Money as Light

in Economy by

Blockchain technology has inspired, among other things, a wealth of speculation on the potential implications of the tokenised economy that it has set in motion.

Among the leading thinkers in this field of speculative implications, of course, is Bitcoin maximalist Andreas Antonopoulos whose most recent publication, Internet of Money – Volume Two, discusses his belief of why our perception of money just may be set for a radical, Blockchain-inspired overhaul.

Light as Analogy

In the book, Antonopoulos uses a reverse analogy that leverages the nature of light. With light, our sensual experiences of it tell us that it is a stream. However, with the arrival of slow-motion cameras which can now capture one trillion images per second, photographers are able to view the transmission of light in discrete units.

Slow-motion technology thus transforms the experience of light from one of a continuous cascade to one of viewing the arrival and departure of discrete, individual photons. With blockchain technology, something similar may be about to happen – but in the other direction – in terms of our experience of money. To understand why specifically, an example will help.

Payments in Real-Time

Two blockchain projects have emerged in recent months – Experty and Vanywhere – who are essentially direct competitors seeking to inspire the creation of a new industry based on blockchain technology.

“Money thus becomes a real-time thing,” Antonopoulos explains, “and its nature fundamentally changes.”

With the blockchain’s ability to perform micro-payments in real-time, the teams behind both projects see an opportunity to open up a whole new industry – micro-consulting. The concept is simple: every single day, there are millions of people who, in any given moment, require specific specialist knowledge but in very small units.

Consulting with a subject specialist, however, is traditionally an expensive exercise with consultants generally looking to charge for discrete units of time – $120 for a one-hour consultation with your accountant, for example, when the only reason you organised the appointment in the first place was to find out if a recent change in government fiscal policy is likely to have an impact on your business.

You show up for your meeting with your accountant, the answer is no, the consultation lasts no more than ten minutes and yet you will still find yourself billed for the hour.

One might think there is a market for the kind of service where you could simply call somebody up to ask the question very quickly and simply pay in direct proportion to the length of time spent on the call.

However, we know that there is a market for this kind of thing. At the same time, there have been two very specific obstacles – geography and fees. With a blockchain-based telecommunications solution, however, the former becomes irrelevant and the latter can be performed in real-time.

In other words, I can now make a call where a knowledge seeker speaks with a knowledge provider via IP telephony, the technology ensuring that a micro-payment is transmitted from the former party’s wallet to the latter’s in arbitrarily small units of time.

Change in Perception

Leaving aside here the profound implications of the blockchain for how knowledge is shared and monetised, the specific effect to note here is the payer’s and payee’s perception of money itself.

The high-frequency flow of discrete micro-payments essentially changes the experience – money which was previously perceived as the transfer of detached chunks of value, is now perceived as a flow that has become directly attached to continuous nature of time.

“Money thus becomes a real-time thing,” Antonopoulos explains, “and its nature fundamentally changes.”

The wider implication is that, as more and more of us become salaried by such payment mechanisms, our perception of wealth also changes. As micro-payments in real-time become a part of our daily reality, you may find your bank manager assessing your ability to honour your debts by looking at a history of your income input streams versus your output streams, before deciding to give you access to his own tap.

Readers wanting to explore further Antonopolous’s treatment of the subject – Money as Streaming –  could try starting here.