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Money is the foundational technology for human civilisation as we know it.
Some of our first written records describe monetary transactions in a ledger and, in fact, the very syntactic codes used to describe this commerce are at the base of human languages in use today.
This means money is a very old technology, but how old is it really? In truth, we have no way of knowing how old this technology is, because there are no written records that predate its existence.
No ancient civilisation existed before it.
Money can take many forms, from sea shells to spear heads, from salt to gold, from paper to computer code but there are no records that predate the idea of money.
We live in the information age now so it should be easy, today, to describe money using precise and immutable definitions, if not by drawing from our own experiences, then by looking it up online.
Strangely enough, not many of us can count on our formal educations as a source for this information. It’s almost as if the most important of human inventions is something we don’t need to fully understand or, perhaps, are better off not wanting to know at all.
Thinking of this makes me realise that there might be a good reason why, in most cultures, openly discussing money is a taboo, while at the same time acquiring external and often not so subtle displays of wealth is highly encouraged.
Rolex is the most trusted brand name in the world. BMW, Montblanc and Louis Vuitton are also highly sought after property.
Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Wikipedia or “Made in England” are also brands but they don’t seem to make it to the top of our trustworthiness scales, perhaps because they are not external signs of wealth.
Give me control of a nation’s money, and I care not who makes its laws.
In our society, money is power. Those with the most of one will come uppon a lot of the other. It is influence too, because money can buy anything and in fact you can’t buy anything without it.
Monarchs, bankers, and industrialists have traditionally been close to positions of power, even in mature democracies. Today technologists have the same or more money and power, and that can be scary to some.
So, before we discuss Bitcoin, we must first talk about our money. We need to understand currencies before we can understand cryptocurrencies and we need to understand coinage before we can understand mining.
The next time we discuss Bitcoin, we must be on the same page regarding the questions below:
- Where does money come from? Who makes it and who owns it?
- If I store money in a bank, am I making a loan to the bank or am I using their services to safeguard my own wealth?
- Is money a finite resource? If so, what role does scarcity play in inflation?
- Is all money the same? What are the design flaws in some currencies that make them worth less than others?
- What value does a currency hold? Can that value be held if the currency isn’t circulating?
- Is money the same as wealth or is it closer to a bond on public debt?
Until next time.