In Andrew Niccol (Gattaca) latest dystopian science-fiction movie “In Time”, money is time, quite literally: money is measured in seconds, minutes, hours, centuries and beyond 25, people need to earn and buy themselves time, every minute of their life, or die in an instant.

A very privileged few have enough to buy themselves immortality.

Will Salas: Quality time… There really is a man with a million years.

Philipe Weis: It’s my first million. It won’t be my last.

Will Salas: You know how much good it could do?

Philip Weis: I know how much harm it could do.

Philip Weis: Even if you give a year to a million people, you are just prolonging their agony.

Sylvia Weis: We are prolonging their lives.

Philip Weis: Flooding the wrong zone with a million years, it could cripple the system.

Will Salas: Let’s hope so.

Sylvia Weis: We are not meant to live like this, we are not meant to live forever. Although I do wonder, father, if you’ve ever lived a day in your life.

Philip Weis: Is that so? You might upset the balance for a generation or two, but don’t fool yourself, in the end nothing will change. Because everyone wants to live forever. They all think they have a chance at immortality even though all the evidence is against it. They all think they will be the exception but the truth is for a few to be immortal many must die.

Will Salas: No one should be immortal even if one person has to die.

In Time (2011)

Without having to go in a far and dark future, the connections between money and life or death are many.

  • If wealth is what sustains life, in our industrial society, money is pretty much the only way to access wealth and survive.
  • Moreover, money is already a way to prolong life. It can’t prolong it forever, but it can significantly increase the probability of a longer life.
  • Money is also a way for us to at least convince ourselves that we can conquer death by minimizing its unavoidable effects. In the past, the belief was that giving to the clergy would buy yourself a ticket to paradise “what you give in this life will be returned to you to a thousand times in paradise”. Nowadays, the belief is that the state can maintain and ever growing set of public services as well as keep financial markets stable enough that our financial life insurance products can be relied upon to provide for our loved ones in the event we die.
  • Modern money itself is backed by the sovereign’s ability to force us to accept coins, pieces of paper and bits in exchanged for real wealth, including labor and sometimes life itself. Ultimately this force comes from the legitimate use of the threat of death.
  • Last, money like death, is something that our society tries to hide. We no longer use envelopes to wrap dirty cash, and don’t even need to pay with a cold, business card-like plastic card, we can just say hi and act as if what we just ordered we got for free. Death is just like that, something terrible that no one should talk about anywhere, as if it’d never happened, and instead revere youth.

What this intimate connection between money and life/death mean is that while there may be a bright future for all kinds of new currencies, there is still also a bright future for currencies that can truly guarantee you a future, and in some case help you overcome death.

These currencies will likely place a particular focus on:

  • privacy: few people other than ourselves will know, and it will not be used for daily transactions.
  • security: they will be very difficult to misappropriate.
  • high trust: they will rely on a framework that we know will survive us well after we are gone.
  • redeem-ability for goods and services that can keep you safe from harm, save your life or simply help prolong it.

For instance: healthcare savings account + life insurance policy + access to a large network of healthcare, fitness, safety/security services.