TED Conversations

Hassan H

Yunus Social Business

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Will the Internet, Social Media and Digital Technology destroy the value of money?

I think that you also noticed that the good use of the Internet, Social Media, Digital Technology and Free Software have enable collaborative behaviors and trust between strangers. TED, Wikipedia, Coushsurfing ... are some example among tons of other.

We now have the ability to share and improve together all kind of knowledge without money. What do you think ? Will the Internet, Social Media and Digital Technology destroy the value of money?

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  • Jun 15 2012: Money will no longer be needed when everyone has everything they need, and trade no longer exists. Until that wonderful day, money will be the most efficient way to facilitate trade.

    I think we will one day reach this level of wealth. Right now, we are going through a period of extreme economic inequality. We are also reaching new records of philanthropy. I read an article today that said that Warren Buffet will be giving away more than 99% of his fortune. Along with traditional philanthropy, consider how much is being invested in companies and projects that will benefit everyone.

    We are generating huge amounts of wealth, very efficiently. Eventually (probably take a few centuries), this wealth will be spread around to everyone because an individual needs only so much wealth to live comfortably. We are only a few generations away from a time in which almost everyone was desperate to get out of poverty. As we get more distant from those desperate times, conspicuous consumption will seem childish. People might still pursue wealth, but it will serve only as the score of the economic competition. Eventually, the wealth will be shared because the alternative is boring and uncultivated. Note that I am not suggesting that selfishness will go away. I am suggesting that there is a limit to how much you can spend satisfying your selfish desires. Also, that social pressures will eventually lead to more sharing.

    "Will the Internet, Social Media and Digital Technology destroy the value of money?"

    Only indirectly, by making a significant contribution toward a wealthier world, and by helping everyone realize that money does not measure happiness.
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    Jun 14 2012: The "value" of money has always been a subjective, but the "need" for money is a debatable concept for the future. Money (or some form of currency) was a necessary component for an early civilization that is trying to rise above a barter system.

    But all of it is based on the fundamental principals of supply and demand - it all first assumes that there is some "thing" that is not readily available, that must be produced or provided by a person or organization that exhibits the means to do so. The more more scarce the thing is, or the more difficult it is to produce, the higher the value.

    The most obvious examples can be found when looking at things that everyone needs, but don't have to pay for (yet, anyways). Air...sunlight.. these commodities have high intrinsic demand, but they are so abundant that no market exists for them to monetize on. A person's access to air exists regardless of their (nonphysical) means. Thus, it can be said that anything that can be sustained at abundance, and becomes ubiquitous, inherently diminishes the value (and ultimately the need) for money in that area.

    And while this might sound like a positive, Project Venus type pitch for an abundant future where everyone simply has access to everything, it's not.

    All that actually happens is that the need for currency shifts to the next concept. If I no longer have to pay for digital music, I will still retain my desire to see my favorite bands in person, and that requires occupying a seat at a stadium somewhere that is limited by capacity, and run by a proprietor who employs individuals to maintain it, and provide other services (food, drink, security)

    The other point to remember is that even in entirely virtual spaces, human beings retain their need to be compensated in "some way" for their participation. This is why online spaces - even games - all operate with some kind of virtual currency or reward system.

    We do things to get things, simple as.
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    Jun 13 2012: Some recent IPO's make the case for the opposite being true.
  • Jun 7 2012: The Internet, Social Media and Digital Technology all have HUGE potential in making certain things virtually free. Don't believe me? look at facebook, pirated music and movies, and as you said, free software. However, the beauty of it is that innovation will always create more advanced products that will be more value. I see the internet perhaps becoming a place where products that have seen some time on the market become free and loss leaders used to attract customers to either advertisments or other indirect sources of revenue. Money will loose value for sure (even before the internet, inflation made sure of that) but the products that we buy will become equally more valuable.