For as long as there has been an economy to consider, people have tried to figure out its future. After all, if you could know the future of your money, or money in general, there’s no limit to how much you could make. This isn’t entirely possible, of course, but it hasn’t stopped people from inventing all sorts of systems, equations and machines in order to predict the future of the economy or technology in general. We are just lucky because we are living in a time where many of those predicted advances in money technology are finally being created. From inventions as advanced as high quality scanners to methods that just make it easier when managing coins, there are so many innovative ways that money is being processed, handled and stored. What follows is nothing more or less than a short history of the capital economy, how it got started and where it might be going in the next century.
- Starting with the Romans
This might seem like a really far way back to travel to talk about the capital economy but it’s no hyperbole. There were other empires that spread a lot of other things. Ideas, medicine, armies, disease. The Mongolians, for instance, once built an empire that spanned across three continents and essentially created the modern cultural world. But, for sheer flexibility and invention, especially in regards to the economy, you have to turn to the Romans and one of their greatest contributions to modern history. The round coin. Now, this statement certainly raises a lot of questions. We have everything from the electric cash counter to digital retail cash management systems to the modern counterfeit bill detector machine. How could the invention of the round coin change anything that didn’t already exist? Well.
Roundness as an idea
See, in a lot of previous and smaller societies, they had something known as a barter system. This was effectively just a trading network that agreed on the arbitrary value of items as compared to other items. It had no backing, it had no real way to manage a relatively rigid system of value. Even if these societies did have some sort of money, it was hard to manage and easy to counterfeit. But the Romans had the smarts and the know how to circulate the first large scale round coins. Now you might ask yourself why did this help? One word. Portability. Sure, it wasn’t our high quality scanners or cameras but it let people carry their money and, more importantly, it let them spend it faster and more items in general. Combined with the Roman penchant for fair governance, up until a historical point anyway, it made for one of the first easy, fast money economies.
This is a bit of a historical sticky wicket but colonial empires, for better or for worse, mostly for worse, changed the face of the human globe. But it’s an undeniable fact that they also enabled the first large scale trade and money networks that made the modern world possible. We wouldn’t have the eponymous high quality scanners and digital cameras if it weren’t for the ships and goods that were crossing every sea from all over the globe. This was the first instance of long distance and international trading that would give birth to the global economy. The Romans, and to a greater extent the Chinese, started this and the colonial empires continued these ventures up until the 19th century.
To the future
After these empires came our modern nation states and the rise of electronic currency. So where to now? Greater encryption? A cashless economy? No one is sure. A lot of experts seem to think that a cashless and laborless economy will rise in the coming decades as automation removes human need for jobs. This might give rise to the UBI or universal basic income to keep economies stable. Whatever happens, high quality scanners aside, it’ll be up to us to adapt and change it to make a better a world for every single person.