Michele Visciola is a partner of Experientia, but is contributing these ideas as his personal contribution to the project.
I have some thoughts that I want to share with you after having read yours:
I believe that we will never get rid of money. Be realistic! Forget about virtual currency. We will keep living in the physical world in 2015. So let’s be real. A world with no currency would simply mean that we are regressing to a post-future era. A world without a reliable currency would mean the end of the history for all humanity. That has already been forecast several times; however, luckily enough, we are still debating about the future and I hope that in 2015 we will still be here armed with the willingness and desire to understand how to best deal with current challenges. Further, I also believe that we can easily imagine a world with one unique currency valid for everybody; but that would also imply an unrealistic scenario: a world where differences (such as origin, genre, class, education) have disappeared for ever and people can – e.g. - have the same opportunities everywhere, regardless of local economies. I am not a pessimistic guy, however I feel that achievements like this are out of reach for the next several decades.
I also believe that the main challenges we have to deal with today are dependent on two main tenets which are deep-rooted in our culture: first of all, our faith in limitless growth and, second, the regulations that allow the accumulation of unlimited resources in the hands of few, with no care for our general wellbeing. In western-like economies, we generally consume resources up to 9 times our capability to produce goods and new resources within the same timeframe. In fact, we consume vast amounts of energy to produce our goods and we throw things away even before the end of the normal life cycle they were designed for. We look at the future with no parsimony. We envisage an expanded future. We imagine our future to always contain more and more. To make that possible the legislators need to deregulate access to resources, and often completely obscure any reference to reality and to the wisdom of the past.
[This graphic is built through http://manyeyes.alphaworks.ibm.com/manyeyes/ service and property of IBM.]
I very much like the idea that we as individuals act under the pressure of three kinds of forces: the social, the political and the financial. However, we need to be aware that at this precise moment the social and political forces are subordinate to financial power and its forces. I believe that this is mainly because financial power has been able to embody and enact the 2 tenets I was referring to above. It has done so with perseverance and persistency. Financial power has shown no limit in its fantasy and has been able to literally invent unlimited wealth, even if only virtual. These virtual riches are in the hands of few, their creators, and can literally destroy any social or political resistance to counteract or simply control them. What is worse, they can completely obfuscate any reference to the production of goods and services and further put at risk the reality of many innocent savers and other citizens.
We do not suffer a clash of currencies; indeed we are suffering a clash of risk cultures (Ulrich Beck – Conditio Humana). The creators of virtual wealth do not have the same risk culture that is at the basis of individual behavior. In fact, we as individuals are limited; our rationality is bounded, our actions are contextual and therefore restricted by the boundaries of the social and physical contexts. We make our decisions trying to reduce the amount of possible bad consequences. We do not behave to maximize our potential gains. Our behavior is fit only when it shows a clear understanding of the constraints of the situations we live in. We are normally able to assess the possible outcomes of our decisions and also determine to what extent we want to act riskily. In a virtual financial world there are no more physical (goods), nor social (rules) constraints. As a consequence, the related culture of risk will easily consider any perceived limitation as a barrier to the immediate profit of the few manipulators of huge flows of virtual cash.
So let me jump to the conclusions of my few observations: I feel that there is an urgency to reduce the power of financial forces. Will that be possible by making the manipulation of values through digital currencies more transparent? For instance, is there any opportunity to reduce the mediator role of financial institutions? How can digital currency improve the perception of artificial richness and make it vanish as soon as one institution or few individuals accumulate more than is physically conceivable?
I also believe that we need to put our faith in the limitless growth of our resources and values under serious scrutiny. How might digital currency limit the greed of the homo economicus? Is there something that we can imagine as a future scenario in which social pressure and forces get financial power into the right perspective? How can the creation of commons incrementally expand the number of people who can have access to produced values? What are the new services that might consistently increase our capability to improve our wealth without destroying values?