Beyond a Monetary Society

Much of my coffee shop musing today was about this. What does the future of currency look like? Not just in terms of monetary policy but the actual meaning of money itself and its intrinsic nature.

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Buckminster Fuller began to see this 50+ years ago:

Every time man makes a new experiment he always learns more. He cannot learn less.He may learn that what he thought was true was not true. By the elimination of a false premise, his basic capital wealth which in his given lifetime is disembarrassed of further preoccupation with considerations of how to employ a worthless time-consuming hypothesis. Freeing his time for its more effective exploratory investment is to give man increased wealth.

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In my own lens I see a lot of time and energy of programmers, designers, and testers dedicated to creating open source software. Many times with very little or no expectation of direct financial compensation. This extends to editors of Wikipedia, photographers who put their photos in the public domain for free, and anything around licensing in the creative commons. Is more and more work being done, just for the sake of benefiting society and human knowledge, without monetary compensation?

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There is a lot of discussion out there about alternatives to our current monetary structure, including alternative currencies for the digital age, e.g. bitcoin. Most centre around who controls the money supply: government, banks, or some alternative. Much of it in terms of debt, loan, and interest. But there seems to be very little in terms of our base meaning of money. Currently the concept of money is as a measure of wealth and productivity and debt is conceptually money measured against future productivity. Is the intrinsic nature of currency outmoded with respect to where humanity might see itself in the next quarter century?

I did a quick academic search and found very little outside-the-box in terms of ideas but nothing concrete came up.

The big questions I have:

  1. Can we develop a system that sees the basics of necessity covered: shelter, food, water, and healthcare, for everyone, yet maintains the motivation for an entrepreneurial capitalism?
  2. What happens when our automation technology becomes vastly superior to human effort (i.e. artificial intelligence, robotics)?
  3. Are we headed for a post-industrial neo-Malthusian trap?
  4. Is there a solution to this in a new monetary system?

#1 looks a lot like socialism, without the traps of socialism (or communism). Maybe a more sufficiently educated society can work with a greater socialistic view. In society where the majority values creative effort and innovation above wealth, does this idea now become a possibility?

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living.It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

Before we hit #3, there is a lot that can be done. Education reform to prepare people for the Shifting Work; from producers to thinkers; from routine work to innovative work.

There will come a time when the proper education of children, by a glorified system of spontaneous education of choice, similar to the Montessori System, will be made possible. Children, as well as grown-ups, in their individual, glorified, drudgery-proof homes of Labrador, the tropics, the Orient, or where you will, to which they can pass with pleasure and expedition by means of ever-improving transportation, will be able to tune in their television and radio to the moving picture lecture of, let us say, President Lowell of Harvard; the professor of Mathematics of Oxford; of the doctor of Indian antiquities of Delhi, etc. Education by choice, with its marvellous motivating psychology of desire for truth, will make life ever cleaner and happier, more rhythmical and artistic.

My intuition tells me making life multi-planetary (e.g. Moon, Mars, and beyond) could go a long way in creating an economic boom. Such expansions in human history have resulted in prosperities, avoiding the Malthusian Trap.

I do have faith in the adaptability and creativity of human-kind. But with a view of the revolutions in history, without a conscious progression away from the compounding problems of society, we could see it all break down before it is rebuilt. Predictions of World War III have always assumed a nuclear obliteration. I have recently begun to think that World War III is more likely to be a cascading fall of governments, internal revolutions, and civil war on a global basis.

It seemed that the time would come evolutionarily when humans might have acquired enough knowledge of generalized principles to permit a graduation from class-two (entropically selfish) evolution into class-one (syntropically cooperative) evolution, thereafter making all the right moves for all the right reasons.

Enough musing for today.


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