In April 2008, Jean-François Noubel gave a talk on the Future of Money in Paris. If you understand French, are not familiar with money and want to sit and relax and learn about it, I highly recommend watching this video. I hope this will be eye-opening for you.
For non-French speakers and those already familiar with money, I want to share some of my notes as I think J-F Noubel found excellent metaphors to explain complex concepts:
- Money is an invisible architecture. An architecture is something human designed that defines the rules on how the components of a system relate to accomplish the system’s purpose. Inevitably in software development, the architecture of the system influences how software developers contribute to the system, leading them to good and poor division of work and determining speed of development, maintenance and execution. A monetary system is very similar to a software architecture in the sense that a monetary system is fundamentally an information system, which relate to establishing value and tracking exchanges, with very precise rules defined and refined over time by humans. It is invisible because we’ve got so familiar with it that it’s like air we breathe.
- Our current monetary system is like the Monopoly game: there are only losers. Just like the game of Monopoly and many natural phenomenon, our monetary system obeys the Pareto law of self-aggregation: 20% of the population own 80% of the wealth, 250 individuals own 60% of the World’s wealth. This is because money attracts money: the more you have it, the easier it is to make more. Just like in Monopoly the winner takes it all, and as a result cannot play with the other players who lost, so he lost as well. Just like we could change the rules of Monopoly to make it impossible for a winner to take it all, we could change the rules of our monetary system to make sure distribution of wealth is more equal.
- Money is like water, and the money system is like an irrigation system in a garden. You don’t want your water to end up in one spot, but distribute it equitably in the way that maximizes the fruits, beauty, diversity and long-term health of your garden. This metaphor is particularly relevant as “currency” comes from current, so etymologically money is the thing that flows between us.
- Money influences our culture (society) just like water influences our culture (garden). Our current monetary system forces us into competition and extreme optimization of processes making our overall society less resilient to shocks. No only do we depend more than ever on each other, but as we optimize we end up in a monoculture. It’s like having one giant field of genetically modified corn, instead of a lot of small fields, each with a different variety. Not optimized, but much more resilient to a pandemic.
Here is a link I found where some of these metaphors are also discussed.