Hidden Architectures

How Something Worthless Reigns the World

Currencies constitute a means of exchange. When we think of a currency today we usually think of money. However, anything that is used for exchange could be a currency. Just think of the war time in Europe, when cigarettes or coffee were used.

Currencies serve as symbols. They symbolize value. Today there is a trend towards digital currencies. Since they are not issued by banks the state cannot regulate them. Every day several new Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are issued, numbers are rising. The most well-known crypto currency is the Bitcoin.

New digital technologies make it possible not only for companies but also for communities to create their own currencies. This will become more common in the future predict Specialists of the World Economic Forum, a Geneva-based Private-Public-Partnership organization.

Some popular regional complementary currencies include Totnes Pound in the UK (initially on paper, now also available digitally) and the Chiemgauer in Germany.

Value for Money, Value for…?

While currencies symbolize value, the current economic system makes us easily forget that outside of the world of banks, markets and crypto currencies there are so many “things” that are much more valuable than money: clean air, clean drinking water, personal health, healthy food, healthy soil to grow food, safe neighborhoods, friendships, trust and love among people, and many others.

Money is an Illusion

Money is probably the biggest illusion in the world. Since the end of the Bretton Woods System in 1973, money doesn’t represent the value of gold anymore. Today banks print money out of thin air to profit from it. They create money with every credit someone takes. They lend money that they don’t possess. Using money as a currency expresses a trust that money will still have its attributed value tomorrow. This trust crumbles.

We have seen examples of currency reforms in the world when money didn’t have a value anymore. In November 2016, three weeks before I travelled to India, the Indian government declared the two most valuable banknotes of 500 and 1000 rupees (around 7 / 14 Euros) invalid from one day to the next without prior notice.

Banks left a very short time frame to exchange old bills against new ones. Soon the bills were worth nothing but the value of the paper they were printed on. This could potentially happen anytime anywhere. Today many people are expecting the big crash when the Euro or other currencies become worthless. The value of nature obviously remains beyond any currency or bank crash.

Demonetization over Night

I experienced first hand what it means to be in a country that just de-valuated printed rupee bills. Me and many other people had no access to any valid bank notes. Long lines in front of the ATMs dissolved only when the machine ran out of money, which happened frequently. We then had to wait for days, sometimes weeks before the ATM was refilled.

It made me spend less money because I limited the few rupees I had to buying absolutely necessary things. I had to borrow money from others and was super-thankful that they shared their scarce bank notes with me and trusted that I would return the money as soon as any ATM would grant me some.

What Remains after Money?

It seems the world of work and finance has gone insane. Every day we focusing all our attention and daily work on obtaining money that some bank created out of thin air because somebody took a credit. Instead of running after an illusion I find I much more important to maintain the values of what really exists: human trust, relationships and nature!

About Hidden Architectures

Recently I have been thinking a lot about what shapes our view of the world without us really noticing it. I like to call these phenomena “invisible architectures”. Here I focus on those invisible architectures that are relevant to (almost) everybody in a given society. I find them highly interesting as they help us understand the development of group dynamics.

Hidden Architectures include, for example, language, social codes, laws, economic systems, and our use of money. Last but not least even physical architecture can have an influence on group dynamics without us really noticing it. Thinking about hidden architectures I realized that almost nothing in the world is really carved into stone. Most depends on our perspective. That means: Change is possible. Even if we think there are no alternatives. And even more so if we know about the influences of hidden architectures on group dynamics.

This is a five weeks series. I also wrote about the Influence of physical architecture and of language.


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