The Future of Money

future_money4The good people over at Envisioning Technology – the independent research organization based on Brazil – have produced yet another intriguing infographic. As some of you may recall, whenever ET has released a new inforgraphic, I’ve been right there to post about it. So far, they have produced graphics addressing the future of Technology, Education, Health, and Finance.

There latest graphic is similarly significant and addresses the future of something that concerns and effects us all: money. Entitled “The Past, Present and Future of Money”, this graph looks at the trends affecting the buying, selling and investment patterns of people over time, contrasting three trends that are interwoven and have moved between centralized, decentralized, and distributed monetary systems.

future_money1In this scenario, centralized tendencies refer to networks where the nodes are connected through dense centers (aka. urban environments), which rely on hierarchically structures institutions (i.e. banks) and require legal tender (physical money). This sort of system relies on an ordered distribution of power, one that generally favor the connected few, and which emerged with the advent of modern industrial civilization.

Decentralized tendencies are those which are based on networks where nodes connect in clusters, that have irregular distributions of power, and favor the selected individual. As the graph shows, these types of networks predate centralized networks, taking the form of bartering and commodities in earliest times, but which have emerged yet again in the modern era and are predicted to continue to grow.

PrintExamples of current and future trends here include crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, banking APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), microfinance, and collaborative consumptions – where access is developed so that consumers can lend, swap, barter, share, and gift products. Whereas this model predates centralized tendencies, it is once again emerging with decentralizing potential of digital technology and open-source databases.

In the third and final method, one which is emerging, is the distributed network of money. These are networks where nodes connect independently, where power is distributed horizontally, and which favor the entire network. This trend began as a result of global real-time communications (i.e. the internet, satellite communications, etc.), and which are expected to expand.

future_money2Combining the concepts of attention economies, digital currencies, peer-to-peer communications, and digital wallets, the essence of this final stage is a network economy that is controlled by individuals, not financial institutions or corporations. In addition, currencies are based shared belief in their value, transactions occur between individuals, and physical currencies are replaced by digital ones.

Other trends that are incorporated and cross-referenced into this infographic include global population versus the number of people per capita who have online access. As it stands, less than half the world’s 7 billion people currently have access to the internet, and are hence able to take part in the decentralizing and distributed trends affecting money. However, the infographic predicts that by 2063, nearly 90% of the world’s 10 billion people will be online.

future_money_bitcoinLike many predictions that I’ve come to know and respect, this latest infographic from ET gives us a glimpse of a future where a Distributed model of politics, economics and technological development – otherwise known as Democratic Anarchy – will be the norm. It’s an exciting possibility, and places history in a new and interesting light. In short, it makes one reconsider the possibility that true socialism might exist.

While this was crudely predicted by Karl Marx, the basic concept is quite intriguing when considered in the context of current trends. What’s more, subsequent thinkers – Max Weber, Proudhon, Gramsci and George Orwell – refined and expressed the principle more eloquently. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the Goldstein Manifesto in 1984, where Orwell addressed how the process of industrial civilization was making class distinction virtually unnecessary.

the_future_of_money_timelineSource: envisioning.io/money/

Envisioning Emerging Technology

Where are we headed when it comes to technology? Which fields will advance before others? When will certain devices and tools be available? How long before we can expect things like flying cars, interactive holograms, space travel, and intelligent robots? These are the questions currently being addressed by Envisioning Technology and its founder, Mitchell Zappa.

The purpose is pretty straightforward: by examining the wider context, one can see not only where technology is going in the near future, but how developments in one field will stimulate others. Once we have a better understanding of what lies ahead, according to Zappa, we can make better decisions of what to create today.

To illustrate this, ET has prepared a helpful interactive infographic, one which allows users to hover over an item and see a detailed description. The target dates range from 2012 to 2040, beginning with tablets and cloud computing and culminating in the development of Avatars, Space Elevators, and AIs. Some additional predictions include:

  • 2018: Self-driving cars
  • 2019: Space tourism
  • 2026: Domestic robots
  • 2030: Blood-powered displays embedded into human skin
  • 2033: Remote presence
  • 2035: Human missions to Mars
  • 2035: Thorium reactors
  • 2036: Space elevators
  • 2036: Climate engineering
  • 2037: Anti-aging drugs
  • 2039: Nanotechnology utility fogs
  • 2040: Arcologies (massive cities)

For a more detailed breakdown and description, check out the infographic below, or follow the link to the website for a more detailed interactive experience: