came back to us asking to trust them again and to give them our money, the value of our daily work, of your daily energy.
Isn’t this a trust issue? Is it normal for people who do produce something concrete out of their work to help some people play virtual games in order to grow their own wealth which is based on artificial elements and biased computer algorithms?
There used to be a time where banks were not those powerful global organisations. They used to be mere administration helping to keep track of the exchanges of commerce and the value of those. Done.
We cannot continue to live in the delusion of a system that keeps telling us that we can trust it when the system is led by people who destroyed our trust and are still today in position of power.
The system has to change.
But there’s more to this.
Have you ever done some volunteer work? Have you helped your neighbors? Have you been or are you a mother, a father, raising your child to make it a great individual that will provide good deeds and actions in the future?
You probably have answered yes to at least one of these questions.
Are you “paid” for this work? Does it mean this work has no value for the society? One could argue that it does not because it has no monetary equivalence.
Yet it probably remains something at least as valuable than any other professional commitment. Especially when you know that about 10 to 15% of current corporate jobs could disappear tomorrow you wouldn’t be able to notice it… Stop helping your neighbors they’ll definitely see the difference!
Of course you will tell me that you do it based on kindness and good will and that you don’t do this to get paid. Of course you do. And of course as this is not “marketable” there’s no reason that it gets paid at some point.
Because money and the current economy used to be focused on the value we gave to some concrete elements, materials, ressources: things we can touch, feel, use and transform through an industrial process and things that we know may be common or rare, considered worthy or not and thus be valued accordingly.
But what about intellectual work? What about ideas? Arts? Individual commitments for others? What about all these things that are changing the world more than gold or iron can do? What about the fact that knowledge will never be scarce and is transferable without losing its value or its quantity for the one transferring it?
When you think about the concept of “knowledge economy” you realize that the value given to products or services are basically virtual and rely only on “feelings” or the current “needs” we think we have of things.
"Eventually, we live in a world where what is really important has no value and what is very useful has an artificial value. "
Eventually, we live in a world where what is really important has no value and what is very useful has an artificial value.
Because at the end of the day, everything “has to” come down to money. Money that we know now is a fictional tool on which we can’t trust anymore because it has been tainted by those who were supposed to be in charge of it?
So what do we do?
Some said : let’s rely on cryptocurrencies or their foundational system : blockchain. They are (not) reliable, they don’t need (for now) any intermediate to secure the transaction and they are the best vector of trust as they can be used to certify situations (patents, contracts, …).
But in 2017, the figurehead of the cryptocurrencies experienced a high fever on the markets and reached is value peak in December 2017, scrolling up to 18.000 US dollars. And then fell down. And then we learnt that this peak has been artificially created by some people willing to serve their self-interest through the new attractiveness of this new financial tool.
And trust was broken again.
When thinking about a “new economy” model, we have to start right back at the basics: trust. How can we build trust in order for human interactions to be worthy again.
But when we say that we have to understand the concept. What do we mean by:
- Human interactions : any task, act or deed that is created between 1 or more human beings. And that is what commerce or business is at the very beginning : doing something to serve the need of someone and by doing so serving ones need as a return. There is lots of positive outcomes in this situation… when it’s fairly balanced and not when one get the lion’s share and the other one is stabbed in the back meanwhile by a minority of people,
- Worth : this should no longer be seen as the equivalent value according to the availability of a specific resource. We know now that material resources are limited. So if we keep going this way we’ll reach a point where everything will be so “expensive” that only a few minority will be able to afford the basic human needs. Is it really what we want? The worthiness of something should be estimated through the benefits it brings to the common good, to the collective. How does it serve our present and our future? How does it help to create something better for everyone? And not how can I get the most of it for me, myself and I!
We have to take down the ego economy. Not but going back to old systems that have been proven wrong. As I see some people already thinking that I’ll suggest to go to a communist system. Not at all. Because even this system is based on the artificial or subjective value given to things.
I’m talking about something that would be revolutionary as it will help to value what is important in today’s world : not sharing goods with everyone, but doing things that will be valued because they benefit all and not a few. Doing things that will favor individual’s empowerment and a distribution of capabilities that will help the collective to grow.
Resources are limited. Thus the economy based on persistent and continuous consumption of goods will certainly lead to our final demise as we will run out of resources. Let’s be honest, most of the thing we buy are not really useful and do not bring anything to empower you and ease your way of living. These are just stuffs. Plastic non sense.
But we had to develop this in the current economy as for most of the people producing those stuffs were the only option to gain money in order to live or to survive for the least.
But what if it was considered that all the work done for others has a real value and gives you the ability to grow in life?
It’s indeed hard to imagine as we’ve grown up engrained with the idea that everything need to be marketed to have a value, the value being the correspondance of what you have with some arbitrary amount of money.
Yes, arbitrary. Let’s face it, markets are not rationals and are so influenced by people’s mindsets, biases or any other element that eventually even markets are delivering arbitrary value. It’s just that for decades we have all agreed on the fact that this arbitrary was the current standard.
So how do we do move to the next level of our evolution as a society? How do we reach the ability to apply this “why not”?
The first thing would be to disconnect the work that we do with the monetary value we give to it. on this the Universal Basic Income (UBI) that has become a new trend in public debates, could be a solution.
But as its name states, it has to be Universal hence applied globally. The positive outcome will be that states will no longer be able to make decision for the economy (i.e. the system dealing with human interactions) based on virtual limits or borders (more on this in our next article) but will have to envision the implications of their decision at a global level.
"By making sure everyone receives enough to live according a minimum standard, then we will be able to focus our work on what brings ability to people to empower themselves. "
By making sure everyone receives enough to live according a minimum standard, then we will be able to focus our work on what brings ability to people to empower themselves.
But this will not even be enough still.
The question is, on what can we rely on that will help the society to continue to grow (not materially but on a human level) while not impoverishing others or the planet we all live in.
What is the current element that is (and has always be) valuable to us and is the one that we can objectively define?
I believe energy is the key.
On a side note, look at all the science-fiction movies. You’ll see that most of them don’t mention any specific currencies.
A join-the-dot-and-draw-a-line attitude could say that in a prospective future the US dollar, the Euro, the Chinese Yuan could eventually rule the world. But no.
Most of the time, those movies are talking about “credits” or “units”. Of what? No one really knows.
But how about energy? How about considering that the work you do (at the office or at home or any organization…) produces energy beneficial to others? That when you save energy you’re actually gaining wealth?
"There could be a system created not only based on currency as we know them today, but as the level of energy we produce to benefit the common good, and the level of energy we avoid to waste for no reason."
There could be a system created not only based on currency as we know them today, but as the level of energy we produce to benefit the common good, and the level of energy we avoid to waste for no reason.
Not only this will be more realistic in terms of what we really produce on a daily basis but could help build an economy adapted to the challenge of today’s and tomorrow’s climate change.
This is just the beginning of the reflection and it’s all about challenging the idea to come up with something efficient and realistic.
But it seems to me that energy is a better and more appropriate way to describe the value of today’s world.
As it won’t be anymore about owning things with a fixed value but instead favoring experience and personal commitment for the common good. It won’t be about how much you own, but how much you contribute to create by educating, providing services, delivering useful goods …
Goods would have to be designed according to the least amount of energy they use otherwise they would be too expensive. This would call for energy saving apparels, avoid useless goods made out just to favor monetary consumptions…
It seems here that we could have a virtuous circle that could help build a more realistic and just world, oriented towards how to empower, grow and develop humanity and not about growing the wealth of a minority that for most of them take advantage of other’s misery to create and abuse of material goods that don’t help much to build a better world.
So how much energy you’re worth could be the new cool thing to say! Knowing that it wouldn’t be about high numbers but more about a balance or an index between what you’ve helped to produce and what you’ve helped to save.
On this, the index could deliver “units” or “credits” for you to get what you need even things you would “want” as there will not be much more goods of no use.
Energy is easy to measure, easy to scale and evaluate thus easy to build trust upon. We would then be able to what was at the basis of our old monetary system which, after centuries of good service, would be able to go to a well deserved retirement and leave the room for a system more convenient for the challenges that humanity is and will face.
So eventually, why don’t we try to start this conversation? Do we still want the current financial system to exist? Aren’t we willing to improve it? To change it? Or just to think about doing things differently… As usual, it’s all about asking the question : what if…?
For more on this global future conversations, contact us...