I have a tendency to not share the views and opinions of the people around me. I get baffled somewhat regularly by people’s laconic reaction to things I find rather odd. Likewise, I can express views I considered normal or even logical that are not at all shared by others. And I don’t mean some others, but pretty consistently all others.
Side note: ‘all’ in this context, obviously, means ‘all’ the people in the room; which may be a pretty large room, but not necessarily many people. My sample sizes are indeed small, but I don’t get out much, so I have an excuse.
Now most of these views and thoughts are irrelevant or have little impact in actual daily life. Just things that nag my mind and make me re-evaluate my views on things, which I like doing.
One of the more impacting matters however, is this seemingly shared common goal of having a lot of money. Luckily this is not one of those topics that I seem to have a unique opinion about; there are others who share my thoughts to one degree or another.
Yet still, the majority of people seem to be motivated to “Get rich.”
As stated earlier, these things get me thinking: Why is it, that so relatively many people I talk to all agree on this? Why don’t I? Am I ‘just weird?’ Or is there something behind this?
After quite some thought I started to speculate that, to these people, money means security and that more money means more security. Security for their personal well being and the well being of those they care for. The sense of security you get when knowing that if things go bad all of a sudden, you can still pay for all the things you need to. Meaning large people with larger arms won’t come by your residence to ask difficult questions.
It fits with my personal model of human behaviour. A model I’ve started to develop more out of necessity than anything else. But also, it makes sense in a more ‘hunters and gatherers’ perspective. Moreover, I believe it ties in nicely with “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. Now, I’m not an academic, not claiming to be one either. I’m just a hobbyist thinker, though I am not naive enough to expect the actual academics to not wanting to have a word with me about my lacking understanding. Perhaps I’m going about this all wrong, but for the time being, it makes sense to me.
What matters perhaps more, is whether our concept of money is useful for the growth and prosperity of the group as a whole, which I am –somewhat reluctantly– part of. I assume most of have heard of the phrase: “Money is the root of all evil.” and complementary: “Money makes the world go round.” So inevitably I get to the question: Is money, or more globally: “currency”, a required product for group happiness and productiveness, or must it be eliminated at some point for civil prosperity to happen?
Simply said; Is it helping us get better or keeping us down?
My current view on the matter is relatively simple: ‘Money is a redundant method of exchanging energy’, though this is a little too abstract a statement to use in normal conversation. And yes, I can speak from experience. So let me try to explain: I consider time, money, effort, information, space, etc, to be equivalent to energy. It takes a certain amount of energy to get some job done.
If you know how and have the materials, you can put mostly time and effort into doing it yourself, thus saving you money.
If you have the time and the money, but lack the know-how and materials, you can use money and time to pay for the raw costs of buying the materials and spend time on learning how to do it. Remember that there might be a need to also spend money on getting the information needed to learn how to finish your project.
Side note: One could even find a reasonable argument here for the statements; “Knowledge is power” and “Money is power” hence ‘Knowledge is money’?
Currency in this way becomes yet another measuring unit. A unit used to measure the size of one’s respective slice of the general pie. Because the people you hired to finish your project cannot spend their time twice on their own projects. You need to convince them that your project is ‘worth’ more, either through well-argued discussion (or just yelling, which is usually a lot faster) or simply by paying more. It, in effect, allows people to vote with their wallet on the things that we deem necessary, important, or just like to see happen.
People get to direct the combined time and effort we as a civilisation spend on the things we collectively find important. Just look at how fast computer hardware has been able to move from $1500.- for 256 MB of hard-drive space that took up as much space as a small refrigerator and in less than 20 years, we can buy 16000 MB on a flash-drive for 12 dollars. People globally wanted this, perhaps even needed this. If we want it badly enough, we will get it done collectively.
I see this pattern again when I look at mechanics like ‘Kickstarter’ or ‘Patreon’, which shows a rather literal approach to voting with your wallet.
Money, however, is abstract. It allows fiddling and tampering. People can cheat and scam, swindle and exploit. With current day technology recording every move one makes, and all the effort one exerts, we no longer need the unit to measure a collective value. People can read the actual figures. One no longer ‘earns’ money to trade other people’s time and effort in abstract ratios. One can actually trade and barter with their recorded time and effort. And because it concerns the actual work, it is easily tested, because it either shows the expected results –albeit not always directly– or it doesn’t.
For the records: I am very much aware of how foolishly idealistic it may appear when I state that people will give up money just because they have information, but is that an argument to invalidate the statement? I’m not sure how people react when they get to see exactly what the person was doing that they pay to do something. Assuming the paying person even looks in the first place and cares enough to do something about it of course.
So when John spends a large amount of his time and effort into fixing Fred’s motorcycle, Fred can just see how much time and effort he saved himself! It is not just on a 1:1 ratio either, because John is more knowledgeable about fixing motorcycles and has more experience in doing so; John is simply several times faster than Fred. In the meantime, Fred was able to use his saved time and effort on ending world hunger or shark wrestling, or whatever Fred is really good at. The only exclusive use I see currency having at this moment, is an abstract method of determining your contribution to the world’s progress and fulfilment. But if information becomes this easy to obtain, I doubt it will be necessary for much longer.
This is the direction of what I consider a planetary civilisation. Where we are all on-board and we all decide.
Possibly for the better, probably for the worst.