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In space, no one can take your money

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The strapline for the film Alien was that in space, no one can hear you scream. It doesn’t sound quite as scary, but I was thinking about the cashless world and realised that:

In case you cannot see the words: In space, no one can take your money

Do you ever see anyone paying for anything in the sci-fi world?

We are reaching that point where money becomes meaningless, and it could be quite scary. Imagine that you want something, but you cannot have it because your payment is refused. I guess that’s why Gene Rodenberry, the father of Star Trek, imagined a future where money doesn’t exist. Where money doesn’t matter. It’s the core of Trekonomics, and delivers a world, where your reputation is your mark. I come back to this theme pretty often, as it does resonate.

“The acquisition of wealth is no longer the driving force in our lives. We work to better ourselves and the rest of humanity.” Captain Jean-Luc Picard

It’s such a nice vision … but supremely flawed.

Humans do not work to make the world a better place. They work for their own self-interests. We do not want to improve society. We want to improve our lives. Humans are intensely selfish; we are not worthy.

Ooops. Going off on one again.

I just think it’s interesting that if we were all equal, what would that mean? If we flattened society so that everyone had equality, what would that mean? If women had equality with men, what would that mean? If people in remotest Mongolia had equality with a New Yorker, what would that mean?

It is hard to conceive. It is hard to have an idea of a world where everyone works for the betterment of humanity. We work for the betterment of ourselves, and I guess that’s why money and wealth was invented. Money was invented to make us unequal.

“All animals are equal but some are more equal than others.” George Orwell

Talking of which, do you ever think that we are just animals? Do you think of yourself as an animal? What animal are you? Are you a dippy dog or a cool cat? Take a look at your dog or cat or hamster or fish. What do you think? It’s your pet; it’s an animal; you can train it or blame it. Whatever you do … do you ever think that that’s you?

I’ve been reflecting on this for a while, and realised that we are just animals. We are the same as the apes, dogs, cats, rats, bats and fish. We are just animals. The difference is that we are sentient animals with language. That is what makes us different; we can communicate and think smarter than most animals (note to self: dolphins). But we are just animals.

I think of this as we watch the police abusing the masses, the masses abusing the police, the mass deaths of many and the mass challenges of all. The world has changed.

It’s probably the result of being locked-down at home for almost two years that I find my philosophical mind raising its ugly head, and that’s why I’m challenging my own thinking. I am an animal.

I am an animal.

I have the basic needs of an animal: food, drink, shelter. It’s the basic Maslow needs. So, when I go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs …

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a scalable vector illustration on white background

… I realise that the difference between me and most animals is that I need that feeling of belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. And that’s what makes us unequal. Animals may be equal, although power and gender make a difference, but do animals have a sense of belonging, esteem and self-actualisation?

In a human context that’s a very big driver and, during lockdown, it’s the one thing that was taken away. Of course, we can access each other through the network whilst being at home, but where is that sense of belonging, esteem and self-actualisation? These are the things that make us unequal.

Humans cannot be purely digital, as it removes basic human needs: belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. And yet we are living purely digital in some cases, and that removes so many sensory needs.

Luckily, in 2022, the pandemic is ending and, as it does, the isolation ends. And yet it still brings me back to that basic thought that if we do think of ourselves as purely animals, we are pack animals. Like apes, lions, dogs and wolves, we need our pack family. If we were more like cats, it would be different. Cats enjoy being lone rangers; we do not. We are not cool cats. We are dogs. We are pack creatures. We are animals.

It’s hard to get my head around this, but what I do know is that humans created inequality to encourage us to achieve extraordinary things that, if we were just animals, would have zero effect or interest so, we’re not just animals. We are ambitious animals who need to achieve something more than just existence.

I guess that’s what sets us apart and why invented money. Money was invented to motivate us to achieve more and create inequality between those who don’t want to achieve and those who do. If we were purely animals, it would just be food that made us unequal. If we were lions, it would be the amount of meat we can eat that would set us apart, and money is more powerful than meat.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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