Future currency

From: Philip Goetz (philgoetz@gmail.com)
Date: Sun Jan 07 2007 - 16:36:40 MST

In a recent post, I talked about using energy as currency in the future.

Which of these do you think would make the best currency at, say, SL4
(wrt present day):

1. Total mass-energy: Has the advantage that it is definable and
objective, and is perhaps the ultimate valuable. Has the advantage or
disadvantage that its value can't be manipulated easily to control an

2. Usable energy: If you give me power for a year, I could hand you a
small rock (or whatever; I haven't done calculations) and say we're
even. Mass-energy's usability depends on your tech. Also, if I give
you an object containing energy, say, in heat, that heat energy is
more or less valuable depending on how hot it is around the object.
The disadvantage is that this isn't a completely objective measure,

3. Information: Bits of unknown information. This may be the main
trading item of interest. However, what conveys information to one
person may already be known by another. To use information as
currency, you might have to create an exchange process, in which the
giver doles out bits one at a time, and the receiver continually
predicts the next bit. The number of bits deemed to have been given,
to measure the exchange, would be taken as the total number of bits
transferred, minus the number of bits the receiver predicted correctly
(or possibly some more correct measure). The receiver could waive
this process if it admits it doesn't have the information (say, a song
it hasn't heard). A seller could require such a waiver as a condition
of a sale. A difficulty is that the theoretical translation into
energy is, and may continue to be, orders of magnitude apart from the
practical translation into energy.

4. Computation cycles. As an AI, this might be of great interest to
you. Because computer architectures differ, this might be best
expressed in terms of information. However, it might be difficult to
measure the information gained from a computation, particularly if it
is private information (such as your personal thought process). This
could be used in the near term; you could loan out your computer's CPU
to someone else, through a central "bank" that tracked peoples'

5. Objects. A gold currency, for instance. Or a currency that I'd
like to see, McDonald's gift certificates, expressed in quarter
pounders, acceptable worldwide.

6. Currency as we know it. Manipulable by a government, corporation,
or other sufficiently powerful entity.
   6a. Government currency: The dollar.
   6b. Corporate currency: The Paypal dollar.
   6c. Virtual currency: The Second Life dollar.

7. Distributed currency. A currency system in which factors such as
the amount in existence, and the interest rate paid on something like
a treasury note, was set by popular vote, or in a distributed manner.
Or, an "open-source" currency system which isn't under anyone's
control. Could easily overlap with 4.
   7a. Underground currency: A currency outlawed by most governments
because it can be exchanged without revealing either buyer's or
seller's identity. One can also put large amounts of cash in a bank
without revealing your identity. This isn't really a feature of a
currency so much as it is of banks - you can put money in Swiss banks
in an anonymous manner - but I'm imagining an online dollar devised
largely for the purpose of being anonymous. One can imagine a large
demand for this in China, where the government makes it hard for
people to get a credit card because it doesn't want them ordering
things from other countries online, and where people might like to buy
simple electronic files like books and movies without informing the

8. Goulash currency. A combination of all of the above, in which you
might set your preferences about which currencies to be buying and
selling in every exchange, and software agents working on behalf of
the buyer and seller would work out what was actually exchanged in
every transaction. I'd lay my bets on this one.

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