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January 21, 2013


Bud Byrd

Why not digital money? I consider myself a reasonably savvy member of the digital generation, though one at the long-in-the-tooth edge of that group. Early in my adult life, I was trained in electronics. I learned much of what some would view as the magic of electronic products, the possibilities of the mind-blowing achievements of the electronic age. Later, I learned a bit about software and software programming. Subsequently, education and experience branched me into the business and management aspects of our economy. During this life cycle, I have taken the opportunity to learn and better understand the interactions of people in business, in government and the community. I continue that pursuit.

While my background may not be the most authoritative, maybe not the best informed, what I have learned does provide me an intellectual base, though some biases from which to formulate and express opinions. Bottom line, my base of knowledge may lack depth and empirical standing, but why let that stop me from expressing my ignorance.

Mechanically speaking, I see no reason that digital money cannot be the boon to society that true believers believe it can be, that it will be. Our engineers, our business and financial people will make it functional. If we can make ATM's, money collecting and self-service gas pumps, communication between disparate and non-standardized hardware and software work, then we can make digital money do likewise. For the long run, the mechanics will be the easy part.

However, I am skeptical that the human side of digital money can be so easily solved. Granted credit cards, PayPal and other soft money applications have helped to set the stage for complete digitization of the money supply. For the highly sophisticated, digital money may be the answer. Unfortunately, the majority of the peoples of the world are not yet included in the highly sophisticated category.

I believe digitizing money will be decades in its realization, if ever. Having a few folding bills displaying the queen's picture, a deceased president, a hero of the republic, current pol's or others; the jingle-jangle of a few coins in the pocket; is so inbred in the masses as not to be easily displaced. Will, to signify a payment, a swift transfer of a few bits from my smart phone to yours overcome this millennia-old tradition of physical money? For the vast majority, I don't think so.

Who will teach the people? To reach pervasive digital money usage, interested parties must do more than make digital money mechanically possible. They must educate the world's population to accept and buy-in to the move. Otherwise, the all to easy flipping of the switch to digital money will bring chaos to the intertwined consumer, government, and business financial infrastructure of the world.

Michel Bauwens

Dear Irving, though not directly related to payments, here is a comprehensive synthesis of the various trends in the collaborative economy.

* Report: A Synthetic Overview of the Collaborative Economy. By Michel Bauwens, Nicolas Mendoza and Franco Iacomella, et al. Orange Labs and P2P Foundation, 2012.

http://p2pfoundation.net/Synthetic_Overview_of_the_Collaborative_Economy (summary)

Full text via http://p2p.coop/files/reports/collaborative-economy-2012.pdf

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