The Transformation of Money

Joel Kurtzman, late-chairman of the Kurtzman Group, in his 1993 book, THE DEATH OF MONEY, called the new currency “megabyte money,” saying it was (and is) “an entirely new form of money based not on metal or paper, but on technology, mathematics, and science … This new megabyte money is creating a new and different world wherever it proceeds.” This former Executive Editor of Harvard Business Review and business book reviewer for CNN, noted that “money now is different … It is no longer a thing … it is a system. Money is a network. Few people realize that money, in the traditional sense, has met its demise. Fewer still have paused to reflect on the implications of that fact.”

The “New Money Factor” of diginomics covers an extremely large spectrum to include not only the issue of currency being digitized, but every aspect of economic lifestyles today. It addresses both “how” we shop and “where” we shop. It’s how we spend our money and the electronic environments of that experience. Are we using cash, checks, and coins, or are we totally cashless? The popular yet controversial series of commercials by Visa in which the arterial flow of cashless shopping is stymied by the user of cash depicts both the reality of our times and a trend into the future.

The January 29, 2007 edition of Information Week notes that, “A generation is growing up hacking and slashing their way through virtual worlds, and they’re going to expect a 3-D, virtual interface for the rest of their online interaction.” Later, in the April issue, IW went further to say of this new generation of shoppers, “Now they want everything at Internet speed.”

The International Business Times of London headlined in its November 24, 2011 edition that the “Next Generation to be Born into ‘Cashless’ Society,” stating that “Today’s younger generation will trade in their cash, credit cards and cheques for mobile digital wallets by 2016. Children born today will be Britain’s first cashless generation and will frequently use their smartphones in exchange for goods and services.”

The Digital Economy continues to chase the heels of the Tangible Economy (where cash has long been king throughout history), getting ever closer to parity since its inception, ever reaching for predominance. Dr. Peter Bishop, the University of Houston’s “professional futurist” professor who oversees that school’s Studies of the Future program, calls this the era of “The Intangible Society.”

In a white paper entitled The Waves of Creative Destruction: Technology Past, Present & Future, Dr. Bishop declares, “We should not call it the information society because it is more than information. It’s also communication, finance, education, entertainment. I propose instead that we call it The Intangible Society—the first industrial society to offer breakthrough productivity on purely intangible products and services.”

Don Tapscott, in his classic book, THE DIGITAL ECONOMY [© 1996, McGraw-Hill] has an equally interesting term for the new digital era: “the Age of Sand.”

“The new economy is a digital economy,” he writes. “The new age could be aptly dubbed the age of sand. The affairs of commerce, business transactions, human communications, and the insights of science are all reduced to charges on particles of silicon or racing through glass fibers, both derived from sand.”

“Money is now an image,” writes Kurtzman in THE DEATH OF MONEY. “Simultaneously, it can be displayed on millions of computer screens on millions of desks around the world. But, in reality, it is located nowhere and needs no vault for safekeeping. Yet, while money has no real location, it has created an environment that is paradoxically everywhere while taking up no physical space … A community where neighbors, colleagues, and competitors are accessible only through electronics.” ■

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