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Offline MH

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Money Culture
« on: July 13, 2017, 04:49:22 pm »
Money was invented in ancient Sumeria. 

It came up accidentally, and with drawing, math and writing in the form of cuneiform - a script that was created by using reads to make shapes in clay.  This is cuneiform:


It instantly performed a vital social function.  The fertile crescent of Iraq had a lot of characteristics that required a better form of commerce than trade and barter:

-Farming
-Iron traders from the east
-Coordination of irrigation was a task that needed coordination
-Artisans

Cuneiform allowed for people to sell their goods, and receive credit to buy goods - all recorded in a central location by the scribes on cuneiform tablets.  The scribes became government, bankers, religious folks all in short form which was an unintended consequence, but in the immediate term you got value from your surplus goods, and you could now *specialize* in one thing that you were good at.

Within a few decades city states of tens, hundreds of thousands sprang up.  Also religions, and recorded folklore including Gilgamesh who was the model for moses, and central banking as I said.  And war.

This was perhaps the third most important invention after the invention of sex, and language. 

More later.

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Offline the_squid

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2017, 04:52:57 pm »
Today I also used an ancient form of commerce; a personal cheque. 

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2017, 06:17:46 am »
The money you cashed from that cheque is the same money that was in circulation in early Sumeria.  The city-state that came from the invention of money is essentially the same society we have today.

All of the ills that we lament today are rooted in this particular type of social organization: isolation, alienation, wealth disparity were issues that came from this system.  Human history is a history of us inventing things to make things better, then causing a bunch of other problems that need to be solved.  So we got money, wealth, surplus, government, written culture, formal education, mathematics and accounting, laws and religion as artifacts of the problem and the solution.

These tools consolidated and codified elements of human nature in a way that made sense, and provided collective and individual power.  The power of the technology meant that aspects of humanity (eg. conflict, greed, need for power) were now multiplied in their potential scope (eg. large scale war, hoarding of wealth, despotism and control over masses) and required new solutions from the new tools (eg. laws diplomacy, taxation and welfare, politics).

The relationship between the technology that is money and the human spirit is informative as to how we as humans operate: we want to understand and control the universe in ways that make sense to our brains.

For example, accounting, counting and mathematics are often thought of as reality but it is in fact an entirely human philosophy and way of thinking of the world that is only an approximation to reality.  This is why accounting makes more sense (3 apples cost $3) than pure mathematics (pi not being a real number, zero divided by zero making no sense) and than physics (inability to measure things, Newtonian vs. Einsteinian physics)

Now in the digital age, including digital money, we are creating the next step to reject the actual universe and create our own universe that suits us better.  This is the clearest indication of where we want to go, ultimately, but I am getting ahead of myself.




Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2017, 08:20:46 am »
By strange coincidence - this podcast showed up on my player today.  A Radiolab piece about the birth of a new digital currency:

http://www.radiolab.org/story/ceremony/

1/2 way through, and it's worth the listen.  The important feature of the new currency is its *privacy*, which is a very interesting human angle upon which to study all human communication technology, which of course money is.  The first money was not private, but when you get to coinage, then coinage with central banking, then digital money you find that money has been designed more and more to protect those who have a lot of it.

Privacy is a protection against theft or taxation by hiding wealth from public eyes.

Offline the_squid

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2017, 12:38:45 pm »
Sweden is seriously contemplating getting rid of cash.  How will paranoid crazies buy things if their every movement can be tracked by their purchases??

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #5 on: July 14, 2017, 01:53:02 pm »
How liberating to be financially ****.  People can be embarrassed for their nakedness, but the real embarrassment will be one of riches.

Offline BC_cheque

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #6 on: July 14, 2017, 03:11:04 pm »
The relationship between the technology that is money and the human spirit is informative as to how we as humans operate: we want to understand and control the universe in ways that make sense to our brains.

For example, accounting, counting and mathematics are often thought of as reality but it is in fact an entirely human philosophy and way of thinking of the world that is only an approximation to reality.  This is why accounting makes more sense (3 apples cost $3) than pure mathematics (pi not being a real number, zero divided by zero making no sense) and than physics (inability to measure things, Newtonian vs. Einsteinian physics)

Now in the digital age, including digital money, we are creating the next step to reject the actual universe and create our own universe that suits us better.  This is the clearest indication of where we want to go, ultimately, but I am getting ahead of myself.

I really like the way you presented it because it has so much meaning in my life. 

People assume that I must be good at math, or I must like it, to go into accounting, but truthfully, I don't like math at all even though I love numbers.  I just like keeping track of anything that can be measured, even in my personal life.   

On the other hand, my dad, a retired chartered accountant, went into accounting as a means to earn a living but he loves math and was also a math professor.  Even now that he's losing a lot of his cognitive abilities to dementia, he is a walking calculator and can do complex math problems in his head. 

The two are very different and don't always go hand in hand even though many people make the assumption that they do.

But I digress.  I'm not sure what you mean in that second paragraph, money will always remain concrete.  It may become digital and end up in a virtual database instead of in someone's pocket or under their mattress, but it's still tangible and always will be.

What do you mean exactly, you think money will transcend the accounting level and go into a mathematics level of understanding?

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2017, 08:04:07 am »
I really like the way you presented it because it has so much meaning in my life. 

I'm really glad you like it.

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People assume that I must be good at math, or I must like it, to go into accounting, but truthfully, I don't like math at all even though I love numbers.  I just like keeping track of anything that can be measured, even in my personal life.

In Sumeria, you would have been a scribe.  This was a skill that rose in importance as the new visual/spatial written culture emerged.  I am like you in this regard.  I don't know what we would have done in hunter/gatherer or agricultural societies.  I suspect our skills wouldn't have been as applicable.

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On the other hand, my dad, a retired chartered accountant, went into accounting as a means to earn a living but he loves math and was also a math professor.  Even now that he's losing a lot of his cognitive abilities to dementia, he is a walking calculator and can do complex math problems in his head. 

The two are very different and don't always go hand in hand even though many people make the assumption that they do.

I went to school for Mathematics.

The mathematicians were, like me, a type: the classic 'nerd' type.  These are my people.  But the most brilliant mathematicians were not like that.  Some were like artists, some were beautiful women who could have been models, some were athletes.  They would blend in with a room of people and not appear as nerds.


My journey included getting a math degree, going into computer programming and then management.

Along the way I went to acting school and earned a diploma in that.  I draw from my math and computer background as well as my acting in management.  People think of acting as performing, but that is only half of it.  The other half of acting is listening and being aware of your scene mates.  That's the chief aspect of acting that I use in management.

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But I digress.  I'm not sure what you mean in that second paragraph, money will always remain concrete.  It may become digital and end up in a virtual database instead of in someone's pocket or under their mattress, but it's still tangible and always will be.

You have made a mistake.  'Tangible' by definition means you can touch it and you can't touch digital money.  The first money, written on stone tablets, was visual only.  Coinage gave you money you could feel in your hand.  Central banking started during the Renaissance I understand, and that was the first virtual money.  I can touch my computer screen but $0 feels the same as $1.

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What do you mean exactly, you think money will transcend the accounting level and go into a mathematics level of understanding?

I'm not sure which statement of mine you refer to, but money like all technology will change.  It will become virtual, that's not hard to see, but I can see it disappearing in the long term as the goods that we all need to live will become more easy to come by.

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2017, 09:06:07 am »
I'm writing this extemporaneously, but the shape of my exploration here is to use the McLuhan perspective on media to look at the relationship between the technology of money.

McLuhan stressed that analysis of media shouldn't emphasize the content.  In other words, when analyzing television, the printing press, etc., the "content" of the medium (the programs, what is written in books) is not as significant.  The real effects come from the medium itself ("The Medium is the Message") that is to say the network (eg. point to point instantaneous communication, mechanical mass distribution of written ideas).  The content necessarily follows the medium. 

Each medium develops its own content which develops through its own lifecycle.  Vaudeville didn't work on television, sitcoms wouldn't work as novels, internet memes wouldn't have worked in magazines, network television of the early 1960s aped newspapers, then begat a galaxy of channels which expanded the network and allowed for a wider spectrum of opinion.

People didn't start "getting angry" on television cable news.  The infrastructure changed and demanded a wider spectrum of opinion and forms of expression.

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Money Content

Channelling McLuhan, the content of money is 'work'.  And perhaps the content of work, is motivation. I have never found a more resonant model for motivation than the classic theory proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper "A Theory of Human Motivation" in Psychological Review.   I learned it decades ago in Psychology 101:




Money, The Medium

The medium of money is the system that makes exchange, counting, accumulation of work possible.  So money is an extension of human striving and motivation that is translated into a system that is widely used and trusted.   On a basic level, motivation begets work, which begets money.   

Human striving and needs are translated into a cold, numeric, socially accepted, translate-able language.  The five dollars I earned looking at a spreadsheet for five minutes is traded for my McDonald's coffee, which goes to someone who slaved over a hot griddle for half an hour. 
 
--------

Money Talks

A discussion about wealth, prosperity and the historical evolution of these things with respect to money technology, work and our individual and collective motivations could be exhaustive.  It may still be interesting and worthwhile.  I won't be interested in the political aspects, though, as that to me is almost like a 'content' discussion that ignores the larger forces at play.

For example, the industrial revolution begat great disparity, which begat the left/right divide that we all still fight about today.  It is a matter of history that this happened.  Globalization, banking, automation brought great change, revolution and then adjustment.  Those clashes are interesting and informative in that they led to the more balanced and static world of the later 20th century, which led us to today.  But they are also old fights.

If you read Marx, the human side of his argument is a great moral plea for fairness while the economic side is tied, again, to the technology of the day: factories and industry.   So arguing right/left economics is what McLuhan called rear-view mirror perspective.  Looking too much at the past, and not the present.  Arguing right/left morality goes nowhere.  Old fights.

It's more interesting to me if we look at aspects of the cultural views on work (work as a curse, the Protestant work ethic) and look at how these old ideas are still with us, or which ones are wearing thin.  And how we might bridge to the new money and the new world of work.

And as the technology of money pulls nations and cultures closer, our individual and group goals and values will necessarily clash.  We are now more susceptible to economic problems on the other side of the world, for example.  But it's too easy to say that we will inevitably end up rationalizing differences, with a few bumps such as isolationism.  There is more to consider, and much of interest to talk about.

“Money talks” because money is a metaphor, a transfer, and a bridge. Like words and language, money is a storehouse of communally achieved work, skill, and experience. Money, however, is also a specialist technology like writing; and as writing intensifies the visual aspect of speech and order, and as the clock visually separates time from space, so money separates work from the other social functions. Even today money is a language for translating the work of the farmer into the work of the barber, doctor, engineer, or plumber. As a vast social metaphor, bridge, or translator, money—like writing—speeds up exchange and tightens the bonds of interdependence in any community. It gives great spatial expansion and control to political organizations, just as writing does, or the calendar. – McLuhan "Understanding Media", Ch. 14

Offline BC_cheque

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2017, 01:15:42 pm »
You have made a mistake.  'Tangible' by definition means you can touch it and you can't touch digital money.  The first money, written on stone tablets, was visual only.  Coinage gave you money you could feel in your hand.  Central banking started during the Renaissance I understand, and that was the first virtual money.  I can touch my computer screen but $0 feels the same as $1.

I'm not sure which statement of mine you refer to, but money like all technology will change.  It will become virtual, that's not hard to see, but I can see it disappearing in the long term as the goods that we all need to live will become more easy to come by.

True, tangible in the literal sense of the word, was not the correct word to use.  What I meant by tangible was in context of what you said earlier for accounting vs. math where the former is perceivable (how I used tangible) and the latter, like pi, which is abstract.

Money has been virtual for quite some time now in the digital age, but I was arguing that it will always be measured in a way that is perceivable:  rounded to the nearest whole number, or at the maximum, 2 decimal places. 

The marketable securities of any given entity, be they a person, a bank, or a country, will always be measured using the accounting method and I can't perceive a future where money ever becomes abstract in the mathematical sense.

In that it will disappear all together from a format where we can physically touch it, I agree.  You had a thread on MLW about it as well and I don't see much of a use for it 50 years from now. 

Right now the only two purposes cash serves are 1) anything to do with black market and it will be a gain for society to abolish it and 2) people's spending habits which will have no choice but to adapt and change. 

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2017, 04:37:55 pm »
True, tangible in the literal sense of the word, was not the correct word to use. 

There's no incorrect here... I just want to explore ideas not debate or conflict.  Any chiding is done with the clink of a glass.

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What I meant by tangible was in context of what you said earlier for accounting vs. math where the former is perceivable (how I used tangible) and the latter, like pi, which is abstract.

Oh I see what you mean.  Well, you're taking this in a weird direction but I like it: when money becomes virtual I will definitely be able to charge you .1 cents for something, or .01 cents.  Why not pi cents ?

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Money has been virtual for quite some time now in the digital age, but I was arguing that it will always be measured in a way that is perceivable:  rounded to the nearest whole number, or at the maximum, 2 decimal places. 
  Even then... the more money there is the easier it will be to lose pennies... which is the end of a number system that is "real".  (That's a math term too)

But will it be real ?


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The marketable securities of any given entity, be they a person, a bank, or a country, will always be measured using the accounting method and I can't perceive a future where money ever becomes abstract in the mathematical sense.

What about activity based costing ?  Ever use that ?

I actually agree with you but I am testing your theory.
 

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2017, 06:29:41 am »
Think about this again, BC:

I feel like money, which is now an international digital language is indeed "measured in a way that is perceivable".  But those with more knowledge of the digital language may have a deeper "vocabulary", maybe to stretch the metaphor. 

But the translation is more universal than language, so the perception is complete, unlike words.  Words can be lost in translation or even in the same language.  We used to fight about the term 'deviant behaviour' with regards to homosexuality on MLW due the ambiguity of the english words.
 
Digital money is also lightning fast compared to paper money.  "Language is a virus" is a concept made famous by Laurie Anderson, the avant-garde musician (and wife of the late Lou Reed incidentally).  The idea seems to come from a novel by William S. Burroughs.  The idea seemed like nonsense at the time, or at least loopy artist-speak.  But artists perceive the future in amazing ways, even inadvertently.

And we should talk about the digital money virus next.

Offline BC_cheque

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2017, 03:29:39 pm »
Now you're combining all my passions into one. 

I studied linguistics and literature during my undergrad, I speak three languages and when I went into accounting, I said I'm learning my fourth language - the language of business.  On my bucket list is to learn coding, or my fifth language, the language of computers.

Language is indeed a virus.  The postmodernist approach to language and the arts has always resonated with me in that meaning is subjective, therefore fallible. 

However, I don't think digital money would ever be a virus in the same sense that the spoken language because it's still based on mathematical concepts and objectivity. 

Spoken language is fallible because it relies on subjective interpretation of those words.  JMT's thread on the N word is a good example of subjectivity and language.

Money will never have the same constraints.

As for activity based costing, sure, it relies on estimates and interpretation but in accounting estimates can be reviewed and changed prospectively without jeopardizing the integrity of the data in previous periods.

Estimates are more fallible but they still are calculated with a conceivable amount rounded to a whole number (or within 2 decimal points).

I would say they withstand the same universality of understanding.

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2017, 03:58:15 pm »
I agree with everything you wrote.  Money is kind of a virus, though, in that it spreads like a contagion... quickly.

They found a Norse coin, I think, buried in the dirt in Maine which seems to have predated white settlers.  Somebody traded for it, or stole it.  In any case, European money got here before people.  Globalization !

Offline MH

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Re: Money Culture
« Reply #14 on: July 17, 2017, 06:12:47 am »

So, if we talk about money as a virus what do we mean ?  I'm talking about how money moves around the world, how it spreads.

As soon as you get to a place where the lower items on the Maslow Hierarchy (MH) are largely met, you have surplus.  So individuals and society start using money to satisfy needs that are higher up the scale.  The creation of money created centralized power, that could authorize bigger projects like the pharaohs building the pyramids, the chiefs of Easter Island creating giant heads. 

And then, as money went from coinage to central banking and accounts you could have non-elite individuals (ie. not the king) accumulating wealth based on their abilities.  And with the permission from the Church for investment and lending, you end up with corporations and venture capital.  We start to witness the magical force of stored work, sitting in bank accounts or even in 'virtual' form (through fractional reserve banking), being freed up and giving individuals a means of living.

We also witness economic collapse of industries, slavery, and of course continuous war through this period.

Capital ventures invested in shipping and trade, and eventually led to great wealth that challenged the established order.  New investments created returns through globalization (colonization) and automation with the steam engine and machines.  Markets, capital, trade and labour all poured over borders.  By the 1980s computers allowed this process to speed up, reaching the speed of light. 

This takes us where we are today.  Countries clamour for foreign investment, migration of labour and capital continues to increase, and as countries start to disappear the politics struggles to catch up.  It seems to me that countries are now closer than they have ever been as they negotiate and deal for capital.